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This introduction is taken from the book, “The Malay Peninsula as the Setting for the Book of Mormon,” Ralph A. Olsen wrote in 1995. You can find a copy to read at the University of Utah library, Utah State University library, Montana State University library or order one from this site

     

Introduction

"All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
George Bernard Shaw

No matter where Grampaw swears he planted the spuds, change locations if you discover you’re digging in the string bean patch. [Sanpete Proverb]

The Book of Mormon [BofM] is a precious gem with many facets. Many are facets of spiritual significance. They light up our lives with sparkling rays which promote love and happiness and charity and hope and faith. The intent of the present manuscript is not to diminish from the spiritual radiance of the gem but, rather, to add an appropriate setting to augment its brilliance.

The peoples of the BofM left the Middle East and, after travels involving ocean voyages, arrived at an unidentified land of promise. The land of promise served as the setting for the precious gem. However, the location of the land has, as yet, not been convincingly determined.

”The traditional opinion in the Mormon Church was that the BofM peoples occupied, at one time or another, essentially all of North and South America. As impressive ruins were found throughout the Americas, they were eagerly accepted as supporting evidences for BofM accounts. Both the BofM and Joseph Smith were being exposed to intense persecution and criticism and ridicule in the early days of the church and supporting evidence was most welcome. With benefit of hindsight, it now appears that there may have been too eager to embrace any and all evidence as if it 1were supporting evidence.

In recent decades, Mormon scholars have narrowed down the search for the land of promise. Some of the most popular hypotheses proposed that BofM events occurred in MesoAmerica [23, 41]. Internal evidence in the BofM, based mostly upon times required to travel from site to site, clearly supports the concept of a restricted area… possibly a few hundred miles in length and less than that in width. In recent years, a significant amount of ‘digging around’ has accordingly been undertaken by well qualified experts in archaeology and anthropology. Clearly a driving force in the efforts has been the desire to prove that the BofM is a genuine scripture and that Joseph Smith was an authentic Prophet of God.

Unfortunately, archaeological evidence in support of the BofM has been less than convincing: Coe [23, p. 69] has stated, “Nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the BofM was a genuine historical document providing information about early peoples of America.” Although Coe’s own statement seems overly passionate, even dedicated Mormon, T.S. Ferguson, after a lifetime of digging and searching for convincing evidence in Central America, decided it was a hopeless quest [23, p. 211].

Hugh Nibley, a Mormon scholar, has similarly admitted, “Everything written so far by anthropologists or archaeologists about the Book of Mormon [geography] must be discounted… not because it did not exist, but because it has not yet been found.” [27, p. 244].

Sorenson [36, p. x) admits: “The Book of Mormon remains a sealed book because we have failed to do the work necessary to place it in its setting.”

Ashment has likewise concluded: “Unfortunately there is no direct evidence to support the historical claims of the Book of Mormon… nothing archaeological, nothing philological.” [Ashment, E.H. 1993]. A Record in the Language of My Father. Chapter Paper [26, p. 329].

With regard to a matter as sensitive as the geography of the BofM, Mormons typically ask for authoritative statements from church officials. It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn what Sorenson [36, p. 4] concludes from his thorough investigation, viz. “It becomes clear that Church authorities from the time of Joseph Smith to the present have come to no consensus, made no authoritative statement, and reported no definitive solution to the question of BofM geography. Yet the problem has never seemed insoluble to them, only difficult. Elder Widtsoe felt that out of diligent, prayerful study, we may be led to a better understanding of times and places in the history of the people who move across the pages of the divinely given BofM.”

President Joseph F. Smith, Seventies President Anthony W. Ivins, and Apostle John A Widstoe, were among church authorities, according to Sorenson [ibid] who affirmed that the Church took no position on specific BofM locations. President Smith, for instance, when asked to approve a map ‘showing the exact landing place of Lehi and his company.’ declined, saying that the ‘Lord had not yet revealed it.’ Elder Ivins cautioned in 1929, “There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles the question [of Book of Mormon geography]. So the Church says, yes, we are just waiting until we discover the truth. This caution has been the consistent course followed ever since, leaving individuals free to examine and study the topic…”

Apostle Widstoe, in fact, has encouraged honest inquiry: “There can be no objection to the careful and critical study of the scriptures ancient or modern, provided only that it be an honest study… a search for truth.” [Metcalfe, BL 1993] New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, p. x.]. From careful consideration of the matter, I became convinced that we might have been digging for spuds in a string bean patch. Maybe the setting for the BofM is not in the New World at all; maybe it’s in the Old World! Intriguing comments by recognized authorities are provided in a recent publication [23]:

Coe [p. 69]: No supporting evidence [for the BofM] has been found in any New World excavation.

Price [p. 69]: There are no gaps for Near Eastern societies in the New World.

Matheny [24, p. 214] has similarly stated: The BofM has no place in the New World whatsoever. It seems like the items are out of time and place, in trying to put them into the New World.

Hutchinson has added: Members of the Church [Mormon] should “abandon claims that it [the BM] is a historical record of the ancient peoples of the Americas.” [Hutchinson, A.A. (1993) The Word of God is Enough [26, p. 1].

Coe has declared: “Let me now state uncategorically, that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true [i.e., that the BofM is an authentic document describing a NEW WORLD civilization] and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group…” [23, p. 69].

With her common sense, my Grandma might say, “Well, for Pete’s sake, try digging around in the OLD WORLD, then. I need some spuds!”

In science, if a hypothesis seems faulty we at least try to concoct a better one. I accordingly postulate that BofM peoples left their homelands in the Middle East and found lands of promise on the Malay Peninsula [in the OLD WORLD]! BofM events are postulated to have occurred there. The peninsula also served as a dispersal site from which some of their descendants proceeded on to inhabit many of the lands touched by the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere including the Americas. Hutchinson [19, p. 2] has made a very insightful and supportive comment:

"The BofM should not be seen as the real history of the ancient Americas but as an account of the origins of the American Indians” [or some of them?] [emphasis added].

My hope is that, as an uninvited intruder in a sacred domain, I will be permitted to present the Malay Hypothesis as a tentative guess. [Remember, it took an uninformed and naïve and uninhibited child to note that the emperor had nothing on!]. Qualified experts are encouraged to make the needed adjustments and to do the requisite digging to check its validity.

The presentation is divided into sections. In each section an attempt is made to show how well the accounts in the BofM and the archaeological evidence ‘fit’ the Old World Hypothesis [and more specifically, the Malay Hypothesis]. Each section is reasonably independent of other sections; accordingly, there is some repetition. Comparisons are made, where appropriate, to traditional New World Hypotheses [and, more specifically, the currently popular MesoAmerican Hypotheses].

In no way is skeptical reference to Sorenson’s MesoAmerican Hypothesis intended to adversely refer to Sorensen. Hypotheses are under consideration, not personalities. Sorensen has obviously made extremely important contributions to the matter under consideration. He has helped to show, for example, that early church leaders apparently erred in concluding that BofM lands extended throughout the entire American continents. In this document an additional step into the unknown is taken by proposing that the restricted area fits better on the Malay Peninsula than in MesoAmerica.

Nibley has written: “No fruitful work of science or scholarship was ever written that did not attempt to prove one thing and, in so doing, disprove another. It is impossible to impart new information or explore new areas without treading on controversial ground since by that very act one is passing beyond accepted bounds” [Nibley, H. (1988) An Approach to the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book Co., p. 11].

For a limited period only you can download the first manuscript for free from http://www.mormonheretic.org/

 
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