Subject: What is LGT (Limited Geography Theory)?
Date: Jan 29 00:02
Author: Trixie

What is LGT?

LGT is the generic term for Limited Geography Theory. It is generic due to the fact that there are slightly different versions of LGT, but certain ideas remain consistent throughout. John Sorenson’s theory seems to be the most popular among apologists, so that is the one I use as an example.

Sorenson’s theory is that when Lehi’s family landed at the New World, somewhere in Mesoamerica, they found a large group of pre-existing people already here. They neglect to overtly mention these people due to their own ethnocentricity, although clues to their existence can be found in a “careful” reading of the BoM. They attached themselves to one of these groups of people, who were already formed in a “city” (at this point, really a large village of 1,000). For reasons unknown and unstated in the BoM, these people not only welcomed Lehi and his family, but made Nephi their king, and his subsequent family royal rulers. So the Nephites were the elite among a small portion of the Mesoamerican population.

The entire range of the BoM takes place within a roughly 500 square mile area in Mesoamerica. The term “lamanites” actually does not refer to their ancestry, but rather is a generic, political term referring to any group of nonNephites who oppose the Nephites. The fact that the Lamanites self identify themselves throughout the BoM as the descendants of the wronged Laman and Lemuel is an error of identification either on the part of the scribe or the lamanites themselves, who apparently knew enough of the original Lamanite story to self identify with it.

For a reason unknown and unstated, both the actual descendants of the first Nephites and Lamanites apparently did not reproduce at a high enough rate for their DNA to be noted in this population.

The LGT has problems of its own, for example, requiring two Cumorahs as well as extraordinary claims (such as highly ancestor conscious mesoamericans choosing an alien like Nephi to be their king), but it is far preferable to the global theory. Modern apologists have no hesitation about labeling the global theory dead. 

John Clark, a respected archaeologist, stated in a talk at BYU last May:
"If you believe in a global geography, you're basically done, toasted, game over."

Sorenson’s essay at FARMs about the “others” also effectively destroys any chance of the BoM being historical, if the global theory is accepted as accurate. He cites, among other things, the problematic population issues that exmormons note themselves.

But here’s what’s really interesting – the sentences Clark uttered immediately before stating that the global theory is toast.

"And so once you say there were other people here, you say: OK, where were the Nephites, and how many more people were here. We have all kinds of other DNA signatures to worry about all of a sudden. It may be that we never find any Hebrew DNA (whatever that looks like) in the New World. ... But if we do find some, that's fine; if we don't find some, that's fine too. There's no way that negative evidence on that hurts the Book of Mormon whatsoever once you believe in a limited geography."

LGT is, for all intents and purposes, renders the BoM an unfalsifiable document, particularly in combination with another current favorite piece of apologetics, “translation errors” ( this theory states that it would be normal for a translator to insert anachronisms and sometimes outright errors while translating an ancient document). This is why this is THE theory among the vast majority of BoM apologists. It is not a new theory, but it has grown in popularity recently to the point where it is the dominant theory, and really the only starting debate point apologists will accept.

Here’s more examples of the problems that even LGT cannot escape.

Faith Promoting Science

After John Clark’s forum at BYU last May, students wrote glowing reports of the event. As I read their renditions of Clark’s statements, I was certain that they had extrapolated information that Clark could not have point-blank made. I was wrong. Their summary of his statements was accurate. It was his claims that were extraordinary. However, I am certain that Clark achieved his goal – most listeners, who likely know little to nothing about Mesoamerican history, went away with their faith affirmed.

Is there anything wrong with one member of a faith seeking to affirm the belief of other members of that faith? Of course not, as long as it does not descend to pseudo-science, snake-oil, or outright false claims. When people watch TV commercials making extraordinary claims, most realize that the buyer must beware and verify the claims him/herself. But I do not believe most people who go to listen to a recognized scholar sharing insights that reinforce faith have that same level of alertness and caution. Based on Clark’s talk, they should.

Before highlighting what I consider to be the most egregious examples of Clark’s misleading statements, I want to emphasize that I am no expert, no scholar. I have no formal training in this subject. I have done background reading in Mesoamerican history and am in the middle of my tenth book on the subject.

Clark’s talk can be found at:

The BYU review can be found at:

1. Student’s report:

" Many artifacts and evidence of the Book of Mormon have been found in geographical and archaeological findings. These same artifacts and incidents described in the Book of Mormon line-up correctly in ancient history, he said.
"Practices, instruments of war and history in the Book of Mormon are in accordance with Mesoamerican ways," Clark said."

Actual Clark comments:

"The warfare described in the book differs from what Joseph could have known or imagined. In the book, one reads of fortified cities with ditches, walls, and palisades. Mesoamerican cities dated to Nephite times have been found with all these features. The Book of Mormon mentions bows and arrows, swords, slings, scimitars, clubs, spears, shields, breastplates, helmets, and cotton armor–all items documented from Mesoamerica. Aztec swords were of wood, sometimes edged with stone knives. There are indications of wooden swords in the Book of Mormon. How else could swords become stained with blood? Wooden swords could sever heads and limbs and were lethal. The practice of taking detached arms as battle trophies, as in the story of Ammon, is also documented from Mesoamerica."

After reading Clark’s actual comments, I was no longer surprised by the student’s summary. The student understood it in the only way possible. Let’s just look at one statement in particular, that bows and arrows are documented from Mesoamerica. Of course Clark’s statement is correct. Bows and arrows have been documented in Mesoamerica. What he neglects to mention is the date.

Steven A. LeBlanc, director of collections at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, in his essay “Warfare in the American Southwest and Mesoamerica: Parallels and Contrasts”, which is included in the book Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare, says this:

"All indications are that the bow and arrow were not independently invented in the Americas (Blitz 1988). the bow seems to come into the Americas from Asia, working its way south beginning around 0 AD, although claims for earlier appearance have been made (Mabry 1997; Nassaney and Pyle 1999). The current estimate has it reaching the northern Southwest in the period AD 200-300 but not reaching the present US-Mexican border until about AD 500. This bow was the self bow, one that was not terribly powerful and probably more useful for hunting than for warfare. Nevertheless, it seems to have soon almost completely replaced the atlatl in the Southwest. The self bow spread throughout Mesoamerica prior to the Spanish conquest, although the timing is far from clear. using the rate it took the bow to disperse over North America, it is unlikely the bow reeached the Valley of Mexico until after AD 600 and the Yucatan until after AD 800. Sheets implies that the bow was in El Salvador by around AD 800. Clearly, simply using a guess date based on diffusion rates is of limited use. However, no synthetic consensus based discussion of the spread and adoption of the bow in mesoamerica seems to exist.. (p282)"

What is so interesting about the bow and arrow is that, like the horse, it tends to fundamentally alter the evolution and history of the people who possess it. The bow and arrow allows for a different type of warfare, a far more aggressive and destructive type of warfare (as each technological advance in weaponry seems to do). In the same essay, LeBlanc says:

"Arming commoners with the bow, even with little training, could have significantly changed warfare. The elite would have been at great risk from the massed firing of arrows, and armies comprised of many commoners armed with bows could have defeated previously dominant groups who had not adopted the same tactics. The apparent close timing of the introduction of the bow and the collapse of Teotihuacan around AD 600, the decline of Monte Alban, and the end of the Classic Maya around AD 800 (assuming that the bow took additional time to reach the Yucatan) seems too coincidental to be unconnected. (p283)"

A footnote adds:

"The military define two classes of weapons or uses of weapons. An ear weapon is used to saturate an area with arrows, artillery shells, or sling missiles. The point is not to aim for an individual; instead, if enough projectiles are sent to a given area, a considerable number of people in that are will get hit. Conversely, a personnel weapon is one that is actually aimed at someone. While an atalt dart certainly can be used as an area weapon, the inability to carry many projectiles limits its use that way."

Even given the uncertainty surrounding a firm date for the introduction of the bow in Mesoamerica, it appears to be extremely doubtful that it existed during the time period specified in the BoM, beginning with Nephi. Clark’s statement, without any sort of caution or qualification, can only be described as misleading. I do not pretend to read his mind and make statements about his honesty. Human beings are capable of a great deal of mental compartmentalization. It would not be unusual for a bright person to apply one sort of thought processes to his/her professional area, and a completely different sort of thought processes to religion, even when addresses something directly related to his/her profession. Nonetheless, I find it very painful to read this type of apologetics. It pains me because people who actually care about these issues, measured by the fact that they bothered to attend this session, are being misled, regardless of Clark’s intent.

There are other examples in his talk. For example, he states that JS made claims that were unknown and “ludicrous” at the time, like this one:

"The golden plates and other relics ended up in New York in the final instance because the Nephites were exterminated in a cataclysmic battle. The Book of Mormon brims with warfare and nasty people. Until twenty years ago, the book’s claims on this matter were pooh-poohed by the famous scholars."

Actually, during JS’ time period, it was commonly believed that not only were the ancient Americans warlike, but that they comprised two distinct races that warred against each other. Whether or not they were “pooh-poohed” by famous scholars during JS period, I do not know, but certainly these ideas were embraced by ordinary people, like Ethan Smith.

Again, there are other examples. I just chose two at random. I do not believe anyone, on either side of the issue, should be satisfied with this quality of apologetics. It makes Mormon apologists look pathetic and ill-informed. I really did expect better of Clark, before reading this talk, because he is well respected in his field (Mesoamerican archaeology).

Subject: What really is LGT?
Date: Jan 29 02:34
Author: Temple Name: Gullible

It's a refutation of more than 100 years of claims of the LDS prophets beginning with Joseph Smith. It is "public apostasy" from the teachings of the Lord's anointed "prophet of the restoration."

One cannot accept it as "true" if it must be just as carefully read as it is carefully explained. Too much trickery for a god. It cannot be the most correct book in doctrine and play fast and loose with history. Why even make a claim that it is history of it cannot be proved?

Spin it any way you want...the keystone has fallen and honest people everywhere are recognizing it as a fraud.

Subject: you would be surprised
Date: Jan 29 09:08
Author: Trixie

You would be surprised at how many believers honestly seem to accept LGT as reasonable. The published supporters of LGT often have degrees in anthropology or archaeology, and are able to justify the problems therein with very convincing language. And, at times, some of their specific points are correct. For example, many, if not most, historical texts are ethnocentric and must be compared to other sources of the time period. History is written by winners who often engage in rewriting their own history. This was a well known trait among the Aztecs, for example. So I wouldn't argue with that point.

If you've spent any time debating LDS believers on the internet, you will quickly discover that it is possible for believers to disregard any teaching of a prophet that seems to contradict either a current prophetic teaching or science. Revelation is viewed as a more ambiguous process that often allows for insertion of the human instrument. In fact, the notion that JS didn't really understand the history in the BoM is another "proof" to them that he could not have been the author.

An interesting demonstration can be had of this sort of rationalization by talking with LGTists about Zelph - (the bones of the white lamanite in the plains). They will explain that we can't really know the details of this story due to the fact that JS himself didn't record enough details, despite the fact that six contemporary friendly witnesses described the event in detail. (in short, JS received a revelation about these bones they happened upon, and pronounced them belonging to Zelph, a white Lamanite, who had fought a great battle for the Nephites) And, even if JS had some sort of revelation, we can't know which details he added from his own mind.

There are many outs for those who are determined to keep believing. To me, as to you, it looks like spin and trickery, but to them, it is sound reasoning backed up by social science and rational thought.

Michael Shermer said that smart people believe weird things for non-smart reasons, but can use their smartness to defend those weird things very convincingly. I have never seen a more convincing demonstration of that truth than in conversations with LGTists.

Subject: What the LGT REALLY is.......
Date: Jan 29 12:04
Author: Randy J.

It's really just an attempt by Mopologists to minimize the fact that there is no physical evidence to authenticate the BOM. In their twisted minds, if they can reduce the area in which alleged "BOM events" occurred, that reduces the amount and extent of physical evidence that we should expect to find.

In short, the LGT is not "Book of Mormon evidence"; rather, it's an excuse for LACK of evidence. It's somewhat like O. J. Simpson's lawyers' assertions that the "real killer" is somewhere out there, even though there isn't a shred of evidence for it, and all evidence points to O.J. being the killer. It's merely a diversionary/obfuscatory tactic.

As Trixie alluded to, Mopologists who push the LGT are essentially saying that Joseph Smith was an ignoramus or a liar. Smith made numerous statements indicating the "Book of Mormon lands" included regions in North America. Smith stated that the BOM is "a record of our western tribes of Indians," and he stated that a pile of stacked stones in western Missouri was "the remains of an old Nephite tower or altar." Smith also stated:

"In this important and interesting book, the history of Amer­ica is unfolded,
from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tow­er of Babel, at the
confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century­ of the Christian
era. We are informed by these records that America in ancie­nt times has been
inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were c­alled Jaredites and
came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came­ directly from the
city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. T­hey were
principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Ja­redites were
destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerus­alem, who succeeded
them in the inheritance of the country. The principal natio­n of the second
race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century.­ The remnant are
the Indians that now inhabit this country." (Joseph Smith Jr­., published in
Times and Seasons March 1, 1842 and in History of the Church­, Vol 4).

It's obvious from this statement that Smith believed that the "Jaredites" were the first people to re-populate the Americas after the Great Flood and the Tower of Babel scattering---rather than the "Jaredites" emigrating to a "promised land" that had been occupied by Asian-descended Amerinds for thousands of years.

The LGT's proponents assert that because such statements are not found in the "official scriptures," they can dismiss them as "speculation" or "folklore." However, they ignore the many statements in the BOM which state that the "promised land was reserved for a righteous people," "the land was kept from the knowledge of other nations," etc. Also, the BOM itself states that the "Jaredites" "covered the entire land with cities from sea to sea."

Also, Joseph Smith's history, which is canonized in the "official scriptures," states that "the angel Moroni" informed him that the golden plates contained "a history of the former inhabitants of THIS CONTINENT, AND THE SOURCE FROM WHENCE THEY SPRANG." Moroni didn't say "the former inhabitants of a small region in Central America, who were a small proportion of the total population of this continent, the others being descended from Asians who crossed over the Bering Straits 10,000+ years ago."

"Moroni's" words, as asserted by Smith, clearly infer that the "Book of Mormon people" were the initial inhabitants of the Americas, or as the BOM's introduction states, "the principal ancestors of the American Indians." And of course, church leaders to this day repeat the teaching that ALL American Indians, as well as some Polynesians, are literal blood descendants of the "Lamanites."

The BOM says nothing about any "non-BOM people" living there, nor anything about any "non-BOM peoples" unique cultures, religions, flora, fauna, etc. There are no names in the BOM which resemble proto-Mayan names as translated from stele etc., and no mention of proto-Mayan kings, etc.

In short, the LGT proponents have made up their theory out of thin air in a desperate attempt to make the BOM's authenticity appear plausible. But with their efforts, they not only Joseph Smith a liar or an ignoramus, but also their church's leaders who continue to assert that all Amerinds are literal descendants of the "Lamanites."

Related topics:

11. Horses - Book of Mormon 27. A Mormon Letter to FARMS 
28. Reformed Egyptian  53. Cureloms
51. Horses, FARMS and BofM 86. BofM a Missionary Tool?
67. Lamanites and DNA 111 Dallin H. Oaks and the BofM
175  BofM - Any Value Left to Ex-Mormons? 323 How Boring is the Book of Mormon?
330 Captain Kidd, Joseph Smith and Moroni, Camora Island 333 Is FARMS Credible?
378 Rigdon and the Origin of the Book of Mormon 389 Joseph Smith as Sole Author?


Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church

Listing of additional short Topics  |  Main Page