After 60 years of research, John L. Sorenson is convinced that the events in the Book of Mormon took place in a much smaller area than many believe. He has explored the anthropology of Mesoamerica, which is southern Mexico and northern Central America and has found conclusive evidence to support his theories.

Sorenson is a professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University where he originated the program and headed it for fourteen years. Since his retirement he has researched and written about Mesoamerican archaeology.

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In 1985 he published a book, “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” which first introduced the idea that the geography of the Book of Mormon was not in North America as many member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) had supposed.

As a capstone of his work, he is close to publishing a new volume, “Mormon Codex” which will explain his professional journey as he has studied the matter.
According to an article in the Deseret News, Sorenson recently described his findings at the annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR). He told the group that he had identified 420 “correspondences” between the Book of Mormon and what is known about the early Mesoamerican civilizations. He explained the geographic area that most closely matched the land as depicted in the scriptures.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico is the narrow neck of land of the Nephites, the highlands of southern Guatemala contained the land of Nephi, the basin of the Grijalva River and adjacent areas in extreme southern Mexico is the land of Zarahemla and areas immediately north and west of the isthmus are the land northward. This, then, defines the area where it makes sense to look for correspondences between the Book of Mormon and the archaeological/cultural record.

In his conference address, Sorenson said that Book of Mormon societies were stressed by seeking “power and privilege” which is also true of the Mesoamerican cultures. He indicated that the mention of elephants in the record of the Jaredites is in line with paleontological findings of mastodons that survived in North America as late as 2000 BC.

He added that both cultures were ruled by kings who were divinely chosen and in some cases the kingdom was handed to a younger ruler while the older lived his remaining days in an emeritus position.

Sorenson also cited the following examples:

— “Many uses of written documents are known from Mesoamerica. At least 14 of those uses are represented or are referred to in the Nephite record: for example, records of contemporary events, letters of correspondence, adventures of individual heroes or villains, and genealogies.

— Sacred ‘towers’ were constructed by the Nephites that were similar to Mesoamerican ‘towers’ or pyramidal substructures, all such constructions having had a primarily religious purpose. Moreover the one instance, in the book of Helaman, when a private tower structure was used as a site for prayer and religious discourse has Mesoamerican parallels.

— The model for Nephite ‘temples’ was specifically the ‘temple of Solomon,’ which featured two non-structural pillars that stood at the sides of the door of the temple. Some Mesoamerican ‘temples’ display similar structurally unnecessary pillars.

—Warfare was of major significance in the culture history of both Mesoamerica and Book of Mormon peoples. Recognition of its significance represents a major change in archaeological thought in recent decades; that area’s war practices now align more directly with those described in Mormon’s book.

— A complex of 380 cultural patterns having to do with religion and ideology were present both in the civilization of the ancient Near East in the second and first millennia B.C. and in Mesoamerican civilization. The large number and arbitrary nature of those features is such that they can only be explained by calling upon transoceanic voyaging, plausibly including voyages reported in the Book of Mormon.”

Sorenson emphasized that so many similarities cannot be mere coincidence.

“The parallels are too striking and too sweeping to allow that casual explanation,” he concluded.

Article was written by Jan

Additional Resources:

The Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ)

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

The Bible in Mormonism