In 2006, prominent (LDS) Mesoamerican archaeologist John Clark stated his belief that we’ve found many Book of Mormon cities already. It’s just a matter of identifying them as such.
The problem lies in the redefinition of the “Jaredites” and “Nephites” as being a subset of a dominant group. Where their language, culture and religion are all perpetuated as a minority group overwashed with pagan Olmec or Mayan culture.
To see the weakness in Clark’s statement, simply replace the words “Book of Mormon” with any fictional or made-up society of your choosing:
|The logical challenges with the first assertion, that no cities have been located, are more subtle. Book of Mormon cities have been found, they are well known, and their artifacts grace the finest museums. They are merely masked by archaeological labels such as “Maya,” “Olmec,” and so on. The problem, then, is not that Book of Mormon artifacts have not been found, only that they have not been recognized for what they are. Again, if you stumbled onto Zarahemla, how would you know?|
Try any of these:
“Cities from the Land of Oz have been found, they are well known, and their artifacts grace the finest museums. They are merely masked by archaeological labels such as “Maya,” “Olmec,” and so on. The problem, then, is not that artifacts from the Land of Oz have not been found, only that they have not been recognized for what they are.”
Or this one for fans of “The Lord of the Rings”:
“Remnants of Middle Earth have been found, they are well known, and their artifacts grace the finest museums. They are merely masked by archaeological labels such as “Maya,” “Olmec,” and so on. The problem, then, is not that Middle Earth artifacts have not been found, only that they have not been recognized for what they are.”
Try it with your own favorite land of make-believe!
As you read the two examples above, what is your initial reaction? What would you think if someone, even a respected archaeologist, made the claim? You would probably do what most other archaeologists have done since Clark made the claim: ignore it.
But what if you felt compelled to engage the claim? Would you deny the truthfulness of the claim based on the obvious fact that Oz and Middle Earth aren’t real places? Well aren’t you closed minded (and, apparently, part of the problem). And can you answer this simple question: If someone did find Oz or Middle Earth, how would they know? As your assumptions are laid bare, I can show you how either Oz or Middle Earth, or any other supposedly fictitious land, can be made to fit the geography and archaeology of Central America.
If I can only shift the burden of proof onto you, instead of me having to support my claim of “invisible evidence”, I can dance around all day as you frantically try to find something in the thousands of pages of historical records of Oz or Middle Earth that can’t be evaded.
Can you imagine how convincing the Oz books and Middle Earth books will look to people in the future? I can only imagine John Clark’s great, great, great grandson following in his footsteps as he seeks to bolster the faith of the Followers of Oz, who insist that Oz was a real place with archaeological evidence carefully hidden among the ruins of 20th Century midwestern-America.
Just to be clear, I am not arguing that either Oz or Middle Earth were located in Mesoamerica. Obviously, Oz and Middle Earth were not in Mesoamerica. That’s where the Lamanites and Nephites were, and everyone knows you can’t have two fictitious lands coexisting with a real culture.
The only exception to this is when the lands “crossover”, and people from one land visit those of another, but these are very dangerous, and are usually a last-ditch attempt to revive public interest, or a gimmick to lend legitimacy to one of the creative works (such as when DC’s Batman fought The Incredible Hulk in 1982, or the New Testament’s Jesus visited the Nephites around 33AD)
Everyone knows that Middle Earth didn’t take place in Mesoamerica; it was in what is now called “Eastern Europe”. Sadly (or luckily), the face of the Middle Earth changed drastically after the destruction of the ring, so the ancient geography will never match up exactly. But modern scholars are optimistic, especially since they now realize that the ancient battle statistics were traditionally overinflated for dramatic effect, so a battle that supposedly engulfed hundreds of thousands may have only been a few dozen guys with wooden swords and green robes.
And Oz wasn’t in Mesoamerica either. Before the final magical spell was placed over it, it could easily be seen by airplane or balloon north of Kansas, south of Canada. Oz archaeologists generally place the Emerald City in Dewey County, South Dakota, although there is some support for the recently expressed and controversial “Two Emerald City” theory. As with the Book of Mormon, our record of Oz begins in an easily identifiable place (Kansas), but due to lack of precision in recounting the details of getting there, a final location is unlikely to be agreed upon.