Review of Wayne N. May's This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation



Review of Wayne N. May's This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation, 2002



  I.         The Book of Mormon shows that the Promised Land for the Nephites and Jaredites could only have been in Central America area (page 2).
  II.         Proof that the Michigan plates are frauds (page 12).
Joe V. Andersen
August 2009
I have studied May's book This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation, Hayriver Press,Colfax, Wisconsin March 2002. I have listened attentively to his fireside presentation and watched in amazement as he almost mesmerized his audience with tall tales and misrepresentations of what the Book of Mormon states. I have looked at his interesting display of purportedly authentic relics containing supposed cuneiform characters which have been declared fraudulent by James E. Talmage among many others, as will be shown hereafter. I feel an obligation to inform my many friends in attendance, and anyone else who is interested in studying the Book of Mormon, that what Mr. May says is not what science and the Book of Mormon really state. I will also prove, from the Book of Mormon, why the Land of Zarahemla could not have been in the eastern half of the United States as claimed by May and others. I alone am responsible for all matters relating to this article. 

May’s co-author, Edwin G. Goble, has written several retractions showing remorse in ever having anything to do with this book and its contents. The following quote is taken from an excellent article by Brant Gardner cited in (FARMS Review Volume 20, Issue-2, Pages 141-62; Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute. 2000). (All quotes taken from Brant Gardner’s article will be italicized). On page 8 Goble states (unedited):


Just for the record, I was involved in writing This Land, volume 1 only, and my association with May ended in 2002, after May got upset with me for my first retraction that I made of what I wrote about the Michigan Artifacts and Burrows Cave Artifacts that appeared in Brant Gardner’s first review….Mr. May is an advocate of artifacts that are questionable. I don’t believe they are real so I am retracting everything I wrote about those artifacts. I am also retracting some of the theories presented in This Land, Volume one. I now believe that the Narrow Neck of Land and the Land of Zarahemla in Mesoamerica…


Although Goble retains the belief that somehow there is only one Cumorah, he seems sincere and willing to find the truth where ever it might be. I will show, from the Book of Mormon, why the Hill Cumorah in New York cannot be the same place where the last great battles of the Book of Mormon occurred. 




If one is going to attempt to identify geographical locations of the Book of Mormon, the fundamental premise must be that it must conform precisely to what the Book of Mormon states and cannot go against specific directions, spatial requirements, elevations and consistent textual descriptions stated therein. One must not pick and choose some locations or facts to the exclusions of others.


For example, after attending a fireside given by Wayne May in Chandler, Arizona, last spring, I asked May how he explained away the fact that the Book of Mormon shows the river Sidon flowing northward and his Sidon, the Mississippi, flowing south. He replied that the book of Mormon does not state that the river Sidon flows northward. I will show that it does. He further stated that the headwaters of the river Sidon (Mississippi) were in Canada, that the Narrow Strip of Wilderness went from the Mississippi to the Smokey Mountains and that it did not have to be mountainous. He further told me that the Saint Louis area and northward, was Zarahemla. I will show from the Book of Mormon that he is wrong on all counts.


His book mistakenly claims that the Adena culture was the Jaredite civilization and the Hopewell culture was the Nephite Nation. His map at page 75 shows the following:

1.     River Sidon as the Mississippi running south instead of north.

2.     Landing place of Lehi as the area around the mouth of the Mississippi.

3.     Land of Manti as the area of northern Missouri.

4.     Land of Nephi as Arkansas.

5.     Land of Zarahemla as eastern Iowa east side of the Mississippi .

6.     The west sea as all of the Great Lakes.

7.     Hill Cumorah battlefield area as Palmyra N.Y.

8.     East sea as the Atlantic Ocean, Washington, New Jersey area.

9.     A special Nephite North making the Florida Peninsula run almost east-west and the St Laurence River flow almost due north-south.

10. The map does not show where the Narrow Strip of Wilderness might have been, however, May told me it was in Tennessee. 


Each and every one of May’s proposed geographical locations contradicts what the Book of Mormon states.


(A). The River Sidon must run northerly from the middle of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness.

The Book of Mormon states:

1.     That the river Sidon had its headwaters high up in the mountains of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness (Alma 2:27; 56:25; 3Nephii 4:1), which wilderness ran from the east sea west through Manti to the west sea.

2.     That the city of Zarahemla was north of, and “by” (meaning near) the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness, (Alma 22:27.

3.     That the city of Nephi was south of, and within eyesight of, that wilderness. Omni 1:13 and Mosiah 11:13 state: “…and they [Mosiah and the Nephites] departed out of the land [of Nephi] into the wilderness…[up] to the hill north of Shilom[their place or resort]…through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla”. About 80 years later Ammon and 15 rescuers could see the cities of Shilom and Nephi from the hill north of Shilom (Mosiah 7:6-7, and 21).

4.     That the river Sidon flowed northerly past Zarahemnla just east thereof emptying somewhere northerly into the sea.  The river Sidon could not have run south from the narrow strip of wilderness. The scriptures corroborating these criteria are as follows:


Alma 22:27 … [The land of Nephi] was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west,…and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of river Sidon, running from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites were divided.

Alma 50:8…And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea].

Alma 50:11…He [Moroni], cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon—the Nephites possessing all the land northward.


Alma 2:15,…the Amlicites came upon the hill Amnihu, which was east of the river Sidon, which [river] ran by the land of Zarahemla, and there they began to make war with the Nephites. 

Alma 2:24…we followed the camp of the Amlicites, and to our great astonishment, in the land of Minon above [south of] the land of Zarahemla, in the course of the land of Nephi, we saw a numerous host of the Lamanites and behold, the Amlicites have joined them; [River Sidon was down from Minon and Nephi, therefore, it had to have flowed northward.]

Alma 2:26…people of Nephi took their tents, and departed out of the valley of Gideon towards their city, which was the city of Zarahemla.

Alma 2:27…as they were crossing the river Sidon, the Lamanites and the Amlicites, being as numerous almost, as it were, as the sands of the sea, came upon them to destroy them.

Alma 2:34…thus he cleared the ground, or rather the bank, which was on the west of the river Sidon, throwing the bodies of the Lamanites who had been slain into the waters of Sidon, that thereby his people might have room to cross and contend with the Lamanites and the Amlicites on the west side of the river Sidon.  [This event occurred during the last quarter of the Nephite year.Alma3:20-26].


Can you imagine Alma and his 30,000+ soldiers crossing the Mississippi River on foot in the middle of the winter at or near Saint Louis and that first day fighting and killing 12,532 Amlicites on the east side of Sidon? Of the Nephites, 6,562 were slain. Then imagine the Nephites traveling and fighting approximately 15 miles from the crossing of the river Sidon to Gideon where they stayed the night.  Then picture them rushing back the next morning to the Mississippi and crossing it only to be trapped in the water on the west side of the Mississippi by innumerable Amlicite and almost naked Lamanite warriors who had marched northerly from Minon down to the crossing of the Mississippi (Sidon)? Impossible!


The river Sidon cannot be the Mississippi. The Book of Mormon says the river Sidon flowed northerly. Therefore, all other locations cited by May relative to the Mississippi River as river Sidon must likewise be in violation of what the Book of Mormon states:


1. The headwaters of Sidon cannot be in Canada or north eastern U.S. The head of river Sidon must be high up in the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness and near Manti (Alma 22:27).

2. Zarahemla cannot be on or near the Mississippi. It must be west of a river that flows northerly and it must be just north of a narrow strip of mountainous wilderness that runs continuously and in a straight course from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27 and 3Nephi 4:1 and Mosiah 7:4-6).

3. Nephi cannot be west of the Mississippi River.  The Land of Nephi can only be south of the Narrow Strip of Wilderness.  Therefore, Nephi cannot be in Arkansas. 

4. The landing place of Lehi cannot be anywhere near the Mississippi River and certainly not at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  They landed west of the Land of Nephi not south. They landed westerly from the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness and west of the river Sidon (Alma 22:28).

5. Land of Manti cannot be in Missouri. It must be high up in the Narrow Strip of Wilderness and near the head of river Sidon. The river Sidon cannot flow south from Manti (see above scriptures).

7. The Great Lakes cannot be the west sea because the west sea must be west of the river Sidon.   Not one of the Great Lakes is west of the Mississippi. And the west sea must be west of Zarahemla; west of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness; and west of the land of Nephi. Alma 52:11-15 corroborates the above and states:


11….I [Moroni] would come unto you, but behold the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea. And behold I go against them therefore I cannot come unto you.

12….King (Ammoron) had departed out of the land of Zarahemla [from the east sea area]and had made known unto the Queen [in the chief city of Nephi (Alma 47:20] concerning the death of his brother, and had gathered together a large number of men, and had marched forth against the Nephites on the borders by the west sea.

15….Moroni,--who had established armies to protect the south (Manti area) and west borders of the land (west seacoast area).


(B). The Adena/Hopewell cultures cannot be the Nephite/Jaredite cultures.

The Adena/Hopewell never co-existed

One major reason that Goble gave for recanting his involvement with May was the erroneous conclusion that the Adena culture was the Jaredite people and the Hopewell culture was the Nephite Nation. May’s book, and the archaeology of the region, require that the Adena and the Hopewell cultures occupied the same lands, but at different time periods.  Archaeology proves that the Hopewell people (200 BC to AD 500) grew out of the prior Adena culture (1000 BC to 200 BC). The Jaredite/Nephite cultures coexisted for at least 250 years, as will be shown. The following brief synopsis and accompanying map from Wikipedia clearly show the geographic overlapping of these two groups. It further shows that the Hopewell people were not even in existence from about 580 BC to about 300BC.




Adena culture (Jaredites ?)
Map of the Archaeological Cultures of Ohio

The Adena culture was a Pre-Columbian Native American culture that existed from 1000 BC to 200 BC, in a time known as the early Woodland Period. The Adena culture refers to what were probably a number of related Native American societies sharing a burial complex and ceremonial system. The Adena lived in a variety of locations, including: Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Pennsylvania and New York.


Hopewell tradition (Nephites?)
The Hopewell tradition (also incorrectly called the "Hopewell culture") is the term used to describe common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and Midwestern United States from 200 BCE to 500 CE.  The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations, which were connected by a common network of trade routes,[1] known as the Hopewell Exchange System. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the Southeastern United States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Within this area societies participated in a high degree of exchange with the highest amount of activity along waterways. The Hopewell exchange system received materials from all over the United States. Most of the items traded were exotic materials and were received by people living in the major trading and manufacturing areas. These people then converted the materials into products and exported them through local and regional exchange networks. 


The Jaredite/Nephite people coexisted for at least 250 years

The Book of Mormon requires that the Nephites and the Jaredites lived contiguous but separate from each other and without knowledge of the others’ existence from about 580 BC to about 300 BC. Also the Jaredite land must have been very far northward from Zarahemla. It was about 200 BC when King Mosiah  translated the stone, which informed him for the first time, about the Jaredite people, about Coriantumr and the last great battle, and about Coriantumr living in or near Zarahemla for 9 moons (Omni 16:20-21). About 92 BC, Mosiah II translated the gold plates and learned that the Jaredites occupied the land called Desolation which was located very far northward from Zarahemla.  Alma 22:29-31 states:

29…the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness [narrow strip of wilderness], at the head of river Sidon, from the east to the west,…on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.

30..And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing. 

31. And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful…


The Lord guided the Mulekites directly to Zarahemla, which was not in the land northward, and they lived there from that time until discovered by Mosiah. Omni1:16 states:


And they journeyed in the wilderness, [not the narrow strip of wilderness] and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth’.


Therefore, one could safely assume that even though there was a first landing by the Mulekites near the area of the land of desolation, nonetheless, they did not stay there very long but were directed by the Lord far to the south and” up” to Zarahemla. This would have to have been around 580 BC. 


It is estimated that the final battle of the Jaredites occurred between 250 and 300 BC. This estimate is confirmed by the fact that about the year 121 BC the 43 people of Limhi returned from the land Desolation with the 24 pure gold plates together with rusted swords. Mosiah 8:8-11 states in part:

8…having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts; and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.

10…also they have brought breastplates, which are large, and they are of brass and of copper, and are perfectly sound

11…they have brought swords, the hilts thereof have perished, and the blades thereof were cankered with rust…


How long would it have taken for iron swords to canker with rust, hilts to have perished, millions of peoples’ bones to still be on the ground when Limhi’s expedition went there in the year 121 BC? Certainly not over a hundred years in that area. Therefore, the last battle of the Jaredites had to have taken place about 250 to 221 BC.


Coriantumr had to have lived between about 350 BC and 221 BC. He had to have been found by the people of Zarahemla about 250 years after the Mulekites arrived in the Promised Land. This means that for at least 250 years the Nephites and the Jaredites were coexisting neighbors occupying separate land areas.  Therefore, the Hopewell and the Adena cultures, occupying the same territory but at different times periods, cannot be the Nephites and the Jaredites. 


The concept of the Mississippi as the river Sidon is fatally flawed. The concept of the Adena/Hopewell cultures being the Jaredite/Nephite cultures is fatally flawed. The concept of the Book of Mormon lands being in the United States of America is also fatally flawed for many additional reasons. Some of these reasons are very well articulated by John Lund in his book Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon: Is this the Place? 2008. For purposes of simplicity I will address only eight specific identifiable requirements for locating the geography of the Book of Mormon, all of which must exist in order to have the right geographical area:


(C). Mandatory requirements for locating the Book of Mormon Lands


1.          There must be evidence of two extensive separate cultures each using a written language and living adjacent to but separate from each other sometime between the years 550 BC and 200 BC (Book of Mormon: Omni through Moroni). One of the cultures must have lived very far northward from the other (Alma 22-:30).


2.             There must be a narrow strip of mountainous wilderness that runs from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27-28) and in a straight course (Alma 50:8), and that could have provided a military defensive line dividing the Nephites/Mulekites on the north from the Lamanites on the south (Alma 22:33-34, Helaman 4:7-8). 


3.          The narrow strip of mountainous wilderness must be surrounded by evidence of major cities that existed at least between about 200 BC and AD 400, and where a written language was used (Book of Mormon Omni through Mormon).


4.          The climate must be such that the men would have been comfortable, (year round) in loin cloths and with their heads shaved even during war in the wintertime (Alma 3:5, 20-25).  The Amlicite battles occurred within the months of December through March. See Dr. Lund pages 207-209.


5.          The landing place of the Nephites must have been west of the land of Nephi and west and south of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness where it ended near the west sea (I Nephi, 22:28 and Helaman 6:10). Therefore, Lehi’s landing must have been on the west coast of Mesoamerica. It had to have been south of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness because the land of Lehi was south and the land of Mulek was north of said wilderness (Helaman 6:8-12).


6.          The area must have been visited by Columbus because he was led by the Lord to “the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (I Nephi 13:12). It was the same promised land that the Lord guided the Nephites,”…we did arrive at the promised land…and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nepi 18:23). to (see discussion following).


7.          There must be evidence of substantial Gold in:

1. the land of the first inheritance; (gold, silver, and copper (I Nephi 18:25);

2. the land of Nephi; (copper, gold, silver in great abundance (2Nephi 5:15);

3. the land of Zarahemla; (gold, silver, precious ore (Helaman 6-9-11);

4. the land of the Jaredites; (all manner of gold, silver, iron (Ether 10:23).


8.          River Sidon must have its headwaters between the east sea and the west sea near Manti on the northern side of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness and it must flow northerly past and on the east side of Zarahemla. The River Sidon cannot flow southerly from the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness.


9.          The west sea must be west of the River Sidon (Alma 22:27-29).


Any proposed Book of Mormon geography that does not meet all of the above criteria cannot be the land of the Book of Mormon.


(D). Elimination of all theories that do not meet all of the above criteria.


South America must be eliminated as any part of the Book of Mormon geography because:


1.   There is no narrow strip of mountainous wilderness that connects the Pacific Ocean with an east sea.


2.   There is no such narrow strip of mountainous wilderness that contains any ancient ruins that date between 200 BC to AD 400 that surround such wilderness and that have any evidence of a written language of said dates.


3.   There is no evidence of the use of a written language, let alone two written languages, in all of South America during said time period. 


4.   The Prophet Joseph Smith said, as editor, in the Times and Season September issue, 1842 that the “ruins of Zarahemla have been found” in Guatemala and, therefore, he believed the land southward was not in South America but in Central America.


The conclusion is inescapable that even though South America is part of the greater land of promise because (1) Columbus visited it; (2) a mixture of the blood of Lehi could have lived there; (3) Moroni said it occurred on “this continent;” and (4) our Prophets have so declared, it cannot be where the Book of Mormon events took place because of the above stated reasons.

     Map showing Columbus visiting Central America area. He did not visit the U.S.



United States must be eliminated as the location of the lands of the Book of Mormon because:


1. Columbus was led by the Lord to the promised land in Mesoamerica. Columbus did not land on or visit any part of the United States, as shown on the above map. (More on this will follow).


2. The climate of northeastern United States would not permit the native men to have lived during the winter with only a loin cloth and with shaved heads let alone going to war during that time (Lund pages 207-210, Alma 3:5, 43:20, 3rd Nephi 4:7), nor could Alma and Amulek have survived more than 2 weeks in jail naked during the last of December through the first of January (Alma 14:21-28).


3. There is no credible evidence of any written language in North America during the Book of Mormon time period. The evidence of a written language, Cuneiform, among the Hopewell and Adena cultures has been determined to be fraudulent by many scholars, (Wikipedia) including Talmage, see Michigan Relics: a Story of Forgery, and Deception Deseret Museum Bulletin, Sept. 1911 and others, Insights, volume 24, 2004.) (More on this follows.)


4. There is no narrow strip of mountainous wilderness starting on the Pacific coast and going eastward to an east sea.


5. There is no evidence of many ruins surrounding said narrow strip of wilderness that date from about 200 BC to AD 400.


6. Joseph Smith's last statement of belief, though not prophetic, on the location of Zarahemla was September and October of 1842 wherein he either stated, approved, or at the least never disapproved, that Zarahemla was in Guatemala, Central America.


7.  The Mississippi river cannot be Sidon because the Book of Mormon shows the river Sidon flowed northward and the Mississippi flows southward (Alma 2:.15, 34).


8. There is copper but almost no gold and/or silver east of the Mississippi (Lund at page 128).


9. The Adena/Hopewell cultures could not have been the Jaredite/Nephite cultures because the Adena/Hopewell inhabited the same general areas but at different time periods. The Book of Mormon requires that the Jaredite/Nephite people co-existed in different lands without knowledge of each other’s existence for a period of at least 250 years.


There are many more reasons to eliminate the possibility that the Book of Mormon lands could have been anywhere in the United States; however, the above is more than sufficient. 


(E). Another look of the U.S. as the land of the Book of Mormon


I must admit, however, that of all the North American proponents, Phyllis Carol Oliver, Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, 2000, made some cogent and constructive arguments which caused me to reconsider and really give another in-depth study of the United States as the land where most of the events of the Book of Mormon might have taken place. This is because of the special spiritual and physical events that either took place or will take place in the United States of America.  


For example, the United States is where Adam-ondi-Ahman was; where the New Jerusalem city will be built; where the Gospel was restored, etc.  The principle scriptures in I Nephi 13:-29 that absolutely place the United States within the “land of promise” state:

13.            …I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles, and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters

14.            I beheld many multitudes of Gentiles upon the land of promise...and the [Lamanites] were scattered before the Gentiles...

16.            ...that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

17.            ...The mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters and upon the land also, to battle against them.

18.            ...The power of God was with them and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle

19.            I, Nephi, beheld that the gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.


It is undeniable that this is referring to the United States, so, therefore, how could the events of the Book of Mormon not have taken place there? It does seem compelling.


There is, however, a more compelling scripture that, for me, resolves the question. I Nephi 13:12 states, speaking of Columbus “...and I beheld the Spirit of God that it came down and wrought upon the man: and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren who were in the promised land.” As you can readily see on the foregoing map, Columbus came to Central America and South America, not the United States area. To further affirm this conclusion is the fact that the term “the promised land” seems to be used differently than the term “land of promise” in the Book of Mormon.


The scriptures talking about going to or arriving at a specific area use the term “the promised land”:


1.   Columbus was guided by the Lord to the promised land, I Nephi 13:12.

2.   The Liahona and Nephi guided the ship to the promised land, I Nephi 18:22.

3.   They arrived at the promised land, I Nephi 18:23.

4.. They called the land where they landed the promised land, I Nephi 18:23.

5.. The Lord promised Nephi he would be led “towards the promised land” and “after ye have arrived in the promised land” (I Nephi 17:13-14). “...And they were driven....towards the promised land” (I Nephi 18:8).

6   . …they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land… (Mosiah 10:15).


Even the scriptures describing the Jaredites’ coming to the promised land use the term “the promised land” in describing their destination:

Ether 6:5-16 states:

5. ...furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land...

7. ...the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land...

12. ...did land upon the shore of the promised land...and...set their feet upon the shores of the promised land...

16...and they also begat sons and daughters before they came to the promised land...

            In Ether 7:27 it repeats “across the great deep into the promised land.”



Map showing landing place of Lehi, the “Spanish gentiles”, and the “English” gentiles


Thus we see that there were at least two groups of Gentiles that were prophesied to come to “this continent” as stated by Moroni.


The other “English” Gentiles who came out of captivity never “went” to the “promised land” but they were in the “land of promise”. I Nephi 13:12, 14, states that Nephi beheld that:


12....the Spirit of God ...wrought upon other gentiles: and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

14....I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise...”


This scripture is clearly talking about the other “English” Gentiles that came out of captivity that settled in the United States and harassed but did not destroy the “mixture of thy [Nephi] seed”( I Nephi 13:30). 


The Lord did not guide Columbus to the land of promise in North America, but to the same land that the Lord guided Nephi: in a straight course directly to the promised land in Mesoamerica. Alma 37:44-45 states:


            44....this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

45....for just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.

The Book of Mormon seems consistent in the use of the two terms. The land of promise in North America is not the promised land where Lehi and Columbus landed in Mesoamerica.  Once the Nephites and Jaredites were located in their promised land it was referred to as a land of promise (Jacob 2:12, I Nephi 4:14). Therefore, the hill Ramah/Cumorah, where the two great last battles occurred, was located in the promised land in the Mesoamerica area, and not New York. Clearly each group of gentiles went to a different part of the greater land of promise.  

The obvious conclusion from the above is that the Book of Mormon events could not have occurred in North America, but only in the Mesoamerica area.  Our prophets have always maintained that North America, Central America, and South America are all part of the greater Land of Promise, or in other words Zion. Joseph Smith said:

I will give you the key, North and South America is Zion.   You may go all over North and South America and build up stakes when the time comes. The whole continent of America must be organized into districts and….(Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 7 p.258).

As stated above, Joseph Smith also said that within “this continent” or Zion, the city of Zarahemla had been found in Guatemala.  Therefore, all of May’s speculations and claims are in contradiction to what the Book of Mormon and the prophet Joseph Smith state.  The “Michigan Plates” and Relics have no bearing on the Book of Mormon because they are untruths as will be shown in this next section.




Having shown that the Adena/Hopwell cultures cannot be the Jaredite/Nephite cultures and having shown that geography of the Book of Mormon could not have been in the eastern half of the United States, there should be no further need to show the fraudulent nature of the Michigan plates and relics. However, May continues to beguile people into believing that the artifacts are authentic, and, hence, proof of the Book of Mormon and proof that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in the eastern half of the United States. Therefore, I feel I must show the false nature of these artifacts. All highlighting is mine. 


I believe that his disclaimer in his book, at page 19, shows that May is fully aware of the credible evidence against these artifacts and this only exacerbates the fraud:

“We are quite careful in the way we treat controversial artifacts. The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies makes mention from James E. Talmage’s journal the story about the step-daughter of Scotford (the discoverer of some of the Michigan relics), who stated that he had fraudulently manufactured many of the relics. They call this “critical evidence”. The fact is either the girl [was] fabricating the story or she was telling the truth. It can go one way or the other, especially if she had something against him. In our own families, we have seen false accusations made, and it is certainly not out of the question. (Parenthetical phrase is May’s)


His continuing to use them as if authentic, all the while claiming he does not take sides, is to me, fraudulent. He is the one benefitting from the use and sale of these artifacts and from tours. He is the one telling the scientific community to prove them false, which it already has. May has not offered competent scientific rebuttal but merely his personal speculations, conclusions, and unverified testimonials.

Much of the following information comes from Brant Gardner’s above mentioned article published in 2008. All quotes from Brant Gardner will be italicized. I will summarize a few evidences against the Michigan plates and artifacts however, first it is instructive to relate their origin as described by Fred Raydholm at page 27 of Gardner’s article:

The “Michigan Tablets” tale begins around 1885, in Big Rapids, where James O. Scotford, one-time sleight-of-hand performer turned sign-painter, was displaying an almost clairvoyant ability to discover Indian artifacts in prehistoric mounds.

He sold Indian “relics” (some of them authentic), and was assisted by a Mr. Soper. No one was suspicious until 1890, when Soper was elected Michigan’s Secretary of state, not a very important job in those days. He got into trouble accepting kickbacks, and was promptly fired by Governor Edwin B. Winans, in 1891.

Soper dropped out of sight until 1907, when he re-appeared in Detroit, living near Scotford. At that time, he was selling rare Indian artifacts to collectors in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Canada. He offered hundreds of objects—copper weapons, ornaments and all kinds of copper implements as well as clay pipes and bowls which he claimed had been unearthed by Scotford in Isabella County, near Big Rapids, at sites within three miles of Lansing, even in back of Palmer Park.


The artifacts were disputed from the beginning:”When the University of Michigan was given an opportunity to buy two caskets a prehistoric beer mug, a bowl, three goblets and some copper coins at $1,000 and refused, the items were offered at $100, and when the University declined, Soper left them at Ann Arbor (page 28).

There was another interesting and probative testimonial by Granny Mary Robson cited by Gardner at page 12: 

She told the News on September 6th that one winter she had a room at 3131/2 Michigan next to the one occupied by Percy Scotford and his brother, Charles, age 21. She said “Hammering went on day and night.” She went to the boys’ room to borrow something and “they warned me out. Then they relented and told her that she was in Detroit’s ancient relic factory. The next day Charles denied this and said that Percy had hypnotized Granny Robson using skills gained in a correspondence course. “Never hypnotized me in their lives, said Granny firmly.


On page 46, This Land, regarding the scientific community’s charge of fraud in the early days of the Michigan Relics, May states the following:

So unrelenting was the official campaign of academic hysteria that anyone even remotely associated with the Michigan artifacts distanced themselves from the bitter controversy. Eventually, any discussion of the artifacts’ possible genuineness was no longer considered. And after the decades, the Michigan Tablets fell into almost complete oblivion.

It was with good reason that the scientific community declared that what Scotford and Soper were selling and declaring to be authentic were really fraudulent. The following quotes are from the Michigan.Gov website entitled The Relics’ Heyday. Digging up Controversy: The Michigan Relics dated 2004:

In his series of articles for the Detroit News, William Benscoter described how the relics were planted and found. Scotford, with help from his sons and son-in-law, manufactured the relics and planted them in mounds or turnouts. Diggers might not visit the site for weeks, long enough for weeds and grasses to grow over the spot.

With Scotford or Soper and an interested party standing by, a hired digger worked until he hit something. Then he invited the guest of honor to uncover the prize. The grateful “discoverer” almost always willingly signed an affidavit attesting to its authenticity.

Scotford and Soper targeted important people in a community. Mayors, postmasters, ministers of all faiths were taken in, and their credibility transferred to the bogus affidavits. Even a few seasoned archaeologists, such as William C. Mills of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society and Rowland B. Orr of the Ontario Provincial Museum were fooled.

A request that the University of Michigan evaluate the relics and publish its findings led to further scholarly investigation. Professor Francis Kelsey of the University’s Latin department made his own assessment of the objects. He enlisted Dr. Morris Jastrow, a respected expert on Middle Eastern languages at the University of Pennsylvania. Not content to reach merely a local audience, the two sent their denunciations of the Michigan Relics to a national magazine

Morris Jastrow, 1892 declared: “I beg of you to announce that the tablets and monuments claimed to have been excavated are willful forgeries, remarkable only for their clumsy character and the great ignorance betrayed by the forger.”


Morris Jastrow also published with The Nation. 1892: The inscriptions are largely a horrible mixture of Phoenician, Egyptian and ancient Greek characters taken at random from a comparative table of alphabets such as is found at the back of Webster’s Dictionary.

Francis Kelsey, 1892 declared: “There is no reason why honest people should be deceived any longer as to the true character of these forgeries, or be misled by the fanciful interpretations of misguided enthusiasts.”

And finally on YouTube-Wayne May on Ancient American Artifacts it says (unedited):

“From Ed Goble, co-author of May’s book THIS LAND. “Speaking as one who has thoroughly embarrassed myself publicly by ever having been connected to the Michigan Tablets, I can now say that a bad tast has been left in my mouth. I can say with complete certainty on my part that they are frauds. I had a gut feeling that they were from the beginning, but I ignored it, because I wanted my book published so bad…I am personally very sorry I ever had anything to do with those artifacts.”

May gives another disclaimer and plea for the scientific community to prove or disprove these artifacts. At page 19 of his book May states:

The true critical evidence on the Michigan tablets has yet to come. Real evidence will come when they are put through tests to determine their authenticity. Then they will either be declared frauds definitively, or they will move into the category of proven artifacts. Until that time they are in the limbo category, as it were, of controversial artifacts. Only real tests and real evidence can authenticate them or prove them as fraudulent

Wayne May will not accept: the Dr. James E Talmage tests; The Smithsonian tests; the Dr. Morris Jastrow tests; the Professor Francis Kelsey’s tests. He will not accept a neighbor, Granny Robson’s, testimony that Scotfield told her they had a Detroit ancient relic factory in their house. He will not accept the testimony of Scotfield’s stepdaughter that she saw him make the fake relics. Clearly he will only believe that which supports his personal desire that the relics be proven authentic.

He completely ignores Richard B. Stamp’s scientific examination (more real tests) of the relics. Quoting from Gardner’s article at page 14-21:

Richard B. Stamps ran several types of examinations on multiple examples of the Michigan artifacts. When examining the clay artifacts, he found the type of clay and temper was not representative of that found in Michigan. In addition, several of the clay pieces have the “IH/” symbol on one side and marks of saw-cut wood on the other. As Stamps notes, “Because modern tools leave modern marks, it is logical, with these additional examples, to agree with Kelsey and Spooner that the clay artifacts having the “IH/” symbol on one side and historic period woodprints on the other date to the historic period.

Further evidence of the impossibility of the clay objects’ antiquity is that they dissolve in water and thus could not have survived in Michigan ground

With its rainy springs, humid summers, and cold, snowy winters. The winter frost action combined with the day thaw-night freeze sequence in early spring destroys low-fired prehistoric ceramics from the Woodland period. Water penetrates the porous pottery and, when the temperature drops low enough, it freezes, forming crystals that split the pottery. Many of the unfired Michigan Relic clay pieces have survived for more than one hundred years only because they have been stored in museums or collectors’ cabinets, protected from the harsh Michigan weather. If placed in the ground they would not survive ten let alone hundreds of years.

Stamps also examined some of the copper pieces, yielding the same microscopical conclusion as the report to Talmage. The pieces are modern smelted copper: He states the following:

In cross-section, I observed that the temperature difference on the surface differs slightly from the temperature at the center. This difference is another evidence that the piece was made from smelted ingots that had been hot-rolled. Additionally, the piece I studied was too flat to have been built up by the cold-hammer, folding, laminating process that we see in Native American artifacts. This piece clearly has no folds or forging laps. It is also extremely regular in thickness, with a range of .187 to .192 inches. A measurement of.1875 equals 3/16 of an inch—a Standard English unit of measurement and common thickness for commercially produced rolled stock. Even the edges have been peaned (hammered to remove the straight edges), whereas most traditional pieces are diamond shaped with a strong ridge running down the center of the blade or point. The blank piece of copper from which the artifact was made appears to have been cut from a larger piece with a guillotine-style table shear or bench shear.

            Many of the artifacts are on slate. Talmage had earlier seen clear evidence of modern saw cuts on slate artifacts, an observation Stamps confirms. Michigan does not have slate quarries, but there was a large business importing slate roofing tiles during the appearance of the Michigan relics. Many of the “relics” clearly demonstrate the markings of commercially cut and milled slate.                       

May has since learned that the evidenced for forgery is so strong that even he cannot deny it. The newer approach is slightly different:

Did the Scotford brothers make some fake artifacts? Somebody did. All the men I have visited who have seen the collection in Salt Lake City, or now in Lansing, Michigan agree there are fakes in the collection. The Scotfords may or may not have been forgers, but someone surely was. However, just as courts of law require two or more witnesses to convict or identify the accused, so we have witnesses who have testified on behalf of some of the Michigan relics. Thanks to Rudalf Etzenhouser, we have signed testimonials by several witnesses as to the discovery and disclosure of such artifacts.

…May appears to be deliberately blind. The scientific studies have been done. Stamps’ examination is devastating. Every artifact examined bore marks of modern manufacture…why May would continue to believe that some artifacts might be authentic when every expert he has consulted calls them forgeries and every piece that has undergone testing is clearly a forgery...

Perhaps even more telling is the story of the artifacts that May does not relate. As part of his conclusions on the artifacts, Stamps provides the following information about the discovery of these artifacts (page 28):

The finds appeared only when Scotford or Soper were on the scene. Gillman, who worked extensively in Southeastern Michigan, reports that none were found before 1890. From 1890 to 1920, they were found only by Scotford, Soper or family and associates. The Michigan Relic phenomenon follows Scotford in time and space. “After Scotford’s death and Soper’s retirement to Chattanooga, Tennessee, no new examples were dug up. Al Spooner, long-time member of the Michigan Archaeological Society who, as a youth dug with Soper; John O’Shay of Anthropology Museum at the University of Michigan; and John Halsey, state archaeologist of Michigan, all concur that no new finds have been reported since the 1920s. Halsey’s office has documented some ten thousand prehistoric sites in Michigan. None of them have produced Michigan Relics.                        

Gardner concludes his article by stating at page 28:

…all of those who have the training to deal with either the physical or cultural aspects of the artifacts have uniformly declared them fakes. All rigorous scientific tests have declared them forgeries. The testimony of witnesses to the forgeries and the absence of any artifacts since the time of the forgers, coupled with the absence of artifacts from known sites, all tell us that a “PROPER SCIENTIFIC FRAME OF MIND” REQUIRES THAT WE DECLARE THEM FORGERIES AND LOOK FOR OUR SUPPORT OF THE BOOK OF MORMON IN FIRMER GROUND, GEOGRAPHICALLY, CULTURALLY, AND ARCHAEOLOGICALLY.


Fraud is defined as an intentional untruth or dishonest scheme used to take deliberate advantage of another. Actual fraud includes cases of misrepresentation designed to cheat others. Actual fraud also includes something said, done or omitted with the design of continuing what a person knows to be a deception. Constructive fraud includes untruths or misrepresentations that one knows or should reasonably know to be untrue. 


Wayne May, (or anyone else) must not close his eyes to the truth:

To claim that the Sidon river runs south instead of north is an untruth.

To claim that the Nephites/Lamanites occupied the same land at the same time frame or any part thereof as the Jaredites occupied before their self destruction is an untruth.

To claim that Lehi landed at or near the mouth of the Mississippi river is an untruth.

To claim that the Michigan plates and relics are authentic is an untruth.

To remain neutral in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary claiming the artifacts to be in “the limbo category, as it were, of controversial artifacts (page 19)” and profiting there from is an untruth sufficient to be constructive fraud.

To claim the Michigan Plates contained Cuneiform writing is an untruth.

For May to hide behind still another disclaimer merely exacerbates the intentional misrepresentations and hence the fraud. At page 48 May states:

The authors of this book at least take no position on authenticity or fraud until we see something to sway us one way or another. At least we are working toward the end of FINDING OUT, and presenting the case as it should be presented, objectively, and not dogmatically declaring something to be so without any ground to stand on.

The whole book and series of This Land clearly takes the position of proposing the authenticity of the Michigan plates and relics. At the fireside I attended, May displayed the relics and talked about them beguiling people to believe them to be authentic. At least his co-author Edwin Goble was honest in saying that he was working toward FINDING OUT the authenticity of the relics and when he saw the evidence he honestly recanted and published it. Clearly he absolved himself of any fraud and he did it just as the book was being printed but too late to stop the publication. 

I personally believe that in the face of all the evidence shown above, and in Brant Gardner’s two articles, May has perpetrated a fraud. He should follow Edwin Goble’s, example and recant and accept the truth.

In law the burden of proof has long since shifted to May to prove by verifiable scientific evidence that the conclusions of Dr. James E Talmage, Dr. Morris Jastrow, Professor Francis Kelsey, James B Stamps and many others are false.

If he fails to do so and continues propagating the above as “possibly true” by further writing and selling his books, artifacts and DVD’s and in giving firesides and presentations, as he has done in the past, in my opinion, he will be committing, at least civil fraud.


Andersen, Joe V.