Round Table Discussion 2003

Transcript of the Round Table Discussion, September 2003 BMAF Conference held at Thanksgiving Point

Those on the panel were V. Garth Norman, F. Richard Hauck and Joseph L. Allen

Question - What has been the most significant breakthrough in helping to understand the history of the Book of Mormon in the past 25 years?
Answer - Garth V. Norman.  I think everyone will have a little different answer.  I don't know that I could point to one significant breakthrough. I think in a general sense I would have to recognize the various studies that have been done in attempting to describe and correlate Book of Mormon geography as being in Mesoamerica.  When you come right down to it, it's the only place where you can bring all the data together and have it really fit.  In conjunction with that, of course, is the ongoing archaeological research and discoveries that continue to bring the data together.  Mesoamerican history is very rapidly in the process of being written through the archaeological excavation and related research among Mesoamerican scholars.  We have the good fortune as scholars and professionals, in addition to that information on insights, of having the Book of Mormon.  So we often know what happened when non-Mormon archaeologists are oftentimes just guessing. 
Answer - Joseph L. Allen.  The breaking of the Maya code, I think, has opened up all kinds of opportunities for further research.  Then there is President Benson putting such emphasis on reading the Book of Mormon, so that it has become a spiritual thing.  We used to hear that the Lord will reveal these things in his own good time.  Maybe the Lord's own good time means when we're ready.  After the announcement of President Benson we literally noticed a change from one moment to the next with people we were taking on our tours. 

Q - With both LDS and non-LDS scholars in Mesoamerican archaeology, how has introducing the Book of Mormon in your studies influenced your career?
A - F. Richard Hauck.  It hasn't really affected my professional career because I've been self-employed.  It's difficult to fire yourself if you don't agree with yourself.  I can see the problems with other individuals in academia that are Latter-day Saints who believe in the Book of Mormon.  Then they're faced with the problem - either championing the Book of Mormon in what they believe or trying to stay away from that.  That has caused some  very real problems for them. 
A - Garth V. Norman.  I think it's interesting to see this in a historical perspective.  We are at a time in this generation where there is a very formalized paradigm in American archaeology that is rigidly adhered to based on the theory of evolutionary origin of ancient American civilizations developing from indigenous Indian tribes.  Where does that put the Book of Mormon story?  So, it really doesn't have a place in current professional archaeological thinking.  So a professional archaeologist, who is a Mormon, is going to face certain difficulties.  In my work with the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF), in any of the ten years that I worked on these Izapa sculpture projects, I never once discussed the possibilities of Book of Mormon relationships of Stela 5 or any other monument.  That was the policy and it was to be rigidly Mesoamerican-scholarly-oriented in the whole process.  But, it's interesting to see what happens, anyway, simply because the NWAF is BYU-based.  Regardless of that caution and sensitivity, it was generally conceded that NWAF were the people who were down looking for Book of Mormon evidences, even though, technically, they weren't.  I think that's had some bearing on the very widespread neglect of taking the NWAF scholarly reports seriously in the profession.
A - F. Richard Hauck.  During my work in Guatemala, I got to know an archaeologist from Pennsylvania.  He was the primary excavator at Tikal, Guatemala.  He also worked at Uaxactún, and a couple of other sites.  We became good friends, and I was allowed access to his laboratory and library and a lot of his excavation and research notes for the years he'd been down there.  He, of course, is not LDS.  He was originally offered the chairmanship of the NWAF.  He declined.  He said a very interesting thing to me, knowing that I was LDS, and knowing that the work I was doing there was related to the Book of Mormon that never affected our relationship at all.  He said, “I don't agree with you or other Mormon scholars on the Book of Mormon and its place in Mesoamerica, but I have to give all of you my commendations on your tenacity and your ability to work and continue with it and try to work it through.”  So, that gives you a little insight between those of us who are LDS working in that field and our interface with other individuals when they're really being honest.

Q - What are some of the correlations that would connect the Jaredites with the Olmecs?
A - Joseph L. Allen.  The film, “Ancient America and the Book of Mormon,” presents a number of these things that might require a long answer.  What triggers my thoughts is the fact that you can work with three witnesses - you can work with archaeology itself, obviously the Book of Mormon from the book of Ether, and you work with traditional Mexican history.  You get those three aspects lined up talking about the same thing, and you get such ideas as, they came from the great tower where their language was not confounded; they reached a high civilization, in fact, considered the mother civilization of the Americas at the same time (around 1000 B.C.); their destruction was caused by an internal conflict; and then you can come up with some main correlations using all three documents - the Book of Mormon, archaeology, and traditional Mexican history.  You get some pretty good parallels.

Q - In regard to the Jaredites - might some of the descendants of the Jaredites be from Ham?
A - Joseph L. Allen.  We really don't know or even have a decent idea.

Q - A high percentage of where the Book of Mormon events took place were either in the land of Nephi or the land of Zarahemla or points in between.  The distance between the two lands appear to be between 28 and 40 days of walking distance.  From your studies, which areas offer the most vital information of where these lands were - Peru, Mesoamerica, or the eastern United States.
A - Joseph L. Allen.  I vote for Mesoamerica.  The criteria, I think, are extremely important.  My first love, really, is Peru.  I filled my mission in Argentina back in 1957, and when I visited Cuzco, Peru, and listened to the guide talk there, I thought he'd read the Book of Mormon.  As a young returned missionary I was surprised that he hadn't even heard of the Book of Mormon.  It was quite a shock to me to realize that probably Peru was not the place where the Book of Mormon events took place.  There was no indication of a written language in Peru during the time period of the Book of Mormon, yet it was shown to have surfaced very strongly in Mesoamerica.  The language has played a major role in my mind. 
A - Garth V. Norman.  I think, in addition to that time-space relationship, you have a very clear statement in the 22nd chapter of Alma about the Land Southward.  It's a land that is nearly surrounded by water, it has a narrow neck, and if we're looking at Central America, we have to hypothesize another narrow neck to the south based upon the time and distance.  The primary features that are defined there are in the borderland between the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi.  The narrow strip of wilderness doesn't specifically state mountains, but I think that's really the only conclusion you can come to.  You also realize that the headwaters of the river Sidon drain northward, and rivers have a tendency to drain from mountains.  I don't know of any place in all the Americas where those criteria fit, except southern Mesoamerica.

Q - We see names in the Book of Mormon, such as Ammonihah, Nephihah, and Moronihah.  What is the significance or meaning of the suffix 'hah'?
A - Joseph L. Allen.  In the Maya language there are a lot of different dialects.  In the Yucatec dialect, the suffix 'ha,' means 'water'.  Altun Ha means water associated with stone.  In the Yucatan area, wherever there is a town ending in 'ha' it's where the underground water broke through the surface of the land.  In Hebrew, the 'hah' ending means 'from the loins of,' or 'son of'.  The 'hah,' meaning water, may have something to do with the waters breaking as a mother is about to deliver a child. 

Q - Would you please respond to the comment in the Book of Mormon that the whole face of the land was changed and how that would affect Book of Mormon studies.
A - Garth V. Norman.  The commentary says surface of the land.  That doesn't necessarily imply massive changes of geological formations, such as mountains and valleys.  The kinds of destructions as I read in the Book of Mormon are obviously related to volcanoes and earthquake activity, which would change the face of the earth.  But that really is the exception.  Hurricanes, which often accompany volcanic eruption, and other massive storms, can change the whole face of the land, with trees getting knocked over, etc.  Archaeologically, there is nothing that could sustain a massive change in the land masses.  The ruins that are in Mesoamerica predate the events of 2000 years ago.
A - F. Richard Hauck.  I can only respond on the basis of my research in Guatemala and Mexico.  There are areas, as Garth mentions, where we can go back and sites that predate the Savior's crucifixion, and they're still on the surface; so we know that those were not destroyed.  As a matter of fact, Mormon knew about these earlier areas and referred to them, and he lived long after the crucifixion.  So there wasn't massive destruction everywhere, but there was destruction in some areas I worked, particularly in central Guatemala just north of the highlands.  There has been some tremendous geological devastation in which the karst systems there were literally torn apart by seismic disturbances.  I'm not sure but I take it that it happened during the Savior's crucifixion.  But, I have seen some areas where the face of the land was totally changed.
A - Joseph L. Allen.  I think that question has been asked on every tour we've ever taken.  Somewhere along the way, some church authority 100 years ago stated that the whole face of the land was changed, therefore you can't study geography.  So, you just leave it alone - it's impossible.  But, it's really just the reverse.  Some times if an object is covered over by earth, it's like a time-tunnel, where it actually helps, rather than hindering the excavation.  Some one else also observed, 3 Nephi 10:10, “and the earth did cleave together again.”  Now, there may have been great destruction, but you certainly don't change where places were.  There was a place west of Mexico City that was covered over by a volcano, and the people went five miles away to live.  We still know where that is because the Catholic church steeple still extends above the ground there.  That idea of total destruction is a myth in the Church that I'd like to see disappear, because it isn't true.
A - Garth V. Norman.  This issue always focuses in on, if it was massive then we can't do anything with geography, we can't be confident that the narrow neck is the same.  Joe has made this very clear that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Narrow Neck of Land, is the same today as it was 10,000 years ago.  There may have been some minor changes in some of the coastal areas because of flooding, but not extensive.  It's also interesting in that hyperbole tends to take over as you read that part of the Book of Mormon.  How many cities are mentioned as being totally destroyed?  I believe it's ten, as I recall.  That really isn't very many compared to all the Book of Mormon cities mentioned.  If we're looking at a localized land in a historical context, I don't think we can take in North and South America, either.

Q - Can you give insights about the city of Tulum, with its temple to three gods, and its solar date to the descending god.  Someone on a cruise visited Tulum, and assumptions were given, but there was no Book of Mormon authority there to discuss it.
A - F. Richard Hauck.  Let me make one comment that is parallel but not directly associated with this.  Tulum is quite late, in fact, was occupied when the Spanish came.  We have to be very careful with respect to Mexican tour guides.  A couple in our ward came back years ago, who had visited Tulum, and stated how their testimonies had been enriched because the guide showed them snail shells taken off the top of one of these structures.  He took these shells down (and they were land snails, not from the ocean) and said, “See, these are sea shells, which proves that this was under water at the time of the Savior's crucifixion.”  The people's testimonies were built on a falsification.
A - Garth V. Norman.  Late traditions are oftentimes based on earlier traditions.  You have to be careful to look at things through that kind of window.  If there is any connection, you'll have to go way back to the time of Christ.
A - Joseph  L. Allen.  We've gone through a period of change in the last 50 years in terms of Book of Mormon geography. William E. Berrett, when he was over the Church Education System 50 years ago, was asked by some of the brethren what the thinking was on Book of Mormon geography.  So, they invited a few people who had written some things about it to see if there was any consensus about where various events took place.  When he got through with the discussions, there were two things that stood out: 1- there was no consensus; there was wide disagreement.  2- The 'Book of Mormon lands' were primarily where these writers had served their missions.  Since that time I would hope that we've become a little more sophisticated.  There are some things we can agree on.  If a site was built at 1200 A.D., then it would be pretty hard to call it a Nephite building that dates to 100 B.C.  We need to ask what time period each location dates to before we start calling places possible Nephite cities, etc.  I spent a full week talking with an LDS guide at Tulum about many of these things, and said that I have never borne my witness on an archaeological site relative to the Book of Mormon.  I've borne my witness thousands of times in relation to the Book of Mormon, that it's true, but I've never borne my witness that any particular site is associated with any particular place in the Book of Mormon.  It's a scientific study, and we have a right to disagree on that.  The minute we cross that line and say we feel good about such and such a place, we can get into trouble.

Q - Do the new satellite technologies offer new insights into archaeological research, especially for Book of Mormon investigators.
A - F. Richard Hauck.  Absolutely.  Back in the early 1980's, they were doing analyses of agricultural sites using side-angle radar.  NASA developed side-angle radar to study the surface of Venus. But, through all the ether clouds, or whatever it is around Venus, they had to have some specialized photography to penetrate.  So they developed the side-angle radar.  To test this concept, they photographed all over the Petén of Guatemala and southern Mexico.  Later, they gave these photos to archaeologists who analyzed them and discovered a whole new type of agricultural system that had been produced down there.  The agriculture wasn't slash-and-burn after all.  That was the beginning of the major technologies that have affected us in archaeology as far as our work in Mesoamerica.  Now with GPS and its capacities, and with ground-penetrating radar, we have some wonderful things to look for in the future.

Q - Is there evidence of a 'Sabbath' in pre-Columbian culture? 
A - Garth V. Norman.  There are some clues.  In my research at Izapa, and the calendar sequencing of the monuments, as I've studied it out, the evidence points to each of the monuments being dedicated to a lunar month in sequence, commemorated with the new moon.  I have more interest than the simple Sabbath question; as you reflect in the Hebrew tradition about the commemoration of the new moons within the Law of Moses.  The monuments, as well as the layout of the temple center, and the four seasons and four directional quarters, and the numeral system on Stela 12 that I interpret as the new year monument, include the numbers seven and eight, which break down into lunar quarters.  That's the origin of the week.  So they understood and measured time by that.  Whether they were conducting a Sabbath once a week or during a lunar quarter, I couldn't say.

Q - Regarding the ditches and fortifications that have been discovered, have they been excavated, and are there dates associated with them?
A - F. Richard Hauck.  No, the ditches haven't been excavated.  I first started finding these in 1981 based on the geographic methodology I used to analyze the Book of Mormon.  That was in my original publication, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon.  I used that model to go into areas in Guatemala where there were higher possibilities to fit the model, where there could be fortifications, and I started finding them.  Some of you saw Bruce Warren's presentation of some trenches there, and that's when we first started finding them there.  I worked on that through the 1980's and early 1990's, but, because I'm not affiliated with a university I could never get a permit to excavate.  But, I did find in some of those trenches that the remains of the pottery fits right within that pre-Classic time period when Chief Captain Moroni was defending the land of Zarahemla, about 65-70 B.C.  The pottery dates to that time.  There are human remains and a tremendous amount of ash and charcoal from structures being burned, and some of these initial fortified areas are about two miles across at strategic points; and the whole area of Cobán is ringed with this type of system.  We can also see evidences of trenches and timber stockades behind the trenches exactly as is stated in the Book of Mormon relative to the defense, particularly of the city of Noah that the Lamanites were trying to conquer.  So, we've been able to find some of these positions, but I haven't yet been able to excavate; and my hope is that we can work with some of the people there in Guatemala, and use the ground-penetrating radar, and then go from there.  You know, as the years go by, you get less and less energy and the work gets harder and harder.  Maybe we'll have to leave that to some young enterprising fellow sometime later.
(Asked about the fortifications at Becan.)  Becan is outside the area and is Classic in dating.  However, we have a number of fortifications in the highlands where we would expect them to be based on the model I've been working from. 
A - Garth V. Norman.  In terms of the fortification efforts being eventually throughout the whole land, you can look at those scattered sites and it's difficult to pinpoint them to any possible Book of Mormon site.

Q - Please discuss the Hill Ramah/Cumorah in Mesoamerica versus where Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon plates; where did Moroni deposit those plates; some believe it was in Central America.
A - Joseph L Allen.  The scripture that is most often used is Mormon 6:6, where he says that Mormon hid up all the records in the Hill Cumorah, “save it were these few plates which I gave to my son, Moroni”.  These 'few plates,' of course, are what the Book of Mormon was translated from.  Then Moroni says, Mormon 8:4, “I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not,” suggesting the movement; then in Moroni, chapter 1, 15 years later, 400 A.D., he says I'm still alive, I'm going to write a few more things.  Then, still later, 421 A.D., he makes his last entry. As far as depositing the plates in Central America, I don't believe anyone believes that.  Moroni deposited the plates in the hill near Joseph Smith's home in Palmyra, New York.  There has never really been any conflict about where the records from which the Book of Mormon were translated were deposited.  The real question is, where are all of the records that Mormon deposited? 
A - Garth V. Norman.  Maybe the question is timing. When did Moroni deposit them in New York?  Was it at the end of the Book of Mormon history that we have?  Or, as a resurrected being, in Joseph Smith's lifetime or shortly before?  Was Moroni directed by the Lord to transport them there so they could be retrieved easier?  That is pure speculation but it is a possibility.
Q - In relation to that, did Joseph Smith ever call the hill near Palmyra, Cumorah?
A -  F. Richard Hauck.  The first time the name Cumorah is mentioned as referring to the hill is when Oliver Cowdery, on his mission to the Delaware Indians, referred to the hill in New York as Cumorah.  That's where this comes from. 
A - Joseph L.Allen.  In the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History, verse 51, he mentions the 'hill of considerable size,' but doesn't call it Cumorah.  Neither Moroni nor Joseph Smith referred to the hill as Cumorah.  There was no reference that it had a name before Joseph Smith retrieved the plates from it.  Sometime later, the local non-members started calling in 'Mormon Hill.' Allen Miner's research shows that the first time the hill was referred to as Cumorah was the statement of Oliver Cowdery. 

Q- Could you comment on the statement that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery walked into a room in the hill and saw all of the plates and the sword of Laban.  Did that actually happen or was it a vision? 
A - Joseph L. Allen.  That statement comes from the Journal of Discourses, volume 19, page 38, when Brigham Young was told by Oliver Cowdery (so it is secondhand information) that he wanted to make the story clear that a cave opened up, and they saw wagonloads of records, and they also went a second time.  You're familiar with the story.  The story became well circulated because it was written in the Doctrine and Covenants Commentary that we had years ago.  (Upon checking with the Commentary, I could not find the story of the hill opening up.  The only reference to the Hill Cumorah was when, page 508, David Whitmer related the story of their meeting a man who said he was going to Cumorah.  This was in 1830.)  Also, there is an account by Heber C. Kimball (possibly recorded in the Journal of Discourses) who said it was essentially a vision that the brethren had had about when the hill opened up.  You remember that Nephi had a vision, and he was carried to a high mountain, yet when he woke up he was still on his cot.  So, a vision is not a designator of geography.  So, from that, you cannot prove that the Hill Cumorah is in New York or Mesoamerica or anywhere else. 

Q - With all the evidences uncovered in research, why do you feel that the Church has not given its blessing or verification of this information?
A - F. Richard Hauck.  I don't think it's something they want to deal with at this point.  This is a question that I've thought a lot of over the years, especially as I reviewed what the NWAF had done with Church money and the work that had gone into the Grijalva depression.  Ultimately, I think I found the answer in the scriptures.  At least, I'll give you the answer that I think exists, and then you can judge for yourself.  This is from Doctrine and Covenants, Section 27.  This is coming from the Savior.  This isn't coming from our time, or just from Joseph Smith.  The origin of this particular verse I'm going to read goes back to the afternoon when the Savior had the Last Supper with his disciples.  He knows very shortly what's going to happen in Gethsemane and what's going to happen on the hill Golgotha.  He's talking to his disciples (in the New Testament) and as he administers the wine to them, he says 'I won't be partaking of this with you again until' - and he refers probably until the Millennium.  In Section 27, the Savior is talking about the same thing in 1830 to Joseph Smith in Harmony, New York.  He says, verse 5, “Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not.”  Now he's been talking about the Sacrament.  This is the tie between the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament.  “I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni. . . .”  So, he's talking about when the time will come when once again, as he said in the Old Testament, he will partake of the fruit of the vine, “and with Moroni”, and here is the clincher, “whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fullness of my everlasting gospel, to whom have I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;”  Now when I came across this, I don't know how many times I'd read it before it really registered.  I think he's saying that in the Millennium he will partake of the Sacrament again with those apostles and with Moroni.  Then he expands on Moroni's role by saying that Moroni has the keys of the stick of Ephraim.  The stick of Ephraim is the Book of Mormon.  What are the keys to the Book of Mormon?  They were not given to Joseph Smith.  He had them only for the initial translation.  Those keys are evidently still retained by Moroni.  If those keys are not on the earth (let's just follow this through in a logical progression), with the leaders of the Church, and Moroni still has them, then logically our Brethren aren't going to be able to direct this type of work until those keys are given to them.  That's my logic on it.  Now I may stand corrected, but that's my feeling and understanding after years of trying to come to grips with this question. 
A - Garth V. Norman.  There are two schools of thought and, both, I think, are viable.  Some of our scholarly colleagues don't get involved with Book of Mormon geography or archaeology, for the simple reason that the locations of the Book of Mormon lands have never been revealed through a prophet.  So, the assumption there is that we're playing games until that happens.  Even then, Joseph Smith, as editor of the Times and Seasons, in 1842, when publishing extracts on the travels of John Lloyd Stevens in Mesoamerica and the ancient Mayan ruins, stated that these commentaries were given to assist the Saints to know that the revelations of the Book of Mormon were from God.  Isn't that a challenge to Church members - here, I'm starting you out; pick up the ball and carry the research forward.  About a year later, John Taylor, as editor of the Times and Seasons, made the comment in an editorial that it appeared that the Lord had specifically designed the coming forth of the Book of Mormon at a particular time and in such a manner that the world could then, afterward, come forward with studies in antiquities to prove it. 

Q - What is the next step then to the understanding of the archaeology of the Book of Mormon?
A - F. Richard Hauck.  My next step is to buy a plane ticket, put some money away, and sharpen my machete.  That's about as close as I can get to answering that question.
A - Joseph L. Allen.  When my wife and I were on a mission in Spain, we were working with a lot of new members, and I would occasionally give a fireside on the Book of Mormon.  I was very cautious not to talk about geography and other things that are in the process of being worked on.  I talked with the Lord a lot, and found that Mormon put a lot of things about geography into his account for a purpose.  I think that the purpose is a springboard, as it were, to give us a spiritual message.  The more we understand about geography and history and culture, we can home in on what the spiritual message is intended to be.  So I think there is a great need for continued research and continued understanding.  And I really have enjoyed the sessions of this conference that I've been able to sit in on, because it gives more insights, and channels and moves us forward.  I would also hope there are many young people who will step forward and keep these ideas progressing.  The only problem is that it's hard to make a living doing this.  I'd like to see a generation of young scholars develop.
A - Garth V. Norman.  We're in a unique position in the LDS community for taking the Book of Mormon literally as a sacred history of Mesoamerica.  It has everything going for it to be able to understand it as real history if we take up the challenge and do the research.  We can draw on everything that the scholars out there in the world are finding in their research and excavation, and examine and utilize their data.  There are specific problems relating to the Book of Mormon that we have to deal with, and put together as intelligent a research design that we can, and to go to specific places and do the research.  So, we have the opportunity to meet the challenge. 

Q - Is there any possible connection between the Book of Mormon peoples and the Indians of North America?
- Garth V. Norman.  Not in terms of the historical record as we have it.  It's pretty specific and very limited especially when it talks about the Land Northward.  The distances involved are too great when you spread up into North America.  Taking archaeology into the picture, there were other peoples in North America.  Even in Mesoamerica, there is a wide diversity of language groups as we know them today among the Indians there.  But, in the archaeological record, there are evidences of trade contact and communications in the Mound Builder culture in the Mississippi Valley area.  As an archaeologist here in Utah, I am just completing a project in the Parowan Gap near Cedar City, Utah; and I've discovered in the petroglyphs an observatory sighting of the Mesoamerican 260-day sacred calendar.  Now, there is no evidence that that dates back into Book of Mormon times. 
A - Joseph L. Allen.  There was a study done in the late 1970's to determine where the Native Americans came from.  As I recall, there were something like 31-32 million people in all the Americas, and only 1.5 million were on the north side of the Río Grande.  I'm beginning to believe that maybe you can do geography by prophecy.  The prophecy is that the days of the Lamanites will be prolonged.  They would receive the gospel.  Moroni, of course, wrote to the Lamanites, his brethren, so you look at where the fruits are.  There is a tremendous uprising in the growth of the Church in Latin America, and I think that's a recurring theme in the Book of Mormon. 

Q -  Is  there evidence that the Nephites  had long range contacts with other peoples?
A - Garth V. Norman. Long range contacts, yes.  And that would hold true for South America.  There is evidence for coastal shipping, trade and communication.  It also shows up in the art work, the same type of art symbols, a distinct local cultural development, that those kinds of long range contacts were going on; and they could have happened during Book of Mormon times, although the records we have don't reveal that.  All we know in the Book of Mormon is about Hagoth.  He went up and down the coast on long-range trips.  So, keep it in perspective. 
A - R. Richard Hauck.  The Lord's people have always been colonizers.  It wasn't just Brigham Young who originated the idea.  It goes clear back into the Old Testament.  Certainly we see evidences in the Book of Mormon.  Although, in the Book of Ether, we don't see much, I suspect that they were colonizing too.  So, I suspect we have thousands of years of colonization from Mesoamerica, of groups going north and south.  When Columbus came into the Caribbean, he came across Mayan sea-going, dugout canoes as far south as Panama.  This has been a tradition that goes back a long ways with a lot of different Mesoamerican cultures, not just the Book of Mormon itself.  I would suspect that there's been some kind of contact into the north, as well as the south.

Q -I wonder if you brethren would comment on Izapa being the Land of First Inheritance.
A - Garth V. Norman.  Well, you know what Joe's thought is.  And that's a good one.  There is a good argument for it.  My only thought in that direction is that it is still an open-ended question for research.  It's a difficult one to really tie down, as a lot of the geography is.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  The evidence is, that however it falls out at the end, it still is good evidence that we look at in the Book of Mormon time period.  I've done some more recent research on the alternative for the Land of First Inheritance being on the coast of El Salvador, including some linguistic evidence relating to that.  Again, it's another possibility.  My basic approach is that as we continue to study geography and attempt to tie things down, at every turn possible, we look carefully at alternatives and keep at open mind, keep the research avenue open; don't go overboard too far in trying to make a solid case for just one location where there are alternatives.  So, I don't want to promote an idea to you, and have you believe it, then have to come back in five or six years and tell you it was wrong.  Izapa, for me, I believe, is the best candidate for the Nephite city of Judea.  That's during the Zarahemla time period and much of the early Nephite time period before Mosiah.  Our history is very limited during the very early period of Nephi.  I've been working on the fortifications in relationship to the narrow strip of wilderness as a possible Biblical archetype for that geographical location.  Judea, in Palestine, was in the southern and south-western region of Palestine.  Izapa is in the southwestern coastal area, like Judea was in Palestine.  There are other intriguing possibilities for that kind of geographic name-modeling going on in Book of Mormon times from the Old World homeland.  That's one way to look at it. 
A - F. Richard Hauck.  I'm with Joe in looking at Izapa as the Land of First Inheritance; and I'm with Garth when looking at Izapa as the land of Judea.  So, I'm right in between them.  Maybe we're all correct, maybe we're all wrong.



V. Garth Norman, F. Richard Hauck and Joseph L. Allen