For now, calling this an About “Us” page is a misnomer. This site is the result of amateur studies by Beau Anderson, who holds no educational or professional degrees relevant to this subject.
Going back several years, I had wondered about the possibility of Baja being the setting for the Book of Mormon on a few occasions, but I knew almost nothing about the peninsula myself. One evening I decided to use Google Earth to look at Baja to see if I could match up some geographical features of the land to references in the text. In particular, I decided to look for the “hill north of Shilom” because it is mentioned so casually in the text as if it was an obvious feature to the author. It didn’t take long before I identified a hill that looked promising and I soon found myself using the internet to dig a little deeper into the subject.
It didn’t take much searching before I came across achoiceland.com. I browsed their site and was impressed with several things that they had published on the subject. I was particularly pleased with the location that they had chosen for Zarahemla and the river Sidon, but I was disappointed that their model did not agree with the location that I suspected might be the hill north of Shilom. The hill that they had chosen seemed like a less obvious geographical feature than the one that I had selected.
That little disagreement in my mind prompted me to start on a little project. I decided that instead of relying on their research, I would investigate a few other prominent locations from the text and then I would compare my results with what they were publishing.
I’m a software engineer by trade and we software guys often use the term “scope creep” to describe how software projects start out with what seems like a well-defined scope of work, but during the development process people come up with new ideas for the software and are always trying to expand the scope of the work being completed. Scope creep can turn a very small project into a very big endeavor.
At the time that I started my little Baja comparison project, I had no idea how much scope creep was looming ahead. I had a little bit of background in geology, but almost no background in most of the sciences involved in the debate about the historicity of the Book of Mormon. I figured that I would just start matching up things from the Book of Mormon with places I could see in Google Earth.
It was a fun and rewarding experience! I found that I was really enjoying myself and began digging deeper and deeper into the subject matter. I started immersing myself in the Book of Mormon and in everything that I could get my hands on that related to Baja that might shed some light on the subject. I occasionally referred to the work on achoiceland.com, but stayed true to my goal of vetting things for myself instead of basing my results on their work.
That was several years ago. How much “scope creep” have I experienced since then? Well, although I’m not formally educated in any of the relevant scientific disciplines, in relation to baja I familiarized myself with what is known about archaeology, ethnography, early Spanish missionization and other history, the paleo climate, mitochondrial and other DNA studies, mitochondrial clocks, subsistence patterns, comparative linguistics, geology, geography, hydrology, seismology, and many other subjects. I’m not an expert in any of these fields, but I’m comfortable holding deep conversations in each of them as they relate to Baja California.
I soon realized that nothing short of a full-fledged model of my own would suffice for me to be able to organize my own thoughts on the subject, but I was hesitant to want to publish a model. I’m not nuts about the direction that the debate over Book of Mormon historicity and geography has gone over the years. I felt that much of what had been published tended to misdirect people away from the spiritual aspects of the text. I like critical feedback of my work, but I didn’t want to find myself contentiously debating every little phrase in the Book of Mormon like I see being done on other websites. On the other hand, nothing short of a comprehensive model that takes into account every textual reference that relates to geography would ever be considered viable.
I eventually decided to take a middle-ground approach that doesn’t require me to pretend like I know all of the possible meanings of all of the phrases in the Book of Mormon, but still lets me produce a very complete, viable model. My first step was to go through the entire text of the Book of Mormon and, instead of creating long lists of relevant verses like you find on the websites of other models, I made a shortened narrative of the Book of Mormon almost entirely by copying and pasting in every word or phrase that related to geography along with a very minimal amount of other verses to keep the general storyline of the Book of Mormon flowing. The result is a relatively short Book of Mormon narrative which comes entirely from the text of the Book of Mormon itself with no commentary of my own. Sometimes I would need to inject a conjunction or word or short phrase in order for it to still read like a story. All such injections are clearly [bracketed] in the narrative document.
Utilizing that document, the next step in publishing my model was to use Google Earth in a way that I think is kind of unique. I didn’t just put place-markers on the map for all of the model’s locations. I took each phrase from my narrative document and showed each phrase as an individual scene in Google Earth, each with its relevant place-markers but also with arrows showing travel routes, etc.. I took screenshots of each of these scenes and published them all, along with the narrative document and the raw Google Earth file, so that people can explore each scene for themselves. By presenting my model in this fashion, I don’t need to produce massive volumes of interpretations of every scriptural reference. The reader can follow along and judge for themselves if what I present represents a reasonable reading of the text.
Of course, the model itself is more understandable with supporting scientific material so I have a lot of other information on the website, and I continue to work to add that type of content.
I stay in touch with the guys over at achoiceland.com, but my efforts to collaborate with them often seem to stall. Most of their work is related to convincing the LDS academic community to look in the general direction of Baja rather than Meso-America or other proposed Book of Mormon settings. They have informed me that responding to critical feedback regarding the content within their model is not high on their priority list just yet, but I hold out hope that we will collaborate more and more as time goes on.
A brief way to explain the differences between the two Baja models would be to say that my model:
- Is significantly larger in geographical scope.
- Actively includes areas beyond the peninsula itself.
- Places most Jaredite lands at much greater distances to most Nephite lands.
- Largely disagrees with theirs regarding the book’s use of the word “wilderness”.
- Largely disagrees with theirs regarding the location of city of Nephi and surrounding areas (although I’m not entirely sure that I’m right and they’re wrong on this point.)
- Largely agrees with theirs regarding the general location of Zarahemla and the river Sidon.
- Significantly disagrees with theirs regarding the “land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” in the land Northward.
- Identifies a precise hill as the Hill Cumorah where the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations came to a violent end (not to be confused with the hill we currently call Cumorah where Moroni burried the plates in upstate New York).
There are many other differences, but that list is a good start.
Thanks for reading!
For feedback regarding this model or this website, please use the form on the Contact Us page of the website.