Geography of the Book of Mormon?

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Hugh Nibley sums up my view of discussions about Book of Mormon geography: “[The Nephites] journeyed in the wilderness for many days [to get away from Laman and Lemuel]. We don’t know how many many is. Book of Mormon geography is a waste of time. I wouldn’t touch it with a forty-foot pole. Never have; it’s not necessary. Some day we’ll get more information, I suppose. Everybody has tried their hand at it. I don’t know why; it doesn’t make any difference.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, 2004, Covenant Communications).

I know some, maybe even many LDS Church members, disagree with that sentiment but we do not know where in the Americas the Book of Mormon events took place. We can speculate all we want and say, “Well Joseph Smith [purportedly] said this” or “This narrow neck of land is the Panama isthmus or this particular area in modern Mexico or Guatemala or the Great Lakes region.” Whatever; we do not know where the Book of Mormon events took place and speculating about them is a waste of time. Again, I know some disagree but I wanted to offer my opinion on the matter. Maybe we’ll learn more in our lifetimes but for now there are much better things upon which to focus, like the basic doctrines of the gospel: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the Holy Ghost.

Do I have no intellectual curiosity about matters such as Book of Mormon geography? To the contrary, I find it a fascinating topic; fascinating but a waste of time. We simply do not know and even if we did, it is not important. Knowing just where King Benjamin was exactly when he gave his marvelous farewell address does nothing for our salvation but knowing, believing, and living what he taught does. I would love to know Book of Mormon geography – we have fairly compelling evidence of how and where Lehi and his family went after they left Jerusalem but after that? It’s anyone’s guess.