Sunday, April 5, 2020

Could Moroni Have Travelled from Modern-day Mexico to New York?

Commenting on Moroni’s journey from Central America to upper-state New York, Robert Bowman wrote the following in an attempt to call its plausibility into question:

There was no need for Moroni, whom the Book of Mormon identifies as its last ancient author, to carry the gold plates (weighing forty pounds or more according to Joseph’s associates, though if they really were gold they should have weighed closer to two hundred pounds) thousands of miles from Central America to upstate New York (a tall order, to put it mildly) in order to bury them for Joseph to discover fourteen centuries later. (The people of ancient Mesoamerica had no pack horses or other beasts of burden, so Moroni would have had to carry the plates along with the stone spectacles and the breastplate, on his own.) (Robert M. Bowman Jr., Jesus’ Resurrection and Joseph’s Visions: Examining the Foundations of Christianity and Mormonism [Tampa, Fla.: DeWard Publishing Company, 2020], 281-82)

It should be noted that the journey of Moroni (from modern-day Mexico to New York) is not fantastic. Firstly, Moroni had 35+ years (from ~AD 385 with the final battle at Cumorah to AD 421 with the burial of the plates. Furthermore, similar journeys were made at a fraction of the time—even allowing Moroni to be carrying the plates and other supplies with him and stops along the way for food, etc., it is plausible. Note the following discussions of the topic from two volumes Bowman definitely knew about before authoring his book but did not interact with. This only proves again, notwithstanding the attempted appearance of producing a scholarly work, in reality, it is just typical counter-cult “boundary maintenance” that is cleaned up (basically, the literary form of a pig with lipstick—it is still a pig you are trying to make look pretty). The target audience is clearly not informed Latter-day Saints but gullible Evangelicals who know next to nothing about “Mormonism,” including more scholarly types such as Michael Licona who endorsed the book and not just disingenuous anti-Mormons like Bill McKeever (see Top 17 Reasons Bill McKeever Doesn't Understand the Latter-day Saint Faith):

From John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 45:

Would Moroni have been able to survive a trip of several thousand miles through strange peoples and lands, if he did transport the record? 40 Such a journey would be no more surprising than the trip by Lehi's party over land and by sea halfway around the globe. As a matter of fact, we do have a striking case of a trip much like the one Moroni may have made. In the mid-sixteenth century, David Ingram, a shipwrecked English sailor, walked in 11 months through completely strange Indian territory from Tampico, Mexico, to the St. John River, at the present border between Maine and Canada. 41 His remarkable journey would have been about the same distance as Moroni's and over essentially the same route. So Moroni's getting the plates to New York even under his own power seems feasible.

Notes for the Above:

40. J. N. Washburn has written an interesting speculative piece describing how Moroni might have made such a trip: "The Son of Mormon," no date, no place (available in BYU Library). Incidentally, the volume by J. A. and J. N. Washburn, An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geography (Provo, Utah: New Era Publishing, 1939), is valuable as a treatment of Book of Mormon geography on the basis of the scriptural text alone. It was the first serious study of the topic.

41. "Man Alone," Christian Science Monitor (June 1, 1967), p. 16.

From John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Provo/Salt Lake City: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship/Deseret Book, 2013), 693-94:

Getting the Codex to New York

How did the Codex get from to a hill in New York from southern Mexico after the final battle involving the Nephites? The obvious answer is that someone carried it there, over a vast distance. Is that plausible scenario? Yes, it is. In 1589 three English sailors trekked 3,000 miles from Tampico, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, to Nova Scotia, more or less the same length as the journey Moroni2 would have made to reach New York. They had been put ashore in Mexico from their privateer ship and decided to try to reach northeastern North America in hope of being found by a ship from Europe that might put in there. The original party was as large as 100 but en route all but three stopped off to join Amerindian groups. Upon completing the nine-month trip, the three men happened upon a French ship in Nova Scotia that agreed to take them back to England. Years later, a royal inquiry in their home country elicited from the only survivor, one David Ingram, his account of the journey through dozens of American Indian “kingdoms.” Some of the story he told is laced with fantastic detail, but the basic facts remain plausible and in some ways confirmed (97).

In the late 199s a modern adventurer reversed their trek, going from Maine to Tampico by foot over a 4,000-mile path, in 11 months [98].

Notes for the Above

[97] BBC, “David Ingram’s Improbable Walk across 16th-century America,” January 2004; and Charlton Ogburn, “The Longest Walk: David Ingram’s Amazing Journey,” American Heritage Magazine 30/3 (April/May 1979),

[98] “David Ingram’s Improbable Walk”; and Richard Nathan, Walking with Time (unpublished)


My friend Jason Robertson sent me Rob Bowman's "response" to this article (Moroni's Marvelous Move from Mesoamerica to Manchester [someone clearly enjoys M-alliteration . . . ]). Here are some comments I sent Jason in response:


==One detail worth pointing out is that Ingram did not make his journey (whatever its actual course) alone. He started with a large group of men, most of whom dropped out along the way, and he arrived in Nova Scotia with two other English sailors. It would be much easier for three men to make such a long journey together than for one man alone. Three men would be much less likely to be attacked than one man. They could take turns keeping watch at night if necessary, work together in complementary ways by utilizing their differing skill sets, and provide encouragement and moral support to each other.==


Ah, trying to impute implausibility to the BOM by acting like a naturalistic atheist. Yep, no one believes there was any divine providence with Moroni and his trip, etc . . . .nope . . . .


==The purpose of this herculean journey was to provide Joseph with the plates as a prop assuring his family and supporters that they existed, though most of them would never see the plates and though Joseph did not actually look at the plates when producing his translation.==


The plates served as a physical witness (not "prop"--so much for his wish to be taken seriously as a scholar) of the truthfulness of the BOM. Then again, this is the same individual who dismisses the witnesses as they were not experts in metallurgy and ancient scripts.


Does Bowman ever think through these things?


As I said, Bowman is pandering to his (Evangelical Protestant) audience. In his attempted response, Bowman likeness himself to a monk. Having known many monks in my time (from my 5 years in Maynooth and even, pre-Corona, doing the taxes and accounts of a number of them), perhaps Bowman should strive to be as honest intellectually as them?

It should be noted that, per google maps, it is 4,010 km from Mexico city to Palmyra. Even stretching it to 6,400 km instead (taking the 4,000 mile figure from above [4,000/0.625]), and allowing Moroni to travel only 6 days each week, it would take 21.33  km a day for a one-year trip (rounding down to 300 days to stack the deck in favour of the anti-Mormon side), and if one allows 3 years, it would decrease 7.12 km a day; for 5 years, it would be 4.27 km a day (note I am trying to stack the deck for Bowman here in my calculations). Even with 200 pounds of equipment (which is a stretch, but let us allow it--as one who knows both military and [esp. with relatives of mine in Nothern Ireland] paramilitary group members here in the island of Ireland who have trained with similar equipment and tools near that weight, and it is not as difficult as Bowman, McKeever, and others seem to think it is), it would be not just possible, but plausible, Bowman's nonsense withstanding. Such journeys were common during and after warfare. As a friend who is a US Civil War aficionado told me, the Stonewall Brigade during the American Civil War was nicknamed a “foot cavalry” because they marched 650 miles in 48 days, fighting five battles along the way. Rapid marches of 40 miles (64 km) a day were known, but an army on campaign would typically average 15-20 (24-40 km) and would be carrying a load of fifty pounds, the standard of the time. Moroni's 5-year journey (allowing for a rest day, again, to stack the odds in the anti-Mormon side) would be 4.27 km a day (even with heavier equipment) is not just possible, but plausible.

Bowman, as always, tries to present a model argument against the Church; instead, it is, as I noted above, one ugly pig with lipstick.

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