What led you to Baja California as a potential site for the Book of Mormon lands?

We are a father and son team who have spent our careers as a university professor of human, physical and historical geography, a computer engineer with pioneering work on the Internet, and as computer specialists for two major projects on the text of the Book of Mormon. Through the years we never gave much concern or thought to the geography of the Nephite and Jaredite lands. From time to time, however, we read the work of others attempting to unravel the challenges faced with locating Book of Mormon lands. We held the view that many of the conclusions in these studies did not accurately reflect the numerous geographical details contained within the Book of Mormon text, especially the scale, relative location, and physical environment of Book of Mormon places. This was of little concern to us, however, because our focus was on the more important spiritual and doctrinal contributions of the book. Locating Book of Mormon places was not a high priority. And, yet, here we are working on just such a project.

As the father, let me relate the story behind our work: The day was Thursday, 5 June 2008. I was sitting in our living room in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, overlooking the beautiful Cardston Temple, and pondering where the Book of Mormon lands could have been located. The Book of Mormon story happened somewhere. It had to have a location. But where? My pondering was prompted by my reading of two articles on this topic by others. As a geographer I could not match their conclusions to the Book of Mormon account and to the earth’s surface. Moreover, their conclusions, in my view, twisted the geographical details in the Book of Mormon text, in an unacceptable and disturbing manner, in order to match their hoped-for locations. Believing the Book of Mormon to be a “correct book,” I could not accept this approach to the problem. I then pondered the Lord’s words to both the Jaredites and the family of Lehi that He had sent them to a land “choice above all other lands of the earth.” I asked myself the question: “Where would we find such a choice land? Using my background and training as a professional geographer and especially my work in climatology, it came to me, using a scriptural phrase, in an “instant, suddenly” that the Book of Mormon lands could have been located in the two states of Baja California, Mexico, and southern area of the State of California, because of their Mediterranean climate. Most geographers would consider Mediterranean climates to be choice lands, choice above all other lands; and they are also lands that parallel the climate of the land of Jerusalem. I did not expect the answer to be Baja California. While teaching geography for some forty years, I don’t think I had ever uttered the words, “Baja California.” I had attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley and knew the geography of that state rather well, but I only had a rudimentary knowledge of the peninsula of Baja California.

I then spent the next few hours learning all I could about the history and the physical and human geography of Baja California—its size, terrain, configuration, climate, and people—and matching this information to the major geographical statements in the Book of Mormon text, especially Mormon’s detailed description of their lands in Alma chapter 22. I used new computer-based tools for this comparison—the unbelievable potential and power of the images of the earth’s surface in the Google Earth™ Internet application and the unfathomable depth of information provided from millions of Internet sites indexed by Google Search™, the comprehensive search ability of the Internet version of the scriptures, and other textual tools we had developed for our studies of the Book of Mormon scriptures. I was rather shocked that everything I found seemed to match and correlate with the Book of Mormon text, even though my initial instinct was to disprove a correlation. I then spent a rather sleepless night pondering the implications of these findings.

Understandably, my son David was the first person I turned to with these preliminary findings. We had worked closely for over 20 years on several substantive scripture-based projects and were still working together on these assignments. So the next day, I called David in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and asked him a straightforward question: “Where do you think the Book of Mormon lands were located? He responded without hesitation: “Baja California.” His quick answer came somewhat as a surprise, but he explained that he had been pondering this question ever since his mission in Sweden some twenty years before when he then considered Baja California as the most likely location for the Book of Mormon lands. He explained that Baja California had a sea on the east and on the west, a narrow neck of land and a peninsula shape—geographical features described in the Book of Mormon account.

With his positive response, I shared with him what I had found from my preliminary investigations. There never was a need to convince each other that we were on to something of interest and potentially of great significance. And from that moment we have shared research responsibilities, using our professional backgrounds and interest and computer skills to try and disprove Baja California as a possible site for the Book of Mormon lands. David’s instincts and experience as a professional engineer, his knowledge of the scriptures, and his work with computers have been an essential component at all stages of our project. We spent hundreds of hours pouring over satellite imagery, reading all we could find on the physical and human and historical geography of Baja California and the lands to the north. We each reread the Book of Mormon numerous times while noting all the passages with geographical information. We were daily comparing notes on our findings. We hoped to quickly disprove this location so we could get back to other interests and responsibilities. Or as we often say, “to get back to our day job.” But we kept finding more and more supportive information. Our goal has been to aim as high as possible, by attempting to achieve a 100 percent match of all possible physical and human items mentioned in the Book of Mormon to the physical and human landscape of Baja California. Understandably, for some items this is not feasible, but this remains the goal for those features that can be reasonably matched. If an item appears not to fit, within acceptable perimeters, we would need to question or rethink our initial proposal. It is one thing to produce a few bits of information to seemingly provide supportive information for one Book of Mormon geographical feature, but it is another thing to attempt to match all possible geographical features.

To assure ourselves that we were not off-base, we shared our findings with several trusted and competent friends. And in November of 2008 we travelled some 1350 miles through the entire length and breadth of Baja California, visiting every major Book of Mormon location we had potentially identified. We were equipped with Google and NASA satellite maps, conventional maps, a GPS unit and copious field information to help provide answers to our questions and to attempt to confirm or disprove with “ground truth” what we had found through our satellite imagery, our readings on Baja California, and our study of the Book of Mormon text. This trip provided confirming information and insights, way beyond our expectations. Our next goal was to create a web site for publishing our findings. The web site was made public on 19 February 2009. We will continue to update and supplement this content with articles, maps, videos, pictures and links to other relevant information. Our motive is not to make money from this project nor to sell books or other related items, but to share freely with those who are interested in our research.
Updated: Tuesday, 13 July 2010

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What led you to Baja California as a potential site for the Book of Mormon lands?