Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Heartland Starter Pack


I’ve been asked occasionally about the Heartlander theory of Book of Mormon geography. I’m stumped by this answer, not because I’m unfamiliar with their research, but because I’m so familiar with it that I categorically reject that line of thinking. My first encounter with the Heartlanders was at the Mormon History Association conference in St. George around 2012. I talked to the representative of their press and when I disagreed with their geography I suddenly felt like a mongoose trapped in the corner by a chatty cobra. My short answer to these questions is that their scholarship is cringe worthy poor, their most frequent tactic is to criticize the faith of their opponents, and they should be avoided. Here are a few links that explain that summary.

Having a Form of Scholarship:

Historian Ardis Parshall visited the FIRM Foundation Conference led by Rodney Meldrum.  She provides good summaries of the presentations but an even better explanation of why they miss the mark and resemble conspiracists more than sincere believers or researchers. 

Poor Book of Mormon Scholarship:

One of the most erudite people I know, Stephen Smoot, provides an 8 part review of the Annotated Book of Mormon. It’s a shoddy work that consists of rampant errors, abuse of historical sources and DNA, reliance on forgeries, and unsubstantiated claims.  Brant Gardner, one of the leading scholars on the Book of Mormon reviewed two more books here.  I like this review because it provides detailed pictures and analysis about why key pieces of evidence are forgeries.

Abuse of DNA:

This one is longer, but its needed to show Rodeny Meldrum’s DNA evidence is really snake oil and strained proof texting.

Personal Behavior and Apostasy:

By making these claims so iron clad, they are making their own faith brittle, while at the same time clubbing those who disagree with them.  This post explains why their obsession will lead them out of the church. This series of posts explain why their geography theories are often no better, and many times worse, than what they peddle.

I could do many more posts about their atrocious behavior where their favorite tactic is misreading a source, making it binding doctrine (against the official church position) and then questioning the faithfulness of those that disagree.  They’ve strapped Joseph Smith to the hood of their demolition cars so often their logo should be a Mad Max car. Now you have a few resources that should help rigorously examine their often too good to be true claims.   

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Moroni's Tactics and the Vandal War

Belisarius led armies from the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) empire in the 6th century AD. He fought the Persians on the eastern front of the empire and eventually fought a long war to reclaim Italy from Gothic tribesmen. The subject of interest here is the Vandal war in North Africa. The Emperor Justinian, taking advantage of a revolt against Vandal rule and a peace with the Persians, sent Belisarius with a small force of ten thousand men to attack the formerly held territories of the Roman Empire in North Africa.

One the invasion landed on the beach; Belisarius marched towards the Vandal’s capital at Carthage. He ordered his soldiers to pay for their supplies and forbade them from pillaging. As a result, they had the support of the people and moved “as if in their own land.”[1] Gelimer, the Vandal king, planned an ambush along their likely route. At Ad Decimum, Gelimer planned a three-pronged attack. His brother, Ammatas, would attack the advance of Belisarius from the front. Another force under Gibamundus would attack Belisarius from the left flank. And Gelimer would use his local knowledge of roads to take an interior route to attack Belisarius from the rear. 

The plan compensated for the division of forces by relying on the surprise of attacking simultaneously form multiple directions. Unfortunately, the plan collapsed quickly. The cavalry of Belisarius defeated the flank attack led by Gibamundus and the latter fell among the fighting. A short time later the frontal attack led by Ammatas smashed into the Byzantine force. He engaged the vanguard of Belisarius’ army, but the former hadn’t prepared to attack Belisarius so far north; as a result, Ammatas had his army spaced out along the road. The forward units were defeated piecemeal as they marched into the Byzantines, and then as those units retreated, they affected the next column and forced them to retreat and so on. His entire force ended up fleeing in a panic back towards Carthage. 

Finally, Gelimer arrived and attacked towards the north at what he thought was the rear, and already engaged, army of Belisarius. If the plan had worked, the two attacks by Gibamundus and Ammatus would mean that Gelimer attacked the rear for a coup de grace like Helamans “furious” attack upon the rear of the Lamanite army in Alma 56:52 with his Stripling Warriors. Gelimer routed the screening cavalry (the force that defeated Ammatas earlier), who then fled to the safety of the main camp of Belisarius. Gelimer regrouped his forces and stood poised to attack the bulk of the army of Belisarius. He hadn’t achieved his goal of attacking in the rear for the finishing blow, but still commanded motivated soldiers flushed with initial victory, while Belisarius, seemingly under attack from every direction, was trying to reorder his forces. Yet upon seeing the dead body of his brother Ammatus, Gelimer paused to assess the situation.[2] The pause by Gelimer allowed Belisarius to rally his fleeing cavalry, and counterattack with his entire force. Gelimer fled south, and Belisarius had an open road to Carthage. He took the city, defeated the resurgent Gelimer and reclaimed North Africa for the Byzantine Empire.