In a recent presentation at the Book of Mormon prophecies conference in Midway, Utah, Merrill said that he now believes that BofM events took place in the area of the United States. He said that he cannot wait to redo the film and put buffalo in it (instead of an exotic monkey named “Chio”?).
How would this film be received by the LDS community? It would be difficult to pull off because so many Latter-day Saints are used to the paradise, jungle imagery in Testaments. There is less glamour in history’s portrayal of the ancient native American lifestyle than there is in history’s portrayal of the ancient Central American lifestyle. Conditions in North America were much harsher than they were in Central America. Visit some Anasazi ruins in Southern Utah or look at some earliest photos of native Americans and you get an idea of the struggles North Americans faced long ago.
So if Merrill had his way, we might see an plain looking Laneah sitting on the ground, wearing buffalo furs, gnawing on piece of dried meat while Jacob pulled critters out of her hair. And Kohor’s caravan might be comprised of corn, furs, and dried fish rather than fruit, jewelry, and precious stones from the sea. Regardless of whether these images are a true representation of how things used to be, I think that a North American Testaments would have to be somewhat consistent with our anachronistic expectations of what life was like for ancient North American societies.
Why did Merrill change his mind on the location for BofM events? He was persuaded by recent DNA evidence gathered by Rod Meldrum. Meldrum argues that scientific DNA evidence points to Nephites and Lamanites living in the same area where the church was founded. If the evidence was enough to change Merrill’s mind then perhaps it is somewhat convincing, to say the least.
If you want to see the evidence in favor of a North American setting, I suggest viewing Meldrum’s DVD titled “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography” (available for purchase from Amazon - click here). If you want to read a critical perspective on this theory from LDS scholars, I suggest reading the critique of Meldrum’s DVD by FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research - click here).
I have always believed that Central America is the setting for the BofM, however, I am willing to change my mind if the evidence definitively points to North America (I am skeptical though). Location aside, what is important, as Testament’s filmmaker Keith Merrill points out, is not the location - it is our testimony that the BofM is true.
I couldn’t agree with him more.