CES Reply: Forcing Some Parallels

Sorry. Took a break for the holidays, but I’m back! Here is the continuing serialization of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee.”  You can download the whole PDF here, and you can also participate in the Latter-day Saint Survey Project by joining or creating one of the Canonizer camps in the links at the bottom of this post.

This is a line-by-line response to Jeremy Runnells’s October 2017 iteration of the CES Letter. Jeremy’s original text appears in green, the color of life. My response text appears in black, the color of darkness.

We read in the Book of Mormon of the city of Teancum named for a warrior named Teancum who helped General Moroni fight in the Land of Desolation. In Joseph’s era, an Indian Chief named Tecumseh fought and died near the narrow neck of land in helping the British in the War of 1812. Today, the city Tecumseh (near the narrow neck of land) is named after this Chief.

Today it is, yes. But it wasn’t named Tecumseh until 1912, nearly a century after the Book of Mormon was published. Although if you’re looking for more information about Teancum, I recommend the highly entertaining and historically accurate film “Javelin Man,” written by yours truly and featuring a guest appearance by Former Senator Robert F. Bennett as “Not Gordon B. Hinckley.”

We see the Book of Mormon city Kishkumen located near an area named, on modern maps, as Kiskiminetas.

On modern maps, yes. But not any map Joseph Smith could have seen. This area wasn’t named Kiskiminetas until a year after the Book of Mormon was published. And, as demonstrated above, the supposed Book of Mormon locations in the map you provided are highly speculative and often demonstrably incorrect.

There are more than a dozen Book of Mormon names that are the same as or nearly the same as modern geographical locations.

Wow. “More than a dozen.” Out of 337 total proper names in the text, 188 of which are unique to the Book of Mormon. And given that you consider things like “Jacobsburg” and “Jacobugath” to be “nearly the same,” I’m surprised you could only come up with forced parallels for less than 5% of the names in total.

Still, let’s take a look at the “more than a dozen.”

Actual Place Names Book of Mormon Place Names
Alma Alma, Velley of
Antrim Antum
Antioch Ani-Anti
Boaz Boaz
Hellam Helam
Jacobsburg Jacobugath
Jerusalem Jerusalem
Jordan Jordan
Kishkiminetas Kishkumen
Lehigh Lehi
Mantua Manti
Moraviantown Morianton
Oneida Noah, Land of Onidah
Oneida Castle Onidah, Hill
Rama Ramah
Ripple Lake Ripliancum, Waters of Sidom
Shiloh Shilom
Sherbrooke Shurr

Source: Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look, Vernal Holley

Yep, that’s more than a dozen, all right. 18, to be precise. Although why do you cite “Oneida” twice? Did Joseph really name the “land” of Onidah after the city and the hill after “Oneida Castle?” And since the Book of Mormon never refers to the “Land of Onidah,” why do you get to stick that one in there? So really, we’re down to 17.

So allow me to reproduce this list with my comments in a third column. (Most of my comments come from information provided by the unofficial apologists at FAIR you so despise, but since the info seems to be accurate on this subject, I see no reason to avoid using it.)

Actual Place Names

Book of Mormon Place Names

Survey Says?

Alma Alma, Velley of Bzzzt. Try again. An unincorporated area called Centerville at the time of B of M publication.
Antrim Antum Bullseye! Antrim was around in 1830, ripe for the picking for Joseph’s plagiarism.
Antioch Ani-Anti Bullseye! Although “Antioch” doesn’t sound much like “Ani-Anti” to me.
Boaz Boaz Hmmm. Boaz is a biblical name. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Joseph to find it there?
Hellam Helam Bullseye! And a pretty close match, too.
Jacobsburg Jacobugath Bzzzt. Try again. Jacobsburg doesn’t show up on maps until a year after the Book of Mormon was published.
Jerusalem Jerusalem Bzzzt. Try again. Another Biblical name. And this tiny town doesn’t show up on many maps then or now, as it’s pretty small – just .2 square miles.
Jordan Jordan Bzzzt. Try again. Another well-known biblical name. It was also on only a handful of maps in 1830.
Kishkiminetas Kishkumen Bzzzt. Try again. Kiskiminetas – no H – got its name after the Book of Mormon was published
Lehigh Lehi Hmmm. Lehi is also a biblical name. 
Mantua Manti Bzzzt. Try again. Mantua Village got its name in 1898.
Moraviantown Morianton Bzzzt. Try again. This wasn’t a town in 1830.
Oneida Noah, Land of Onidah Bullseye! Well done. But you can only use it once.
Oneida Castle Onidah, Hill Bzzzt. Try again. Only once, I said!
Rama Ramah Bzzzt. Try again. This town didn’t exist in 1830.
Ripple Lake Ripliancum, Waters of Sidom Hmmm. It existed, yes, but it was and is very tiny and obscure and is usually ignored by most modern maps, let alone those in 1830.
Shiloh Shilom Bzzzt. Try again. Shilom is only a “Census Designated Place” used for statistical purposes and is not listed on maps.
Sherbrooke Shurr Hmmm. The tiny fishing village of Hyatt’s Mill was, indeed, officially renamed “Sherbrooke” in 1819, but most people still called it “Hyatt’s Mill” until 1832 when the Brits arrived.

So, to sum up, out of The Book of Mormon’s 337 total proper names, you cite 17 that you believe were lifted from locales within a 2,000-mile radius of Joseph’s home, yet 9 of those names didn’t apply to locations in 1830, and Joseph’s knowledge of an additional 3 would have been unlikely, leaving 4 geographical names that are similar, but not identical, to Book of Mormon names.

And thus it is that 1.2% of all Book of Mormon names may or may not have been adapted from precisely four place names out of thousands in a geographical area roughly the size of half of the United States, a tenuous correlation at best that still requires you to think “Ani-Anti” is a clear derivative of “Antioch.”

Why are there so many names similar to Book of Mormon names in the region where Joseph Smith lived?

There aren’t. A better question might be “why are there so few names that can be rammed into forced parallels?” Because there are only four such names out of 337, and they’re taken from an area within a 2,000 mile radius if, applied today, would make Keokuk, Iowa part of “the region where Jeremy Runnells lived” in Whittier, California.

Is this really all just a coincidence?

Pretty much, yeah. That is, if you can call a measly 4 out of 337 anything close to a “coincidence.” You really should have dropped this section like you were planning to do.

UPDATE: Additional information and analysis can be found at cesletter.org/maps

Near as I can tell, that’s just a collection of videos with the same erroneous info you’ve provided here. Overall, it’s weak sauce and, again, you’d do well to abandon it. 

Tomorrow, we examine Jeremy’s blazing-white hatred for a respected BYU professor. In the meantime, take a look at the Canonizer camps below. If you think I’m completely wrong, you can join a camp that says so – or create one of your own!