Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Fallacy of Extremist Theories—the Baja California Theory

Some Theorists have gone far and wide to come up with an exotic location for the Land of Promise of the Book of Mormon. As an example, there is Ralph A. Olsen’s Malay Theory, and David Rosenvall’s Baja California theory. Both of these theories are far afield from the Mesoamerican and the Heartland/Great Lakes theories, which is fine, but they are also not consistent with the scriptural record except in a minor manner. As has been shown in earlier posts here, there are at least 50 and really 65 different points illustrated in the scriptural record about the topography, geography, and circumstances of the physical Land of Promise. Neither of these come close. However, in the sake of fairness, let’s take a look at them—first, the Baja California theory.

At one time in antiquity, there was no Baja California. According to geologists, Baja was originally part of the Mexican mainland with the tip of Baja located near present day Puerto Vallarta—that is, the Pacific coast of Baja extended from south of present day San Diego clear to present day Puerto Vallarta around 21º north latitude, making Baja originally part of the Mexican mainland.

It is interesting that the time frame the geologists place on the separation of Baja from the Mexican mainland is the exact same time frame that the Andes rose upward, bringing up with it eastern South America, the Panama Isthmus, and sinking much of the present day Caribbean area. The land movements of Central and South America were attributed by geologists to submarine plate movements beneath the various land masses involved. The separation of Baja California from Mexico was due in part to the unstable plate movement to which this area is well known (According to the Department of Geography of the University of Wyoming, the geomorphology, deformation and chronology of marine terraces along the pacific coast of central Baja are not only well known, the entire Baja Peninsula is believed to be tectonically unstable, primarily because of the forces generated by plate motion), and to the collapse of the Andreas Fault from south of the Salton Sea clear to Puerta Vallarta.

At some point in time, very likely, though unprovable, at the time of the crucifixion of the Savior, if we take the geologic time scale of 4.55 billion years of age for the Earth and translate that into the approximately 13,000 years of Earth’s existence according to the scriptural record of Moses found in both Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price. In that way, both the Andes’ rise and the Gulf of Mexico’s collapse, occurred in moderately recent times---placing it around the Meridian of Time and the crucifixion.

However, setting that aside, let’s take a look at Baja California in regarding to its matching or lack of matching the scriptural record of Mormon. Beginning with the topography:

1. Baja's mountains form a largely unbroken barrier running the entire length from north to south. The mountains are actually a series of ranges each with their own name. The mountains average between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. The tallest mountains on the peninsula are the twin peaks of Picacho del Diablo, or Devil's Peak, which rise to 10,154 feet. This is 4,000 feet lower than Mesoamerica’s highest peak, and almost 13,000 feet lower than the Andes highest peaks. These mountains do not allow for Pacific moisture into the eastern gulf, which is extremely dry and much hotter.

2. The Sonoran Desert covers over 100,000 square miles, stretching from southern Arizona about 250 miles south of the border into Mexico. Because the Baja California peninsula was once attached to western Mexico, the Sonoran Desert is found on both sides of the Sea of Cortez and most of Baja California is part of this desert. There are four main sub-regions on the peninsula. These are the San Felipe Desert, the Central Coast Desert, the Vizcaíno Desert and the Magdalena Plain Desert. This makes Baja a relative desert of mountains, hills, and barren land. In addition, the northern half of Baja, which would be Rosenvall’s Land Northward, is much like the climate of southern California, but the southern half, Rosenvall’s Land Southward, is hot and humid, and sub tropical. Lehi’s seeds “brought from Jerusalem” would simply not grow in that climate, lack of precipitation, temperature, and soils.

(See the next post, “The Fallacy of Extremist Theories—the Baja California Theory, Part II,” for more about Baja’s lack of matching factors with the scriptural record)


  1. Fact Check:

    Foul #1: "the approximately 13,000 years of Earth’s existence according to the scriptural record of Moses found in both Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price"

    Fact #1: Should not be inserted as if it is an established fact just because this article's author likes that number. When critiquing someone else's assertions, it is poor behavior to insert your own unsubstantiated "facts". Many reasonable arguments can be made for many different time frames. This is a minor foul in the scheme of things, but it is an intentional foul since it's reasonable to assume that the author knows he is not quoting any well-established fact here.

    Foul #2: "Baja's mountains form a largely unbroken barrier running the entire length from north to south"

    Fact #2: Simply false. There are many mountain ranges, but there are breaks between them spanning very large distances. At least GLANCE at Google Earth before posting next time.

    Foul #3: "Rosenvall’s Land Southward, is hot and humid, and sub tropical"

    This description fits much of Rosenvall's Land Southward, but not the VERY LARGE cape area of the peninsula where he alleges that Lehi's group actually landed. That area is barren in some low-lying areas, but is mostly dominated by beautiful tropical areas (which you actually acknowledge in one of your other posts) capable of growing pretty much anything Lehi would have brought from Jeruslem. The B of M CLEARLY describes many wilderness areas so from a climate perspective, the wildly varying conditions encountered fit quite well.

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  3. Hi Del,

    As you can see in my "fact check" comment above, I posted it in February 2011. When I never saw any comments replying to it, I assumed that there would be no discussion of it, so I stopped checking back. Today I stumbled across six extensive blog posts that you authored in response over a year later (May, 2012).

    First of all, I want to thank you for giving consideration to my thoughts from the comments that I posted in early 2011. You obviously gave them extensive consideration and I appreciate that very much.

    Since the time that I posted those comments I have also organized and presented a model of the Book of Mormon lands in Baja California and the North American Southwest ( My model is a separate effort and significantly different than the one presented by the Rosenvalls' group on, but many of the arguments presented on your site regarding their model also apply to mine.

    Now that I know that you took my 2011 comments seriously, I would like to engage in the discussion with you regarding your responses to them and regarding the other thoughts and criticisms that you have posted regarding Baja theories in general.

    I'm writing this comment in response to this article because this is where our discussion started so it seems appropriate for me to mention who I am (see the "About Us" section on my model's website) and why I am engaging in this discussion.

    I will start out by replying with comments in the comments sections of all six of the articles that you wrote in response to my "fact check". I'm not sure that I should post my responses to your other Baja criticisms in the comments sections of those posts since you reference and their publications so prominently in those posts. Like I said before, much of what you wrote regarding their presentation also applies to my model, but there are significant differences and I do not speak for them. I do not want your readers to see my responses and automatically assume that they apply to the presentation. Please let me know how you would prefer for me to respond and we can go from there.

    In any case, thank you again for taking time to respond. I look forward to a lively, but civil discussion with you.

    -Beau Anderson (Elbeau)