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Caribbean Geographical Sites in the Book of Mormon

Travelers on holy book tours can explore a region that revolutionized the earth’s climate, environment and landscape – and learn about the prophet who told of the changes before a meteorologist did.

Joseph Smith Jr., was a teenager in Upstate New York in 1823, when he said an angel told him there was a “book written upon gold plates” that provided information about former North American inhabitants and their origin. He dictated the information to his wife, Emma Hale Smith, who later told the Kansas City Journal that he didn’t translate from the plates themselves.

The Book of Mormon was published in 1830. It wasn’t until 1915 that meteorologist Alfred Wegener more fully developed a proposal that continents might drift or until 1965 that the theory of “tectonic” plates, built upon that proposal, gained widespread acceptance.

“If men in their researches into the history of this country. . . were to examine the Book of Mormon. . . ,” Smith said, “uncertainty and doubt would be changed into certainty and facts. . .”

Islands and continents constantly draw nearer and farther from each other, drifting atop slabs of the earth’s crust, or plates, that the planet’s molten, sometimes explosive, interior moves in different directions. The Americas collided millions of years ago, closing a wide seaway between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Panama, a slender isthmus at the center, blocked the seaway’s flow and ushered waters north. A strong current, the gulf stream, carried warmth from the tropics to North America and Northwestern Europe. Glaciers formed, and seas receded. The Florida Keys, a group of coral islands near Cuba, surfaced.

The Book of Mormon describes a “narrow neck” between east and west seas that “neither man nor beast could pass. John Lund, author of “Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon,” is participating in a two-week Panama Canal cruise as part of an excursion that Cruise Lady Escorted Cruises and Land Tours (801-453-9444; 888-707-4386; www.cruiselady.com) is coordinating.

Participants board the Scandinavian Princess for a January 14 departure through the canal that the US completed in 1912. At ports of call, they can hike western Costa Rico’s Arenal volcano that reaches 1,633 metres (5,358 ft) from dense coffee plantations toward the sky.

In Mexico’s Huatelco, where the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains meet the Pacific Ocean, travelers can explore 36 white sandy beaches with bays and coves. Waterfalls, a zip line and a natural pool with swinging rope await in the Puerto Vallarta jungle of El Eden, where the movie, Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenneger was filmed.

Additional Book of Mormon-Associated Tours include:

Allen Book of Mormon Panama Canal cruises (1-801-226-5200; www.allentoursandcruises.com) include side excursions to the Mayan archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala City, where rock sculptures and carvings have been uncovered in an area largely lost to real estate development; and the port town of Puerto Chiapas and the archaeological site of Izapa, with art that includes frog-like altars and more.

LDS Tours (801-226-5200; www.bookofmormontours.com) offers 14-day “Nephi to Cumorah” and “Cumorah to Bountiful” tours, suggesting that the Kaminaljuyu archaeological zone of Guatemala City is affiliated with the Book of Mormon’s Nephites, that its hill Cumorah is in Veracruz, Mexico and that its city of Bountiful was near northern Belize. LDS touts that it visits temples, archaeological sites, museums and 23 locations associated with the Book of Mormon.

Fun for Less Tours’ (561-591-2432; www.funforlesstours.com) 9- to 13-day land tours in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras focus more greatly on ruins that it says are from the era of the Book of Mormon while a boat ride of the Mayan Nile offers a glimpse of what many believe to be the River Sidon. The Book of Mormon describes Sidon as a northerly flowing fishery river “shallow enough to cross on foot” but “deep and swift enough to carry away . . . human carcasses.”

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About Author: Michelle Sheldone

Michelle Sheldone is an award-winning writer and the author of "Historic Walking Guides: Florida Keys." She launched her career at Family Circle magazine, where she worked as an entertainment editor. She has since contributed to newspapers, magazines and travel guides and handled marketing for government, education, travel, hospitality, fashion and conservation interests.

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