Is the Limited Geography Model a late invention?
Critics of the church will often assert that our understanding that the Book of Mormon describes only a limited geography and population among other New World inhabitants is of recent invention and only a justification for the failures of our scholarship. While it is true that many church leaders have held the view that all Nephites, Jaredites and Lamanites formed the total population of the continent, this has not been a universally held view.
I found this tantalizing example while reading through The Evening and Morning Star. It is found in an article entitled Good Proof in Issue 13 ( June 1833)
“No people that have lived on this continent, since the flood, understood many of the arts and sciences better than the Jaredites and Nephites, whose brief history is sketched in the Book of Mormon. The Facts following, from the star in the West, is not only proof of their skill, but it is good proof, to those that want evidence, that the book of Mormon, IS TRUE.”
It is the first sentence that is significant here. This phraseology clearly implies that not only could other people have lived on the American continent aside from the Jaredites and the Nephites, but that they may have had a grasp of the Arts and Sciences ( Although not as much of a grasp as the Nephites and Jaredites). This is significant because people of the time viewed Native Americans as savages and could not imagine that they had ever had a civilized culture. Church members were able to early on imagine the possibility of mighty civilizations in the northern and southern hemisphere because of the Book of Mormon. One did not have to necessarily believe that all came from the Jaredites or the Nephites.