Why doesn't Gordon B. Hinckley obtain a revelation on the geographic location for book of Mormon events? I can think of only two possible reasons:
either he is unable or unwilling to do so. The first reason clearly is unacceptable to any faithful Latter-day Saint. Certainly, as the "only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys" and as the Lord's chief Prophet, Seer, and Revelator," President Hinckley is capable of receiving a revelation on any subject. As Ezra Taft Benson said in his (in)famous talk, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, "the prophet can receive revelation on any matter--temporal or spiritual."
The proper geographic location of Book of Mormon events seems like prime revelatory material. It concerns a matter central to the LDS faith--the historicity of the Book of Mormon. It would come at a much-needed time, a time when many both within and outside the Mormon fold are questioning the Book of Mormon's historicity. It is no secret that there are divergent views on the geographical location of the events described in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith and, indeed, every president of the church since who has commented on the subject, believed that the Book of Mormon events took place upon the whole of the North American continent and perhaps South and Central America as well (the Hemispheric Model). This view was put forth in official church publications for approximately 150 years. President Hinckley himself has made indirect statements indicating his belief that Lehi's descendants are living in such places as Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Guatemala. It is unclear whether such statements are expressions of his own opinion or are based on revelations that for whatever reason he has simply been reticent to disclose.
In recent years, scholars working for the church have promulgated a radically different notion: that the Book of Mormon events occurred in a limited geographic area in Mesoamerica (the Limited Geography Theory or LGT). Though no church president has explicitly endorsed the LGT, the church provides at least a tacit endorsement for the LGT by funding the scholars who promote it.
A review of the sources linked in this post reveals the many different ideas about Book of Mormon geography. As FARMS author Matthew Roper notes, "[h]istorically, Latter-day Saints have proposed several possible correlations between the geography of the Americas and the Book of Mormon." A revelation on the matter could settle this basic question on which faithful Mormons have come to disagree.
The benefits of receiving such a revelation are clear: the scholars would know where to concentrate their search for archaeological evidence. If Joseph Smith and his successors were correct that Nephites lived in what is now the Ohio River Valley, for instance, a revelation confirming that fact could be used as a basis for relocating BYU archaeologists to that area from the Mesoamerican sites at which they have been searching in vain for physical evidence to corroborate the Book of Mormon text. If, on the other hand, Joseph Smith was wrong and the BYU researchers now dispatched to Mesoamerica are in the right general area, the Lord could confirm that to his latter-day Prophet. Church members would have their testimonies enhanced by seeing a prophet in action, the church's critics would be silenced on the issue, and the Book of Mormon's stock would soar.
So, the question remains, if Gordon B. Hinckley can receive a revelation settling this matter, and there would be benefits to the saints if he did so, what excuse does he have for not getting one? Joseph Smith once mocked "people who never had faith enough to call down one scrap of revelation from heaven." Should Gordon B. Hinckley be numbered among such people? Surely, he has the faith to call down a revelation from heaven.
One response is that it is not necessary to know the geographic location of Book of Mormon events. As the FARMS website says, "[i]nterpretations of Book of Mormon geography are obviously of lesser importance than the spiritual and eternal messages of the scriptural record itself." Of course, if it is not important, one wonders why the church spends money on scholars to research the issue. And if the church is going to expend such resources, wouldn't narrowing the search be wise and frugal? Wouldn't the Lord cooperate in the endeavor?
Another response is that if the Lord were to reveal where Book of Mormon events took place, we would not have to exercise faith and our agency would be destroyed. This argument fails because Joseph Smith himself led the early saints to believe that he knew by revelation the location of specific events from Nephite history. And, of course, FARMS exists to find "evidences" supporting the assertion that the Book of Mormon is an actual history of real ancient people. If providing such evidences were counter-productive to the church's goal of increasing the faith of its members, why would the church support FARMS' efforts generally? And, of course, by this same logic we would be
better off without prophets at all. I mean, if less evidence creates a greater trial of faith, and a greater trial of faith is better for us than a lesser trial of faith, then those who lack prophetic guidance entirely are better off in this life than those who know the mind and will of the Lord as revealed through His prophets. And that can't be right. Moreover, the church has long taught that a purpose of a prophet is to reveal
things not generally known, things not possibly known by natural means,
things long hidden from the world. Is not this one of those things? The
prophet sees fit to give counsel on some of the most mundane
trivialities of modern life: how many earrings a man or woman should
wear (men=zero, women=one pair only in the ears), tattoos (verboten), what we should eat and drink (no hot drinks, including iced tea, no alcohol), what we should wear (special underwear both night and day), what
we should watch (sewing shows, BYU volleyball, and old white men talking about the scriptures judging from what the church puts on KBYU), the music we should listen to (anyone have any old EFY tapes?), how we should spend
our time (in endless meetings, of course).
Yet on this important question, Brother Hinckley is silent--either because he cannot or will not obtain a revelation from God on the matter. Why not? It just doesn't make sense--unless my initial premise that he is able to get a revelation is faulty.