Thursday, August 28, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part X

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often. 
    As stated earlier in these posts, Sorenson loves to create a people, climate, or situation that is not supported by the scriptural record in order to make his point. On p140, he states: “What can we tell about living conditions in the land of first inheritance? The coastal plain where the landing of Lehi would have occurred was uncomfortably hot and humid. That climate favored rapid crop growth, but the weather would be unpleasant for colonizers. The Nephites soon fled up to the land of Nephi, where the elevation permitted living In greater comfort. As Nephi tells the story, the Lamanites down in the hot lowlands were nomadic hunters, bloodthirsty, near naked, and lazy (2 Nephi 5:24; Enos 1:20).” He also adds, “As for getting a living, the tangle of forest and swamp along the coast itself may have been too hard for the Lamanite newcomers to farm effectively, since they wouldn’t immediately get the knack of cultivation in that locale.”
    There are several inaccurate or fanciful statements made here which need to be dealt with.     
    First, there is no mention in the scriptural record of the climate where Lehi landed, other than the seeds they brought from Jerusalem grew exceedingly and provided an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:24). The seeds came form Jerusalem, where a Mediterranean Climate prevails—consequently, for seeds in 600 B.C. from Jerusalem to grow exceedingly they would have requited a very similar climate, which Mesoamerica does not have. Wheat, barley and other European seeds would not have grown in the lowland hot and humid tropical climate of Guatemala where Sorenson places Lehi’s landing.
Left: Books show how to grow food gardens in tropical climates; Center: Chilies and peppers; Right: Eggplant. All do well in a tropical climate, such as Mesoamerica, but not in a Mediterranean Climate
    Second, Nephi and those who went with him did not flee because of the climate along the coast but because the Lord told him to leave his brothers who threatened to kill him (2 Nephi 5:2, 5). Third, according to Tropical Permaculture and Biodynamic Agriculture, Green Garden, and Garden Web, “Most Mediterranean plants…can’t stand humidity…the best thing to do during hot weather is to grow tropical vegetables that will withstand waterlogging, like heat and high humidity, such as Ceylon or Egyptian spinach, ibika, salad mallow, Asian greens and broccoli, pigeon pea, choko, lots, loofah (luffa), eggplant, chillies, pepper, jicama, capsicums, Chinese cabbages, okra, kangkong, pumpkin, squash, collards, kale, chard, and sweet corn. None of these plants are Mediterranean and would not grow in a Mediterranean Climate where Lehi lived and from where he brought his seeds (1 Nephi 18:24).
    Fourth, Nephi does not tell any story about the Lamanites or the Land of First Inheritance being a hot and humid climate or area. In fact, Sorenson’s reference of 2 Nephi 5:24 shows the reason the Lamanites became “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey” was because of “their cursing which was upon them.” Nor does his reference of Enos 1:20 have anything to do with the climate, but it was “their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people.”
    When reading Sorenson, one needs to look up his references since quite frequently, they do not support his statement, but gives an entirely different reasoning, as shown above.
    Fifth, and lastly, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, who had likely been farmers in the Old World, living outside Jerusalem on the surrounding farmland, and would have known how to plant and harvest if they chose. In addition, they would have been part of the first very successful planting (1 Nephi 18:24), that is, they would have if they wanted to survive in this new land that first year. The idea they didn’t know how to do anything is pure fabrication on Sorenson’s part.
    In another brief, but pertinent comment, Sorenson (p138) shows his lack of understanding of Nephi’s comments about his voyage, when he states: “Nephi lefrt us no information in the Book of Mormon about the route, nor did he tell us in modern terms where they landed.” Interestingly enough, Nephi did exactly that. He tells us his ship was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8), which is a very important and clear statement. In oceanography, a simple term “drift voyage” tells us how a vessel or object is moved across the ocean and, once we know and understand the currents and winds involved, exactly where that drift voyage would go.
    Thor Heyerdahl in his “drift voyage” Kon Tiki proved that winds and currents would take a vessel “driven forth before the wind” along a certain current until it reached land.
A drift voyage, such as Thor Heyerdah’s Kon Tiki, is a voyage where the vessel enters the water and is subject to only the winds and currents for its direction and movement. Within a slight range, steerage is possible, but only for a matter of yards, not miles. Note (black line) how Heyerdahl’s path followed the (white arrows) current
    A drift voyage, by definition—a transoceanic journey between continents by primitive boat or raft, propelled by ocean currents—drifts with the wind and current. Numerous such voyages have been undertaken, both accidentally and by design. In November 2001 a pair of Samoan fishermen were accidentally caught in a current that took them westward across the Pacific 2500 miles in four months to Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea off the northeastern coast of Australia, where they were rescued. In 1992 a storm washed several containers once carrying 29,000 plastic bathtub toys from a sinking ship bound from Hong Kong to Tacoma,
Washington. Over the next ten months, frogs, ducks, turtles and beavers began washing up near Sitka, Alaska, following the currents as they drifted thousands of miles.  Numerous studies have been made of the effects of ocean surface currents on drifting objects, until today it is well understood where currents flow and where “drift voyages” will end up.
    Such is the case with Nephi’s ship. We know where it left, we know the currents involved in the sea (Arabian Sea) it started on and where that current took it to the Indian Ocean, and how it was affected by the currents leading into the Southern Ocean, the West Wind Drift and the Prevailing Westerlies. We also know where a drift voyage would flow on such a voyage and where it would cease, as it was forced up the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current to a cessation of wind and current at 30º south Latitude along the Chilean coast at a spot called Coquimbo Bay. And, we know that if a landing was not affected at that spot, what would happen to the vessel as it continued drifting as the winds and currents picked up north of the Tropic of Capricorn and was pushed out by the Peruvian Bulge into the currents that form the South Pacific Gyre—the very current that took Thor Heyerdahl westward from Peru and across and into the Polynesian islands. We know all this today because of the tremendous studies of drift voyages, currents, and winds that have been accomplished in recent years.
As the map shows, any vessel moving northward from the Peruvian Bulge (just below the bottom of the picture) and along the Peru Coastal Current (Humboldt Current) would be sent, as the Kon Tiki was, out into the South Equatorial Current north of the Galapagos Islands or into the Peru Oceanic Current south of the Galapagos
    What is obvious from the map is that no vessel is going to continue northward toward Panama because of the strong oceanic currents moving south and southeast from Central America. Recent scientific experiments with Drift Voyages have shown the truth to this statement—such voyages, subject to the wind and currernts “driven forth before the wind” would never have reached Central or Meso-America.
    The point is, Sorenson can say (p138) “Nephi’s ship likely threaded through the islands of the western Pacific, then across the open reaches north of the equator to landfall around 14 degrees north latitude,” which would be along the southern Guatemala coast. However, as has been pointed out, a drift voyage would not have gone in that direction, a ship “driven forth before the wind” would not have traveled across the Pacific against either the Northern arm of the South Equatorial Current (south of the Equator) or the Southern arm of the North Equatorial Current (north of the Equator) as Sorenson so flippantly claims.
    Thus, it is not difficult to know where Nephi sailed, because he tells us how he sailed his ship, and modern oceanography has mapped the world’s oceans and currents so thoroughly that there can be no mistake about where a drift voyage “driven forth before the wind” would have gone, given its embarkation from the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
(See the final post on, “More on Sorenson—the Duplicitous Sales Job,” to see how the scriptural record is manipulated to support an erroneous conclusion)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part IX

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often, to remind us of how far afield from the scriptures he wanders to try and prove his Mesoamerica model.
    In discussing the way Sorenson treats the scriptural record over the past several posts, it is also interesting how he uses figures to satisfy his meanings, though they are in conflict with one another. Take, for an example, how he describes a distance factor for travel on pp 8-9 when he is trying to prove a short distance for the Land of Promise overall.
The pioneers cross the plains in America averaged about 10 to 11 miles per day
    To do this he tries to limit the distance from the Waters of Mormon (City of Nephi) to Zarahemla. He begins by discussing Alma and his converts making about 10 to 11 miles per day, as did the Mormon Pioneers. He also cites Guatemala drovers taking 11 miles a day to drive pigs to market 90 miles away in 8 days. Or travelers on routine trading trips on jungle trails from Cotal Valley to the Peten, 120 miles away taking 19 days or more, averaging a little more than six miles a day. He also states that during the movements of the Toltecs described in the Mexican chronicles, dawn-to-dusk marches, without animals along, averaged six leagues, somewhere between 15 and 24 miles a day. He concludes by stating that “other data on travel rates fall within these established ranges.” Thus he surmises that the distance from the Waters of Mormon to Zarahemla would be no more than 231 miles at 11 miles per day for the stated 21 days of travel.
    However, and here is the issue. When he needs a distance to be further than the record states, such as across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which he states is 125 miles, which Mormon claims could be covered by a Nephite in a day and a half’s journey, he talks about Mohave Indians covering 100 miles in a day, etc., and about 75 years ago, one Indian reportedly made a hundred mile trip, then turned around after only a few hours rest and went back again, averaging six miles an hour, which was not exceptional in their case. From this and other unusual circumstances, Sorenson concludes that the narrow neck at 125 miles is plausible for a day and a half’s journey. Sorenson concludes his discussion (p 17), “As we have already calculated the rate for ”a Nephite,” a single individual, could potentially be up to six miles an hour for as long as 24 hours within the ‘day and a half.’ That would amount to 144 miles.”
    The fallacy of this comment is borne out in every marathon run in recent history. Nearly every runner trains for as much as three to six months prior to the marathon, they have special shoes, are assisted along the way with food and drink, and all the modern conveniences, yet the average run is about 6 hours, averaging about 4.74 miles per hour. The world record is a couple of minutes over two hours at the speed of 12 miles per hour. The idea of someone covering 144 miles in 24 hours at the rate of six miles an hour for a day and a half without stopping is beyond any sane person’s imagination (see our recent post on this subject). If you doubt that, take a look at the marathon runners after two to four hours running at such a pace—you’ll get the idea how fallacious such a statement is.
    The point is, when Sorenson begins writing he does so with a blind eye to parts of the scriptural record he doesn’t like, a willingness to make changes and alterations to the meaning of Mormon’s descriptions when it does not agree with his theory, and a propensity to add or delete information that meets his purposes. 11 miles a day when he wants a short distance, but 6 miles an hour for a day and a half when he needs a longer one. That is obviously not scholarship.
Take another example, that of Hagoth, the shipbuilder. For some reason, despite no word to support this, Sorenson writes (p269): “What about the LDS tradition that Hagoth, the Nephite shipbuilder who failed to return home was an ancestor of the Polynesians?” Then added, “The Book of Mormon itself of course, says only that the man and his mates disappeared form the knowledge of the people in Zarahemla. For all they knew he might have died at a ripe old age on the west Mexican coast without a suitable vessel in which to make the return voyage. And neither do we know.”
    It is always interesting to read Sorenson’s writing which, at times, is more fiction than fact. One wonders if he really ever read the Book of Mormon. As stated in the scriptural record, Hagoth was a shipbuilder not an explorer. While Hagoth’s ships were at sea, Mormon tells us “this man built other ships” (Alma 63:7). In fact, he was building other ships while his first ship went north and returned, “and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward” (Alma 63:7). There is absolutely no suggestion that Hagoth ever went to sea, sailed in his ships, and certainly went anywhere with the ships that went northward and were not heard from again. Nor is there any suggestion his history and later life were known in any way.
    Sorenson, as we have pointed out in these past 9 posts, plays it loosely with the scriptural record, more often than not completely in error without seeming to understand he is so far afield from the scriptural record itself. As in the case of Hagoth, all we now from the scriptural record of only four verses is that he was a curious man and built exceedingly large ships (Alma 63:5-8).
    Sorenson also makes rather definitive statements where the scriptural record is silent, or suggests the opposite. He states on p268 that “The ‘ship’ of Hagoth, if it was like craft known later on the Pacific coast, was either a very large dugout canoe with built-up sides or a log raft with sails Whatever its form, it could hardly have been a complex planked vessel at all resembling European ships.”
Dugout canoes, no matter how large are still just canoes, with limited space and limited use. It would be hard to imagine men taking their families, provisions and supplies to a far off land in such a canoe
    However, Mormon, who had lived at the tail end of the Nephite golden age (100 to 300 A.D.), and read their records which showed and covered the Nephite “shipping and their building of ships” (Helaman 3:14) and a list of their other accomplishments, would have known something about their building ability, and even their ships, which no doubt were still in use in his growing up years, stated: “Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship” (Alma 63:5). It would be hard for anyone to understand that a large dugout canoe would be considered an “exceedingly large ship.” In addition, Joseph Smith knew the different between a canoe, raft, dugout, boat and ship—and chose the word “ship.”
    In 1828, “ship” was defined as: “a vessel or building of a peculiar structure, adapted to navigation, or floating on water by means of sails [and] fitted for navigation, furnished with a bowsprit and three masts, a main-mast, a fore-mast and a mizen-mast, each of which is composed a lower-mast, a top-mast and top-gallant-mast, and square rigged.” Thus, we can see, that Joseph Smith was not translating a word that mean canoe or dugout, etc., but a full sized ship that could carry many emigrant passengers along with their families, provisions and supplies to start a new life elsewhere (Alma 63:6-7).
Phoenician ships of the Abydos fleet in 1300 B.C. were 72-feet long and found buried in Egypt in 1991. Such ships were built in the eastern Mediterranean 700 years before Lehi
    In another example of Sorenson not understanding the meaning of Mormon’s writing, he states (p240): “It is an interesting commentary on Nephite conceptions of the land that the territory on the south described as “wilderness” should be “full of the Lamanites.” Clearly the essence of “wilderness” lay not in the absence of inhabitants but in something else, apparently the substantial modifications of the landscape that civilization entails.”
    The problem lays in Sorenson’s pre-determined understanding of the word “wilderness.” He states elsewhere that wilderness means desert or mountains; however, in 1828, the word had a very specific meaning—first, is understanding the word comes from “wild,” meaning “not tamed or domesticated, growing without culture, not refined by culture, or cultivated, an uncultivated tract or region,” and wilderness defined as “a tract of land or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wide barren plain. In the United States, it is applied only to a forest. In Scripture, it is applied frequently to the deserts of Arabia, and can mean desert, ocean, forest, etc.”
    Thus, we understand that it is an area where people are not living in a permanent setting, with plowed fields, houses, improvements, etc. After all, “the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents” (Alma 22:28), which are not permanent dwellings, lending to a cultivated and cultured area. Understanding this meaning, “wilderness” is not only the correct word, but nomadic people living in such an area does not violate the definition of “wilderness.”
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part X,” for more information on how far Sorenson is willing to go to stretch reality and believability to prove his Mesoamerican Theory, and how often he ignores what is in the scriptural record, or adds things that are not there)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part VIII

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often to show how far afield his thinking has strayed from the scriptural record.
    This is especially true when Sorernson begins inserting numerous cultures, civilizations and peoples in Lehi’s Land of Promise that the Lord promised would be his alone, and where there is not a single suggestion any other people outside the Jaredites, Nephites, Mulekites and Lamanites existed there, nor is there a single suggestion that Jaredites lived into Mulekite or Nephite times or any survived their last, great battle other than Coriantumr and Ether; nor is there any suggestion a single Nephite other than Moroni survived their last battle at Cumorah. Yet, despite not a single word to suggest such a thing, Sorenson writes (p119):
    “The evidence is persuasive that significant Jaredite elements persisted into Mulekite and Nephite times.”  And that there is “evidence of cultural continuity from Jaredite into later times” and “there is really no question about it—Jaredite contributions to the later peoples were substantial.” In addition, Sorenson tries to make a claim that the Mulekites (People of Zarahemla) upon landing in the Land of Promise (p120): “were able to find a niche for themselves in the land, incorporating and ruling over some remnant of the people left in the land southward after the abandonment of Olmec La Venta [a Jaredite city of his model].” And concluding, Sorenson adds: “On the limited basis of archaeological findings, it appears that other groups dating to the immediate post-Olmec [his Jaredites] centuries had similar ambitions.”
    That is, Sorenson tries to convince us that the writing of the prophet Ether—who conversed with the Lord—is wrong and that some Jaredites outlived their final battle where the scriptural record states that only Coriantumr survived among his people (Ether 15:29-32).
Even though Ether makes this crystal clear: “The Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth. And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled,” that is that Ether prophesied “unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr” (Ether 13:20-21). That is, the prophecy Ether gave to Coriantumr had been fulfilled as a result of his lack of repentance and accepting the Lord. Ether was told to go make sure it had been done, and he saw that it had. All the Jaredites save Coriantumr and himself had been slain.   
    However, despite this, Sorenson states as previously shown (p 119) “There is really no question about it. Jaredite contributions to the later peoples were substantial.” He takes this opposition to the scriptural record stance because in his model of Mesoamerica he had to make room for the Olmec  (his Jaredites) who remained in the area and among his later Nephites.
    To show why he can disagree with the scriptural record, Sorenson writes: “The scripture is clear that the Nephites were prejudiced against the Lamanites [and] that must have influenced how they perceived their enemies” (p90). In fact, Sorenson carries this to the extreme when he adds: “The question is how great the difference was; we may doubt that it was as dramatic as the Nephite recordkeepers made out” (p90-91). In this sense, Sorenson seems to disagee righteously with the prophets of old.
    Or, when Sorenson changes the meaning of the scriptural record. As an example (p55), “When the Zoramites became Lamanites” (Alma 43:4), this does not mean that they took on new biological characteristics, only that they changed their political allegiance.”
However, Alma tells us that there was a change made, “whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him.” In fact, the Lord made it clear when he said, “I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed. And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed” (Alma 3:15-17).
    And what was this mark? It was something noticeable, easily identifiable, and could not be altered, changed or hidden. Nephi makes it clear that the mark was a dark skin: “that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21). This is made clear when Nephi adds, “And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done” (2 Nephi 5:23).
    Thus it can be concluded that whoever defected from the Nephites to join the Lamanites became Lamanites in name, appearance, and genetics, since their skin color was changed to that of the Lamanites. The Lord made it clear they were no longer Nephites in any way.
    Sorenson, forever wanting to alter or change what is written in the scriptural record, however, states of this: “What about the ‘dark skin’ of the Lamanites and the ‘fair skin’ of the Nephites? In the first place, the terms are relative. How dark is dark? How fair is fair?” (p 89).
    However, Nephi does not just state “fair.” He also says “white,” a word Sorenson conveniently ignores. “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21). In this case, there can be no question that “fair” is used as a synonym of “white,” so Sorenson’s question, “how fair is fair,” is just another of his misleading comments meant to cloud the issue. Since Joseph Smith translated Mormon’s writing to say “fair” and “white,” in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, “fair” is defined as “Clear; free from spots; free from a dark hue; white; as a fair skin; a fair complexion.” And for “white” it was defined in 1828 as “Being in the color of pure snow; snowy; not dark; as white paper; a white skin.”
    Thus, as we find in answer to much of Sorenson’s writing, there is no question to be answered. It is as Mormon wrote it and Joseph Smith translated it. Pure and simple.
Shortly before his death, Lehi prophesies to his family and leaves a blessing on each of them 
    In addition, it appears Sorenson, not satisfied with the way Mormon abridged the record, wants to change it, or even write his own. Take, for example, that he simply does not accept Nephi’s writings of his father’s prophesying to his family about the Land of Promise being held in reserve for his posterity as long as they remain righteous and “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8, emphasis mine), and “Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves” (2 Nephi 1:9, emphasis mine).
    Despite this, Sorenson blatantly claims numerous other cultures, peoples and civilizations existed within the bounds of the Land of Promise, and that they interacted with the Lamanites, Mulekites and Nephites, and not one word of this is mentioned or even suggested in the scriptural record, he has the effrontery to say, “The entire subject has too many ramifications to treat fully here. The question uppermost in the minds of Latter-day Saints readers is likely to be this: If all those people are actually not described in the Book of Mormon, then should we consider their descendants to be “Lamanites”?
    NO! The question in the minds of Latter-day Saints is “by what authority do you claim the scriptural record is wrong and you are right that there were other people in the Land of Promise?”
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part IX,” for more information on how far Sorenson is willing to go to stretch reality and believability to prove his Mesoamerican Theory, and how often he ignores what is in the scriptural record, or adds things that are not there)

Monday, August 25, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part VII

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often. 
    Sorenson continuing (p 21-22): "Besides, the immediately adjacent west coastal strip was counted part of the land of Nephi, although to the north strip was conceived as "on the west of the land of" Zarahemla. Nothing definitely to the east of Nephi is discussed. The entire area east from the land of Nephi is left undefined, except that it was part of the whole and southward "nearly surrounded by water."
    Resonse: This is not true. Mormon tells us the Land of Nephi ran from sea to sea. To the East Sea: “And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west” (Mormon 50:8), thus the Land of Nephi ran to the East Sea. He also wrote that “And thus he cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea…” thus the Land of Nephi ran to the West Sea as well.
    As for what cities or special features were in the east of the Land of Nephi we are not told, but then we know nothing of the area from the First Landing or First Inheritance (Alma 22:28), to the area Nephi occupied and called the City of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8) once he left their area of First Landing.
At the same time, one might draw the conclusion that since the Lamanites built a city called Jerusalem near the borders of Mormon (Alma 21:1), and Mormon was near the City of Nephi (Alma 18:4, 8), and some have placed the City of Nephi toward the east in the Land of Nephi, and that the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the overflowing of waters, it could be concluded that Jerusalem was built along the Sea East. But that is merely conjecture, even though based upon responsible information.
    Sorenson also has a habit of making words mean what he wants them to mean and rejecting those that are clearly stated. This idea that nothing is to the east of Nephi is something like Sorenson’s statement about a second crop grown from the seeds brought from Jerusalem, in which he wrote (p 184): "We did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance" (2 Nephi 5:11). 
    Sorenson: “The crops of the Zeniffites are of interest in several ways. As we have noted, corn appears as the most prominent food. That is what we would expect in most parts of Mesoamerica. But the “wheat” and “barley” mentioned as among their crops are another story.”
    Why is that? "Wheat" and "Barley" are listed along with "corn." Obviously, all three were grown as well as two other crops mentioned for the first time: "neas" and "sheum" (Mosiah 9:9).
    Evidently, Sorenson wants to cast doublt on "wheat" and "barley," because while corn grows in Mesoamerica, wheat and barley do not basically grow there in a tropical climate. So, to Sorenson, it is all right for Mormon to say “corn,” but not OK for him to say “wheat” and “barley.” 
    Sorenson then goes on for two pages to explain away the use of “wheat” and “barley” actually meant something else. He also does this with even the word “corn,” by stating: “Now, “corn” is clearly maize, the native American plant that was the mainstay of the diet of many native American peoples for thousands of years.” This is an interesting use of a double-standard. In one case, “wheat” and “barley” had to have been some other grains, but “corn” is clearly maize, an American corn.
    Noah Webster in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, states: “corn … comprehends all the kinds of grain which constitute the food of men and horses.” He goes on to say this is true in Great Britain, where corn “is generally applied to wheat, rye, oats and barley.” He then adds that in the United States, “it has the same general sense, but by custom, it is appropriated to maize.” However, Webster then states that this is not the general rule when using terms like “wheat” or “barley” along with “corn.” “In this sense, corn has no plural” and is just corn—which is the way it is used in (Mosich 9:9), however, we might question its singular use in (Mosiah 9:14) since in 1828 when Joseph was translating, the single term “corn” it comprehends all the kinds of grain which constitute the food of men and horses, such as wheat, rye, oats and barley.
    In a different look at this, we might listen to Zeniff further when he wrote: “And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind” (Mosiah 7:22, emphasis mine).
    Exactly what other grain did he have to plant? In fact, there were two very important ones, which Zeniff called Neas and Sheum (Mosiah 9:9).
Left: Zea mays, of the family Poaceae, a tall cereal plant which originated in the New World and has been introduced globally, and often referred to as maize or Indian Corn; Right: Zea mays indentata, a yellow corn grown in the U.S. called field corn, or yellow dent field corn
    But back to corn, there is no listing for “maize” in Webster’s 1828 dictionary, however, “maiz” is defined as “A plant of the genus Zea [a generic name of maiz] the native corn of America, called Indian corn.”
    The point of all this is that when Sorenson wants to accept a word or subject that agrees with his theory, he readily does. But when Mormon states a word or subject that does not agree with his theory, Sorenson rejects the word and claims something else entirely was meant.
    Take as an example of the latter. In Mesoamerica, wheat and barley would not, in Nephi’s time nor even today, grow well at all. In order to satisfy his model, Sorenson completely ignores a scriptural reference to the contrary to his thinking and tries to lessen the impact of the seeds brought from Jerusalem doing so well in the area of the First Landing (1 Nephi 18:24) by suggesting they would not have done well in a second planting. He states (p139): “The experience of pioneers suggests that first success for an imported crop does not necessarily mean continued vigor for it” and “what happened later to those plants from the seeds the Lehi party carried across the ocean is not stated.” 
    Response: The point here is that it is stated, and quite clearly. Lehi died after being in the Land of Promise about a year, long enough to preach to his family and leave blessings upon them (2 Nephi 1-4). After his death, Nephi is told by the Lord to leave and take those with him who believed in the Lord (2 Nephi 5:5-7). After reaching a suitable place to settle (the area that would later be called the City of Nephi), “And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind” (2 Nephi 5:11, emphasis mine). Yet, Sorenson wants us to believe the crops did not do well in the second planting!
    Sorenson also wants to change the meaning of words he does not agree with such as (p 299): Claiming a Mastodon or Mammoth was meant instead of  an Elephant; a Deer instead of a Cow; a Deer or Tapir instead of Horse; a Tapir instead of an Ox; a Camelidae instead of a Sheep; Deer instead of a Goat; Peccary instead of a Swine, but a Dog was used for Dog.
Top Left: The Llama was native to Andean South America, not Mesoamerica, and stands 6’ tall and weighs 280 to 450 pounds; Top Right: The Sheep, stands 2 to 4’ tall, and weighs 99 to 220 pounds; Bottom Left: Typical sheep, about 3’ tall; Bottom Right: Typical Llama with their long necks
    Sorenson also misstates facts of South America and inserts them into his Mesoamerica. As an example, his Camelidae, or camelids, are the llama and alpaca (guanaco and vicuna), all four of which were indigenous to the Andean area of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina—they were never found in Central or Meso-America until after South American peoples transported them there (The Chavin of Peru were credited with first domesticating these Andean camelids according to Richard L Berger, Chavin de Huantar and its Sphere of Influence (2008); "Maize and the Origin of Highland Chavin Civilization" in American Anthropollogist 92; and "Chavin and the Origins of Andean Civilization" (1992).
    The llama, after all, was the only large domesticated animal in the entire pre-colonial Americas. Consequently, of all the indigenous cultures of the New World, only the Andean peoples could obtain animal products (namely meat and clothing) through raising (rather than hunting) large animals.
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part VIII,” for more information on how far Sorenson is willing to go to stretch reality and believability to prove his Mesoamerican Theory, and how often he ignores what is in the scriptural record, or adds things that are not there)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part VI

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often. 
    Continuing with Sorenson’s comments about the distance across the narrow neck of land.
Just about everything is in the wrong place in Sorenson’s Mesoamerica map from Mormon’s detailed descriptions, yet Sorenson tells us that “hereafter I plan to assume that the geography question is settled”
    Sorenson continuing: “I have said often enough that these results are not conclusive. Yet hereafter I plan to assume that the geography question is settled, in broad terms. It is sensible to assume so in order to get on with other matters. I am personally assured that the Nephite map is now known with quite high probability. Furthermore, no other map correlation will do; all others known to me contain fatal flaws. On the contrary, the picture offered here is thoroughly plausible” (p47).
    Response: When something is not conclusive how can we assume the geography question is settled? In fact, not only is it settled in Sorenson’s mind, he uses this “inconclusive geography” to base the rest of his book upon and all his theories and future writing.
    In the Foreword to his book, it is written: “This book has been many years in preparation and will undoubtedly endure for many years to come. It will become required reading for all people interested in the antiquity of the Book of Mormon. Those who comment on the historicity of Book of Mormon accounts henceforth are irresponsible or uninformed if they ignore or neglect Dr. Sorenson’s present work.”
    One can only wonder how irresponsible or uninformed one is if they see and question Sorenson’s many mistakes and his lack of scriptural agreement? Evidently, one should ignore truth and simply take Sorenson’s word for things, even when he uses “inconclusive geography” to prove his points.
   Sorenson continuing: “Furthermore, no other map correlation will do; on the contrary, the picture offered here is thoroughly plausible. That will become more apparent as we proceed with our discussion. So let us examine more detailed evidence about the match between the scriptgure and external sources” (p 47).
    Response: It is interesting that Sorenson’s own map (Map 4, p24) is far closer to Mormon’s description than his actual map of Mesoamerica. So let us take a look at his final map, his Mesoamerica, the map that is superior to and better than any other map because “no other map correlation will do.” (Correlation, by the way means “a mutual relationship of connection between two or more things,” that is, Sorenson’s points on his map should correlate with one another).
    So let us begin with his comment on p 5: “"the first place to seek for knowledge of the Book of Mormon, is the book itself."  While one can hardly disagree with such a statement, he goes on to say that: "We must...construct a map, systematically and comprehensively.  Every statement in the volume (Book of Mormon) must be milked of relevant information, and all of it ought to fit together without contradiction. 
Sorenson’s Map. Compare his locations with those stated in the scriptural record. There is not a single match between the scriptural record and Sorenson’s map locations—absolutely no correlation between the two at all despite his own conditions that they must do so
    1. Mormon: Land Northward – To the north of Bountiful and the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:31)
    Sorenson Map: Land Northward – To the west of Bountiful and the narrow neck of land;
    2. Mormon: Land Southward – To the south of Bountiful and the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:31)
    Sorenson Map: Land Southward – To the east of Bountiful and the narrow neck of land
    3. Mormon: Land of Zarahemla – To the north of the narrow strip of land which was to the north of the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:27)
    Sorenson Map: Land of Zarahemla – To the east of the narrow strip of land which is to the west of the Land of Nephi
    4. Mormon: Land of Bountiful – To the south of the narrow strip of land, in the north of the Land Southward (Alma 22:29; Helaman 1:17)
    Sorenson Map: Land of Bountiful – To the east of the narrow neck of land, in the west of the Land Southward (which is in the east);
    5. Mormon: Land of Desolation – To the north of the narrow neck of land, in the south of the Land Northward (Alma 22:29)
Sorenson’s Bountiful is east of his Desolation instead of to the south of the land of Descolation
    Sorenson Map: Land of Desolation – To the west of the narrow neck of land, in the east of the Land Northward;
    6. Mormon: City of Zarahemla – North of the Land of Nephi and south of the Land of Bountiful (Helaman 4:5-7)
    Sorenson Map: City of Zarahemla – To the west of the Land of Nephi, and to the east of the Land of Bountiful;
    7. Mormon: Jaredites inhabited the north country – Jaredite bones were so far northward (Alma 22:29), they were destroyed on the face of the north country (Ether 1:1)
    Sorenson Map: Jaredite Lands – Far to the west in the Land Northward, which is actually to the West;
    8. Mormon: Land of First Inheritance (Lehi Landing site) – On the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore (Alma 22:28)
    Sorenson: Land of First Inheritance: Located along the south seashore of the Land of Nephi;
    9. Mormon: East and West Sea: The land was between the Sea East and the Sea West (Alma 22:27), the land was surrounded by water except for a small neck of land (Alma 22:32), there were many Lamanites in the west along the seashore (Alma 22:28) and in the east along the seashore (Alma 22:29), thus the Sea East was in the east and the Sea West was in the west.
    Sorenson: East and West Sea: His East Sea is in the north; his West Sea is in the south;
The South Wilderness is the northern part of the narrow strip of wilderness which was the wilderness area bordering on the south of the Land of Promise. This is all one wilderness area that stretches to sea to sea and turns “round about” northward along each seashore (Alma 22:27-28)
    10. Mormon: South Wilderness: This is the narrow strip of wilderness in the south of the Land of Zarahemla, running from the Sea East to the Sea West (Alma 22:27); the other South Wilderness was in the south of the Land Northward where the Jaredites moved into after landing (Alma 22:31). At the time of the Jaredites, the Land of Bountiful was referred to as a wilderness (Alma 22:31) since there were no people living there.
    Sorenson: South Wilderness: Sorenson places the south wilderness to the north of the Land of Zarahemla along the coast of the East Sea which is actually in the north (Map 12, p 241).
    These are just ten points related to Sorenson’s first map of Mesoamerica to show that there is absolutely no correlation at all between Sorenson’s placement and the scriptural record and Mormon’s descriptions.
    It also might be of interest to note that on Map 8, p 170, using Soreonson’s own mileage chart, the Land of Shemlon (occupied by the Lamanites) is 15 miles away to the south of the City of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi), with low lying hills in between, yet Noah climbed upon the tower he built (Mosiah 11:12; 19:5) and saw the Lamanites approaching (Mosiah 19:6). That is some distance to see through low-lying hills, even “within the borders of the land.”
    The point is, anyone can draw a map. However, to be of any value, it has to be within the confines of the scriptural record and match that description. Sorenson’s maps are far from doing so.
    Yet despite these glaring discrepancies Sorenson goes on to say of his map: “Despite their contributions, all previous maps have been incomplete and inconsistent in dealing with the relevant information in the Book of Mormon.  None are fully reliable.  (pg. 6)  Building an internally consistent map is but the first step...Our first task is to analyze from the text the key characteristics of the lands described."
    It is a shame that Sorenson never seemed to learn to take his own advice.
    In a moment of humility, perhaps, Sorenson states on a different occasion, “We all should be willing to ‘be instructed more perfectly in theory’ (D&C 88:78). I am willing to change my theories and hypotheses, when the need is demonstrated.” It would seem that without question, the need has been demonstrated.
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part VII,” for more information on how far Sorenson is willing to go to stretch reality and believability to prove his Mesoamerican Theory, and how often he write something is not in the scriptural record when it plainly is)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part V

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often. 
    Continuing with Sorenson’s comments about the distance across the narrow neck of land.
    Sorenson continuing: “The day and a half’s “journey for a Nephite” then likely was effectively all the way across (although it would be silly to demand that it mean from salt-water to salt water; perhaps from garrison coastal settlement to a similar defense point on the other, which could be a number of miles from actual shore).”
    Response: Here we go, getting into qualifying statements that are not suggested or obviously meant in the scriptural record. Why would “from sea to sea” be silly to think it meant actual sea? We are either going from the Sea East to the Sea West, or we are not, since there is no other terminal point mentioned or suggested in the scriptural record. To claim one exists becomes self-serving for Mesoamerica because of its extreme width distance (125 to 144 miles); and if not, then why even bring it up? But let’s take a look at what Mormon is telling us. The narrow neck of land was, by definition, “narrow.” How narrow?
A narrow neck of land, to be seen and noticed, has to be observable from some vantage point (in Nephite times, this would not be an aerial map, NASA image, satellite photo, etc.) but seen by the naked eye
    Again, how narrow? In order to define that for a future reader who may or may not have similar dimensional language (i.e., mile, league, kilometer, etc.), Mormon chose to use the distance a person could walk in a period of a day and a half in his time. Would that be the same as today? Mostly likely—human anatomy has not changed, nor has the ability to walk changed. So if Mormon is trying to give us a distance, then why would he choose a point to start that would be unknown? In fact, if Mormon meant “perhaps from garrison coastal settlement to a similar defense point on the other side, which could be a number of miles from actual shore” then why not mention it? In not mentioning it, his idea of telling us something is meaningless, so why even state anything? The point being, since Mormon is trying to describe the distance between two points, those two points have to be clear and understood to his future reader. From the East (sea—sea in this case being understood) to the West Sea, is a very clear understanding. So if Sorenson (who likes to have things both ways) is going to use from “sea to sea” here as the meaning, then he can’t alter that with an unknown starting point.
    Sorenson continuing: “However, without more information, such as explanation of “a journey for a Nephite,” we cannot specify the distance with confidence.”
    Response: When we look at Mormon’s writing and the purpose behind his writing, then answers become much clearer and easily understood. This passage, if not from sea to sea, has absolutely no purpose or meaning, so either Mormon was rambling along or he was thinking about an upcoming Lamanite battle, or he had something specific in mind, and stated it. Personally, I believe his statement is quite clear. He was telling us the distance or width of the narrow neck from sea to sea. And I think he was doing this because this landmark and its size, plays an important role in Nephite defenses and strategy over their 1000 year history, and in his lifetime becomes the dividing line between Lamanite and Nephite controlled land (Mormon 2:29).
    Sorenson continuing: “[But logic allows us to bracket the distance. When we know on the one hand that Limhi’s exploring party passed through the isthmus without even realizing it (Mosiah 8:7–9; 21:25–26), we see that it was of substantial width. On the other hand, that the neck was relatively narrow was clear to knowledgeable Nephites.]”
    Response: First, logic suggests no such thing. Logic actually tells us that narrow is narrow, and further discussions about this being a choke point where Nephites cut off both defectors and Lamanites trying to get into the Land Northward, it must indeed be narrow—a word in 1828 when Joseph Smith used it that meant: “Of little breadth; not wide or broad; having little distance from side to side; as a narrow board; a narrow street; a narrow sea; a narrow hem or border. It is only or chiefly applied to the surface of flat or level bodies.” In the case of this narrow neck of land, it would have been narrow enough to use as a choke point between the Land Northward and the Land Southward. It was so important to the Nephite defenses that Mormon calls the defense of it “in their wisdom” (Alma 22:33), and it was where they cut off Morianton (Alma 50:34), and also stopped the Lamanites (Alma 52:9). From a military point of view, a distance of 125 miles to 144 miles is very difficult if not impossible to use as a choke point, or a defensive line.
    As an example, the battle that took place along the Karelian Isthmus between Russia and Finland in the Great Northern War of 1712 suggests an interesting parallel with Mesoamerican topography. Though narrower at 68 miles in width, it has no mountains, and its highest point is 607 feet (Mesoamerica 830 feet), covered with forest, some swamp, steep hills, grass, fen and raised bogs. It lies between two bodies of water (Gulf of Finland and 136-mile long, 6800 square mile Lake Ladoga).
Depsite having sufficient troops to withstand the Russian Army, the Finnish Army was stretched over too wide a front and could not react in time to any one area of concentrated attack
    The Army of the Grand Duchy of Finland had set up a defense line across the Isthmus just above Northern Ingria, to stop the Russian Empire advance; however, their defenses did little spread across such a wide area and Russia easily conquered Finland. In this same area, this war was refought in 1939-1940 when the Russian Army threw 13 divisions against a strong Finnish defensive line made up of cement walls, tank obstructions, bunkers, dug in guns, etc. Again, the Finnish Army was unsuccessful—they simply had too wide a line to control. A choke point in a defensive line has to be narrow. 68 miles was simply too much of an area to defend effectively.
    It is interesting that the Nephite defensive line across the narrow neck was described as narrow on several occasions in the scriptural record—perhaps we ought to accept that.
    Second, Sorenson tries to word his comment about Limhi’s expedition to find Zarahemla to be self-evident, but his reasoning is convoluted. A group of people, traveling hundreds of miles could pass through a valley or canyon a few miles in length with high mountains or hills or jungle or thick forest on either side and never know the topography beyond those mountains, hills, jungle or forest. Those of us who drive freeways and know nothing of what is beyond hills, forests, or other obstructions to either side, have no idea what is beyond our limited vision—there could be a lake there, a canyon, a river, or even a sea. Limhi’s expedition was looking for a city (Zarahemla) and a developed land area (farms, etc.), and not for seas.
Walking through any of the type of areas as these five shown above, a small group of people would have no idea what was beyond them on either side. This is simply not an argument for a wide passage or neck of land without knowing the existing topography
    Sorenson continuing: “A width as low as 50 miles seems too small…”
    Response: Why? These images above show widths as small as a couple of miles in width. Driving through southern Utah within the Rocky Mountains, sometimes your vision to either side is restricted by a mile or two, with no understanding what lies beyond your vision—without a map or investigation, what lies beyond remains unknown.
Top: The Sierra Blanca, east of El Paso, Texas. The hills shown are eleven miles away. There is no way to know what is beyond them walking through this valley; Bottom: Santa Catalina Island (yellow arrow), 26 miles off the coast of Newport Beach in Southern California. Looking 26 miles directly across a flat ocean one can barely make out an island 22 miles in length, and 2,097 feet in height
    Sorenson continuing: “…a more likely minimum is 75, while “a day and a half’s journey” could range up to 125 miles, depending on who traveled how (e.g., a messenger relay?)”
    Response: Of course, to help us understand the width of this narrow neck, Mormon is using a special messenger relay team, a marathon runner, a military dispatch racer, an accomplished athlete, a unique individual with special travel abilities, etc., etc., etc. Let's be realistic here. Mormon is telling us something, not trying to confuse us! Of course, Sorenson has to find a way to justify his 125 miles or more of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, so he stretches facts and believability to meet his requirement. This is scholarly? Perhaps a humorous look at this might make the point.
Let’s see, you work at a gas station on the edge of town and an out-of-state motorist stops and asks you how long it would take him to get from the station to the center of town. Now, instead of telling him how long it would take him to drive it in his car as he sits behind the wheel, you’re going to tell  him a time that could be accomplished by a rocket sled, a prototype rocket ship, a helicopter, an ambulance with siren running, a cop car chasing a speeding vehicle, or a unique individual on the track team that can run the four-minute mile.
    Which makes the most sense to you?
    What makes the most sense in Mormon's description? If he trying to fool us? Is he trying to make it unclear and ambiguous? Or is he trying to make it clear for his future reader, using things that would be both typical in his day and hopefully typical in a future day?
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part VI,” for more information on how far Sorenson is willing to go to stretch reality and believability to prove his Mesoamerican Theory)

Friday, August 22, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part IV

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often to remind us what is actually being said by the "leader of Mesoamerican theory."
    Continuing with Sorenson’s comments about the use of compass points and what directions the Nephites used, he states on p39:
    Sorenson: “In fact, we don’t know what Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi did call their directions, since the first terms for directions appear in the Book of Mormon only hundreds of years after the first landing (Mosiah 7:5; 9:14). In a footnote to this statement, Sorenson states: ”Some people have thought the Liahona of Lehi (1 Nephi 16:10) was a magnetic device. I find no persuasive evidence for such a view Hugh Nibley’s valuable discussion of it gives an alternative picture of its functioning.” 
Upper Left: Four Cardinal Points of the Compass; Upper Right: Eight sub-cardinal points; Bottom Left: Sixteen Ordinal points; Bottom Right: Full thirty-two points of the compass. Nephi knew all sixteen ordinal points according to his statements 
    Response: Let’s take this one point at a time. We know that Nephi not only knew his cardinal (NESW), sub-cardinal (NE, SE, SW, NW) but even his ordinal compass points (SSE, NNE, SSW, NNW) and used them correctly in his narrative of his journey in the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:13; 17:1)—and he did this in an area he had never before been. At the same time, we should keep in mind that prior to his use of “south-southeast” direction, no directions had been stated in their journey  southward from Jerusalem to where they first pitched their tents (1 Nephi 2:6).
    Now, as the party was about to disembark after a lengthy stay (obtaining the Brass Plates, Ishmael’s family, and the five weddings), Lehi finds the “Liahona” (1 Nephi 16:10), two verses later, Nephi gives us the compass direction they are heading, and then states after another stop, they started out again “And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction” (1 Nephi 16:14), “traveling for the space of many days” (1 Nephi 16:15), “following the directions of the ball” (1 Nephi 16:16). And when they turned and headed into the empty desert, he states: And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1).
Isn’t it interesting that once the Liahona was obtained, Nephi tells us what direction they traveled, even down the the third level ordinal compass point. Now this “Liahona” Nephi calls a compass (1 Nephi 18:12), so that Laman and Lemuel had no idea in which direction to steer the ship when it stopped working (1 Nephi 18:13). He calls it a “compass” a second time (1 Nephi 18:21). In fact, Alma tells us that the word “Liahona” is interpreted as “compass” (Alma 37:38), and refers to it as a “compass” more than once (Alma 37:43, 44).
    In defining the word “compass” today, it is “an instrument containing a magnetized pointer that shows the direction of magnetic north and bearings from it.” In Joseph Smith’s day, Noah Webster states two types of compass: 1) A Mariner’s compass—“An instrument for directing or ascertaining the course of ships at sea, consisting of a circular box, containing a paper card marked with the thirty two points of direction, fixed on a magnetic needle, that always points to the north, the variation excepted. The needle with the card turns on a pin in the center of the box. In the center of the needle is fixed a brass conical socket or cap, by which the card hanging on the pin turns freely round the center. The box is covered with glass, to prevent the motion of the card from being disturbed by the wind,” or 2) A normal or land compass—“An instrument used in surveying land, constructed in the main like the mariners compass; but with this difference, that the needle is not fitted into the card, moving with it, but plays alone; the card being drawn on the bottom of the box, and a circle divided into 360 degrees on the limb. This instrument is used in surveying land, and in directing travelers in a desert or forest, miners, etc.” 
    Joseph Smith, in translating the word used by Mormon, chose “compass,” which had a very specific meaning in his day and was a magnetic-based instrument, using the north pole as its magnetic point in the northern hemisphere. Had this instrument been of some other nature, surely Joseph would have chosen another word to define it, such as a Pointer, Indicator or just Instrument. The fact that the Spirit ascribed to the word “compass” should suggest to us that a compass of Joseph Smith’s day was what he had in mind. Now, having said that, it should be kept in mind that the “Liahona” had two spindles (1 Nephi 16:10; Alma 37:40) or needles, and one showed the direction they were to go (1 Nephi 16:10). In addition, the instrument could show writing on the ball, which was instructions and guidance from the Lord (1 Nephi 16:26).
Field or Military Compass has either extra needles or outside rings that can be set in position of direction so when holding the needle to north, you can site along your direction to identify landmarks, etc. 
    However, for anyone who has ever used a field compass out in the true wilderness where no landmarks are visible or known, such a compass has at least two very important uses—the first is to point toward north, but the second is that the magnetic needle can be set so in its pointing north, another marker can be set to show the actual direction (say east by southeast) one wants to travel. By keeping the compass pointing north, the other needle or marker points in the way you want to go, so with these two needles or points working, it is quite possible to unerringly reach a specific compass point miles away. Sophisticated military compasses, though simple in use, operate in this fashion, since seldom is a person going to be actually traveling due north. We see a parallel of these two working in tandem when Alma states: “if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go” (Alma 37:40).
    The “Liahona” operated out of faith (Alma 37:40) and righteousness (1 Nephi 18:13), showed the course one was to travel (Alma 37:39), and provided written counsel and knowledge (1 Nephi 16:29; Alma 37:43).
    It is both unrealistic and unbelievable to think that when Nephi arrived in the Land of Promise, that he did not determine the directions of their new land. And with the “Liahona” in hand, it is also unbelievable to think that he had to place his back to the sea to know which way was east (Sorenson p38-39), for that was not necessary for him to do along the Red Sea where he showed his accurate knowledge of three levels of compass points. In fact, had he thought of the normal sea and placed it to his back (Mediterranean Sea, the sea he knew from birth and life, which he knew was behind him), he would have thought himself facing east rather than south, and his directions he stated would have been wrong—but they were correct, showing he was using some other means rather than the sea at his back.
    Just as a side note, since numerous Jews traveled to Egypt (evidently including Lehi), where the Mediterranean Sea, if to their back, would have made Egypt lying to the east—how would they have equated that, with both Egypt and Jordan to the east? And, Syria too, if they were up the east coast of the Mediterranean?
According to Sorenson’s explanation, a Jew standing with his back to the Mediterranean Sea in the area of Israel (red arrow) would think of Cypress to the “west” (behind him); standing in Egypt, with his back to the Sea (green arrow), Cypress would also be to his “west,” though it would actually be to the “north”; standing along the Black Sea in Turkey (black arrow), Cypress would be to his “east” (fore), though actually “south.” 
    If Sorenson is right, then every Jew who ever traveled in the Old Country would have been confused as to his directions most of the time. After all, with his back to the sea in northern Israel, Cyprus would have been basically behind him, or to the West, yet in Egypt, Cyprus would have been to the north. Talk about confusion! And what if he traveled to Cyprus? Where do you stand with your back to the sea on a small island? And what if he put his back to the Dead Sea—would Jerusalem be to the east? One can only wonder how Moses and any Old Testament prophet ever got their directions correct.
    Let’s take another example of Sorenson’s convoluted way of thinking about directions for the Nephites.
    Sorenson: “From the east to the west sea” seems to me probably the equivalent of “from the east sea to the west sea,” particularly when we pay attention to the end of the sentence: “thus the [greater] land of Nephi and the [greater] land of Zarahemla [together constituting the land southward] were nearly surrounded by water.” 
    Response: OK, that sounds reasonable. We are going from then East Sea to the West Sea, a description Mormon uses later in describing the narrow pass that runs through the narrow neck of land “to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east“ (Alma 50:34).
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part V.” You won’t believe how far Sorenson is willing to go to stretch reality and believability to prove his Mesoamerican Theory)