Friday, May 21, 2010

When is a Cow Not a Cow? Part I

Evidently, a cow is not a cow when John L. Sorenson says it’s not. Writing in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the book of Mormon, on page 294, he states:

“But isn’t it obvious that the “cow” of the Book of Mormon was our familiar bovine, straight out without all this hedging? No, it is not at all obvious. First, we are trying to find out what the Book of Mormon really means by the words we have in English translation: we are not trying either to simplify or to complicate the matter, but only to be correct. In an effort to learn the truth, nothing can be assumed obvious. Second, there is a lack of reliable evidence—historical, archaeological, zoological, or linguistic—that Old World cows were present in the Americas in pre-Columbian times.”

One can only wonder why something written in the Book of Mormon is not obvious when it was originally written by an ancient prophet, then translated by a modern prophet, who had the Spirit to assist him, as well as the Urim and Thummim, in the translation. Can we assume that Sorenson, without prophetic insights and without the Urim and Thummim, knows more than Joseph Smith in this translation?
Also, one might wonder what additional evidence one needs to the correctness of the translation than what is written? Does Sorenson think the Lord, the Spirit, and the prophets have all conspired to confuse, distort, and mystify the writings in the Book of Mormon, so an academic like him can come along and tell us what was really meant?

However, not finished, Sorenson adds, “So what might the Nephite term translated by Joseph Smith as cow actually have signified?” He then goes on to add, “In these cases we have to find another way to read the text in order to make sense of it.”

After wading through explanations of how others misnamed animals, like Cortez, DeSoto, Delaware Indians, Miami Indians, Father Landa, Mazahua Indians, and the Maya, and the various animals that confused them, we learn from Sorenson, “As we examine the writings about Mesoamerica’s large fauna, we find the linguistic problem assails us at every turn.”

Never the one to take the Book of Mormon as it is written, Sorenson spends several pages trying to confuse the issue by asserting that the words elephant, curelom, cummom, cow, horse, ox, ass, sheep, goat, and swine are not what we think they are, but were likely other animals that were misnamed in scripture, in order to justify his Mesoamerican model with “animals that were on the scene” in his Mesoamerica. He claims the cow was a deer or a bison, the horse a deer or tapir, the ox a tapir or bison, the ass a tapir, the goat a deer, and the swine a peccary. He at least admits that a dog was really a dog.

Now, tell me, does anyone reading the Book of Mormon think that Joseph Smith, living in New England in the early 1800s, a woodsman and farmer, did not know the difference between a cow and a deer? Or a horse and a deer? Or that Moroni would confuse an agouti (a rodent the size of a rat) or a Paca (the size of a cat), with a sheep?
Left: An Agouti; Right: A Paca

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