Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do We Know Where the Land of Promise is Located? – Part III

In the last two posts the several points in a FARMS website were introduced and an evaluation of those points begun. In this post, we will deal with the comment:

2. “As a professional scholar, Sorenson recognizes that no text speaks for itself. All readers approach a text with preconceived notions, bias and assumptions, and all people interpret passages based on a variety of other influences.”

First, taken at face value, this statement appears true. Certainly, many, many people have preconceived notions that interfere with their evaluation of information. But to say “all people” is totally inaccurate. Many years ago, scientific research was an open and challenging field where scientists sought for factual truths, not just to prove their own knowledge—they had numerous ways to evaluate their findings along the way to see if any bias or prejudices were influencing their work. Today, this is rarely the case. But that does not mean all people are incapable of approaching a subject matter with an open and unbiased mind.

Certainly Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove sought truth; Moses listened to the voice in the burning bush with fear and trembling; Mother Theresa performed her duties without looking for aggrandizement; and every prophet of the Lord spoke the words given him by the spirit without injecting his own ideas into the message—even if it meant persecution and death, as shown in the case of Abinadi.

To say that a person cannot read the scriptures and work out an accurate understanding of the geography of the Land of Promise is to belittle the efforts of numerous individuals who never write books, post a blog, or claim they know the answer—but arrive at an understanding of truth through the spirit testifying to them.

Secondly, “no text speaks for itself” is strictly a worldly approach of the academic. The Book of Mormon speaks for itself. Each and every statement speaks for itself. Mormon’s descriptions speak for themselves. The problem lies in people with preconceived models and locations in mind and how they react to the “plain and simple” language of the scriptural record. John L. Sorenson is convinced Mesoamerica is the site, and as he claims, he is biased toward that and prejudiced toward any other location. Arlin Nasbaum is convinced the “South Sea” was located in the area of the narrow neck of land and arrogantly belittles any other view. And the list goes on. As Paul wrote: “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

However, the text does speak for itself and those who read without preconceived ideas, locations and reputations at stake, see things the spirit shows them and that the “plan and simple” language tells them.

Thirdly, “all people interpret passages based on a variety of other influences” is a rather ambiguous statement. It would seem that most people are influenced by a desire to learn and understand—however, people like Sorenson, who was convinced of Mesoamerica at an early stage in his career, cannot imagine someone not agreeing with him. To him, having a preconceived belief in the location of the Land of Promise is a natural occurrence. However, it is not with all people.

No, the reason for such a belief is to satisfy oneself that a certain approach is the only proper method. For anyone disagreeing with Mesoamerica, they are approaching the scriptural record with a bias or prejudice and that the scriptural record cannot speak for itself. The same could be said about any other location theorists have developed. But the fact of the matter is, the Book of Mormon speaks for itself, those who wrote in it knew what they were talking about, and did so with plainness as Nephi described. It is rather arrogant for someone to come along thousands of years later and say those men did not know what they were talking about.

(See the next post, “Do We Know Where the Land of Promise is Located-Part IV,” for more comments on the website quoted above)

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