Thursday, June 30, 2011

Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part VI

Continuing with the last post, which covered the directions in the scriptural record as they differ from the directions in Sorenson’s model, the Land of Zarahemla, which was occupied by the Nephites, was separated from the Land of Nephi, occupied by the Lamanites, by a narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the west sea to the east sea (Alma 22:27). The Land of Zarahemla was to the north—“nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness” (Alma 22:29). Thus, the City and Land of Zarahemla cannot be to the westward of the city of Nephi and the Land of Nephi, for the west seashore of these two lands was filled with Lamanites along the West Sea (Alma 22:28).

Thus, the West Sea must be to the west of the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi. However, Sorenson’s map has the Land of Zarahemla westward of the Land of Nephi and his West Sea to the south of both lands.

In Sorenson’s map, it might be construed that the city of Nephi was northward of the area of first landing, but the city of Nephi to Zarahemla is westward, not northward, and the Land Northward is west of the Land Southward, and Desolation is west of Bountiful—all contrary to the scriptural record

In addition, the scriptural record tells us that Bountiful was to the north of the Land of Zarahemla “on the north, even until they came to the land, which they called Bountiful” (Alma 22:29). And the Land of Desolation was to the north of Bountiful, which “bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward” (Alma 22:30). So far northward is pretty specific! Northward. Yet, both of Sorenson’s Land of Desolation, and his Land Northward, are to the west of the narrow neck, to the west of Bountiful!

Sorenson wrote in his book: “Many features of south and central Mexico and Guatemala seem to match up decisively with the requirements for the Book of Mormon territory, except perhaps for one major anomaly. The Book of Mormon writers talk about their geography in terms of "north" or "northward" and "south" or "southward," while Mesoamerica seems skewed from those standard compass directions. How is this problem to be solved?”

Except for one major anomaly? The word anomaly means “equal or similar irregularity; deviating from a general rule.” Sorenson’s map does not deviate from the general rule, it is completely different, 90º off kilter from the scriptural record. That is not an anomaly, but such a significant difference, it opens the door to any change, altering, accepting or rejecting the scriptural record. There is nothing similar between west and north—they are totally different with nothing in common except for the word “direction.”

It is always interesting how Soreonson and other Mesoamerican and other theorists deal with such a difference between their model and the scriptural record. An anomaly suggests some insignificant or minor variation—something out of the ordinary. After all, Salt Lake City is west of Cheyenne, not north; Ogden is north of Salt Lake City and northward of Heber City—not west or westward; Provo is north of Phoenix, and northward of Las Vegas. You cannot say that St. George is west of Tucson, or that Albuquerque is west of El Paso. Directions mean something and when we start claiming they do not, then no one can understand any direction.

When Mormon wrote to a future reader, he was very clear in being as precise as he could be. When he used “northward” and “on the north” and “northern parts” and “so far northward” in the same statement (Alma 22:29-30), it would seem reasonably certain he meant “north,” not “west”! To change this is not an anomaly, but a drastic change equivalent to changing any doctrinal message in the scriptural record. It would be like saying “black skin” did not mean black, but off-white; “sought to take his life” actually meant “they were displeased with him”; and “land of promise” really meant “a place of safety.”

Sorenson and other such theorists should be ashamed of themselves playing with scripture as if the record was not accurate or meant something entirely different. Guatemala simply does not fit the scriptural record in any way unless we change the record as Sorenson so often does. Thus, we must look elsewhere than Mesoamerica for the Land of Promise.

(See the next post, “Focusing on the Philosophies of Men—Looking Beyond the Mark,” a message of great importance given by Elder Quinton L. Cook)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part V

In the four previous posts on Sorenson’s fanciful depiction of the land of first inheritance—Lehi’s landing site—and the Land of Nephi, including the City of Nephi, it seems quite clear that very little of his writings actually can be found in, or match, the scriptural record. It is mostly his trying to fit the scriptural account into his pre-determined Mesoamerican model.

His depiction of Guatemala City (Kaminaljuyu) as the city of Nephi seems to be limited in its matching of Mormon’s writings. As he wrote: “The city of Nephi was probably the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu, which is now incorporated within suburban Guatemala City; the land of Nephi in the broader sense constituted the highlands of southern Guatemala.”
According to Sorenson’s map (above), the distance from the city of Nephi to the landing site is about 110 miles, the distance from the city of Nephi to city of Zarahemla is about 230 miles. Thus, Sorenson must restrict the distances the scriptures indicate between these areas to match his locations.

However, one must consider Nephi’s state of mind as he fled from the area of first inheritance. Speaking of his brothers and the sons of Ishmael, he wrote: “But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life” (2 Nephi 1:2), and the Lord telling him to leave: “The Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 1:5). Obviously, there was a state of urgency here, and a state of fear for one’s life.

In such a case, it would seem that Nephi would want to get as far away from his brothers as possible—to a place where he would feel safe and secure. It seems like 110 mile is not very far under such circumstances. Certainly, he still feared that his brothers would find him, for he “did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people” (2 Nephi 5:14). It seems most people would want to be further away form such a threat.

Obviously, according to Sorenson’s map, Mosiah when he fled from the city of Nephi more than 300 years later, continued to at least twice the distance as Nephi—yet, Nephi knew of the hatred of his brothers and that they had tried to kill him on more than one occasion (1 Nephi 17:48)—where Mosiah was merely fulfilling the commandment of the Lord (Omni 1:13).

In addition, in this new land, Nephi and his people built cities (2 Nephi 5:15-16), and spread out (2 Nephi 5:14), and must have been somewhat secure (2 Nephi 5:27), for it appears the Lamanites did not find them for about 20 years, though they finally did sometime between 567 and 557 B.C. (2 Nephi 5:28, 34).

Thus, the facts seem to support that when Nephi said they “did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days “ (2 Nephi 5:7), he was talking about quite some distance from the area of first landing. He used the same terminology to depict traveling several thousand miles across the ocean (1 Nephi 18:23), though he was specific about a time frame of eight years (1 Nephi 17:4) when wading through the deserts to Bountiful.

Obviously, the term “many days” can mean just about any distance, it would seem, however, the rest of the record suggests a longer distance for Nephi to escape from his brothers than a mere 110 miles.

In addition, Sorenson's line of travel from the city of Nephi to the city of Zarahemla is basically to the west, not the north as Mormon tells us. First of all, Mormon wrote: “Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and 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). This shows that Mormon understood directions and tells his future readers that to the west of the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla was a seashore—to the WEST. Thus, Zarahemla could not be to the west of the city of Nephi!

All of this, of course, shows the fallacy of Guatemala as being the Land Southward where Lehi landed, where the city of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla was located.

(See the next post, “Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part VI – Looking Beyond the Mark,” to see where Sorenson goes astray from the scriptural record)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part IV

In the last of the three posts on Sorenson’s fanciful depiction of the land of first inheritance—Lehi’s landing site—including the climate and the Lamanites who lived there, he discussed the fact that the hot and humid coastal weather of his model, caused the laziness and uselessness of the Lamanites, and why they did not plant crops.

It would be humorous if we were not discussing the scriptural record, when Sorenson claims a situation is a fact which he completely made up, then evaluates that conclusion as the reason for something else. As an example, he wrote regarding his completely made up “hot and humid” coastal region of the land of first inheritance (see last post):

“The circumstances of life in that environment could account for some of those characteristics.”

That is, the Lamanites became lazy and useless because of his “hot and humid” climate, which exists only in his mind—certainly not in the scriptures.

But not finished, he then goes on to add, “Many centuries later the Spaniards spoke in like terms of natives in the same area. The Tomas Medel manuscript, dating about A.D. 1550, just a generation after the first Spaniards arrived in the area, reported that the Indian men on the Pacific coast of Guatemala "spent their entire lives as naked as when they were born. That practice may have seemed a sensible response to the oppressive climate."

This is completely possibly along the Guatemala coast, but there is no reason to believe it existed in the scriptural area of first landing. The one does not justify the other.

He goes on to say “It may have been economically smart for them to hunt and gather the abundant natural food from the estuaries, while again the damp heat would make their lack of energy understandable.”

Whatever the climate after their first landing, it did not stop the colony from planting and harvesting—nor do we know how long this lasted for Nephi did not flee northward until after Lehi had died. No, it was not the climate that caused Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, and their children, to become idle and lazy, for they had been such before ever reaching the Land of Promise. Even in the first Bountiful—where we know it to have a year round pleasant climate—they “were desirous that they might not labor” (1 Nephi 17:18). In fact, throughout their entire history, whether along the seashore or in the city of Nephi after Mosiah left to discover Zarahemla, the Lamanites were never known to build or create anything. They were quick to vacate the cities of Nephi and Shilom to Zeniff and his people (Mosiah 7:21), because they were in hopes of being able to later steal Nephite crops and enjoy the fruits of others’ labor “for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. 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, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us” (Mosiah 7:22).

No, we cannot say that the climate had anything to do with the Lamanite idleness. Almost all peoples throughout history who had been in, or degenerated into, a savage state, have preferred hunting and fishing over the back-breaking labor of clearing fields, tilling ground, planting seeds and harvesting their crops. The Indians of North America were in such a state when first encountered and, for most tribes, remained in that state for many generations afterward. It has nothing to do with climate, but with attitude of mind.

According to Sorenson, “Where the party of Nephi settled was quite surely the Valley of Guatemala, or, as they named it, the land of Nephi. The continental divide runs right through the valley, present-day Guatemala City, and the ancient city of Nephi (Kaminaljuyu) at an elevation of about 5,000 feet.”

It is one thing to believe that a place was the Land of Promise because the scriptural record leads you to no other location—but Sorenson has not arrived in Guatemala by the scriptures, but by his own beliefs and thinking, and his unique interpretation of the record. As he wrote in the introduction of his book and covered in an earlier post, “Over the next three years Professors Jakeman, Nibley and Sperry led me to understand that the Book of Mormon was not only a religious resource but also a challenging intellectual and historical puzzle.”

And, indeed, Sorenson sees the scriptural record as a puzzle to be interpreted by him as it fits his pre-determined beliefs regarding the Mesoamerican area as the Land of Promise. This is not scholarship. It is biased writing through and through, which violates his own premise as stated in his book, “we'll want to be cautious, especially about any biases we might bring to the subject from modern conditions.”

(See the next post, “Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part V,” for how Sorenson fancifully describes Guatemala as the Land of Promise.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part III

Continuing from the last two posts regarding Sorenson’s fanciful description of the land of first inheritance and the Lamanites living there, he wrote:

“The Nephites soon fled up to the land of Nephi, where the elevation permitted living in greater comfort.”
There is absolutely nothing in the scriptural record to indicate that the area of the city Nephi built in the land they called Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8) was more comfortable in its climate than along the seashore. We do know that the elevation was higher, for they continually “went down to Zarahemla” (Alma 27:5), from the Land of Nephi (Alma 27:1), which would probably mean that Zarahemla was a lowland coastal city. But nothing is said of a difference in climate. The fact that they lived in tents in this new land (2 Nephi 5:7), as they did along the seashore, speaks more for a similar climate than a different one.

In addition, in this new land, they planted seeds once again and “did reap again in abundance” (2 Nephi 5:11), suggesting again that this land was similar in many ways to the coastal region they had just left. In addition, they prospered exceedingly (2 Nephi 5:13), but this seems more to their life style of “keeping the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things according to the law of Moses” (2 Nephi 5:10), and that “the Lord was with us” (2 Nephi 5:11), than any environmental factor as Sorenson claims.

Sorenson also wrote: “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).”

Obviously, much of this is true—“they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey” (2 Nephi 5:24), and “they became wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven;” (Enos 1:20). The problem is the phrase “down in the hot lowlands,” which may fit his Mesoamerican model, but does not relate to the scriptural record.

In fact, the word climate is used only once in the entire record: “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40), and “heat,” referring to the temperature is mentioned only once “sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day” (Alma 51:33).

Thus, any comment about the “hot and humid” climate along the seashore in the area of their first landing—or anywhere else in the Land of Promise is strictly an unwarranted insertion by Sorenson.

Further, Sorenson states: “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.” In the scriptural record, there is no “tangle of forest and swamp” mentioned, implied, or even intimated. And as for being “too hard to farm effectively,” they were part of the planting of that first crop Nephi mentions which grew exceedingly and provided an abundance (1 Nephi 18:24).

(See the next post, “Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part IV,” for how Sorenson fancifully describes Guatemala as the Land of Promise.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part II

In the last post, Sorenson took it upon himself to describe the “land of first inheritance,” though there is nothing in the scriptural record to suggest any type of conditions at all, with one exception—the climate for their Jerusalem seeds.

Regarding the climate, Sorenson wrote: ”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.”

Now, let’s take a look at this. The seeds the Lehi colony planted were described as “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.” (1 Nephi 18:24).

In approximately 587 B.C., they planted seeds “which had been brought from the land of Jerusalem.” Therefore, more than two thousands years before the Pilgrims’ crops failed at Plymouth in Massachusettes, from which they would have starved had it not been for the food and knowledge the local Indians provided for planting and harvesting, the Lehi Colony put their seeds into the ground in the Land of Promise.” Any farmer worth his salt, knows that seeds do not grow just anywhere, especially before modern knowledge, chemicals, soil preparation, and residue management techniques were known. Even today, a farmer needs to know the temperature conditions, times of rainfall, frost, soil conditions, etc. While the Lehi and his sons were undoubtedly farmers, having lived outside Jerusalem all their lives, and having seeds on hand when fleeing the area, it does not mean they would know the temperature, weather, soil, etc., of a new land just arrived upon.

For modern man who goes to the market weekly to buy his groceries, the idea of preparing soil, planting, nourishing, and preparing seeds, knowing weather conditions, and times of harvesting, are foreign concepts. Today, it seems to most of us that crops can be grown anywhere—and with modern techniques, knowledge and ingredients, this is comparatively true. However, in ancient times, seeds grew for the first time in like soils, consistent temperatures and precipitation, and similar climates. For the seeds brought from Jerusalem, a climate similar to that of Jerusalem, would have been necessary in B.C. times for seeds to “grow exceedingly, providing an abundant crop.”

The climate Sorenson claims was the land of first inheritance, “was uncomfortably hot and humid.” According to Koeppen, such a climate would be found in a tropical area, such as southern Mexico, Yucatan, known for their high temperatures year round and for their large amount of year round rain, and Guatemala, which is located in tropical Central America, with the area between sea level and roughly 3,000 feet of altitude being indeed tropical, with hot and humid day and night, year round. Daytime temperatures can go as high as 100° F and nighttime temperatures rarely dropping below 70° F., with The rainy season begins around mid-May and lasts until October or November

The Mediterranean climate differs considerably, with a wet-winter, dry-summer climate. Extremely dry summers are caused by the sinking air of the subtropical highs and may last for up to five months. Plants have adapted to the extreme difference in rainfall and temperature between winter and summer seasons. The annual precipitation is 17 inches, and is found only in the areas of central and southern California, the zones bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the coastal Western Australia and South Australia; portions of the Chilean coast, and the Cape Town region of South Africa.

Sorenson claims that the hot and humid climate of his land of first inheritance would have “favored rapid crop growth.” But today, Guatemala grows sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, and cardamom (a tropical spice plant); while Chile grows grapes, apples, pears, onions, wheat, corn, oats, peaches, garlic, asparagus, beans; and Peru grows asparagus, coffee, cocoa, cotton, sugarcane, rice, potatoes, corn, plantains, grapes, oranges, pineapples, guavas, bananas, apples, lemons, pears, coca, tomatoes, mango, barley, medicinal plants, palm oil, marigold, onion, wheat, dry beans.

In 587 B.C., wheat and barley would not have grown in coastal Guatemala, nor much else in seeds brought from Jerusalem’s Mediterranean climate. But they would have grown exceedingly and provided an abundant crop in a like soil—that is, another Mediterranean Climate:

The only two Mediterranean Climates found in the Western Hemisphere are located in Southern California and Middle coastal Chile.

(See the next post, “Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part III,” for how Sorenson fancifully describes the Lamanite life style in the land of first inheritance.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi?

In his highly acclaimed book, John L. Sorenson wrote: “What can we tell about living conditions in the land of first inheritance?”

It is interesting that such a question would even be asked. We know nothing of the living conditions in the land of First Inheritance. What we do know is:

1. They pitched their tents upon landing (1 Nephi 18:23),

2. They tilled the ground and planted their seeds. These Jerusalem seeds grew exceedingly and provided them with an abundance (1 Nephi 18:24).

3. They found, within walking distance of where they landed, beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of man (1 Nephi 18:25).

4 They found all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper (1 Nephi 18:25). And Nephi made plates from this ore on which to write (1 Nephi 1 Nephi 19:1-4).
5. Nephi, and those who would go with him, were warned to flee into the wilderness (2 Nephi 5:5). They took their tents and possessions, and the records and the Liahona (2 Nephi 5:12), and “did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents. And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:7-8).

Obviously, there is nothing in these passages and the scriptures to suggest anything “about living conditions in the land of first inheritance,” other than they lived in tents. Later, Jacob describes the Lamanites in the Land of First Inheritance as better than the Nephites: “Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father” (Jacob 3:5).

Evidently, the Nephites at this time had some intercourse with the Lamanites for “many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain” (Jacob 7:24). Wars (or battles) took place between the two groups and continued into Enos’ time (Enos 1:24), who described the Lamanites as “wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven” (Enos 1:20).

By the time of Jarom, Lehi’s great grandson, the Nephites “were scattered upon much of the face of the land, and the Lamanites also. And they were exceedingly more numerous than were they of the Nephites; and they loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts” (Jarom 1:6). But evidently, the Nephites knew little, if anything, of the land of First Inheritance, for the Lamanites “came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle” (Jarom 1:7), suggesting these battles and wars took place in the land of Nephi, not where they originally landed, or the place of the Lamanite “first inheritance.” By this time, the Nephites called the city of Nephi and surrounding land their “inheritance” (Jarom 1:7).

Around 250 B.C., Lehi’s 5th great grandson, Amaleki, speaks of his contemporary, Mosiah, fleeing the Land of Nephi and discovering Zarahemla (Omni 1:12-13).
In all of this, the first 350 years in the Land of Promise, not one word is mentioned to describe the “living conditions in the land of first inheritance”—where the Lehi Colony first landed. Yet, despite this, Sorenson precedes to tell us all about this land and its environment, and it effect upon the Lamanites.

(See the next post, “Was Guatemala the Land of Nephi? Part II,” for how Sorenson fancifully describes this area.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One More Time—the Narrow Neck of Land was not in Mesoamerica Part III

Because the Narrow Neck of Land is, perhaps, the most distinguishing feature of Mormon’s description of the Land of Promise, along, of course, with the fact that the entire Land Southward was surrounded by water except for this narrow neck, and because so much misinformation has been written about it by Mesoamerican theorists who try to lessen its importance so they can support their model, it seems necessary to spend so much time in discussing this feature of the land and its significance.

First of all, the satellite view below shows John L. Sorenson’s claim regarding this Narrow Neck of Land with simple information overlaid onto it taken from his writings and maps. Note the directions of the land as it lays in the area that is called Mesoamerica—the theorists’ complete area of the Land of Promise. Also note the fact that the narrow neck of land runs north and south, not east and west. In addition, note the direction of the Land Southward (to the east) and the Land Northward (to the west)—all in contradiction of Mormon’s very clear descriptions.

Secondly, it should be understood that in this area of Mesoamerica, there are several mountain ranges, almost all referred to as the Sierra Madre Mountains—there is the Sierra Madre Oriental range running along the Gulf of Mexico side, the Sierra Madre Occidental running along the Pacific Ocean side, and the Sierra Madre del Sur running along the west coast, and the Sierra Nevada (the Eje Volcanico Transversal or Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt) running crosswise between the Occidental and the Oriental. All of these ranges converge through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec—called collectively the Sierra Madre Mountains, they consist of a number of small rangers that run from northern Mesoamerica south through Costa Rica. Note in the map below that there are lowland areas to the north along the Bay of Campeche and to the south, along the Gulf of Tehuantepec, with the passes running north and south in between. Being so large, it is a difficult land area to guard against an invasion from the east (Sorenson's south), or for snakes to be placed to keep people from escaping into the land to the east (Sorenson’s Land Southward).

Through these numerous mountain passes running north and south through the Isthmus, strong cold air surges to pass into the Gulf of Tehuantepec, the most prominent of these gaps being the Chievela Pass (see the last post). This entire Sierra Madre mountain range extends southeastward through Mexico and Central America and separates the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Campeche´ and Caribbean Sea from the Pacific Ocean. To the south is an open flat land about 30 miles wide, running throughout Mesoamerica. To the north, is an open flatland area about 80 miles wide and about 300 miles long—both of these open passage areas allows free and easy movement from Sorenson’s Land Sothward into his Land Northward. When we include the numerous mountain passes between these lowlands, the amount of ways from one of his lands to the other would be far too numerous to try and guard against, and provides no singular “narrow pass” or “narrow passage” between these lands as Mormon describes.

The fact that at certain times of the year certain of these areas are flooded, swampy, or difficult to pass through as Sorenson writes, is not in keeping with Mormon’s many descriptions. Besides, one should recognize in the scriptural record of the Lamanite attacks, they appear to be annually, that is a serious attack by a Lamanite army occurs, a battle takes place, and the Lamanites, when defeated, retreat back to their homeland and the next incursion is the following year. This is very typical of ancient armies who had to arrange their battle plans according to the weather—winter, when floods, muddy grounds, and passes were treacherous, was not the time to mount an attack. Most battles commenced in the late Spring or early Summer and lasted no later than the end of Fall. Winter was the time to rest up, regroup, plan and prepare for the following year (Napoleon and Hitler both learned this truth when trying to mount winter attacks into Russia).

The fact that at flood time this Isthmus had some treacherous footing areas, does not suggest that it meets Mormon’s descriptions—especially when it comes to a sea on the east and a sea on the west of the narrow neck.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One More Time—the Narrow Neck of Land was not in Mesoamerica Part II

According to Earth Snapshot, which draws its aerial views from NASA, European Space Agency, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), MIRVA, NationalOceranic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Chelys Satellite Rapid Response System, Sorenson’s Mesoamerican Narrow Neck is described as “the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is located in southern Mexico, between the Gulf of Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico to the north, and the Gulf of Tehuantepec on the Pacific Ocean to the south. The isthmus has a width of 137 miles (220 km) at its narrowest part” and is shown in the following satellite view”

Note that the description of both the space agencies and satellite imaging organizations refer to the Gulf of Campeche “to the north,” and the Gulf of Teheantepec “to the south.” The map of this area confirms this north-south orientation of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Yet Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists all want to call these directions “east” and “west” in their models of this area.

Further, weather guru Don Anderson of SSB—Summer Passage, a weather station helping Pacific Ocean cruisers in Mexico and those heading south and west, to safe passages along the coast, claims that after five decades of watching the weather around the Tehuantepec area that “On the Pacific Coast of Mexico, at the southern end of Mexico, there is a large body of water called the Gulf of Tehuantepec. North of the Gulf of Tehuantepec there is a skinny strip of land, an isthmus, which separates the Gulf of Tehuantepec from the Gulf of Mexico on the other coast. This piece of geography has a weather system all its own. Winds start in the Gulf of Mexico, hit Mexico at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, scream across land and are funneled through two mountain ranges. The winds are amplified up to three times and then are shot out the back side, and hit the Pacific in the Gulf of Tehuantepec with gale force and up to hurricane force winds.”

This wind storm and the resulting high seas are referred to as a "T-Pecker," and can blow up to 70 knots per hour, with 50 foot waves for 1500 miles out to sea. As Don and those who have sailed this area say, “Watch out if you are in this path!!!" Don has been guiding boaters through this risky stretch of water with his daily forecasts for five decades.

Before entering this treacherous water area which stretches clear across the Gulf of Tehuantepec and moves south and west for 1500 miles—covering, by the way, the sailing and landing area of the Lehi Colony according to Sorenson—boaters are cautioned to set in at Huatulco, the last point on the Mexican coast before crossing into the Gulf of Tehuantepec. This caution is meant to help boaters wait for a possible weather window of calmer weather to make a crossing. This port gets some 500 boaters a year setting in, waiting for a possible crossing to the south. These weather windows only last about two days, and only pop up once in a week or more. Boaters are then cautioned, when crossing this treacherous water to hug the beach since the T-Peckers blow out from land, and the closer to the land you are, the more protected you are—if you are several miles out in the Gulf, you will get hit very hard.

Even on a good day the winds blow toward the south at about 20 knots and waves are four feet or higher—referred to as “light winds and calm seas” by the wather guru in comparison to the weather buildup that occurs in the Gulf. This, even on a “calm day” is blowing against a ship sailing up or into the coast of Tehuantepec and southward—in the opposite direction of the Lehi course in their ship that was “driven forth BEFORE the winds.” In this case, he would have been heading the last few hundred miles into gale and hurricane winds moving against his ship. Winds that frighten and concern experienced sailors even today despite modern boat designs, being able to sail into the wind, and their knowledge of radar and weather to show when the winds were and where they were blowing.

Boaters, even today call this area “The Dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec.” For boaters moving east of Huatulco, at the narrowest point of the Mexican isthmus, they fear the gale winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour that strike without warning. This area is also the spawning ground for most Pacific Coast hurricanes. Boaters wanting to cross this gulf know that “it is wisdom to wait for a low pressure area moving into the Gulf of Mexico, then make a run for it, hugging the shoreline the entire way.”

Typically, these Mesoamerican scholars and theorists ignore the extreme difficulty of making a landing in the area they have chosen for Lehi to reach their Isthmus. It is so difficult, that trying to move into (red arrows) these winds as the yellow arrow shows, would be impossible in a 600 B.C. sailing vessel that was "driven forth before the winds."

It is interesting how many facts about this area that Sorenson so glibly refers to as the Narrow Neck of Land in the Land of Promise does not match scripture.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One More Time—the Narrow Neck of Land was not in Mesoamerica

The common acceptance among Mesoamerican theorists is that the Gulf of Tehuantepec is the Narrow Neck of Land in the Land of Promise. As John L. Sorenson wrote and has been quoted in earlier posts: “The only ‘narrow neck’ potentially acceptable in terms of the Book of Mormon requirements is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico.”

Once again, that isthmus is 140 miles across.

Now, when Ether wrote: “And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth. And there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla. And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward. And it came to pass that the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass, that whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents” (Ether 9:30-33)

In order to get from the Land Northward to the Land Southward, the animals had to pass through the small or narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32) that was between these two lands. To either side of the neck was water (Alma 22:32; 50:34; Ether 10:20), thus the animals had to cross on dry land.

The Lord stopped the serpents from chasing the animals when reaching this narrow neck: “the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass” (Ether 9:33).

Now the question arises, if the narrow neck was 140 miles wide, as in the case of Sorenson’s Mesoamerican model, how would that have been possible, for “whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents” (Ether 9:33). Obviously, the poisonous serpents covered the narrow neck approach into the Land Southward. Whether there was a narrow pass, canyon, or gorge through this land, 140 miles in width would seem to negate any possible way to keep the people from following the animals for food.

Thus, no Jaredite passed into the land Southward until much later when “in the days of Lib the poisonous serpents were destroyed. Wherefore they did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest. And Lib also himself became a great hunter. And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land. And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants” (Ether 10:19-21).

People who are starving and dying from starvation, are not likely going to let a few hills, mountains, swamps or other terrain to keep them from finding a way through the 140-mile width of Mesoamerica’s narrow neck of land. The entire thought of such a width in light of this is nonsensical, as it is in regard to an earlier post about the narrow neck being militarily guarded to keep anyone from getting into the Land Northward in the time of the Nephites. In either of these two cases, the narrow neck had to be very small and very narrow.

In addition, Sorenson writes about the swamp next to the narrow pass (see the first of this series of posts); however, this narrow pass was bordered by the sea, not a swamp. Mormon wrote: “And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward. And there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force. And it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and first year the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle against us; and it came to pass that in that year we did beat them, insomuch that they did return to their own lands again. And in the three hundred and sixty and second year they did come down again to battle. And we did beat them again, and did slay a great number of them, and their dead were cast into the sea.” (Mormon 3:5-8)

It also seems obvious, that Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists have either not read the scriptural record carefully, or have chosen to ignore it when it disagrees with their model. When Mormon tells us it was narrow, it seems only reasonable that we believe him.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sorenson’s Inaccurate Narrow Neck of Land – Part III

In the last two posts, John L. Sorenson’s comments about his narrow neck of land were covered where he claims that “The only "narrow neck" potentially acceptable in terms of the Book of Mormon requirements is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico.” In the last post, we covered the first five points listed by Mormon and how they do not match the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Here is the rest of Mormon’s list:

6. “Therefore Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward. And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come 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 50:33-34). This narrow neck of land had a narrow pass through it that gave the only egress from the Land Southward to the Land Northward—making this area even smaller and narrower.

Sorenson’s Narrow Neck is not only wide and not narrow (140 miles across), but runs in the opposite direction of Mormon’s explanation of having a sea to the west and a sea to the east, and the Land of Desolation to the northward

7. “He should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side. And Moroni also sent unto him, desiring him that he would be faithful in maintaining that quarter of the land, and that he would seek every opportunity to scourge the Lamanites in that quarter” (Alma 52:9-10). Once again, this narrow pass through the narrow neck of land was the only way into the Land Northward and it was guarded by the Nephites to keep the Lamanites from getting into the Land Northward. If this was the Gulf of Tehuantepec, how could the Nephites have guarded this 140-mile wide isthmus to keep the Lamanites from getting past them? Obviously, in 140 miles there would have been other ways to get across this imaginary line. And just as obviously, this area was far smaller in size and scope to be able to guard militarily and keep the Lamanites from getting past into the Land Northward. In addition, the word “quarter” is defined in this sense as “one of the cardinal points of the compass (a direction), a region, a divided or separate area.” Thus, this quarter was that area of the narrow neck of land and southward, covering the land where the Lamanites had successfully attacked and occupied some Nephite cities.

8. “And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29). As stated earlier, this small or narrow neck of land had a pass or passage through it that led between the two lands—the Land Southward and the Land Northward.

9. Moroni described it thus: “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 2:29).

These are the nine references to this piece of land between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, referred to as the Narrow Neck of Land. In all cases it is described as either small or narrow or both. The word “narrow” means “to contract (shrink), of little breadth, very limited, not wide or broad, having little distance from side to side.” One look at the Gulf of Tehuantepec should suggest to the most skeptical that it cannot be thus described.

Yet, Sorenson, and other Mesomerican theorists, cling stubbornly to this area as the narrow neck of land when, in fact, it cannot be so described nor does it match any of the scriptural record that relates to this area.

(See the next post, “Sorenson’s Inaccurate Narrow Neck of Land – Part IV,” to show how far afield Sorenson is willing to go from the scriptural record to try and make his point)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sorenson’s Inaccurate Narrow Neck of Land – Part II

In the last post, John L. Sorenson’s comments about his narrow neck of land were introduced, and his disagreement with other areas in Mesoamerica. His final statement: “The only "narrow neck" potentially acceptable in terms of the Book of Mormon requirements is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico.” Taking these points one by one, we find:

1. The lack of an acceptable "neck" in the Yucatan.

While this is true, there is also a lack of an acceptable “neck” in all of Mesoamerica, including his Isthmus of Tehuantepec. However, let’s continue with his argument:

“A solution is found by looking at fine-grained geographical details of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec area. An irregular sandstone and gravel formation arrears as a ridge averaging a couple of miles wide and rising 150 to 200 feet above the surrounding country running west from the lower Coatzacoalcos River. It provides the only reliable year-round route from the isthmian/east coast area "northward" into central Veracruz. A great deal of the land on either side of this ridge is flooded periodically, as much as 12 feet deep in the rainy season. At times during that season the ridge pass would indeed lead "by the sea, on the west and on the east" (Alma 50:34), for the water in the flooded basins would be on both sides of the ridge and would have barred travel as effectively as the sea, with which the floodwaters were continuous. Even in the dry season, the lower terrain is choked with thorny brush, laced with lagoons, and rendered impractical as a customary route. This formation runs from near Minatitlan, the modern city on the Coatzacoalcos, west about 20 miles to Acayucan. From there the normal route leads farther west to the river crossing at San Juan, a key junction. The modern highway runs partly along this elevation to escape the boggy conditions on either side. Where it does so, it essentially follows the pre-European way that had been in use as the road of preference for thousands of years.”

An 1853 Map in the Library of Congress of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec before satellites or aerial views. Note the slight indentation of the Tehuantepec area (red arrow) and the very slight slope inward on the blow up below)

For any narrow neck to match scripture, it must be discernable by land-based people without aerial views or drawn maps of Central America. Certainly, Tehuantepec does not qualify because of its gradual change, hardly even noticable when walking the area. Without an aerial map, this would not even be noticed as a Bay, let alone a narrow neck of land.

The interesting thing is, while Sorenson spends some time telling us about the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, he neglects to mention how it is described in the scriptural record. These points are listed for us by Mormon:

1. “A small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32). He also calls it a narrow neck (Alma 63:5). Evidently, to Mormon, this neck of land was both narrow and small.

2. “it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32). That is, all of it, or a major portion of it, could be crossed in a day and a half by a Nephite. It should be recognized here that “a Nephite” would be a normal person of Mormon’s day, otherwise the comment would have no meaning. Also, the so-called "passage" Sorenson mentions (above) from sea to sea, could be crossed in minutes--hardly what Mormon had in mind.

3. It was on the boundary between the land “Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west” (Alma 22:32). That is, the neck ran north and south, but the line separating the two lands ran east and west. Sorenson's narrow neck is just the opposite, running 90º off from Mormon's description.

4. “The land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32). The Land Southward, consisting of the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla (including the Land of Bountiful) were surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of land which connected the Land Southward to the Land Northward. Sorrenson's Land Southward is not nearly surrounded by water--it has two coasts, but at no time was there a southern teminous so it could not be surrounded by water except for a narrow neck.

5. “The Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea. And thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward. Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about” (Alma 22:33-34). Obviously, this narrow neck was small or narrow enough to be a bottleneck for any invading army to get past into the Land Northward. As Mormon wrote: “And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward. And there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force” (Mormon 3:5-6). The defense of the entire Land Northward by guarding a narrow pass tells us that this was the only way into the Land Northward from the south, and such a circumstance requires a very specific and narrow area indeed that can be militarily defended. This alone disqualifies the Gulf of Tehuantepec with its 140-mile width. Consider trying to defend an area from Provo to Ogden, a distance of only 80 miles, to keep an invading force from moving from one side of the I-15 to the other. Obviously, a 140-mile front is a very large and indefensible area.

(See the next post, “Sorenson’s Inaccurate Narrow Neck of Land – Part III,” for more references in the scriptural record to show that the Gulf of Tehuantepec could not be the Sorenson’s Narrow Neck of Land)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sorenson’s Inaccurate Narrow Neck of Land – Part I

One might wonder why so much is written in these posts about John L. Sorenson. But look on any site regarding the Book of Mormon geography, and he is considered the guru of the subject. However, despite all his work and effort, he has centered the Land of Promise in Mesoamerica—a location that simply does not match the scriptural record. This is thoroughly covered in the book “Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists.” For this post, let us deal with one of these ideas:

The Small or Narrow Neck of land

Sorenson writes: “In the history of LDS thought on the Book of Mormon, only a few correlations have been seriously proposed between the geography of the record and the map of the western hemisphere. First of all, few possible "narrow necks" are worth considering. The oldest view supposed Panama to be the narrow neck of the Book of Mormon, with South America, or some portion of it, the land southward. The dimensions of Book of Mormon lands alone rule out the whole continent, while any attempt to consider just a part of South America as the land southward runs afoul of a number of points in the text (for example, Alma 22:32, "nearly surrounded by water"). The idea sometimes suggested, that part of the South American continent could have been submerged beneath the sea, leaving a reduced land that the Nephites occupied, is without merit, as abundant geological and archaeological evidence shows.”

Now the interesting fact is, the geologic record shows that most of South America was once under water—in fact, almost all the land east of what is now the Andes Mountains. The Amazon basin, an area larger than the United States, is still under or right at sea level. The drilling results of the “Glomar Challenger” deep-sea drilling rig has shown that Panama was totally underwater in recent times and that it was not connected to South America above sea level. Charles Darwin (not a favorite of mine) said in the early 1830s when traveling over the Andes, that those mountains were once at sea level and that the Atlantic Ocean reached that area in very recent times.

It is not that there is no geologic record, or information available, Sorenson simply chooses to ignore it. His comment that “The idea sometimes suggested, that part of the South American continent could have been submerged beneath the sea, leaving a reduced land that the Nephites occupied, is without merit” merely shows his lack of knowledge and prejudicial attitude.

But what is more amazing is his choice of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico as the narrow neck of land. In addition, his Land of Promise has no southern terminus—it has no ocean to the south, yet the scriptural record says that the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla “were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32)

Now the word “nearly” means “almost, within a little” and surely, that little, as Mormon explains, was the narrow neck. The word “surround” means to “encompass, to inclose on all sides, to surround on all sides.” Thus, Mormon’s statement actually tells us: “The Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla were surrounded by water except for the small neck of land leading into the Land Northward.” Of course, Sorenson cannot say this because it would disqualify his Mesoamerica model.

He has also said, “Another correlation has been suggested that calls the Yucatan peninsula of southeastern Mexico the land northward, the land southward being in Guatemala and Honduras. The most obvious weakness of this scheme is lack of an acceptable "neck." The base of the Yucatan peninsula will not do at all, while attempts to identify a bit of land here or there as a "narrow neck" in other than the literal sense of an isthmus with sea on either side directly contradict plain statements in the scripture itself. The only "narrow neck" potentially acceptable in terms of the Book of Mormon requirements is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. All LDS students of Book of Mormon geography who have worked systematically with the problem in recent decades have come to agree on this.”

It is not difficult to see his prejudicial attitude by his use of the word “scheme.” However, that aside, there are several inaccuracies in his statement:

1. The lack of an acceptable "neck" in the Yucatan. While this is true, there is also a lack of an acceptable “neck” in all of Mesoamerica.

(See the next post, “Sorenson’s Inaccurate Narrow Neck of Land – Part II,” to see how Sorenson’s Gulf of Tehuantepec does not match the scriptural record, as well as the other points listed)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sorenson’s Impossible Route – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the route John L. Sorenson feels Lehi took across the Pacific, the capability necessary for an endeavor as he states, would have made such a trip impossible. A stated in the last post, both the capability of men, ships, and seamanship simply lacked such capability until into the 17th century. This is because Sorenson takes Lehi about 15,000 miles continuing against the winds and currents of the seas.

Even in the 16th century, Saavedra (Alvaro de Saavedra Ceron) could not sail from the Philippines to Central America after trying for three years. He was sent as the captain of three ships to the Philippines from Mexico by order of Hernan Cortes on 28 May 1527. As late as 1531, he was unable to broach the winds and currents to retrace his steps eastward back across the Pacific. After three years of trying and dying in the effort, one of the other captains took the ship westward around the globe.

It is simply not possible to give Nephi and his cantankerous brothers a sailing ability that seaman over two thousand years later did not possess. Nor is it possible to provide sailing routes into winds and currents that limited trade across Europe, Asia and the East for more than a thousand years. Not even the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Portuguese and Spanish—experienced seaman all, could accomplish such sailing achievements.

Nor the Europeans, who were limited to coastal cabotge (trade or navigation in coastal waters), using the barge-barca (fishing boat) or the balinger-barinel (shallow bottomed oar-driven vessel), until the 15th century. These boats were fragile, with only one mast with a fixed square sail that could not overcome the navigational difficulties of Southward oceanic exploration, as the strong winds shoals and strong ocean currents easily overwhelmed their abilities. Thus, trade for many centuries were inland routes and coastal voyages.

Thus, the economically important and famous Silk Road (red lines) and the Trade Routes (blue lines) were the way merchandise and products, especially spices and silk goods, were moved across the eastern world. The above map shows these routes as late as 1453 A.D.

Not until the Caravel ship design was developed based on existing fishing boats under the sponsorship of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal in the mid-15th century, was sailing away from coastal waters and into deep water feasible. These caravels were agile and easier to navigate, with a tonnage of 50 to 160 tons and 1 to 3 masts, with lateen triangular sails allowing beating—a zig-zag course close to the wind. And after the deep ocean square sails were added, it was very fast, and with its economy, speed, agility, and power, made it esteemed as the best sailing vessel of its time. However, there was a limited capacity for cargo and crew, and though very successful sailing around Africa and into the Indian Ocean for the spice trade, were simply not deep ocean vessels. Eventually, the caravel was replaced by the larger Nau, a more profitable ship for trading.

All of this is important to understand because when we start reading where Lehi went in the ship Nephi built, we need to know how practical such a suggestion is. In the case of all Mesoamerican and Great Lakes theorists, their glib remarks about Lehi moving across the ocean violate the very nature of ships “driven before the wind” in the B.C. era and more than a thousand years into the A.D. period.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Capabiity of Ships and Seamen in 600 B.C. – Part I

It may seem redundant to talk about early sailing ships in these posts after so many writings on the subject; however, the Lehi Colony and the Mulekites after them, set sail for the Land of Promise shortly after 600 B.C. Far too many theorists just claim they sailed here or there without any understanding whatsoever of the sailing abilities of the age.

As an example, John L. Sorenson simply wrote that “Lehi and his party launched their vessel into the Indian Ocean from the south coast of the Arabian peninsula. The winds no doubt bore them on the same sea lanes that Arab, Chinese and Portuguese ships used later, touching India and ultimately the Malayan peninsula. From that point 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.”

First of all, they launched their ship into the Arabian Sea—and if they went east toward India (blue line on map) as Sorenson claims, they never entered the Indian Ocean until after 2200 miles of sailing. Secondly, the winds did not bear “Arab, Chinese and Portuguese ships used later” to the east along the Indian Ocean. They did bear these ships to the west in the Arabian Sea, especially the Chinese junks and Arab dows that traded along the coastal waters (red line on map). In addition, when they reached southern India, they were in the Laccadive Sea, and when they passed Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) they were in the Bay of Bengal, never actually moving into the Indian Ocean.

These ships, however, were far too fragile to venture into deep waters of the Indian or the Pacific oceans. As for the Portuguese, they found trying to sail such waters toward the east was so difficult, they learned to drop down from south of Africa to the Southern Ocean and sail eastward in the West Wind Drift with the Prevailing Westerlies (blowing out of the West) toward Australia, then take the trade winds northward to India, Indonesia and China—the Spice Islands.

As for the ships of 600 B.C. and clear into the 12th century A.D., some 1800 years after Lehi set sail, a crucial problem with Mediterranean and Arabian Sea coastal ships was their use of outside steering oars. Despite their great size and the ability to sail close hauled, their shallow draft and steering oars gave little resistance to the wind. These ships made a tremendous amount of leeway (drifting with the wind) and could spend several days going nowhere, losing to leeway, what progress they made sailing. A record dated to 1183 by a ship sailing from Sicily reports passing Crete…three times.

Needless to say this lack of a ship’s sailing ability played havoc with navigation, and was downright dangerous in close waters. These close waters were where narrow seas passed between land masses, such as in the Malacca Straits between Malaysia and Sumatra, or the islands around present-day Singapore, or those of the Philippines, etc.

The fact is, that the winds and currents blow toward the west through all of Indonesia, coming off the Pacific, South China Sea, and the Philippine Sea. And, in order to reach the 14º North Latitude in the Pacific, the ship would have to travel north of the Philippines and pass between those islands and Taiwan (Formosa) at about the 20º North Latitude. Crossing the Pacific at that point and dropping down to the 14º North Latitude, would send Lehi’s ship directly into the force of the North Pacific Current moving across the Pacific from the east toward the west in the southern loop of its gyre. This means that Lehi’s ship would have to travel about 10,000 miles directly into opposing winds and currents all across the Pacific. That is something not even the best-trained mariners could do as late as the 17th century—2300 years after Lehi sailed.

(See the next post, “The Capability of Ships and Seamen in 600 B.C. – Part II,” for a further understanding of how impossible would have been Sorenson’s route east from Arabia)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part III

Continuing with the last two posts regarding the flawed way John L. Sorenson views the geographical settling of the book of Mormon, he also claimed: “the land of first inheritance can lie only on the west (Pacific) coast of Central America.” Thus, he shows his lack of understanding of winds and currents that moved weather vessels “driven forth before the wind” across the oceans from the beginning of time to the present—and most importantly, before modern ships, sails, and maritime knowledge.

Such a lack of awareness of reality is incredulous. Any good atlas will show these winds and currents, and they do not end up on the west shores of Mesoamerica. The clockwise gyre of the North Pacific Current turns back out to see around San Diego, California, and the northern counter-clockwise gyre of the South Pacific Current turns back out to sea around the Bay of Guayaquil in southern Ecuador. Winds and currents in between in the Pacific Counter-Current are far to weak to move shipping, and sailing vessels (like Magellan) are generally becalmed there for weeks.

In addition, when Sorenson wrote: “We have discovered that the Nephite record makes sense when it is linked to Hebrew thought and language on the one hand and to Mesoamerican conditions on the other,” he again shows his misunderstanding of the record.

While we may say it was linked to Hebrew thought, only Nephi knew of such matters—all the rest who wrote the scriptural record had never been to Jerusalem, among the Jews, or would have understood the Hebrew way of thinking. Nor did Nephi teach his people about the Jews “For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations“ (2 Nephi 25:2), and “Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:1).

Certainly it was not linked to Hebrew language, for the record was written in the “the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). As Moroni said 1000 years later, they had “written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32).

Nor can it be said, except by Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists, that “the Nephite record makes sense when it is linked to…Mesoamerican conditions.” Except in Sorenson’s mind, there is no connection between the scriptural record and Mesoamerica—so what difference would it make to try and understand the text based upon Mesoamerican conditions? Sorenson himself said, “So in a strict sense there is nothing specific for us to compare between scripture and the external sources. Because all we have to go on are inferences.”

In addition, when trying to prove a short distance between the City of Nephi and the City of Zarahemla (a short distance in his Mesoamerican model), he wrote: “If we assume that Alma's people and animals went at ordinary speeds, they might plausibly have traveled at a rate of around 11 miles a day.” Why would we plausibly settle on 11 miles a day, when the Mormon Pioneers, according to their roadometer, designed by William Clayton with the help of Orson Pratt, and built by the carpenter Appleton Milo Harmon, showed that they averaged between 14 and 20 miles per day?

Evidently Sorenson needs to limit the distance to Zarahemla to meet that of his model. As he said, “Zarahemla would then be 21 days or 231 miles of actual travel at 11 miles per day.” At 14 miles per day, it would take 16.5 days, at 20 miles per day, it would take 11.5 days, so to justify the 21 days, the distance would have to be 294 miles or 420 miles—far too long for his model.

Sorenson added: “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.” That would make the distance covered at 15 miles per day, 315 miles, and at 24 miles per day, 504 miles. Both distances much too far for his Mesoamerican model. However, such travel time could be what was achieved—we simply do not know how far the Nephites traveled.

On the other hand, Mormon writes that it took 21 (8+1+12) days, the last 12 days concluding with: “after they had been in the wilderness twelve days they arrived in the land of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 24:25). The Land of Zarahemla is not the City of Zarahemla. How far the border of the land was from the city is not stated. So in all reality, we cannot attribute any specific distance between these two cities.

The point is, we cannot read into the scriptural record what we want, no matter how much it agrees with our model, thinking or beliefs. The record must stand on its own without changes, additions, deletions or having to be explained away. This is a problem for Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists who continually have to change and alter the record to meet their model.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part II

As begun in the last post, John L. Sorenson’s method of proving his Mesoamerican theory and interpreting the scriptural record has many flaws.

Sorenson wrote of himself in the forward of his book about the Book of Mormon: “I came to see it as a document so subtle and complex that it virtually demanded to be analyzed and understood in new terms,” which seems to be at the heart of his Mesoamerican beliefs. In “analyzing” the scriptural record in “new terms,” Sorenson has been led to see what is not there, define what does not exist, and create what is not written.

As an example, when his Mesoamerica model runs east and west rather than north and south as Mormon tells us (Alma 22:32), Sorenson creates a compass problem for the Nephites to show they did not understand or use normal cardinal directional information. When Sorenson’s narrow neck of land is much wider than when Mormon tells us it can be crossed in a day and a half by a Nephite (Alma 22:32), Sorenson clouds the simple issue with “Mohave Indians in California could cover nearly 100 miles a day, sometimes going without food or even water for days. 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, not a day, was not exceptional in their case,” to show that Mormon might have meant a special runner in his distance measurement. Which obviously does not make sense, since Mormon was giving to his future reader a measurement device that would only work if it was in regard to a normal person walking normally across the land.

In fact, Sorenson begins his work by saying: “We will want to be cautious, especially about any biases we might bring to the subject from modern conditions.” He then turns around and writes: “when we analyze Book of Mormon statements about geography and events, the ‘land of first inheritance’ can lie only on the west (Pacific) coast of Central America.”

How is one unbiased when he translates scripture based on his own previously determined model? If Mesoamerica is not the Land of Promise, then obviously, all Sorenson’s extensive work is wasted and achieves nothing at all.

Sorenson also wrote: “Nephi left us no information in the Book of Mormon about the route, nor did he tell us in modern terms where they landed,” yet he places that landing on the south Guatemala coast without any explanation as to how he arrived at that location other than it would be his Land Southward.

Bishop Diego de Landa (left) who studied pre-Columbian Maya civiization in the Yucatan and Father Bernardino de Sahagun (right) who studied the Aztec Indians of Mexico

Sorenson also wrote: “As my knowledge of archaeology, history and languages deepened,” which caused him to not turn to the scriptural record to find the answers, but to the sectarian history of “key Spanish records (of) Bishop Diego de Landa's account of Yucatan and Father Bernardino de Sahagun's superb books about central Mexico.” To Sorenson, man’s records were more important than God’s—or at least on the same level.

Sorenson also wrote: “Jakeman, Nibley and Sperry led me to understand that the Book of Mormon was not only a religious resource but also a challenging intellectual and historical puzzle.”

Nowhere in the numerous writings of the prophets or general authorities is the suggestion made that the Book of Mormon is an intellectual puzzle. Not even Neal A. Maxwell, with his outstanding intellect, ever suggested such a thing. Nor can we say that the Book of Mormon is an historical puzzle for it is not a history text, nor a geography text, nor an academic text. It is what Joseph Smith called it, “the most
perfect book on earth, the keystone of our religion.”

The word “keystone” means “the fastening stone” something that “binds the work.” That is, the book binds (ties together) the work of the Church, the gospel, the doctrines of salvation. It is not, and never was, a book to be understood intellectually, but spiritually. Nor is it a puzzle, for the Lord said that he speaks to man in man’s own language for man’s understanding. Thus, the Book of Mormon is not a “religious resource,” but the foundation of our religion.

(See the next post, “A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part III,” for the last of these points about Sorenson’s flawed evaluation of the geography of the Book of Mormon)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part I

One might wonder why so much information about John L. Sorenson is included in these posts and the book “Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists.” One reason is the statement in the forward of Sorenson’s book written by Truman G. Madsen and John W. Welch: “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.”
John L. Sorenson pictured at left.

Thus, there needs to be an understanding of what Sorenson believes and wrote.

In the Introduction of his book on pages 9 and 10, John L. Sorenson wrote: “When I arrived at Brigham Young University in 1949 with a wife and child, I had decided, with no rational motive, to pursue studies in archaeology. Over the next three years Professors Jakeman, Nibley and Sperry led me to understand that the Book of Mormon was not only a religious resource but also a challenging intellectual and historical puzzle. I came to see it as a document so subtle and complex that it virtually demanded to be analyzed and understood in new terms. As my knowledge of archaeology, history and languages deepened, hundreds of questions rose to my attention -- questions the academic disciplines I was beginning to probe seemed capable of answering someday.”

Of course Wells Jakeman, Hugh Nibley, and Sidney B. Sperry are very accomplished intellects and degreed academic scholars as well as members of the Church. But as scholars, their very nature is to search for meanings and information beyond what was written anciently. The very study of archaeology and anthropology demands the blanks be filled in to understand what is observable in the past. However, the Book of Mormon was never meant to be read or interpreted in that manner.

After all, Mormon gave us enough information to obtain a clear record of all that we need to know. When we start to read what is not written, only problems and errors can result. Even the Lord himself said, “for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them” (D&C 10:63) and “the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught” (D&C 76:9). Paul said, “Ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of what is true.” (2 Timothy 3:7). Yet, the Lord speaks to men “after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). Nor will the secrets be shown to the learned and wise: “but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto "babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times” (D&C 128:18).

Sorenson also wrote: “My desire to understand both the volume and its setting inevitably colors all my work touching either. But the same is probably true of any scholar or scientist working on a complex problem, whether it be developing a new variety of rice or reconstructing the history of the Jews.” The thing is, we are not reconstructing anything regarding the Book of Mormon. It is complete for us in every way—all we need to do is understand its plain and simple language and not go afield introducing unnecessary complexities. As has been stated in these posts several times, the Lord speaks to us in our own language for our understanding.

Sorenson also wrote: “As my knowledge of archaeology, history and languages deepened, hundreds of questions rose to my attention -- questions the academic disciplines I was beginning to probe seemed capable of answering someday.”
That someday took on two meanings to him. 1) If something does not prove his Mesoamerican theory, like the lack of metal working in B.C. times despite Nephi’s statement about it (2 Nephi 5:15), he simply claims that someday it will be found, which is shown in the case of no known connection in the language of the Zapotec people of Mesoamerica, he writes: “Should further work confirm some relationship between ancestral Zapotec and Mixtec and Near Eastern languages, possibly it would be attributable to the Semitic speech of the Jaredite group,” which shows he is never without an explanation of what does not exist; or 2) Finding his own answers to problems that do not agree with his Mesoamerican model, he simply answers it by changing the record.

(See the next post, “A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s method of proving his Mesoamerican model theory)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Comparison Chart of Different Models – Part II

Continuing with the explanation of the chart used in the last post:

(7) Ruins of buildings. “I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance“ (2 Nephi 5:15), and the land “was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind”(Mosiah 8:8). Only the Andean area and Mesoamerica in the Western Hemisphere have such ruins.

(8) Fortresses and resorts. “Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land“ Alma 48:8), and “had built forts of security, for every city in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13). A regular fort is a fortress, a stronghold, from which military excursions can move about. A resort is a small fort, a place of lookout, usually strategically located high along passes, above canyons, valleys, etc.

(9) Defensive walls. “defend himself against them, by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort” (Alma 52:6), and “And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country” (Helaman 4:7). These walls were large and strong enough to turn the tide, stop the Lamanites and help the Nephites regain half their lost lands (Helaman 4:8-9). The Great Wall of Peru matches this latter wall, built from the sea eastward for many miles to keep southern invaders from attacking northward.

(10) Circumcision. Condemning the crowd, the disciple Nephi uses a phrase well known to them “ye uncircumcised of heart” (Helaman 9:21). Circumcision was practiced in the Andean area anciently as shown by numerous mummified burials.

(11) High mountains. “And there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23). The tallest mountains in the Western Hemisphere are the Andes of South America. These mountain peaks along the Andes are so high and along such a continuous line, that there are 69 peaks over 20,000 feet, and 115 more in the 19,000 foot range, for a total of 185 peaks over 19,000 feet. In fact, the crystalline Andean axis, the "avenue of volcanoes," arises amidst majestic scenery to the great heights of 22,000 feet or more, the tallest at 22,831 feet. On the other hand, Guatemala (Sorenson’s Land Southward) has only three peaks in the 13,000 foot range, with five more at 12,000 feet. An * is placed on the chart for Mesoamerica since the Citlaltepetl peak is 18,000 feet in southern Mexico (Sorenson’s Land Northward), but the next highest is Pico de Orizaba in the Sierra Negra, at 15,223 feet. This subsidiary peak is still higher than anything in the 48 contiguous states. But none can compare to the enormous amount of moiuntains “whose height is great” in the Andes.

(12) An island. “For the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). According to the geologic record, the Andean area of South America was once an island with everything east of the present Andes under water. Mesoamerica was never an island, nor anywhere in the U.S.

(13) Narrow neck. (See previous posts) From the eastern shore of the Bay of Guayaquil in Ecuador/Peru to the Andes is about 26 miles—prior to their rising, the Atlantic sea came within 28 miles of this bay. The area in Mesoamerica is 140 miles wide and not much of a narrowing of the land, providing no actual “neck” of land.

(14) Four seas. At one time the region of the Andes was surrounded by water—the Pacific and Atlantic, the Caribbean passage, and what is now the Drake Passage.

(15) Winds Currents. See numerous earlier posts showing the winds and currents off the southern Arabian Peninsula, through the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and to the Southern Ocean into the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift across the southern Pacific to South America, dying out at 30º South Latitude leading to the Bay of Coquimbo.

Obviously, the overwhelming evidence of ALL the points in the scriptural record show that we do know where the Land of Promise is located.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Comparison Chart of Different Models – Part I

Explanation of the Chart:
(1) Seeds grew. The seed brought to the Land of Promise came from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 18:24), which has a Mediterranean Climate. For such seeds to grow exceedingly in a new location, the climate, soils, temperature and precipitation would have to be the same. Thus, a Mediterranean climate would be required to match this scriptural fact.

(2) Single unit ore. Nephi wrote: “we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” (1 Nephi 18:25). The term both when followed by three items indicates that two were different from the third: gold and silver are precious ores and copper is not. When these three metals are mentioned together, they indicate a combination—and gold, silver and copper can be found in single unit of ore, but not everywhere.

(3) Unknown animals. “there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:19). The elephant is a beast of burden—not kept for meat but for labor—as would have been the cureloms and cumoms. Two such animals, and the only ones in the Western Hemisphere that fit this description and use would be the Llama and Alpaca.

(4) Unknown grains. ”with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits” (Mosiah 9:9). Two unknown grains worthy of mention are the “super grains” of quinoa and kiwichi indigenous to the Andes of South America.

(5) Unknown metal. Ziff was important enough to be included between gold, silver and copper (Mosiah 11:3), and was used for ornamentation along with brass and copper (Mosiah 11:8). This was likely bismuth, a heavy, stable metal replacement for lead, and used in ancient times for decorating or ornamentation, and often confused with tin. Peru and Mexico are leading producers of bismuth.

(6) Cure fevers. “there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land -- but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40). Quinine was the only cure for fever (malaria) until the 20th century, and found only in the Andes.

(See the next post, “Comparison Chart of Different Models – Part II,” for the remaining 9 explanations)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Where is the Land of Promise?

The Question after these past ten posts is, “Is it possible to know where the Land of Promise was located?”

The article that started all this concluded with the previously stated: “FAIR recognizes that faithful individuals and scholars can honestly disagree on where Book of Mormon events took place.”

The problem is, we cannot disagree on the meaning of the scriptural record. It was written under the guidance of the Spirit, abridged under the guidance of the spirit, and translated under the guidance of the spirit—one either accepts that, or there is nothing to understand. Therefore, to encourage such disagreement is to violate the entire premise of the Book of Mormon as a divinely guided record. Nor can we say the doctrine included in the record is accurate, but the geography is contestable. There is, as Paul said, and stated here previously, no room for private interpretation of the scriptures.

It all boils down to what the record tells us—not what we want it to tell us. After all, Nephi told us where he built his ship, what sea he set sail upon, and where he landed—and, most importantly, what he found there. Mormon describes the entire Land of Promise for us from the point of first landing to the far north and Land of Many Waters.

So the Answer to the question is, “We do know where the Land of Promise was located because Nephi gave us sufficient information to plot his course to it, and also provided sufficient information about its contents so it can be identified both externally and internally.”

However, to approach this understanding one must clear his mind of previous beliefs, models, and understanding, and approach the scriptural record with an open mind, reading only what is written and not injecting, altering, or removing anything. Most importantly, one cannot try to prove a pre-determined belief or try to match a previously considered point. The record stands on its own—it does not need someone to try and fudge his own meanings, labels, or interpretations.

One must accept that north actually means north, that narrow actually means narrow, that “many” days cannot be assigned a specific distance or time, and that the Lord truly speaks to us in our own language for our own understanding. One must also accept the fact that we do not need scholars to understand Nephi’s and Mormon’s writings, that the record was written in Reformed Egyptian not ancient Hebrew, and accept the fact that Nephi’s plain and simple language is predominantly what lies within the record.

So, where was the Land of Promise? To find out, follow these steps:

1. Follow Nephi’s trail to Bountiful and the Irreantum sea;
2. Follow the actual winds and currents from that point toward the Western Hemisphere;
3. Look for where the winds and currents die down significantly and a landing would be possible;

Yellow Dot: Bountiful; Black Arrows: Course into the Irreantum Sea; Light Green: Where the winds and currents flow to the Western Hemisphere; Green Dot: Location where winds and currents die down to effect a landing; Red Arrows: The winds which drive the currents

4. Compare that place with the following scriptural items that existed in 600 B.C. to 400 A.D:
• A Mediterranean climate where seeds from Jerusalem would grow exceedingly
• Plentiful ore where gold, silver and copper are found as a single unit
• Two unknown animals that are valuable to man as beasts of burden
• Two unknown grains planted with corn, wheat and barley
• An unknown metal used for decoration
• Herbs and plants that cure deadly fevers
• Ruins of buildings of every kind
• Hilltop fortresses and resorts throughout
• A wall across the land to stop invasion from the south
• A land where circumcision was practiced (Law of Moses)
• A land where recent mountains have risen whose height is great
• A land in the geologic record that was an island until 34 A.D.
• A land with a narrow neck that noticeably separated two land masses
• A land with four seas
• A land where winds and currents flow toward continually from the Arabian Sea

The list could go on, but start with these.