Friday, May 31, 2013

The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part III

Continuing from the last post regarding the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise. These posts surround the comment made by John W. Welch in his book Reexploring the Book of Mormon (Chapters 52 “Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian and Nephite Language”).
It cannot be overstated that the Nephites had to know and understand the seasons, the movement of the sun and moon, the solstices, which mark the beginning or the mid-point of the winter and summer, and equinox, the latter being the only times when the subsolar point is on the Equator, with the point crossing northward at the March equinox and moving southward at the September equinox. All these movements throughout the year were known and understood by ancient cultures
A solargraph taken from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in northern Chile of the southern hemisphere. This six-month-long-exposure photograph taken in a direction facing east of north, from mid-December 2009 until the southern winter solstice in June 2010, showing the Sun’s path each day from right to left across the sky; the path of the following day runs slightly lower, until the day of the winter solstice, whose path is the lowest one in the image, at which time the sun reverses itself and begins to track upward back over its earlier tracks
Most ancient cultures built observatories to track the sun and moon across the heavens, and knew and understood the significance of the solstices and equinoxes and knew when to plant and harvest as a result.
After all, the Nephites had no grocery stores, refrigerators or freezers, they had only limited methods of preserving food, and had to continually plan for food to be available. A planting season was extremely important, as was a harvest season. They could ill-afford to miss either. Obviously, they had to have food daily and that depended on their planting and harvesting, and that depended upon their knowing where the sun was pretty much every day of the year. They understood the movements of the sun, moon and stars, and basically understood the sky and all in it probably better than most people today. Of course to modern man, it probably seems hard to understand why such knowledge was so critical to their salvation, but they did not possess telescopes, or GPS, or digital watches, and lived their entire lives under a constantly moving sky, with no TV, news or weather reports, no street lighting, and no other distractions.
The sky was a necessary tool for them to know when to plant and when to harvest, and nearly every ancient civilization created their own calendar system—after all, studying the stars helped them tell the time. It would be very important to ancient peoples to have an accurate calendar so they would know when to prepare the land, when to till and plant, and when the harvest time would be. By observing the rising of certain stars over a long period of time and keeping accurate records the Egyptians discovered that a day had 24 hours. From this they put together a year-long calendar, which originally had 12 months with 30 days in each month and five days left over, which were given over to feasting and celebrating. Around 1500 B.C., the Egyptians developed the so-called shadow clock, which was a portable sun dial, which were L-shaped or T-shaped with a raised end bar that measured the morning hours as the sun swept overhead, then were turned around to count down the afternoon—an instrument that probably would have been known to Lehi with all his dealings with the Egyptians.
Mesoamericanist John L. Sorenson talked extensively about the Nephites putting their back to the sea and knowing they were facing east; however, putting their back to the Sea would mean they were facing north, and they would know this as soon as the Sun came up and crossed the heavens
The silliness of such an idea of putting one's back to the ocean to determine east is ridiculous unlesss one was actually facing east. Obviously, different seas were in different locations. While at Jerusalem, one would know that the sea (Mediterranean, known as the Great Sea) was to the west, therefore, to the front when facing away from the sea would be the east and the rising of the Sun. However, when Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram were moving along the Red Sea, did they think that putting their back to the Red Sea meant they were facing east? Or when they arrived in Bountiful, with the Irreantum Sea to the south, did they think they were facing to the east when facing away from it? Such rationale is not only silly, it serves no value to talk about the orientation of the Jew once leaving Jerusalem. Consequently, when they arrived in the Land of Promise, after several months at sea where the only reckoning factors were the sun, moon and stars, they would have looked to the sun rising and setting each day, the moon in its course through the month, and how the stars moved across the heavens through the year, and certainly come up with a clear understanding of north, south, east and west--which directions could certainly could be verified by the Liahona which showed them the way across the sea.
For Sorenson, Welch, and others to claim otherwise is to limit the knowledge and intelligence, as well as the farmer experience of these stalwart people and their ancestors, in a sad attempt to justify their Mesoamerican model which, again, is upwards of 90º off-kilter to the directions given in the scriptural record.
When the Sun came up in the east, anyone in Mesoamerica would see that the Sea was both on their left hand (north) and on their right hand (south). Further they would not be claiming they were going north when they knew it to be west, etc.
We also have to keep in mind that the Nephites would not have been developing methods of knowing the seasons, time, and calendaring in a void. The practice of studying the passage of time—whether minutes, hours, days, seasons, years or much longer—was a passion of several ancient civilizations, including the Hebrews/Jews. Many of them were astoundingly accurate. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese all devised clocks and calendars that reflect our current numerical model in a variety of aspects. To think that this would not have been known and understood by the Nephites is foolhardy.
And to try and convince anyone that the Nephites had no idea that when the Sun came up, that to move toward it would not be moving eastward, but southward, or when the Sun was setting, that to move toward it would not be moving westward, but northward, besides being silly, is nothing short of being disingenuous. In addition, to the natural understanding of the Sun, Moon and Stars, the Nephites would have clearly understood their basic directions and made adjustments to any thinking that was so many degrees off-kilter.
Yet, as an unbelievable follow-up statement, Welch added, “If Nephi used the Egyptian terms with Hebrew meanings in mind, and if Joseph Smith then translated those terms literally, a remarkable coincidence occurs. In the Hebrew (and modern) concept of directions, land westward (Hebrew rear) would have been written in Egypto-Nephite characters as land northward (Egyptian behind), and land eastward (Hebrew front) would have been written in Egypto-Nephite as land southward (Egyptian front). In other words, the conceptual geography of the Hebrew universe must be "distorted" in relation to the Egyptian vocabulary in precisely the way that Nephite geography seems "distorted" in relation to Mesoamerica.”
In fact, other directions written in the scriptural record in the reformed Egyptian translate correctly into English, such as….
(See the next post, “The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part IV,” for the reformed Egyptian translations of Joseph Smith that we can see are correct to show that the argument of the Egypto-Nephite difficulty is not an accurate argument in favor of changing the directions in the Land of Promise)

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