Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part V

Continuing from the last post regarding the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise, and specifically the so-called problems translating the the Egypto-Nephite directions argued by William Hamblin and championed by John L. Sorenson.
Another example is Sorenson’s Mesoamerica narrow neck area, today called the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (easily identified on any map). Now the "narrow pass" mentioned in the Book of Mormon is described as having water on the west and on the east of it: “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 50:34). And it is clear from the scriptural record that there was a West Sea by the Narrow Neck of Land: “and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5 – emphasis mine). Now if one is to accept a Mesoamerica setting, as Sorenson claims, featuring the wide, lateral, Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the “small (narrow) neck of land,” then one has to accept that the Nephites used outrageously skewed definitions of “west” and “east.” This is because the isthmus lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, or stated differently, the sea on either side of this “narrow neck” is their East and West Sea, but they are due north and due south of the isthmus.
And one also has to accept that the Spirit allowed this description, though 90º off-kilter to be stated in the translation. So then one has to ask, why would the Lord want us to be so confused about a simple direction in the Land of Promise, and why would the Lord want Joseph Smith to mis-translate 124 directions in the work of Alma alone, knowing that these directions are basically 90º off-kilter?
The directions through the middle of Mesoamerica is due east and west, therefore, one can see where the “sun rises”—East, and where the “sun sets”—West, and would not have been confused about directions
Consider that the ancient Israelites used yamah, a term for “westward,” meaning the Great inland sea, as “going down of the Sun” (Joshua 23:4), in fact the Lord said to Joshua, “unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast” (Josepha 1:4). Consequently, when standing in the area of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, an Israelite (Nephite using the Hebrew language of Israel) would see the “going down of the Sun” and knowing that was “West.” He would also see the rising of the Sun and know that was “East,” with nothing but land in both directions, yet Sorenson would have us believe that in standing there, he would know where north and south were located by the rising and setting of the sun, yet would call a body of water to the north the "East Sea," and a body of water to the south and called it the "West Sea."
Knowing where the sun came up and set, there would be a clear understanding that the one body of water was to the north, and the other to the south, so why would they have called them the East Sea and West Sea?
Can anything sound sillier?
Yet Sorenson and Mesoamericanists claim this to be the case, teach classes at BYU about it, give lectures about it, write books about it, and take tours into the land, all the time showing these silly, fallacious and disingenuous directions, and in so doing, making the Lord a God of confusion because Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists’ discussion of Book of Mormon directions is a mass of confusion, which they seek to excuse, perhaps even dodge the issue, by insisting that the subject is complicated and culturally sensitive. (An Ancient American setting for the Book of Mormon, "Directions in the Book of Mormon", pg. 38).
But once again, the Lord is not a God of confusion, and trying to confuse the issue of directions certainly cannot be justified at any level. In Alma, between Alma’s writing and Mormon’s abridgement, the words north (12), south (17), east (35), west (31), northern (1), northward (25) and southward (3) are mentioned a total of 124 times. Stated differently, when Joseph Smith translated the plates, just in the book of Alma, the Spirit accepted the directions written as accurate one hundred and twenty four times—now I ask you, should we accept this idea that the Spirit made these mistakes?
Are we to understand that the Lord, who is not a God of confusion, allowed a mistake in directions to be translated, copied down, and printed into the scriptural record one hundred and twenty-four errors just in the book of Alma alone? Does that make any sense at all?
No, it does not! And no justification can be offered to offset the silliness of these directional statements and way of thinking. Even, if by some stretch of the imagination such could have possibly occurred, the Spirit who accepted or rejected Joseph Smith’s translation would have corrected that error on the spot.
One cannot deny that Mesoamerica runs east and west through the central part of the land. Indeed, the entire Mesoamerica is an east-west alignment contrary to the scriptural record
Still, knowing how the Book of Mormon was translated, Sorenson and fellow Mesoamericanists still put up an intellectual smoke screen regarding their model, claiming that the Gulf of Mexico, which lay to the north of their central Mesoamerica model is somehow the Sea East, and that the Pacific Ocean, laying to the south of their central Mresoamerica model is somehow the West Sea. However, such an alignment as Sorenson claims, is contrary to what the Nephites would have observed in the heavens, of the Sun and Moon moving across the skies day and night.
Did the ancient Hebrews know what was east? The Sea of Galilee, at one time called the Sea of Chinneroth in the Old Testament (Numbers 34:11), was on the east border of the northern lands, while the Dead Sea (Yam HaMawet, Hebrew for “Sea of Death”), also called the Salt Sea, is to the east of Jerusalem in southern Israel; consequently, Hebrew scripture clearly shows that when the Jews refer to “the sea on the east”—“from the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east” (Joshua 12:3), their “east” (mizrah) faces sunrise—and seasonal variations in the Sun does not alter that fact, nor can it be used by Mesoamericanists to say the sun did not rise in the east in Mesoamerica, for surely it does!
In fact, we don’t know what words the Nephites used for “Sea,” though they spoke Hebrew. But since the Sun rose in the east in Mesoamerica, as it did at Jerusalem, one cannot believe the Nephites would have altered their directions to agree with the location of seas (to the north and south), but would have maintained their east-west directions of the sun rising and setting. This would especially be true for a society raised where the east held the predominant direction, especially since the Sun rose in the east in both places.
Then, too, Solomon’s Temple faced east, toward the rising Sun. Obviously, the temple Nephi built, like unto Solomons (2 Nephi 5:16) probably faced east, also. Understandably, they would not have changed their sense of direction from the rising of the Sun and their orientation to the east, being devout followers of the Law of Moses (2 Nephi 5:10). The Lord made these directions clear when he told Moses “lift up thine eyes westward (yamah, seaward), and northward, and southward (teman, on the right hand when the person faces east), and eastward (mizrah, towards sunrise)" (Deuteronomy 3:27). Clearly, then, in Israel, when using the directional meanings that Sorenson insists upon us doing, we need to realize, contrary to his suggestions about West being “back” or “behind,” the direction of West is opposite of East—the main Hebrew direction, “where the sun rises,” i.e., misrah, meaning “toward the sunrise” (Deuteronomy 3:27).
It is time to put aside silliness of all this confusing directional sleigh-of-hand and realize that when Mormon and the other great men of the Book of Mormon wrote about directions, they were using the directional system that we, and the rest of the world, know today and have always known. The directions of their lands and seas would have to agree (as in the land of Israel) with the west and east of the heavenly compass, or more correctly, with the earth's rotation; “for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun” (Helaman 12:15).

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