Sunday, July 7, 2013

More Comments Answered Part XI

Continuing with more comments on our website and our responses:
Comment #1: “What do you think of John Sorenson’s belief that the Nephites rode tapirs rather than horses and it was a mis-identification on the part of the early Spanish?” Brooke E.
Response: You tell me:
Left: Tapir in Peru (their native home); Right: A Nephite riding a Tapir
Does this look like something a horseman, such as the early Spanish, would have mistaken for a man riding a horse?
Comment #2: “I found this quote among Sorenson’s many writings: ‘“A question naturally arises as to whether vessels and nautical skills were available to account for the early voyages. Contrary to the picture we were once taught about ‘primitive’ sailors timidly avoiding the open sea until an intrepid Columbus made a breakthrough, evidence now clearly establishes that sailors long ago ventured widely. As long ago as 52,000 years ago. Australia's first settlers reached that continent across as much as 95 miles  of open sea, and the Solomon Islands were populated from 105 miles away by 29,000 years ago. Balsa-log rafts (functionally they were steerable ‘ships,’ not what we think of under the term rafts) like the Kon-Tiki vessel of Thor Heyerdahl were preceded by early Ecuadoran craft that sailed up and down the Pacific coast of South and Middle America apparently from 2000 BC on. However, they, in turn, were modeled on rafts of unknown age from China and Southeast Asia. Three modern replicas of pre-Columbian rafts constructed in Ecuador in the traditional form were sailed in 1974 as a fleet over 9,000 miles to Australia. Many other craft, some of them remarkably small and ‘primitive,' have been sailed in modern times across various ocean routes; one veteran small-craft sailor reports that ‘it takes a damned fool to sink a boat on the high seas.’ Wondered if you had seen it and if it has any impact on your writings about difficulty sailing a ship in 600 B.C.” Kavan W.
Response: Yes, I have. It comes from Hannes Lindemann’s Alone at Sea, edited by J. Stuart (New York 1957). Lindemann, a German doctor, was born in 1922, and was a navigator and sailor, making two solo transatlantic crossings, one in a sailing dugout canoe, and the other in a 17-foot Klepper canoe Aerius II, a double folding kayak—a vessel invented in Germany in 1905, with the Aerius II produced in 1951-1956, which has an integral air chamber inside the hull, making them virtually unsinkable. These canoes are durable, stable, highly maneuverable, and quite sturdy. His singular fete has gone down in history as one of the great sea-going achievements of all time. But its rarity eliminates any possible example of Nephi’s voyage to the Land of Promise—one man crossing 3400 miles of the Atlantic in a canoe is not 40 to 60 people on a ship crossing the Pacific for about 10,000 miles. While it is understandable for Lindemann to say, “it takes a damned fool to sink a boat on the high seas” crossing in a one-man unsinkable kayak, it is quite different to make the same claim about a sailing ship of some size that is not maneuverable and can be swamped on the high seas. We might also want to keep in mind that Sorenson continually begins a contrary thought with the statement, evidence now clearly establishes, without giving that evidence, or how it has clearly established anything at all. This is a statement often made in a college classroom where students are either unwilling or unknowing to ask for details. Sorenson also has a strong tendency to quote extremely rare and highly unusual events and occurrences as though they were common fare—but sailing the Atlantic in a kayak is not common. After all, according to the Falcon Guide to Kayaking 2007 edition, in the entire history of boating, only three kayaks have crossed the Atlantic Ocean—only three! This event can hardly be used as an example of anything other than courage and rare achievement.
Nor can we accept the idea of early sailors “timidly avoiding the empty sea”—I doubt one could have found a timid early sailor, who went to sea in very small ships. These were sturdy men of great courage, undaunted by challenge, who spent weeks, months, even years at sea. However, what they were not was foolish. Nobody knew better than they that the “empty sea” was a very dangerous place—even experienced mariners during the Age of Discovery, were careful about going out on the “empty sea” or what they called “the great deep” or later “the deep blue.” They had stories about Davey Jones Locker, and believed in sea serpents, the ocean dropping off the end of the world, and still they went to sea. They knew about scores of ships that sunk, torn apart by severe storms, ripping sides and bottoms out on coral reefs or slightly submerged shoals. If records had been kept in those early days, we would find that thousands of sailors lost their lives in hundreds of shipwrecks—they didn’t call houses near the shore of early sailing villages “Widow’s Walk” for no reason. There was nothing timid about early sailors. Sorenson would do better to talk about things he knows something about and didn’t just read in a book or somebody’s dissertation or position paper.
While modern man might be timid to go to sea in such flimsy craft as those early coastal vessels, the ancient mariner was anything but. However, once again, he was not foolish or reckless—he knew how deadly the sea could be. These men “who went down to the sea in ships” knew about descriptive sea terms such as the “Cape of Storms” (now called the Cape of Good Hope) where scores of ships met their doom trying to round that Cape before the currents and winds were better understood, and for a hundred years or more was called “the Sailor’s Graveyard”; an area in the Ionian Sea was known to Greek sailors as the “Blue Graveyard,” and the wrecks off Scarborough, Maine, are legend, as were the Dardanelles where scores of ships were wrecked until seamen came to understand their unique double currents. Early sailors referred to Drake’s Passage as the “Devil’s Passage,” and even the Great Lakes had a “Shipwreck Coast” from Grand Marais, Michigan, to Whitefish Point, and was called “Graveyard of the Great Lakes,” where hundreds of ships met their doom on the lakes. Only a fool would separate himself from a view of land, not out of fear, but well understanding that unknown winds and currents would take him so far off course he might never find his way back.
Comment #3: “If, as Palmer and other Mesoamerican theorists suggest, the greater Nephite library of records is still in Mexico, what storehouse of books did Joseph Smith and Oliver see in the New York setting that Brigham Young discussed regarding the experience Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had when returning the plates to the Hill Cumorah? It seems to me that one hill is all we get” T.J.
Response: Brigham Young’s statement was: “The hill opened up and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up on the corners and along the walls…” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p. 38). This statement tells us only that there is a cave or “room” wherein are stored tons of sacred records, presumably of the Nephites. But that “room” could have been anywhere. The Lord is fully capable of providing a vision for a person in which he feels he is right there, which vision could have been provided for Joseph and Oliver at the moment they reached the spot on the hill Cumorah in upstate New York they were directed to reach. The heavens, or the future, or the past, or any place on earth can be opened and shown to a person(s) in a vision. Lehi and Nephi saw the tree of life, river of dirty water, path and iron rod, and a building of scoffing people—and felt they were upon it, holding to that rod. The Lord is also capable of moving those plates, table, sword of Laban, from one place to another—distance is not a matter of concern. The trouble is, man is simply not capable of understanding God or the things of God or how God does things.

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