Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Mesoamerican Theorists Rely on Man’s Records – Part I

Ever willing to ignore the scriptural record to prove his Mesoamerican model, John L. Sorenson in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, on page 146 writes:
“Latter-day Saints are not used to the idea that other people than Lehi’s immediate descendants were on the Book of Mormon scene. Abundant evidence from archaeological and linguistic studies assures us that such people were indeed present, so we need to understand how the Book of Mormon account accommodates that fact.”
Again, making it sound like his writing is factual, he tells his reader that they are not used to something, and need to understand the correct “facts.” So let’s take Sorenson’s statement one sentence at a time:
1. “Latter-day Saints are not used to the idea that other people than Lehi’s immediate descendants were on the Book of Mormon scene.”
The reason LDS people are not used to such an idea is really quite simple. There is no other indication, suggestion, hint, or idea in the entire scriptural record to suggest such a thing. Latter-day Saints rely on the scriptures because they were written by prophets, translated by a prophet under the guidance of the spirit and the Urim and Thummim, and have been attested to by hundreds of thousands of people who had read and studied them. After all, when twelve inspired people write about information covering 531 printed pages and not one even suggests the possibility of anyone else in the Land of Promise, why would anyone think there were such “other people”? But ever the one to ignore the scriptural record when it disagrees with him, Sorenson tells us that we need to understand him, and not the record.
2. “Abundant evidence from archaeological….”  No matter what archaeological evidence is found, the scriptural record is not in question here. Consequently, one might say, if “abundant evidence from archaeological” finds in Mesoamerican suggest something different than the scriptures, why not abandon the Mesoamerian model as not the Land of Promise? Why work so hard to maintain a model when it does not agree with the scriptures? Instead, find one that does agree with the scriptural record!
3. “…and linguistic studies assures us that such people were indeed present.” Since linguistics is the study of the nature, structure, and variation of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, what possible linguistic evidence could possibly be shown about a period from 600 B.C. to 421 A.D. where no written records are extant to show other than what is written in the scriptural record? There are no records of this period other than the Book of Mormon. There are no languages surviving that can be attributed to this period of time by those who speak them. Even if there were, we would not know their meaning, their pronunciation, or their use. How people speak today, 1600 years after the fact in Central or South America has no bearing on how they spoke long before any records are available. Besides, in 1600 years, a language often changes dramatically (take the case of the Mulekite language in just 400 years—the Nephites could not understand the Mulekite language even though they were both from Jerusalem).
4. “…studies assures us that such people were indeed present.” There is no possible way that anyone today can know who or what existed in the entire Western Hemisphere over 1600 years ago when there are no records (other than the Book of Mormon), writings, inscriptions, or any other type of evidence that can be dated to that period that has any meaning in terms of words. Hieroglyphics, or other symbols, after all, do not contain words, but ideas (a glyph of a man in a ship may mean rowing, sailing, transportation, etc.) Furthermore, the sound-based phonetic symbols of Mayan do not belong to an alphabet like the letters of the Latin alphabet, where each consonant and vowel has its own symbol. Even words determined by the Mayan do not translate to the same meaning as we would place on them—thus, we have to have a key to understand them (the Rosetta Stone)—but that does not tell us what they mean, only how we interpret them.
5. “…so we need to understand how the Book of Mormon account accommodates that fact.” Our role is not to determine how the Book of Mormon accommodates man’s writing, thinking, or beliefs—but how all these other factors agree with the Book of Mormon. The first thing we understand is that the scriptures are accurate as written and if man’s ideas or findings do not agree with them, then man’s ideas and findings are inaccurate. We need not try to change scriptural meaning, but need to change what we know and perceive to match the scriptures. If Mesoamerica does not match the scriptures—then Mesoamerican Theorists should stop trying to shove their model down our throats and start looking for a place that does match the scriptural record! Consequently, if the scriptural record gives not a single hint, suggestion, word, or idea regarding other people in the Land of Promise, then we need to stop trying to prove that other people existed there.
“Lehi, I was unable to keep my promise and I have to go back on my word to you—according to John L. Sorenson, the Land of Promise is already full of people. Sorry!”
Yet, Sorenson describes on several occasions that the Land of Promise was already occupied by other, indigenous people, when the Nephites arrived, and that the Nephites absorbed these indigenous people into their ranks. On page 89, summing this up, he writes: “This scenario fits what we have already described in social and political terms -- that the Book of Mormon is a record by an elite group who dominated a folk population of undisclosed characteristics whom they found resident on the land.”
First of all, in order for this to be true, the following conditions would have to exist:
1)  The Lord would have to bring the Lehi colony across ten thousand miles of land and ocean to occupy a land of promise already inhabited by other peoples who would, ultimately, so dominate Lehi's descendants that they would be absorbed into different physical and racial characteristics too numerous to mention; 
2)  That the Nephites were so self-centered, so elitist, that they could not bring themselves to mention in their records even the slightest hint that this group or groups of indigenous people existed, while mentioning two other groups that inhabited the land once they encountered them or their remains.
3)  That promises in scripture made by the Lord to Lehi and to Nephi about no other people becoming aware of the Land of Promise were null and void before they were even issued.
4)  That, despite finding these people upon first landing, Lehi would make no mention of them when giving his warnings and blessings to his sons, yet continue to insist that this land was theirs to inherit, had been kept from the knowledge from other peoples, and would be theirs forever if they only remained righteous.
5)  Though only about 100 in number when landing in the promised land, they were, nonetheless, greater than any indigenous people as to be able to dominate them, yet have this indigenous people large enough in number to completely change the appearance of Lehi's descendants so as to duplicate all the different racial remains found in Mesoamerica.
(See the next post, “How Mesoamerican Theorists Rely on Man’s Records-Part II,” for the continuation of these conditions and the rest of this article)

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