Friday, August 23, 2013

Manipulating the Scriptural Record in Favor of Mesoamerica – Part I

Since FARMS was brought into BYU and renamed the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, and on its website continues to promote the Mesoamerican theory of the Land of Promise, many members understandably believe that Mesoamerica is the place where the Nephite nation lived. Unfortunately, those promoting Mesoamerica under the guise of official sponsorship, are doing a disservice because Mesoamerica really does not match the scriptural record and anyone not pre-determined toward Mesoamerica can easily see there are no matches unless one distorts, changes, or ignores much of the descriptive information Mormon left us.
Archaeologists and anthropologists, both LDS and not, have stated numerous times that there is no evidence in Mesoamerica of the Book of Mormon. This is not merely an uninformed attitude or anti-church belief—it is a factual examination of the area that has had more scientific study and excavation work than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, yet other than awesome ruins, there is little else to recommend the location.
As an example, and just to name a few:
1. Mesoamerica land runs east and west where the scriptural record shows the land runs north and south. This is simply something than cannot be explained away as Mesoamerican Theorists try to do. (Sorenson’s map below showing east-west alignment)
2. There is no narrow neck of land in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that matches the description of a day and a half journey distance as Mormon states. Mesoamerican Theorists can state how some special people have run long distances in short time frames, but that does not match Mormon’s statement.
3. The Mesoamerican Land Southward—Land of Zarahemla and Land of Nephi, is not nearly surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of land as Mormon states.
4. There is no Sea North, Sea East, Sea West, and Sea South around the Land of Promise as Helaman states (3:8).
5. Mesoamerica is not now, and never was, an island as Jacob states.
6. There are not two kinds of animals in Mesoamerica that are likened unto an elephant in their use and value as is stated in Ether (and unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829).
7. There are not two kinds of important grains in Mesoamerica besides corn, wheat and barley, as stated in Mosiah (and unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829).
8. There is no herb or plant indigenous to Mesoamerica that cures fever as stated in Alma (cinchona plant [only source of quinine] exists only in Andean Peru)
9. Metallurgy did not exist in Mesoamerica before about 600 to 900 A.D.
10. Mesoamerica, contrary to popular opinion, has limited gold reserves. As an example, in 2006, Mexico produced 39 ton, while Peru produced 224 ton. Most of Mexico’s gold comes from Sonora in the northwest, not in Mesoamerica at all, and the Spanish in a century, took out only 154 ton from Mexico. Yet the Book of Mormon describes gold existing in abundance throughout the entire time of the Nephite period. In addition, Guatemala produced only 5.5 ton of gold in 2006, while Chile produced 46.5 ton; all of Mesoamerica (including all of Mexico) produced only 49 ton, while the area of Andean South America produced 302.5 ton (all in the Land of Promise area).
As one of our readers has written in: “It is said that the Book of Mormon communicates clearly four fundamentals about its setting: its lands were warm, narrow in at least one place, flanked by "seas," and small. Yet, I do not seem to think this is accurate, what do you think?” Ridley E.
Response: You probably got that information from John E. Clark on one of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute posted pages. Like many Mesoamerican Theorists, Clark pushes the idea that the Land of Promise was “small.” In the early days of the Church, many read the writing and had the impression that the Land of Promise was the entire Western Hemisphere, that is, that North America was the Land Northward, South America was the Land Southward, and Central America was the Narrow land in between. When studious people began reading the book specifically for geographical information, they realized that the Land of Promise could not possibly have been that large, so the idea of a Limited Geography Theory emerged. About that time word came of the many ruins in Mesoamerica, and members began to think of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, which has been promoted by FARMS and now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU, which they have placed into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and the Internet dictionary Wikipedia, as though this idea of Mesoamerica being the Land of Promise is the standard belief among members of the Church, and even appears as the Church’s stand, as attested to by the numerous critics using Mesoamerica as the Lehi’s Land of Promise—which critics, and rightly so, claim is in error.
Thus, it is well known among members and non-members alike, who are not pre-disposed to believe in Mesoamerica, that this area in Central America simply does not match the scriptural record. This lack of scriptural support has been written about here on numerous occasions, so we’ll just deal with the four points John Clark listed on the Neal A. Maxwell (FARMS) website regarding four criteria that had to be matched for any location to be the Land of Prolmise:
1) Its lands were warm. The only comment in the Book of Mormon about weather is: 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). This might suggest a warm climate, but not necessarily. Many cold areas, such as Minnesota in the U.S, because of the lakes, and Illinois, because of the Mississippi, are plagued with mosquitoes, which are the cause of most fevers, especially ones where herbs are used for cures. In fact, Mediterranean climates, like Rome, Greece, and the middle of Chile were centers for mosquitoes before swamps were drained, etc. Consequently, it cannot be said that the climate of the Land of Promise was “warm.” 
Sorenson’s Mesoamerica map showing the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, his narrow neck of land to be 140 miles across—such a small narrowing, no one on foot could ever have known it was a narrow neck of land as Mormon tells us. Only from a map such as this, an aerial shot, or a satellite image could you tell this was a narrow area, and certainly not as narrow as Mormon describes
2) It’s lands were narrow in at least one place. While this is true, narrow is not just a word, it is defined as beingonly the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite” (Alma 22:32). That distance is defined as about 20 miles a day, or about 30 miles in width. There is no place in all of Mesoamerica that comes anywhere near that, with the narrowest point, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, at 140 miles across.
(See the next post, “Manipulating the Scriptural Record in Favor of Mesoamerica – Part II,” for more of Clark’s match requirements that are not scripturally based and show the Mesoamerican model to be inaccurate according to Mormon’s descriptions of the Land of Promise)

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