Sunday, September 15, 2013

Slanted Land of Promise Book Reviews – Part V

Continuing with the last post on the FARMS review of Art Kocherhans’ book, “Lehi’s Isle of Promise,” showing the self-serving nature of such reviews and their tendency toward self-absorbed and self-advancing results. Earlier points and comments were discussed in the first four posts, more of Fleugel’s ill-advised comments are covered below:

8) “In another part of this chapter (3) Kocherhans describes the Liahona as a compass, “which word has been used down to our day”…Here is an example of how he insists that the language of the Joseph Smith translation forces Book of Mormon vocabulary to correspond with modern usage. Various references to the 1828 edition of Noah Webster's Dictionary are supposed to form a scholarly link between the translation and conditions in the outside world.”
One might wonder in what wordage Fleugel thinks the Book of Mormon was written? Certainly not Hebrew and certainly not reformed Egyptian. Of course the plates were written in Reformed Egyptian, which Joseph Smith, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, translated into English. And what English did Joseph Smith know? He knew the English spoken in the land where he grew up and lived, namely New England and Western New York, and with the style of the King James version of the Bible. Obviously, then, the scholarly link between the Reformed Egyptian and our Book of Mormon today would be the language Joseph Smith knew, which tells us the words he chose should be defined by his understanding of those words in 1829 New England.

Now, interestingly enough, Noah Webster, who claims to have been inspired to write his dictionary, provides us with the language of New England known in that area between about 1800 and 1828 when his dictionary was published. In his preface, Noah Webster wrote: “Education is useless without the Bible…in my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.” It is also said of his work that “Historically, it documents the degree to which the Bible was America’s basic text book in all fields…and is the only dictionary in the world to utilize God’s written word as a key to the meaning of words.”
In short, if we are to understand the full meaning of the words in the Book of Mormon, we need to know the meaning of those words as Joseph Smith would have understood them. How convenient for us that the Lord inspired Noah Webster to create a dictionary of the very words Joseph Smith would have known at the time he was interpreting the plates and translating them into the Book of Mormon. And how unfortunate that Fleugel does not understand this great scholarly advantage that Kocherhans brought to our attention.
9) “In chapter 3 Kocherhans tries to show how the Lehi party must have come to Chile based upon global wind direction, climate, and resources. He provides no source references for his information on climate and wind conditions.”

Left: Currents coming across from the Indian Ocean, along the Southern Ocean, called the West Wind Drift and blown by the Prevailing Westerlies, sweep up along South America in (Right) the Humboldt Current, and if landfall is not made, the current swings back westward in the South Equatorial Current
Fleugel should understand that wind and sea currents are well known today—source information is available in numerous books, encyclopedias and oceanographical journals. To cite one of hundreds of sources seems unnecessary since citations are supposed to show a particular location of the information that is not generally known. On the other hand, one of the problems, though evidently unknown to Fleugel, is that winds and currents have remained unknown for most of the history of the world. It wasn’t until the Age of Sail that winds and currents were known well enough to plot a course based on currents and hope for the best with the winds. Over the centuries, knowledge has been added, but even in the first half of the 20th century, most winds and currents were still little understood. In fact, the effect of ocean currents on land temperatures has been better understood than the currents themselves through most of the 20th century.
The gravitational effect of the Coriolis force was first discovered by Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis in the 1820s, and it wasn’t until 1856 that William Ferrel proposed the existence of a circulation cell in the mid-latitudes with air being deflected by the Coriolis force to create the prevailing westerly winds, though it wasn’t until 30-40 years later before it was fully understood. That is, one of the greatest forces for winds and currents was not fully understood until about 1900, just over a hundred years ago, though ships had been sailing for thousands of years before that.

Red=subtropical gyres; Blue=one subpolar gyre; the straight blue lines are the southern ocean, the only place where gyres do not exist because of the uninterrupted circular path around the continent of Antarctica 
Ocean currents have had important impacts on history. Columbus discovered that he had to get into the trade winds (southern part of the North Atlantic gyre) so that he could sail west across the Atlantic. This is why he landed first on Caribbean islands, not North America. Spanish ships with goods from East Asia, starting in the Philippines, went north to Japan and the Kuroshio Current before turning east across the Pacific Ocean, and then traveled down the west coast of America to Mexico, where their goods were then carried across the narrow parts of Central America to ships bound for Spain. However, these ships had to head north up the east coast of North America before turning east toward Spain. While this is well known today, it was not well known in Columbus’ day. It was his efforts that opened the door to ocean travel for hundreds of ship captains who followed.

Early mariners could not cross westward across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to America simply because they did not understand the ocean currents. To reach North America, they had to go south to the Canary Islands before turning west; or travel to the North Sea before turning west and then south. This knowledge was not discovered until Leif Erickson (north route) and Columbus (southern route) 
In the mid- to late-1800s, Matthew Fontaine Maury became head of the U.S. Navy’s Department of Charts and Instruments—only to discover that the Navy had very few charts of the oceans! But it did have a big storeroom of dusty logbooks from Navy ships. In these logbooks, sea captains traveling the North Atlantic had recorded their daily locations, as well the speeds and directions of winds and currents. By compiling these records from many ships, he saw patterns of ocean currents and winds that helped captains plot the best sea lanes for their voyages. He added more details to these charts by asking merchant captains to make more observations and send them to him, and also asking sailors to put messages in bottles that noted the ship’s location when the bottle was thrown overboard and when washed ashore, the finders were asked to send Maury a note telling him where they found the bottle. In this way, Maury could figure out more detailed ocean current patterns and add them to his charts. By 1900, the U.S. Navy was beginning to understand ocean currents and winds.
As for the Indian Ocean, that information was much later in coming. Although Mariners had been aware of the existence of the Monsoon current for nearly a thousand years, a detailed understanding did not emerge until after the International Indian Ocean Expedition of the 1960s. The World Ocean Circulation Experiment of the mid 1990s permitted detailed measurement of these currents through an extensive field campaign. In fact, Oceanography was a poorly organized field of research as late as the 1950s, and theories about ocean circulation had what one expert called “a peculiarly dream-like quality.”
The point of all this is simply that the knowledge we now have of the oceans, their currents, and the winds that drive them is only now well defined, which is a relatively recent understanding. Since the Age of Sail ended about a century ago, winds and currents were not as important to know during this past century with ships having auxiliary power, so the work that was done that we now know was finalized only recently. Consequently, when Joseph Smith mentioned the 30º South Latitude for Lehi’s landing spot in Chile, he could not have known anything about the currents that deposited ships from the Indian Ocean in that area, nor that the location was a similiar Mediterranean climate for growing the seeds brought by Lehi from Jerusalem, or the numerous other matches to the Book of Mormon that have been covered by Kocherhans and also diligently in these posts for quite some time.
(See the next post, “Slanted Land of Promise Book Reviews – Part VI,” for the final points of Fleugel’s comments, and more information on the FARMS review that is far from accurate, and quite self-serving)

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