Monday, September 23, 2013

The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part V—Mesoamericanists’ Achilles Heel

Continuing from the last posts showing the fallacy of the Mesoamerican Theorists’ view of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in being the narrow neck of land—it becomes clear that this isthmus is the real Achilles heel of every Mesoamerican model. In pursuing this, the following is mostly from John E. Clark, himself a Mesoamericanist and follower of John L. Sorenson’s model, in which he defends the Mesoamerican Theory.
Clark’s argument follows:
1. “Sorenson's critics, insist that directions are universal absolutes that conform to American common sense. In this regard it is worth stressing that "common sense" is cultural code for culturally dependent knowledge that makes little sense outside one's own time or place.”
Response: Actually, “common sense,” is defined as “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters,” and also “sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like—normal native intelligence,” and “sound judgment derived from experience rather than study,” and “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” It comes from the Latin sensus communis, meaning “common feelings of humanity.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (far leftg) made an issue out of the value of “common sense and common conscience,” Aristotle, Cicero, and Edison all spoke of its importance, as did Harriet Beecher Stowe, Thomas Payne, and Vladimir Nakokov. It can hardly be said that common sense “makes little sense outside one’s own time or place.” As Victor Hugo (left) said, “Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.”
As for the universal absolutes, all people think in terms of direction, either personal orientation (the way they are facing, etc.) or standard points (topographical compass points). It would seem that when a prophet (Mormon) wrote down “north” or “northward,” and another prophet, Joseph Smith (left), working under the influence of the spirit, wrote down “north” or “northward,” then it is only common sense that we understand this to  mean “north” or “northward” and not make an attempt to try and claim that these directions meant something else entirely--after all, Joseph Smith, and certainly the Spirit, would know the orientation of "north" in the same sense as we do. Of course, that’s my common sense, but to Clark, it “is cultural code for culturally dependent knowledge that makes little sense outside one's own time or place.”
2. “We may be tempted to think automatically that "northward" and "southward" label directions that are the same as "north" and "south." But "northward" signals a different concept than does "north," something like "in a general northerly direction." By their frequency of using the -ward suffix, we can infer that Mormon and his ancestors used a somewhat different cultural scheme for directions than we do. However, we cannot tell from the Book of Mormon text exactly how their concepts differed from ours, because all we have to work with is the English translation provided through Joseph Smith.”
Response: It would appear that the words north and northward are the same in the scriptural record. Take for instance Mormon’s comment regarding the division of the Land of Zarahemla from the Land of Nephi: “which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west -- and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided” (Alma 22:27, emphasis mine).
Now here are three directions, north, east and west given in the singular term, describing a specific direction. In the following verse, the direction of west is used three times. Then in the following verse, the term northern is used to describe the same direction as north was used in vs 27: “the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness” (Alma 22:29, emphasis mine), which wilderness is that narrow strip of wilderness spoken of in vs.27. Also, in vs.29, the term west, east, and north are used again—north describing the same area as “northern.”
In addition, Bountiful was both northward and in the north. We see this in the statements: “on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful” and “Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful,” also “that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward” (Alma 22:33, emphasis mine). It can also be seen in: “he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south -- A chosen land” (Alma 46:17, emphasis mine). And “he did not tarry in the land of Zarahemla, but he did march forth with a large army, even towards the city of Bountiful; for it was his determination to go forth and cut his way through with the sword, that he might obtain the north parts of the land” (Helaman 1:23, emphasis mine).
Also, while the Land Northward is generally called just that, we also see it referred to as the north: “there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country” (Helaman 4:7, emphasis mine). “They did have an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north” (Helaman 6:9, emphasis mine), and “the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10, emphasis mine), and “They did raise grain in abundance, both in the north and in the south; and they did flourish exceedingly, both in the north and in the south” (Helaman 6:12 emphasis mine).
Another example is found in Alma: “began in that same year to build many cities on the north, one in a particular manner which they called Lehi, which was in the north by the borders of the seashore” (Alma 50:15)
Then, in the following verse, the term northward is used: “And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed” (Alma 22:30, emphasis mine). Now in this statement, there are at least eight ways to say it:
1) it being so far northward
2) It being so far to the north
3) it being so far northwards
4) it being so far up north
5) it being so far toward the north
6) it being so far northbound
7) it being so far in the north
8) it being so far northwardly
Any one of these, and probably others, would convey the same meaning. Thus, to build an issue out of the "-ward" suffix in order to justify a completely different oriented land than that shown in the Book of Mormon is simply disingenuous.
(See the next post, “The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part VII—Mesoaermicanists’ Achilles Heel,” for more on this difficult area for the Mesoamerican Theorist model to reconcile with the scripture)

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