Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part X—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 from John E. Clark, himself a Mesoamericanist and follower of John L. Sorenson’s model, in which he defends the Mesoamerican Theory.
Clark’s arguments continue:
9. “The "narrow pass”…is equally ambiguous and nondifferentiating. [James] Warr's claim that the [Sorenson’s] Tehuantepec model does not handle this is incorrect. Warr's commentary only makes sense if one agrees with him that Sorenson's description of the narrow ridge of high ground through the lowlands of Tehuantepec is not a legitimate interpretation of the "narrow pass." But this is an argument about the meaning of the text rather than over the presence or absence of a viable, physical feature. This criterion does not favor either model.”
Response: However, it favors the Andean area of South America, where the Pass of Huayna Capac runs from the south to the north through the narrow neck of land. And that seems to be the understanding Mormon tries to convey with his comments about it. First, the “small neck” extends between the Land Southward and the Land Northward (Alma 22:32), which Moroni called a “narrow neck” (Ether 10:20), which narrow neck led from the Land Southward into the Land Northward (Alma 63:5), which ran on “the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32), which was the only land mass between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, preventing the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water (Alma 22:32), which has a narrow pass running through it, with the sea on both sides (Alma 50:34), this narrow pass leading into the Land Northward from the Land Southward (Alma 52:9).
Obviously, any Land of Promise not only has to have an applicable narrow neck, but a narrow pass through it, which is the only access between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, at least in the days of the Nephite nation. It is understandable that the Mesoamericanists feel this narrow pass is ambiguous and nondifferentiating and not a viable, physical feature of importance since their Mesoamerican model lacks such a feature. But it is important. Clark’s comment “this is an argument about the meaning of the text rather than over the presence or absence of a viable, physical feature” is not factual, since the narrow passage is through the narrow neck, and any neck without this pass, or a pass historically, eliminates that area for being a narrow neck of land. And Clark himself claims that neither Warr’s (Costa Rica) or Sorenson’s (Mesoamaerica) models have such a feature--which should eliminate both models out of hand.
10. “Sorenson's argument is that the narrow neck had to be wide enough that people on the ground such as Limhi's group could pass through it without realizing it. This would have been nigh impossible for the Rivas Isthmus, given its narrow width, long length, and the advantageous viewing conditions from its crest. Curiously, the Limhi episode did not make Warr's list of twelve criteria, but it is very significant. In sum, the touted scalar advantage of the Rivas peninsula over other proposals for the narrow neck is actually a critical weakness. Like the old Grinch's heart, the Rivas neck is several sizes too small. I give the Tehuantepec proposal the advantage on this criterion.”
Response: Sorenson’s argument is fallacious. All sorts of topographies could prevent someone from seeing to the right or left far enough to equate even a handful of miles. Besides, there is no guarantee that the party would have been looking to the east or west, undoubtedly knowing that Zarahemla was to the north. They may have been following a river course or other topography that was told to them by old timers in the community before they left.
Various paths, passes, gorges, canyons, etc., that could prevent Limhi’s expedition from seeing much to the left and right as they made their way northward—any one of which could have prevented viewing more than a mile or two to the side
There is no way to know things like this, and it is not appropriate to make guesses that might lead someone into thinking the scriptural record makes that point clear, nor should writers bank on the laziness of readers to not check statements out for themselves, hoping they will accept what is written at face value. This type of thinking, or at best this type of results, permeates Sorenson’s writings.
In addition, one of the major problems modern man has is believing that people know what is around them at all times. After all, when one drives from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Las Vegas, Nevada, or anywhere else, before they ever leave, they know what the topography basically looks like from travel maps, atlases, globes, etc. However, in the Nephite era, there would have been little chance for such knowledge of routes, territory and topography—especially with Limhi’s 43-man expedition, who traveled into lands once leaving the city of Lehi-Nephi, in which they had never before traveled, and would have known next to nothing about other than, perhaps, some vague information passed along from the older ones who would have received it from their parents, etc. To point this out, not long ago we drove from southern Utah to Denver for the first time, and found ourselves in the canyons along the Colorado River—for several miles we could see nothing to the right or left because of the canyon walls—our width of vision was about a half a mile or less. There could have been an ocean, moonscape, or tall forest beyond the canyon walls on either side and we would not have known that and there would have been no way to find out--we still don't know what is beyond those canyon walls.
As for Rivas, it would not be possible for Rivas to be the Isthmus since it is not wide enough to take a day and a half to cross. Even James Warr himself claims to have made the easy trip in less than a day. For more on Rivas, see our several part series on that issue among our previous posts.
11. Clark further states about the wider, military aspect of this narrow neck which he quoted earlier regarding B. Keith Christensen’s beliefs: “This accords with his [Christensen’s] proposed geography, I think the wider distance crossed by military personnel a more likely interpretation. In fairness, however, the description of distance is ambiguous and provides ample latitude for contravening interpretations.”
Response: Once again, we need to realize why Mormon wrote such a description for his future readers. If Clark’s feeling that this description is ambiguous and provides ample latitude for contravening interpretations, then Mormon failed in his effort to tell us the width of the narrow neck of land. Naturally, Clark, a Mesoamericanist, would choose to believe that way since it allows for the Mesoamerican model, but if we take Mormon at face value that his simple comment was literal, which seems the only reason he would have included it, then the narrow neck of land could be crossed by a normal or average man of his day—a Nephite—then the distance would be about 25 miles or so, which would eliminate every Mesoamerican model yet presented. As for the military idea, one only needs to read Alma 22:27 thru Alma 23:3 to see that there was no military purpose involved in Alma’s insertion of a description of the Land of Promise.
(See the next post, “The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part XI—Mesoaermicanists’ Achilles Heel,” for more on this difficult area for the Mesoamerican Theorist model to reconcile with the scripture)

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