Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Look at Welch’s Approach to City Placement, Direction & Distance – Part I

John W. Welch, who was the founding director of FARMS in 1979, was a member of the board for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and is the Robert K. Thomas professor of law in the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, has also written numerous papers and articles, many of them regarding the location and historical origin of the Book of Mormon. In his book, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, he discusses Nephite directions in the Land of Promise, and the distance across the narrow neck of land. He writes in Chapter 52: Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Nephite Language,  “Alma 22:27 on the east and on the west” as a sub-heading, he states:
    1. A great deal of effort has gone into trying to correlate the cities and regions mentioned in the Book of Mormon with the geography of the Americas. The most widely accepted attempt currently is the "limited geography" theory most extensively developed by John Sorenson. Some critics have claimed that Sorenson's theory is incorrect because the lands he ascribes to the Book of Mormon are actually situated along a northwest/southeast axis rather than north/south as described in the Book of Mormon. Sorenson offers an excellent discussion of this issue.” 
    Response: While Mesoamericanists love to correlate cities and lands of the Book of Mormon with their model, there is so little descriptive information about cities, that such is not only unwarranted, it is not productive since any guess can be made, but no supportive evidence can be shown to argue for or against it. It is, in the vernacular, a colossal waste of time, and is also misleading and at times disingenuous. As an example, we know that some cities were on the coast of the Sea East, like Moroni, Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, Mulek, etc. But in not a single case, do we know how far apart any of these cities were from the actual seashore, from each other, and in what exact direction. Take the following scriptural account: “And it came to pass that the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city Moroni; and it was by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites. And they also began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni; and they called the name of the city, or the land, Nephihah. And they also 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 50:13-15). All we know about the city of Aaron is that it was within walking distance (?) of the city of Ammonihah—that is, “he departed [from Ammonihah] thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron” (Alma 8:13). Thus we know that 1) The land of Nephihah was between the lands of Aaron and Moroni and 2) between the cities of Aaron and Moroni (Alma 50:14); however, we know nothing of distances, directions, how close to the seashore or how far away these cities were—we know that Moroni was “by the east sea,” and that the city of Lehi was “in the  north by the borders of the seashore.” But how far north is unknown, and again, how close or far away from the sea is not stated.
These are Book of Mormon cities placed in the area of the Great Lakes, one of the theories of the Land of Promise location 
    Irrespective of such a difficulty in determining where and in what direction, etc., these cities were from one another, what Mesoamericanists and other Theorists do is look at ancient ruins in their model and say, okay, this is a likely site and label it such and such city. So what benefit is that? Anyone can guess! How does that lend any credibility to the Book of Mormon? The same can be said for the Great Lakes Theorists, except they have no ancient city ruins to go by, only modern locations of cities with, at times, somewhat similar names.
    Nor does such descriptions as “the hill Amnihu, which was east of the river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15), tell us 1) how far east from the river was the hill, nor 2) where the river ran in connection with the city of Zarahemla; however, Mesoamericanists and other Theorists decide they know and place rivers, lands, hills, etc., where they do with no more information than shown here.
    As for the major lands described, we know in a general way where the these lands were, such as Nephi, Zarahemla, Bountiful, Desolation, and Many Waters/Cumorah. However, I have yet to see a map made by any theorist that includes a land between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful, an unnamed land that is mentioned twice in the scriptural record, but given no name (3 Nephi 3:23).
    Nor do we know what sea the Sidon River emptied into, yet most maps show it emptying into the Sea East. Nor do we know if the city of Zarahemla was in the middle of the Land of Zarahemla, to the east or to the west, yet every map places it somewhere toward the middle; however, when Mosiah found the Mulekites (People of Zarahemla), the prophet Amaleki, who was with him, claims that "they were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:16), which might suggest they were near the sea where they landed, since there is no mention of any movement after landing into the land's interior. 
    Neither do we know exactly where the city of Desolation was located, though we know it was near the narrow neck, as was Hagoth’s shipyard, but again, we do not know exactly where. Nor is it helpful to pick a spot, even where ruins might be, and say this is the place. We do not know how far from the seashore was the Hill Cumorah, nor where in the Land of Cumorah that hill was located, nor exactly where in the Land of Many Waters the Land of Cumorah was located. We don’t even know if Ripliancum was a huge lake, an inland sea, or the Sea North.
    The point is, we cannot know where any city is located by the distance between cities or their orientation to another city without making assumptions based upon complete and utter guesswork, nor can we know how far from other areas any city is, or in what part of a land they were in to any degree, certainly not sufficient to place them in a model of the Land of Promise—yet this does not deter Mesoamericanists from placing just about every city mentioned in the scriptural record somewhere in their model merely because there are ruins nearby.
One theorist’s view of the placement of Book of Mormon cities in their model of Mesoaemrica. Not only does the model not fit Mormon’s description, the cities are simply arbitrarily placed 
    Another city of interest is the City of Mulek (Alma 51:26), which was on the east borders by the seashore. At one point the Lamanites, after taking several cities, including Mulek, marched to the borders of Bountiful (Alma 51:28), with the intent of taking the city of Bountiful and moving into the Land Northward (Alma 51:30). After a battle with the Nephites led by Teancum, the Nephites camped by the borders of Bountiful while the Lamanites camped by the seashore (Alma 51:32). In the morning, seeing that Teancum had killed their leader, Amalickiah, the Lamanites retreated from the seashore with all their army into the city of Mulek. At this point Moroni ordered Teancum to fortify the Land of Bountiful and the narrow pass that led into the Land Northward (Alma 52:8). At this point, the narrative says that the new Lamanite king, Ammoron, the brother of Amalikiah (Alma 52:3), left the Land of Zarahemla and returned to the Land of Nephi to confer with the Lamanite Queen. Consequently, these passages suggest that the city of Mulek was in the Land of Zarahemla, yet it is placed on theorists’ maps as being in the far north, east of the city of Bountiful. The problem lies in the fact that these directional statements are so ambiguous, any type of exactness as to Mulek’s location cannot be determined other than it was near (how near?) the eastern seashore. And there is more information about the City of Mulek than most of the cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon other than the City of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi) and the city of Zarahemla.
    The point of all this is simply that while Mesoamericanists spend so much time writing about, designing maps, taking tours, etc., into Mesoamerica, claiming this place and that were where lands, cities, the river, waters, etc., were located is sheer nonsense--they simply cannot be determined from the scriptural record and to do so very misleading.

(See the next post, A Look at Welch’s Approach to City Placement, Direction & Distance – Part II, for more of this type of problem facing Mesoamericanists and how it is ignored in order to sustain and support their Mesoaemrican model)

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