Thursday, October 24, 2013

FAIR’s Defense is No Defense at All – Part I

In a FAIR (Defending Mormonism) website article, the following is stated: In 1985, John L. Sorenson published An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. That book was the culmination of decades of work establishing a real world setting that plausibly fit the textual geography in the Book of Mormon.”    
    Response: Despite Mesoamericanists’ continual claim that Mesoamerica fits the textual geography in the Book of Mormon, it simply does not unless you change or ignore the statements in the scriptural record. Consider:
1. They have to change the meaning of directions stated by Mormon;
2. They ignore the description of a narrow neck of land that a Nephite could cross in a day and a half and claim this was a special courier, runner, marathon candidate, etc.;
3. They ignore Mormon’s several comments that the narrow neck of land could be defended against Lamanites or defectors getting through when it was guarded;
4. They ignore that their Land Southward is due east of their narrow neck, claiming that it is southward;
5. They ignore that their Land Northward is due west of their narrow neck, claiming that it is northward;
6. They ignore that Jacob tells us the Land of Promise was an island in the sea;
7. They ignore that the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for the narrow neck;
8. They ignore that the narrow neck of land is flanked by the Sea East and the Sea West and simply re-label their sea to the north (Gulf of Mexico) and sea to the south (Pacific Ocean) their east and west seas;
9. They ignore descriptive terms like from the Sea North to the Sea South, and from the Sea West to the Sea East, in explaining the width and breadth of the land;
10. In order to do all of this, they claim that the Nephites’ directional system was not the same as ours is today, that their system allows for a Land of Promise nearly 90º off kilter to our cardinal directions.
    FAIR Article: “Sorenson’s model places the Book of Mormon in part of the region known as Mesoamerica, extending from perhaps a little south of modern Guatemala to somewhat north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. In addition to his work on the geography, Sorenson took his correlation to the next step. He examined the relationship between the available historical and cultural information for that region and the descriptions and events in the Book of Mormon. The correlations were impressive and have led to further productive investigation.”
Response: If the Book of Mormon was merely a Mayan Codice, or some written history from an ancient source, or some journal, diary, or record of a group of people of an earlier time, then Sorenson’s approach may be acceptable. However, the Book of Mormon is not such a record. It is the writing of several prophets from Nephi to Mormon and Moroni, including Ether, all of which were men of exceptional righteousness, followers of Christ, and servants of God. They wrote from inspiration and guidance. In addition, this record was translated from an ancient language that is totally unknown today and required mechanical devices called the Urim and Thummin, an ancient Biblical instrument, to translate. In addition still, when being translated, the Holy Spirit was involved, acknowledging the accuracy of the translation before the translator, himself a prophet and one of the greatest who ever tread the earth, was allowed to continue.
    With all this in mind, might not we ask these academics who continually want to tell us that the scriptural record cannot be understood by the average “western” mind, why the Lord made it so complicated when the record was meant for us today and is a record to be read by all people, young and old, in order to better understand God and the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they really think the Book of Mormon was written so only the academic with years and years of study could understand and fully comprehend? 
Do they really think that Mormon, knowing he was writing to a future people, believed it should take “the culmination of decades of work” to understand the simple language used? Do these people really think the Book of Mormon was meant to be viewed by someone who knows and understands the workings of the ancient Middle Eastern mind along with the Mayan mind?
    Another way to look at this is simply that the Lord brought about this record, inspiring numerous prophets and servants to compile it, and an erstwhile prophet to abridge it, and another to translate it, all for us today to understand it. Now does it make sense that the wordage and descriptions within were meant to be so confusing and difficult to understand that unless we turned to the academic we would never comprehend it?
    Does that sound like the way the Lord, who is not the author of confusion, would deal with us? Would the Spirit really let Joseph Smith use north, south, east and west, when it was known to heaven that the Nephites used a different directional system than what those words mean to us?
    FAIR Article: “Scholars have found a very similar directional system among the various Mesoamerican cultures. Much of the data come from the Maya cultures because the ability to translate the carved and painted texts provides a unique view of pre-contact culture currently unavailable for any other Mesoamerican people. Nevertheless, what may be more carefully worked out in the Maya data has sufficient corroboration in data from other cultures to allow an essentially pan-Mesoamerican orientation system.”
    Response: Evidently, the Lord brought about this scriptural record in its present form knowing it could not be understood by some 90% or more of the readers because they did not have the knowledge or background of the pan-Mesoamerican orientation system. The question seems to beg itself, why on earth would we be given a record that states simple, well understood directions of north, south, east and west, as well as northward and southward, that really didn’t mean those directions at all. 
    In addition, we are being told that Mormon was using a Mesoamerican or pan-Mesoamerican orientation system of directions that he never would have understood existed himself. Who created such a system? The Nephites had no map of Central America, no map or knowledge of any land northward beyond the Land of Many Waters (such as Mexico), or south of the Land of Nephi (such as Central America). Why would they have thought in terms of a pan-Mesoamerican orientation, which requires a full understanding that Central America, overall, has a northward and southward direction between the United States and South America.
    Let us quote a comment from Deane G. Matheny, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Utah, who explains about this problem:
    “The most fundamental geographical problem associated with Sorenson’s model has to do with issues of directionality…In order for his model to fit the geography of Mesoamerica, one must assume that the Nephites had a system of directions with cardinal directions skewed “45 degrees or more” off of the usually observed cardinals…In other words, the whole directional card must be shifted more than 60 degrees to the west for this model to fit the geography of the chosen area. Otherwise, as Vogel has pointed out, the land north will be on the west, and the south on the east, and so forth…Making this shift in directions creates its own set of problems, however, because in such a Nephite directional system the sun would come up in the south and set in the north.”
(See the next post, “FAIR’s Defense is No Defense at All – Part II,” for the continuation of this article and FAIR’s response to Methany’s “fundamental geographical problem”)

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