Friday, October 25, 2013

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

In a FAIR (Defending Mormonism) website article in support of Sorenson’s 1985 book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. FAIR claims that his work and book established a real world setting that plausibly fit the textual geography in the Book of Mormon. However, in addition to the rebuffs we stated in the last post, Deane G. Matheny, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Utah, stated 
    “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.”    
FAIR Article goes on to say: “These are serious considerations [stated by Matheny]. How could Nephites possibly think that the sun would come up in the south and set in the north?”
    Response: This is one of the serious flaws in this re-orientation of Mesoamerica to the scriptural record. To skew the Nephite directions to fit Mesoamerica, the sun would actually rise in their south, if their north was actually west as Methany points out. Yet, undaunted, FAIR continues with their support.
    FAIR Article: “They couldn’t [think the Sun would come up in the south and set in the north]. Yet we have a geographic correlation that fits both real world geography and cultural history remarkably well–except when we come to the terms north, south, east, and west.”
    Response: Now here is the problem with Mesoamericanists—they do not allow a little problem with the scriptural record to stop them. Most people would stop and say, “hey, it looks like we have the wrong model location.” But not the Mesoamericanists. So what do they do? They try to change the understanding of north, south, east and west. By the ways, there are numerous other problems with the Mesoamerican model not fitting Mormon's descriptions, which have been described in these posts numerous times.
    FAIR Article: “I propose that if Mesoamerica is a good fit for the Book of Mormon’s real world geography, then information about Mesoamerica may be used to reexamine and refine the nature of that fit.”
    Response: Of course. So far it doesn’t fit in plain and simple language of the scriptural record; however, not to be deterred, the Mesoamericanist looks for some clever, out-of-the-way explanation which will allow them to keep hold of their non-fitting model. So they turn to a concept that theyh claim existed over a thousand years after the last Nephite drew breath to claim this was the Nephite orientation--and they call this scholarly.
    FAIR Article: “In short, an understanding of the Mesoamerican directional system offers an explanation for the way that Book of Mormon directions correspond to that geography, without recourse to an artificial shift in the directions.”
FAIR, Sorenson, et all, want us to believe that Mesoamerica, which is oriented east and west is the Land of Promise in which is stated numerous times as north-south orientation
    Response: Without recourse to an artificial shift in the directions? Who are we kidding here? Whatever is claimed through a Mesoamerica history is simply not acceptable to evaluating the scriptural record, and it is an artificial change in directions since the vast majority of readers of the scriptural record are going to interpret north, south, east and west, as north, south, east and west! Nephi, who clearly understood both cardinal and ordinal directions in an unknown land along the Red Sea wouldn’t have known about Mesoamerican orientation. Mormon didn’t know about any Mesoamerican orientation to directions. After all, what if Lehi did not land in Mesoamerica? Then what? And also, did the Lord really think we had to have John L. Sorenson to clarify the Book of Mormon for us so that we could understand that Mormon didn’t really mean north, south, east and west, but instead actually meant a Mesoamerican directional orientation that is nearly 90º different?
    The FAIR article then goes on to give us four points for our clarification in order to make their point about Sorenson’s different directional system:
    FAIR Article: “1. The directional system of the Nephites has six Nephite cardinal directions: north, northward, south, southward, east, and west.”
    Response: Northward and Southward cannot be a cardinal direction. Northward is well understood to be somewhere between Northwest and Northeast, actually between North by Northwest and North by Northeast. Despite FAIR wanting to do so, you cannot just create a new cardinal direction. 
On the other hand, if you are going to insist on this, then we must say that the Jaredites had only three cardinal directions, northward, southward and eastward, since no other direction is given in the record. Imagine a society with no understanding of west or westward. Now if that doesn’t sound ridiculous, let us go on:
    FAIR Article: “2. “Northward” reflects the general direction of northwest rather than northeast. “Northward” could be either a northwest or a northeast direction by its very nature, but northwest is the correct orientation from an Isthmus of Tehuantepec perspective. Or, as Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary says about “northward” as an adjective, as in land northward: “Being towards the north, or nearer to the north than to the east and west points.”
    Response: 1) Northward does not reflect any single direction, like northwest, over northeast. Just because Mesoamerica is so aligned, one cannot change the meaning of words; 2) Yes, Noah Webster makes it clear what northward is—and he makes no comment about it being a cardinal direction in any sense of the word or in any location, etc. Northward as he defines it, and as all dictionaries since have described it, means "toward the north." FAIR's argument is a spurious one and totally disingenuous, meant to mislead.
    FIAR Article: “3. “Southward” reflects the general direction of southeast rather than southwest. “Southward” could be either a southeast or a southwest direction by its very nature, but southeast is the correct orientation from an Isthmus of Tehuantepec perspective. Interestingly, Noah Webster does not show an adjectival definition for “southward” in his 1828 dictionary.”
    Response: Again, FAIR tries to make Southward mean that which aligns with Mesoamerica, however, once again, the word does not make that differentiation. Defined, southward means toward the south.
    FAIR Article: “4. North, south, east, and west are the directions that readers of the twenty-first century are accustomed to based on compass bearings.”
    Response: Throughout history, north, south, east and west have always meant the same thing to the vast majority of people on earth. To claim it is a “twenty-first century compass bearing” is once again totally disingenuous and misleading. The four cardinal directions were not coined after the invention of the compass. 
Dating back at least to the time of the Alexandrian astronomer Plotemy, who created the first world atlas in the second century A.D., and even before that, to the Greeks who had sailing directions they called periplus or "circumnavigation," and even earlier to the Chinese in the third millennium B.C. who had developed a magnetic device they called the "Point-South Carriage," mariners knew about these directions, and so did most citizens of various countries who had the ocassion to travel or move away from the "birth-to-death in one town" cycle. Long before the invention of the compass, the ordinal directions were coined, and eight further divisions were officially added with the compass; however, Mesoamericanists want us to think that these directions were not known in Nephi’s time, but once again, he uses them when traveling along the Red Sea--or was Joseph Smith lying to us when he inserted those directions (1 Nephi 16:13; 17:1)?
    FAIR Article: “When these cardinal directions are viewed from the perspective of a horizontally positioned hourglass that is placed over a map of Mesoamerica, they coincide with the same four cardinal directions employed by Book of Mormon readers of the twenty-first century.”
    Response: This is such an illogical argument it hardly requires comment. When you place an  hourglass over some other locations, it would fit their orientation, also. This is true with Baja California, Malaysa, and probably others if one wants to take the time to look. The point is, Mormon said nothing that would give anyone the idea that an hourglass shape should be laid flat and oriented to a land on a map that is off kilter by close to 90º. Nor can we glean anything from the scriptural record that suggests such a thing. A narrow neck does not necessarily mean an hourglass shape--a cut in of land on one side, say such as a large bay, does not require a cut in on the other side to create a narrow neck of land (see a full explanation of this and diagrams in the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica).
    FAIR Article: “The certainty of these declarations comes from dual assumptions. The first is that the translation must necessarily represent the precise plate meaning that is found in the English words.”
    Response: That should be an unquestionable point. The scriptural record is accurate in every way, including its directions! Nor do we need to make any assumptions about the word meanings--Nephi, Mormon and others were quite specific.
    FAIR Article: “The second is that therefore the application of modern meaning may therefore accurately interpret textual information.”
Response: Another unquestionable point so long as we do not go to modern understanding beyond the time of Joseph Smith--that is when the record was interpreted and that is when the words used had their particular meaning. The Lord is not a God of confusion. Nor is he going to give us a record that makes no sense in any way or in any part! If we require academic instruction in order to understand the scriptural record, then we are in deep trouble and might as well be back in the Dark Ages where scribes and priests had to tell us what the words meant because we people were too uneducated to understand them.
    FAIR Article: “Neither of these propositions can be supported by the data that I have reviewed.” 
    Response: Evidently, then, you have a problem with the scriptural record being what it is and you feel the need to, the authority to, and the right to change it. I totally disagree with FAIR, Sorenson, or anyone else making changes or claiming the scriptural record is anything but what it purports to be in the language the Lord chose to give it to us.

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