Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part XIV—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:

Sorenson's Land of Promise Model. Yellow Arrow points to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, his "narrow neck of land." To the left (west) is his Land Northward, and to the right (east) is his Land Southward 
   22. “There remains the observation that the land southward was blocked off for a time and at a later time became a hunting reserve. Given what little is known of Jaredite settlement, we need to be careful not to imagine that we know more than we do…The text states that the land southward was opened up during the days of King Lib.”
Response: O.K., let’s see what we do know:
1. There was a drought in the land, and no rain (Ether 9:30);
2. Poisonous serpents appeared, killed people and chased animals toward the Land Southward (Ether 9:31);
3. Animals died on the way, but others made it into the Land Southward (Ether 9:32);
4. Serpents stopped at the entrance to the Land Southward and kept any people from passing into the Land Southward (Ether 9:33);
5. People followed the course of the animals and ate the carcases to keep from starving (Ether 9:34);
6. People repented and the drought ended and their was fruit in the north countries (Ether 9:35);
7) Several years later the poisonous serpents were destroyed, and by this time, the Land Southward was covered with animals of the forest, and hunters went into the Land Southward to hunt for food (Ether 10:19);
8) They built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land (Ether 10:20);
9) They preserved the land southward as an animal preserve for their hunting, in which time the whole face of the land northward was covered with people” (Ether 10:21).
10) Between this time and the final battles during the days of Coriantumr and the prophet Ether (Chapter 12 and half of Chapter 13 are Moroni’s insertion), there is no mention of anyone going into the Land Southward for anything other than hunting.
   Consequently, it cannot be said that “The text states that the land southward was opened up during the days of King Lib” as Clark does, since it suggests that the Jaredites moved into the Land Southward. They did not! Hunters went into the Land Southward to hunt for game and to feed the people—that is quite different than “opening up the land.” And while it is true that we know nothing more than what was written, we need to be careful not to add ideas that are not even suggested, even though it would support the Mesoamerican model of the Olmecs moving into their Land Southward to La Venta, etc.
   23. This is a follow up statement to #22 above: “It is worth pointing out that the explosion of Olmec influence east of Tehuantepec (Sorenson's land southward) occurred after 900 BC, with only spotty influence before. I think the text can be read as indicating that the south lands opened up at this time, with colonization being part of the package. Sorenson dates King Lib to about 1500 BC, so Olmec/Jaredite occupation south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec after this time is not a problem for his model.” 
   Response: And thus is the thinking of Mesoamerican Theorists. The text says the Jaredites “did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants” (Ether 10:21), and not a single comment afterward or any kind of suggestion to allow for the Jaredite colonization of the Land Southward, yet Clark (and Sorenson before him) feel this “is not a problem” for the Mesoamericna model, especially since the Olmec moved into the Land Southward after 900 B.C. Never ones to recognize their model simply does not agree with the scriptural record, they go overboard to cloud the issue by making sweeping statements that have no support anywhere in the scriptural record.
   To show the extent to which Clark is wiling to go, let’s look at his previous statement in which he admits the problems with the narrow neck location and the Olmec intrusion east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
   24. “I have long considered this a possible weakness of the Sorenson model. Many "ifs" are in play with this criterion, however, and it involves a reversal of previous logic that relies on locating the narrow neck to identify correctly the lands northward and southward. Reversing the logic requires one first to identify the land northward and then use this knowledge to home in on the narrow neck. As many Latter-day Saint authors have argued, the Olmecs are the best candidates for Jaredites. If one assumes that the Olmecs were Jaredites…and if one further assumes that the Jaredites stayed in the land northward and only ventured into the land southward for hunting trips, as the text implies, then the land southward would have to be south of known Olmec occupations. Because Olmecs lived on both sides of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, all the way to El Salvador, it follows that Tehuantepec cannot be the narrow neck of land.”

Sorenson’s Mesoamerican Model with the yellow arrow pointing to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (his narrow neck of land) and the orange arrow pointing toward El Salvador—everything in between would be Olmec (Jaredite) settlements in their Land Southward, which is not consistent with the scriptural record
   Clark: “I consider this a serious criticism [of Sorenson’s model] that needs to be addressed, but it rides on many "ifs." When real-world expectations do not accord with textual expectations, we can derive one of several conclusions: first, that we have focused on the wrong region or, second, that we may be interpreting the text incorrectly. I expect to see some movement on [this] criticism in the future.”
   Response: Again, never willing to give in to the obvious when it challenges the Mesoamerican model, Clark hedges his bets by saying (hoping?) that this can somehow be answered in the future, obviously to show it agrees with the Mesoamerican model. On the other hand, why not call a spade a spade? This idea of the Olmecs being Jaredites simply shows that the Mesoamerican model cannot possibly be the Land of Promise. It is not a matter of interpreting the scriptural record incorrectly, or even focusing on the wrong region—but claiming that Mesoamerica is the Land of Promise when it does not meet the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon!  Personally, I agree with Clark’s final statement in this passage: “it follows that Tehuantepec cannot be the narrow neck of land.”

(See the next post, “The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part XV—Mesoaermicanists’ Achilles Heel,” for more on this difficult area for the Mesoamerican Theorist model to reconcile with the scripture)

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