Thursday, November 21, 2013

Comments Received from Readers – Part V

Continuing with comments and questions received from readers of the blog.    
    Comment #1: “I’m sending this map along of a Mesoamerican example of the Land of Promise, showing the land of Nephi on the south, and the land of Zarahemla on the north. Looks like it matches Mormon’s description to me” Clayton W.
Response: All right. So where is the Land of Bountiful north of Zarahemla, and where is the narrow neck of land north of that, and where is the Land of Desolation north of that, and the Land of Many Waters north of that, with the Land of Cumorah and the Hill of Cumorah? (see Alma 22:27-34 as references) We are not dealing with a partial map, which this one is since the other areas are located in different areas, but a complete map showing  all of Mormon’s descriptions included in a single map.
    Comment #2: In attempting to determine the width of the narrow neck of land based on the day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, Sorenson commits error one because the day and a half’s journey applies to the length of one of the Nephites’ defensive lines in the first century BC rather than to the distance across the narrow neck of land. The Book of Mormon contains nothing whatsoever about the width across the narrow neck of land. However, readers can be assured that the distance is about 150 miles because the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is unquestionably the narrow neck of land of the Book of Mormon” Garet A.
    Response: You have made three glaring errors: 1) The narrow neck of land is referenced with its distance of a day and a half (Alma 22:32), which is not the same as 2) the defensive line of a day’s journey (Helaman 4:7), and 3) The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is 144 miles across and Mesoamerica is not the Land of Promise. Sorenson made numerous errors in his writing, but the travel time across the narrow neck of land was not one of them, though it could never be achieved across his narrow neck of land of 144 miles.
    Comment #3: “Contrary to your depiction of a wilderness being an uninhabited area and could range from mountains to desert to forest to plains, etc., the Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon translates the word as desierto, a desert, rather than silvestre which means wild or unpopulated” Gerri P.
The Rub’ al Khali, the Empty Quarter, in southern Arabian Peninsula. When Lehi turned nearly east, they crossed this desert, which they called a wilderness (1 Npehi 17:1)
    Response: The use of the word desierto, meaning "desert", also means deserted, or void, or a wasteland, or dead, empty, and can mean “a wild, uninhabited and uncultivated tract,” or deserted or void or uninhabited, such as in “a desolate or forbidding area.” As an example, clamar en el desierto is translated as “to preach in the wilderness” travesia del desierto, means a “period in the wilderness,” un desierto de ruinas means “a wildnerness of ruins,” está predicando en el desierto, means “he is a voice (crying) in the wilderness,” and, as befitting here, predicar en el desierto, means to “flog a dead horse.” On the other hand, the word Silvestre is more often translated as wild, but also uncultivated, rustic, rural, savage. In Latin, the word silva means wood, and is typically used as the name Sylvester (Spanish: Silvestre), which means “woody or wooded.” Therefor, in Spanish, silvestre could mean “wooded,” but it is far more often translated as “wild,” which would not be the correct translation for wilderness as is disierto.
    Comment #4: “I agree with James Warr’s book, A New Model for Book of Mormon Geography, wherein he states that the narrow neck of land is necessarily linked to the identification of the east and west seas of the Book of Mormon account. Obviously, it seems, if we could pinpoint its location correctly, the sites for other features and cities would eventually follow. So, since you have determined the narrow neck of land in your model, where are the other cities?” Orson G.

    Response:  You are in good company with Mesoamericanists since John E. Clark also agrees with you. However, the idea of finding where cities were through matching the scriptural record, two very distinct problems arise: 1) Starting out with the right location for Land of Promise, and 2) Finding clues that can pinpoint a specific city. The problem with the latter, is that there are so few clues about any city that would make it possible to locate it more than in general terms. As an example, we know that the city of Zarahemla was located in the general area north of the narrow strip of wilderness and to the west of the River Sidon, and south of the wilderness of Hermounts. However, we don’t know where the River Sidon was located. Creating a model and saying that it has a south to north flowing river is not sufficient since many areas could be made to agree with that simple clue—there is a south to north flowing river in Andean South America, in Mesoamerica, and in the Great Lakes area. We know that the Sidon River flowed to the Sea, but we do not know into which sea if flowed, nor do we know how far it was from the city of Zarahemla, or how long it ran, or if it ran straight after passing the city of Zarahemla, etc., etc., etc. We only know it’s headwaters was in the South Wilderness, that narrow strip of wilderness mentioned in Alma 22:27.
An aerial view of Sacsayhuaman overlooking Cuzco in Peru. The round circle in the center is the tower base, and to the left is the temple foundations. The stones were carried off by the Spanish to build their own cathedrals, houses, etc.
    The City of Nephi is identified as having a temple and near it a tower (Mosiah 11:12; 19:5), high enough for Noah to climb upon and see as far as the land of Shemlon (Mosiah 19:6; 20:8), and the land of Shilom and round about (Mosiah 11:12). Now this tower and temple are combined landmarks where both might be found, providing the city complex was in the Land Southward and was “the chief city” in the land of Nephi (Alma 47:20). A tower base has been located next to a temple in a major city complex in Cuzco, Peru. In fact, the tower and temple were still standing when the Spanish conquistadors arrived, with the tower playing an important role in the eventual surrender of the Inca. The base of this tower and temple can still be seen today (see above image).
    In addition, we know that many Nephite cities were fortified with stone walls all around (Alma 48:8), and Moroni cast up earth around his armies. While there are none of these building complexes (other than dirt mounds) in North America, there are numerous such city complexes in South America, and at least one in Mesoamerica.
Left: The moat around Becan in the Yucatan of Mexico; Right: The stone wall around Kulap in Peru
    However, take the city of Moroni. We only know it was along the southern East Sea. There is not one clue mentioned in connection to the city or land, and the same could be said about nearly every other city in the scriptural record. Certainly we can determine in which direction many lay from another location, but even so, we still have no specific setting to determine where any city was to begin the direction. While Mesoamerican Theorists love to tell us where most of these cities, lands, rivers, and waters were located, they are simply looking at their Mesoamerican map and labeling certain ruins with Book of Mormon names. Again, that is neither scholarship nor honest.

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