Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More Comments from Readers – Part X

We seem to be receiving a lot more questions and comments lately and we will endeavor to answer them all; however, it might take a while because of our backlog of articles we are also posting.    
    Comment #1: “When you look at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, to one side goes north into Mexico and the U.S., and on the other side, it goes south into Central America and South America. Surely the Nephites would have known this, so where do you get east and west?” Malcolm J.
Response: According to General J.G. Barnard (left), U.S. Corps of Engineers, “The Isthmus of Tehuantepec” (results of a survey for a railroad to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans made by the Scientific Commission, NY, D. Appleton & Co., 1852…Tehuantepec Railroad Company of New Orleans), “The coast-lines on either side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec have a general direction nearly east and west.” These coastlines run, nearly east and west, for approximately 200 miles on both coastlines. So if you disagree, go argue it out with the Railroad who surveyed it. As for the Nephites, without aerial photography and satellite imagery, they would not have such an understanding. Even early explorers who were experience at making maps, did not have the area correct for centuries.
    Comment #2: “Were the Nephite prophets and leaders dictators as Sorenson claims? In his writing, he certainly makes it appear so” Melissa N.
    Response: To my recollection, Sorenson never uses the word dictator in labeling the Nephite leadership. However, he certainly stomps around the subject in his writing about the Nephites in the Land of Promise. He also never uses the word prophet, instead using "scribe," in discussing the writings of the scriptural record. He also claims they were very isolated in their thinking and writing, paying no attention and giving no comment to the many other people who he claims lived in the Land of Promise. However, these men were prophets of God, not scribes or writers, but those who carried out the Lord’s will in the matter of recording what they saw and understood, or were instructed or constrained to write.
    Comment #3: “In Mesoamerica, the earliest known ceremonial center which has been credited to the Olmecs is San Lorenzo, dating to 1350 B.C. This is certainly within the time frame of the Jaredites” Healey A.
    Response: Note that the word “earliest” is herein used. That is, the first center or complex that the Jaredites are claimed to have built (San Lorenzo) was begun some 700 years after their arrival in the Land of Promise. Within the first century, the Jaredites elected a king, Jared’s son, Orihah (Ether 6:27). By this time we are looking at twenty-four families who had many children, as little as 12 and 22 (Ether 6:20), and as many as 31 (Ether 7:2), with many Jaredites living to an “exceeding old age.” Therefore, it might be concluded by the end of the first century, there were several hundred people, and within the second generation, two major cities were developed (Ether 7:4). The idea that the first structure of San Lorenzo was built 700 years later is extremely questionable. Consequently, the Olmec on that basis alone would hardly have been the Jaredites.
    Comment #4: “I ran across this statement and wondered what you thought of it: “In the 1850s the following unsigned statement was circulated among Latter-day Saints: ‘The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship, they traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of North Latitude, then, nearly east to the Sea of Arabia then sailed in a southeast direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chili [Chile] thirty degrees south latitude.’ The original is in the handwriting of early church leader Frederick G. Williams, who held a definite opinion on the subject of Book of Mormon geography. The statement was partially rewritten by church authorities Richards and Little and published as a “Revelation to Joseph the Seer” - a statement which the original did not contain.  The Chilean landing site, promoted in the William’s document, matches Orson Pratt’s geography. Prominent LDS would later call into question the statement’s authority; but before this would happen, church leaders publicly attributed (without verification or proof) features of Orson Pratt’s geography to the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith. The ideas that Lehi landed on the coast of temperate Chile thousand of miles south of Panama’s narrow neck, and that tropical Colombia’s thousand mile long Magdalena River is the River Sidon, were presented by church scholars as mainstream, majority views in the LDS community” Judson T.
Lehi sailed across the Southern Ocean on the West Wind Drift and driven by the Prevailing Westerlies from Arabia, caught the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current and landed where the winds and currents die down at the 30º south latitude in Chile
    Response: The article you quote appears on the Wikipedia website under Proposed Book of Mormon geographical setting. Wikipedia has a lot of interesting stuff and is a good source of information most of the time; however, anyone can place an article on these sites and sometimes people put something on them that is not correct, well-founded, or supportable. Most of the geographical info for the Book of Mormon placed on Wikipedia is done so by Mesoamericanists, and often is strictly from their viewpoint. In this case, there are a couple of inaccurate statements: 1) The statement written on a paper by Williams also contained three other statements, all of which were revelations; consequently, some people at the time thought it, too, was a revelation; however, this was what was “called into question the statement’s authority,” that is, was it a revelation and the consensus was it was not; however, it is not important whether it was a revelation or not, what matters is that Williams wrote this down on the same paper he used for information from Joseph Smith, and likely this was yet another of the Presidency’s discussion (see a previous series of articles on this blog); 2) Orson Pratt was not in the Presidency at this time, but Williams was, and whatever Pratt’s beliefs were, they were not involved in this writing since it was obviously part of a Presidency meeting or discussion among the Presidency; 3) The writing and subsequent discussion attributed to Williams did not contain anything about the river Sidon, nor Colombia, nor even Ecuador or Peru. It only mentioned a landing site along the 30º South Latitude in Chile. Personally, though I have studied extensively, I have never heard that anyone was suggesting the Magdalena River as the River Sidon, nor that this was ever presented by Church scholars. I knew Art Kocherhans (one of the three mentioned in this Wikipedia article regarding South America), but do not recall him ever talking about the Magdelana River—his view, as far as I recall, had to do with the Urubamba River (Rio Urubamba) being the River Sidon.
    Comment #5: “You keep harping on the Jaredites never being in the Land Southward. Well, the Olmec settlements were along the Gulf coast of Mexico in the area of Veracruz, which is north of Sorenson’s narrow neck of land, so get off your high horse on this issue” Alton W.
    Response: According to the famous Mexican archaeologist Ignacio Bernal, in his The Olmec World, University California Press, 1969, “The climatic station of Villahermosa is typical of the Gulf coastal plain of eastern Mexico, the region Bernal has termed the "Olmec metropolitan area,” and Nigel Davies, the eminent British writer and archeologist maintains that the Olmec eventually were found all over Mesoamerica, saying “they were present in almost every region.”
Map showing the location of Villahermosa to the east of the narrow neck (Mesoamericanists’ Land Southward). In additional, several other Olmec locations were found to the east of their narrow neck of land where the Jaredites never ventured
    It is also now understood that while some believe the Olmecs originated in the Vera Cruz area and moved southward across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to have had any appreciable influence on the cultural evolution of the Soconusco region. However, such a postulated movement, especially at the time of the Cherla period, is totally unsupported by any archaeological evidence. On the other hand, there are numerous indicators that a vigorous movement in the opposite direction -- toward the north -- was going on at precisely this time, in which case the so-called Olmec influence must have been a native-born development emanating from Soconusco itself.
    Also east of the narrow neck was La Venta, which renowned archaeologist Matthew Stirling, along with the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution claimed was Olmec. And, in fact, to distinguish the earliest and original parent group of all Mesoamerican cultures, Jimenez Moreno, in 1942, proposed that this early and original Olmec culture should be called the La Venta people (La Venta Olmec).
Left: Matthew and Marion Stirling in Vera Cruz in 1939. Stirling was the Chief of the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology, and led the eight Smithsonian Institution-National Geographic Society Archaeological Expeditions from 1939 to 1946; Right: Stirling beside one of the giant Olmec carved heads

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