Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part I

One of our readers sent us a portion of a much larger article that turned out to be from Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon, by Alan C. Miner, published in 1996 in 7 volumes, which is a cultural commentary on the Book of Mormon. The website begins with this material being “a compilation of research information pertaining to Mesoamerica/Book of Mormon relationships [of] the scientific research covers such areas as geography, archaeology, linguistics, ancient history, geology, customs, traditions and many other cultural aspects [with] priceless gems of knowledge extracted and summarized from hundreds of research articles by scholars of Book of Mormon culture.” 
   Our reader asked a few questions about the part he sent in, however, the article itself is full of erroneous comments, we decided to cover it in a few full posts. Again, comments are from the article, and our responses follow:      
   Comment - “John Sorenson notes that about 60 B.C., 5,400 men, plus women and children, ‘departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward’ (Alma 63:4). In the next year many more departed.”
Only twice in the entire scriptural record is it mentioned that people emigrated by ship. Once when Nephi built his ship and the Lehi Colony sailed to the Land of Promise, and once when Hagoth built ships and large numbers of Nephites sailed to a “land which was northward.” All other emigrations into the Land Northward are suggested to be overland, through the narrow neck of land 
    Response: The two movements Sorenson mentioned were two entirely different emigrations: 1) “the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward” (Alma 63:4-emphasis mine), and 2) the following year when “many people went into the land northward” (Alma 63:9-emphasis mine). It should be noted that these terms are different and signify a different location as has been covered most thoroughly in these posts many times. It is one of only three times in the entire scriptural record that “land which was northward” is used, and the only time where Hagoth’s ships are mentioned sailing to such a land. It should be noted that the grammar of such a statement varies considerably from “into the land northward” and “to the land northward” which are terms most commonly used in the record and reefer to overland movement. In additiion, while Mesoamericanists like to think of anything mentioned north, northward, etc., as being the same, i.e., the Land Northward, there are three uses of north in the record, and all three relate to different locations:
    Land North
    Land Northward
    Land which was Northward
All three have separate meanings and relate to separate areas: the Land North being within the Land Southward (Alma 46:17); the Land Northward being beyond the narrow neck of land and separate from the Land Southward (Alma 22:32); and Land which was Northward, being a detached area of land to the north where emigrants went by ship with much provisions (Alma 63:6,-7), and were never heard from again (Alma 63:8). We have written about these three separate lands and their meanings numerous times in previous posts.
    Comment: “Perhaps others departed from Lamanite country at the same time.”
    Response: There is no “probably” about it. This migration into the Land Northward did indeed include Lamanites. Mormon tells us: “And it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping. And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement. And it came to pass that there were many of the people of Ammon, who were Lamanites by birth, did also go forth into this land” (Helaman 3:10-12).
    Comment: More than curiosity must have impelled such numbers. We have seen earlier that the area in the land of Zarahemla that could boast good crop conditions was limited. We have also seen the population increasing over time. When too many bodies occupy a resource area, temporary accommodation may take place with increase in stress (as in the conflict with the king-men), but eventually some of the surplus people are likely to relocate.”
Response: First of all, the Nephites had just ended a very lengthy war (Alma 62:39, 41), and based on past experience, many no doubt felt that more wars would be coming in the near future—in fact there was another war in 8 years (Alma 63:15), and two years after that Coriantumr took the city of Zarahemla with a large Lamanite army, and marched on Bountiful (Helaman 1:19). And since the war that had ended had been devastating, leaving many homes fatherless, sonless, motherless, etc. It would seem, that among these first 5,400 men leaving the Land of Zarahemla there would have been much thought about getting away from the constant threat of war where they could raise their families and live out their lives in comparative peace. These 5,400 men, plus their wives and children, possibly numbering around 20,000 total, wanted a life away from Lamanite threat and wen to another land, a “land which was northward.” As for how would they know there was another land, we are told that the Nephites were involved in the building of ships and in shipping (Helaman 3:14) and obviously would have been aware of any nearby land not connected to the island of the Land of Promise (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Regarding good crop land, Sorenson loves to tell us that the crop land in Mesoamerica was limited, which of course his Mesoamerican crop land was, but there is no indication in the scriptural record that good crop land was scarce in the Land of Promise. The three times crops are mentioned, the opposite is the case—their first crop planted upon landing “did grow exceedingly” and they “were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24). After Nephi separated from his brothers and settled in the area they called the land and city of Nephi, he states: “for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance” (2 Nephi 5:11). Later, when Zeniff planted corn, wheat and barley, plus two other grains (Mosiah 9:9) in the land of Nephi, their crops grew so well, that even 13 years (13 crops) later, the Lamanites came in to steal their corn and crops (Mosiah 9:14). There is never an indication that good crop growing land was scarce. Cropland is scarce in Mesoamerica, but not in the Land of Promise! Secondly, any increase in stress would have been from the constant wars, after an extended war of more than 20 years, and a history of such wars. Third, there are less people after an extended war than more. Consequently, occupying the resource area would not be a major problem. In addition, escaping or leaving an area precedes an invasion and war, not following it.
    Comment: “A reading of Alma 62:39-41 (note especially the "famines") suggests that crowding of the resource base had been one cause of the war just past, as much as it had been a result.”
    Response: Again, after an extended war, where thousands are killed, crowding of the space available for living would not have been a problem. If anything, there would be more openness available. After all, these wars were not the kind fought in modern times where land is obliterated and takes years to recover from a war, like from the trench warfare in World War I, or the dropping of bombs in World War II (seen below).
Comment: “In any case, the land northward lay before them with the prospect that it could accommodate some of the crowded southerners.”
    Response: The Land Northward was still an area near the Lamanite lands. Whereas, the Land which was Northward was separate and offered far more safety and security than merely going further northward. Because Mesoamericanists have a small area in which their model covers, they have a tendency to limit movement in the Land of Promise, however, the scriptural record does not suggest this, and common sense tells us that if Mormon is going to single out 5,400 men, plus wives and children, migrating somewhere, that land to which they headed would have to have been significant and different, for a little later in the scriptural record, Mormon merely states of another group: “in the which there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land” (Helaman 3:3), which was merely a land movement further away from the previous battles . Now there would be no reason to count people traveling by land, but those going by ship would be, if for no other reason than to make sure there was ship space for them in the several vessels it would  have taken to transport that many people.
(See the next post, “Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part II,” for more on this article sent in to us)

No comments:

Post a Comment