Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding one of our readers sending in an article from the larger work of Alan C. Miner’s Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon, along with a few questions, but the article itself is full of erroneous comments, so we decided to make some full posts out of it and our responses:    
    Comment: They had already got into the pattern of wholesale resettlement under wartime conditions.”
    Response: We have no knowledge of this from the scriptural record of resettlement under wartime conditions. We do, however, know of at least two resettlements from the record:
    1) After Moroni drove the Lamanites out of the east wilderness and into their own lands (Alma 50:7), “he caused that the inhabitants who were in the land of Zarahemla and in the land round about should go forth into the east wilderness, even to the borders by the seashore, and possess the land” (Alma 50:9).
The narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Zarahemla from the Land of Nephi and ran from the West Sea to the East Sea, also ran “round about” (curved upward) on the borders of the seashore (Alma 22:27). From this east wilderness that curved upward on the east seashore, Moroni drove the Lamanites that encamped there out of the wilderness and back into their own lands, which was the Land of Nephi (Alma 50:9)
    2) The Ammonites (converted Lamanites) were granted the land of Jershon in which to move their people (Alma 27:22).
    Neither of these cases suggest wholesale resettlement, or even forced resettlement. The Ammonites were without a place to live and were overjoyed to occupy the land of Jershon (Alma 27:26), and in the case of Moroni, the land was now unoccupied that the Lamanites had once held, and the people moved into it and built many cities, including the city of Moroni.
Comment: “But it is most unlikely that mere individuals would have gone off to northern colonies. Only "corporate," organized units would have the resources to undertake such an ambitious task. The groups likely would have to be strong in a military sense to take control of any areas of much value for it is a general ecological rule that all the better settlement areas would long since have been occupied.”
    Response: First of all, in regard to the ships that took so many people to “a land which was northward,” Hagoth, a shipwright, built many ships (Alma 63:5, 7), evidently in a shipyard near the narrow neck of land along the West Sea (Alma 63:5). Whether this was a “corporate” effort, his own doing, or sponsored by the Nephite government, is not known. However, history is full of entrepreneurs who built businesses, enterprises, and their fortunes through individual effort. Obviously, Hagoth had other craftsmen working for him to build these “exceedingly large ships” (Alma 63:5). We also do not know what resources this endeavor might have taken. Hagoth might have been a wealthy man, he might have been involved in shipping before building these ships, Helaman not much after this time, speaks of the Nephites involved in shipping and building of ships (Helaman 3:14), and certainly the Nephites would have been involved in fishing as a business since they were surrounded by seas. As for Hagoth, he might have been involved in this shipping, even building the ships that sent timber and cement into the Land Northward (Helaman 3:10-11). As for military requirements, it would seem that every Nephite had weapons of his own and was capable of defending himself, but Sorenson’s comment here is based upon his belief that there were other people in the Land than descendants of Lehi and Mulekites, and that the Nephites going north would have to fight for the land they were carving out for themselves, which is pointed out by his comment: “it is a general ecological rule that all the better settlement areas would long since have been occupied.”
However, Lehi was promised this land, the land Northward was part of that land promised, and as Mormon writes: “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, emphasis mine). There is absolutely no indication anywhere in the scriptural record that would suggest that others occupied any of this Land Northward, in fact, a little later, Mormon tells us that the Nephites: “did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8).
    It should also be kept in mind that it was not “corporate” effort or leadership that colonized the American frontier, but individuals who moved west in the early 18th Century, beginning with people like William Russell, Squire and Daniel Boone, John Finley, Simon Kenton and numerous other frontiersman and settlers. Most of these came in groups, but were individually motivated to move west and not under any “corporate” affiliation or effort. Even when government was involved, all they did was to open up a territory for settlement, like Oklahoma, and on April 22, 1889, the people did the rest.
(Left) Boomers lined up at the starting line to receive their official government certificates allowing them to legally participate in the run to claim free land in Oklahoma; (Right) The Sooners, of course, didn't bother with such formalities
    Comment: “Lineage units are likely to have been the ones to carry off a successful move. As a result, the Nephite colonies may have been quite concentrated geographically (but note Helaman 3:8).“
    Response: Yes, please note Helaman 3:8 lwhich says just the opposite. In fact, in light of Helaman’s remark, why would anyone even suggest something to the opposite? Yet here it is. Lineage unites were likely concentrated. Actually, lineage units are never mentioned in regard to territorial occupancy in the scriptural record. That such units existed is obvious from several comments, but never in the sense that an area was occupied by such a group. Nephites often identified themselves, such as in the case of Amulek living in the city of Ammonihah (Alma 8:20). And though Sorenson suggests Helaman 3:8, he obviously gives it little credence in his line of lineage unit thinking; however, Mormon tells us that the Nephites filled up the Land Northward and the Land Southward, from sea to sea. Obviously, this rules out Sorenson’s comment about colonies being concentrated.
    Comment: All this business of seeking new lands and new power sounds very Mesoamerican.”
    Response: Actually, it sounds very American in the 17th and 19th centuries. Whenever in history that unoccupied land and people on the move existed, such colonization followed. This is not unique to Mesoamerica, anymore than it was unique to all of North and South America. But leave it to Mesoamericanists to try and make something out of this very common practice and try to isolate it to their model.
    Comment: “Those going overland (undoubtedly the majority would mainly have moved via the narrow pass into just the zones Morianton had had his eye on, the eastern lowlands in the land northward near the narrow neck…”
    Response: It is not singled out that Morianton eyed the eastern lowlands in the Land Northward. In fact, such an idea cannot be gleaned from the scriptural record. Yet, true to their colors, the Mesoamericanists make wild, unsupportable statements assuming no one will check up on them. What the record tells us is: “Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward” (Alma 50:29).
According to Mormon, the Land of Many Waters was far north in the area where the final battle took place. He stated: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4)
    And taking his comment a step further, the land area of “many waters” in the Land Northward was toward the far northern reaches of the land, so if we are going to claim Morianton had his eye on an area, it was this land far to the north, also referred to as, or near, the Land of Cumorah in the Land of Many Waters (Mormon 6:2,4).
    Comment: “Others took a sea route, settling along the west sea in the area in the land northward. By neither route would the migrants have traveled farther than necessary.”
    Response: First of all, when there is a choice, immigrants travel to where they find the land that is suited to their particular interests and desires—when going by sea, the distance is not typically a consideration. Lehi traveled some 10,000 miles to the Land of Promise. Second, Morianton was headed for the land “which was covered with large bodies of water” (Alma 50:29), which has been described as toward the northern extreme of the Land Northward, i.e., “an exceeding great distance.” The comment “further than necessary,” might apply to any journey, however, how far is necessary depends on the purpose and goal of any travel.
    Comment: “We have no reason to think that distances of more than a couple of hundred miles were involved (but see Helaman 3:4).”
    Response: Helaman 3:4 tells us “And they did travel to an exceedingly great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers,” which is contradictory to what Sorenson is claiming with this comment about short distances. It is always interesting that Sorenson makes an unsupportable statement, then merely includes a scripture as though every reader is going to stop at that point and look it up. This is a classical technique of someone who knows his statement is not supportable, yet feels the need to cover himself in case someone reading his statement knows more than his statement implies. It is both unscholarly and disingenuous, but Sorenson’s writing is full of such statements and subtle scriptural reference.
This area he is describing is the Land Northward, that though he claims is only a couple of hundred miles, millions of Jaredites lived—at least two million were killed (Ether 15:2) before the final gathering of all the Jaredites to the armies which took four years (Ether 15:13-14), and before the final wars of extermination occurred (Ether 15: 15). This “exceeding great distance” was south of the Land Northward terminus, described as being where Ripliancum was located, that body of water that exceeded all (Ether 15:8). Since death totals in war are usually kept per side, the two million dead may well have been just those in Coriantumr’s army, thus the numbers could have been about 4 million, plus all those who had yet to come to battle. Some have put this overall total of Jaredites at about10 million. Whatever the number, it certainly does not fit inside Sorenson’s couple of hundred miles.
(See the next post, “Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part III,” for more on this article sent in to us)

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