Thursday, December 12, 2013

Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part III

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: ”Even within the land southward over much shorter distances communication was often tenuous. (Note the ineffective, slow messages even among the top leaders in Alma 59; compare Mosiah 7:1).”
    Response: First of all, again the author tries to limit the distances in the Land of Promise and in so doing, makes claims about the slowness of messages or communication, which he mis-interprets. Nowhere in the scriptural record does it suggest that communication was “often tenuous,” or “slow,” or “difficult.” In fact, the concept of message delivery time is not mentioned in any way. Second, In Alma 59, there is no mention of delays or problems.
There are only 13 verses, which begin with Moroni receiving Helaman’s epistle, which he immediately let the people around his area of the account in Helaman’s report. He then immediately sent an epistle to Pahoran, who was the chief judge over the Nephite government requesting reserves be sent to Helaman to augment his small and depleted forces. However, Pahoran does not answer and does not send replacements and Moroni becomes “angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country” (Alma 59:13).
Moronin then writes a second letter to Pahoran (Alma 60:1) inquiring about the neglect of the government toward the needs of the Army for replacements and supplies and Pahoran’s ignoring his earlier letter. Interestingly, Pahroan’s answer suggests that communication was quite swift, for an answer was received “soon after Moroni had sent his epistle unto the chief governor” (Alma 61:1), in which he explains the Nephite rebellion in Zarahemla and that a king (Pachus) had been appointed over the people, and offered to give the Lamanites the rest of the kingdom except that he would retain Zarahemla.
When Moroni received this letter from Pahoran, he rent his cloak and wrote upon it about “liberty” and called for Nephites to join him, which they did. He then marched to Zarahemla, defeated Pachus and his men, and restored Pahoran to the judgment seat (Alma 62:8). In all of this, there is no indication that any delays occurred. In fact, after reinstating Pahoran, Moroni raised six thousand replacements and much supplies and sent it to Helaman and Teancum—all of this within the year. Hardly could it be said that the communication was delayed, slow, or anything else. The fact that Pahoran did not reply speedily to Moroni’s first letter is shown to be the result of his no longer leading the government and no doubt not certain how to answer Moroni’s espistle.
    As for Mosiah 7:1, it says: “And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla; therefore, they wearied him with their teasings.” The problem, lest we forget, is that the people in the Land of Lehi-Nephi thought Zarahemla had been destroyed and all the people killed because of viewing the Jaredite ruins and bodies strewn across the land and thinking they were in Zarahemla (Mosiah 8:8). The reason Mosiah and his people had not heard from those who went to reclaim the City of Nephi was that: 1) No one knew exactly where Zarahemla was located, and 2) No one knew that they continued to exist, thinking they had been destroyed.
One can also doubt that the evil King Noah wanted contact with Zarahemla, and even the leader of the initial group, Zeniff, who fell under Lamanite control, might not want those in Zarahemla to know of his failure in establishing a free colony in the Lamanite lands. Whatever the reason, there is no indication that anyone in Zeniff or Noah’s group wanted to contact Zarahemla, and by the time of Limhi, no one knew where they were located. One can hardly use any of these examples of a slowness or problem with Nephite communication over distances.
    Comment:Settlements of the first century B.C. have been found scattered along the coast of the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca [Mexico], a few hundred miles north of the isthmus.”
    Response: The trouble with this is simply that both Alma and Mormon tell us that Hagoth’s ships “took their course northward” (Alma 63:6). Now, leaving the area of Sorenson’s Mesoamerican narrow neck, one would have to sail for 120 miles in a southwest direction, before turning West by Northwest, which is a westerly direction, for about 220 miles to reach the State of Guerrero coast—which is 310 miles in a westerly direction, a direction that continues for another 400 miles before a ship could turn to a northwest heading. This is a total of 930 miles in a westerly direction from Hagoth’s launch site. So once again, Sorenson claims something opposite of the scriptural record!
Using Mesoamerica’s narrow neck of land for Hagoth’s ship launching, a vessel would have to travel about 1000 miles before it could turn to a northward heading which is not what the scriptural record tells us. In addition, Mesoamericanists claim that Hagoth’s ship went less than 200 miles, which means it went westward, not northward
Comment: “It is reasonable that some Nephite colonization and subsequent trade (see Helaman 3:10) was directed there, particularly since good timber is rare on that hot, dry strip.”
    Response: Mormon’s description of the Land of Desolation, which is where the timber was shipped for it was only needed where there were no trees (Helaman 3:5), is clear that it was not a hot strip of land, but an area of good settlement except for having no trees: “And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber” and that it was called Desolation “because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land” (Helaman 3:6)
    Comment: “The colonists conceivably could have gone a considerable distance north, even to the state of Nayarit over 600 miles away, but if that was the case, they probably lost contact with their homeland.”
Response: As the map above shows, even six hundred miles along the coast would not change the fact that though Mormon tells us they took their course northward, that in Mesoamerica, this 600 mile trip would be heading overall almost due west.
    Comment: “Hagoth launched his boat "into the west sea." Depending on how we interpret Alma 22:32, Hagoth's launching site was probably within the distance of a day and a half's journey from the coast [See the commentary on Alma 22:32].”
    Response: There is no indication that Hagoth’s shipyard was a day and a half journey from the coast. In fact, he launched his ship into the West Sea by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5). The reference in Alma 22:32 tells us that the width of the narrow neck of land was a day and a half journey for a Nephite. Hagoth’s location is only mentioned in Alma 63. There is only one way to interpret these passages, unless you are Mesoamericanist, who seem very willing to interpret the scriptural record any way that pleases him (see the book Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican & Other Theorists). It should also be noted that no shipwright in his right mind would build a shipyard a day and a half journey from its launch site. The idea is ridiculous—shipyards are along the coast, or a very large river that empties into the coast, and the scriptural record makes no mention of any river near or around the narrow neck of land.
    Comment: “In the preceding writings of Alma, most of the activity in Bountiful seems to have been located by the east sea, so we might wonder why this shipbuilding was happening on the west coast? After all, 5400 men plus women and children had supposedly found no trouble in making the trek by foot and apparently by way of the east coast if a Mesoamerican setting is assumed.”
    Response: Maybe this is one of the reasons we should not assume a Mesoamerican setting, since we have no idea in what direction the Nephites traveled to reach Hagoth’s shipyard. That they came from the Land Southward is stated (Land of Zarahemla), but that was a large land, that stretched from sea to sea. No matter what took place along the East Sea, Hagoth’s shipyard was along the West Sea, probably because he had a significant inlet, bay, lagoon, etc., there “where the sea divided the land” in which he could launch his ships in calm water before sailing out into the sea (ocean).
(See the next post, “Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part IV,” for more on this article sent in to us)

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