Friday, December 13, 2013

Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part IV

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,with his comments and our responses:    
    Comment: “If we follow John Sorenson's model, it might have been only a day and a half's journey from Hagoth's location on the west sea to link up (through the small neck of land) with those people presumably taking the east sea route.”
Response: If there was a location on the Sea East where shipyards had been built, then they would be about a day and a half journey across the narrow neck. However, we cannot assume there was a shipyard on the Sea East, though there may have been some docks for shipping to put in there, for the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), with seas on the north and south, and seas on the east and west (Helaman 3:8). Thus, from this one shipyard of Hagoth’s, along the west coast, ships could have sailed all four seas without difficulty. Unless, of course, you adhere to the Mesoamerican model, then you would need a shipyard on the Sea East where none is stated or inferred.
    Comment: “So then why is the shipping location on the west coast? One possible answer is that overland travel along the west coast might have been very difficult or impossible, and thus this effort at shipping was highlighted. Another reason could have been that an abundant supply of ship-building materials were located on the west coast. Perhaps a more thoughtful answer to the question, however, lies in the idea that shipping was going on at many points along all coasts (see Alma 63:10; Helaman 3:10).”
    Response: Another possible answer, and the one far more realistic, is that along the West Sea coast there was an area conducive to shipbuilding, like a bay, inlet, lagoon, etc., and there was nothing like that along the Sea East coast. As for more building materials, which would predominantly be wood from trees, since it is only a day and a half journey across this land at this point, it is unlikely that trees would be growing on one side but not on the other since, again, it is an island (2 Nephi 10:20). It would not be likely that shipbuilding sites would be scattered along all coasts. Shipbuilding, especially in this era and among a small nation of people, would likely be centered in one area; however, that does not mean that there weren’t ports all along the coasts, since trade would have been a major industry, and one mentioned in the list of things the Nephites did (Helaman 3:14). Obviously, the easiest way to get supplies from one side of the island to the other would be through shipping.
    Comment: “This location connected with Hagoth might have been inserted into the record because of some other reason besides identifying the location of the only shipping port of the Nephites.”
Response: Obviously. And the reason is stated—5,400 men, plus wives and children, sailed northward in Hagoth’s ships. A significant number, and the only time any migration of people is numbered. Another case for their destination to be different than just into the Land Northward, which is mentioned both in Alma 63:9 and Helaman 3:3)
    Comment: “The phrase ‘by the narrow neck which led into the land northward’ gives us a very different connotation to the term ‘narrow neck’ than what was given in Alma 22:32. In Alma 22:32 the ‘small neck of land was just ‘between the land northward and the land southward’ which might be interpreted as an ‘isthmus or ‘dividing line.’ Here in Alma 63:5, one might get the feeling that the narrow neck may have constituted a travel route (maybe a major travel route), from the land southward to the land northward. If so, then the Nephite defense of the west coast (by Helaman and Antipus) seems reasonable.”
Response: First of all, let us understand what is being discussed here regarding this area that gave egress from one land (Land Southward) to the other land (Land Northward). Mormon calls it a “small neck of land,” and it was “from the east to the west sea,” and that it was the one land area that kept the Land Southward from being completely “surrounded by water” (Alma 22:32). In Ether we see it called a “narrow neck of land” (Ether 10:20) and that on one side, there was an inlet or bay that was significantly large enough and cut into the land mass sufficiently for it to be called “the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). Within this narrow neck of land was a “narrow pass” which led between “the sea on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34), and so stated that this “narrow pass led into the land northward” from “the Land of Bountiful” (Alma 52:9). In fact, not only is the narrow pass so described, but also the narrow neck “which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5). 
    Mormon also calls this pass a “narrow passage” and not only is it described as leading into the land northward, but also into the land southward (Mormon 2:29), and he also tells us that this “narrow pass” also led into “the land southward” (Mormon 3:5). This narrow neck is also the same area where Hagoth built his shipyard, and makes it clear that this area was between the land Bountiful and the Land Desolation, and that the narrow neck was between the Land Southward and the land Northward (Alma 63:5). Understanding this, we can see where the comment above is meaningless, since there is only one way to interpret what Mormon wrote in these several passages. After all, he lived there, walked the land, and knew the narrow neck quite well since he fought several battles there (Mormon 3:4-6), as well as it being the dividing line in the treaty between the Lamanite and Nephite lands (Mormon 2:28).
    Comment: “According to John Clark, the line from Hagoth to Bountiful would approximate the direction of the narrow neck and be running in an west--east orientation. However, if this narrow neck "led into the land northward," would it not run in a south--north direction"?
Response: Yes, of course. Its width was from east to west and was a day and a half journey across it, but the length of the neck of land is never mentioned, though it would not have been too long, maybe a handful of miles, if that, since it was an area where a defensive position could be set up to pin down an attascking military force.
    Comment: “We can make some sense of this situation by turning to a Mesoamerican setting.”
    Response: Since Mesoamerica does not meet the criteria of the Book of Mormon and Mormon’s many descriptions in any way, unless one changes the meaning of Mormon’s words as Sorenson has done throughout his books, then turning to Mesoamerica would have no bearing on any of this.
    Comment: Perhaps Hagoth was a leader or governor over that part of the Nephite lands from which the sailing party and Corianton departed.”
    Response: It is interesting that people want to send Hagoth to sea—Sorenseon claims he was shipwrecked along the West coast of Mexico; here we see him elevated to a governor or leader of the people. Yet, the scriptural record is both clear and simple. Hagoth was a builder of ships. He obviously had a shipyard, and was busy building ships that were “exceedingly large,” that sailed the oceans of the Land of Promise. He is called a “curious man,” meaning he was an excellent craftsman who evidently loved his work and built very fine ships. From the scriptural record, he was nothing else, nor does it say he sailed in any of his ships.
(See the next post, "Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica--Part V," for more on the article and our responses.

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