Saturday, December 14, 2013

Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part V

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 with our responses:    
    Comment: “According to Joseph Allen, the "narrow neck which led into the land northward" could be associated with the old Kings Highway that runs along the Pacific side of Guatemala and Mexico by the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The Kings Highway then goes directly north (Sorenson's "east") for about 125 miles to the Gulf Coast of Mexico on the Atlantic side.”
Left: 1933 Map of the Inter-American Highway (State Dept); and Right: A 1947 Rand McNally map showing the Pan American Highway from Mexico City through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The highway was constructed to generally follow the Old King's Highway covering this distance. As can be seen (red and yellow arrowss), the road followed the Pacific side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and did not cross over to the Gulf side as claimed
    Response: First of all, as the map shows, the Old King's Highway did not cross from coast to coast in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Secondly, this Isthmus of Tehuantepec is 120 air miles across, but 144 miles overland according to the Mexican government's published figures. This is hardly an area that could be called “narrow,” nor would it be possible for an average man, a Nephite, to cross that distance in a day and a half. Why Mesoamericanists insist on clinging to the Isthmus as the narrow neck is beyond any intelligent argument—it simply is not narrow, and it does not keep anyone from one side of the Isthmus to gain entry to the other side, along its 120/144-mile width. This type of insistence is insulting to Mormon and all his clearly stated descriptions. The fact that somewhere along its 120/144 mile width a path, road, or other means of movement does equate to the fact that this Isthmus is simply not narrow enough to match Mormon's descrtiption and cannot be claimed to be.
    Comment: “Subsequent travel northward in the state of Veracruz along the Gulf coast (in "the land northward") takes one either to a point of departure on a curving route to Mexico City or in a continuing journey along the coast northward towards the United States.”
    Response: Herein lies the dichotomy of Mesoamerican directions and thinking. If one leaves the narrow neck of land (Isthmus of Tehuantepec) and travels north, which is actually west, sooner or later the land (north of Mexico City) actually curves to the north, so what direction are they then traveling, east???? Come on, let’s get realistic here. If west is really north, then north can’t be north also. 
Mesoamerica, as shown on any map, runs east and west (dotted line), while above that Mexico runs north-south, and below Mesoamerica, Central America runs north-south. Or stated differently, go west far enough in Mesoamerica and the land begins to run to the north (yellow arrow); go far enough east in Mesoamerica, and the land runs to the south (red arrow)
    What happened to all this convoluted thinking and pages of explanation as to why the Nephites didn’t know the correct directions? When west curves to become north, you cannot have both directions be north—only one can be north, thus showing either the Mesoamericna model or the descriptions in the Book of Mormon, to be in error! And the same can be said for the land moving east from their narrow neck area that eventually curves beyond Honduras to become south—both directions cannot be south. Again, this shows the fallacy of all these ridiculous ideas about directions to make Mesoamerican appear as though it fits the scriptural record descriptions
    Comment: “Supposedly, the reference to the fact that ‘they were never heard of again’ (Alma 63:8) only refers to the ship or ships that were lost. In the following verse (Alma 63:9) we are told that "in this year there were many people who went forth into the land northward," so apparently there was a good consistent communication link between the people in the land northward and the land of Zarahemla.”
Map shows the course Hagoth's ships took "to a land which was northward," asnd these were not heard from again since they were no longer on the island Land of Promise. There was also a ship that took another course and was never heard from again, since they did not even know what course it took
    Response: The first ship returned and set out again with more emigrants (Alma 63:7). That ship, however, did not return, so evidently it stayed in the area of its landing location. Mormon states simply that “we suppose that they were drowned in the depths of the sea” (Alma 63:8), however, he did not know, and in what records he checked that kept the Nephite histories over the 400 years between then and when he wrote his record, Mormon evidently did not run across any comment one way or the other about the emigrants that went "to a land which was northward." Obviously, one might conclude that they were either drowned at sea, as Mormon did, or that they went to a disconnected land "which was northward," where they settled. In that case, Mormon's comment about never hearing from them again would be accurate assuming this ship simply did not return but stayed with the emigrants where they went. Thus, the fact that none of those were heard from again, should suggest that these people went to “a land which was northward,” and not connected to the main island of the Land of Promise.
The fact that another ship sailed and they did not know where it went (Alma 63:8), again suggests that some, or all, of these ships went places where the Nephites did not know of either their destination or the success or failure of their reaching a destination. And since they landed in lands not connected to the island Land of Promise of the Book of Mormon, they naturally would not have been heard from again. Thus, since Mormon wrote 400 years later, we can assume that no one, at any time, knew where these people went or landed. On the other hand, those who went overland into the Land Northward were known and when they sent back for timber, Corianton joined the ship that carried that timber and cement to those colonies (Alma 63:10). Stated differently, those who went into the Land Northward were known and heard from and had trade and intercourse with those in the Land Southward. However, those who sailed to lands unknown, including to the north and to another destination, were never heard from again over the next 400 years, and obviously did not have any intercourse with the either the Land Southward or the Land Northward.
    Comment: “For a moment here, we might consider what our modern culture has done to our perspective of viewing geographical information. Most all of our geographical maps tend to view things from above, or from an aerial view. It seems that when we read the phrase "narrow strip" we automatically switch to an aerial perspective of the Book of Mormon lands and define the word "narrow" in terms of distance across. Mormon never had an airplane and he never viewed anything from anywhere except ground level, even if that ground might have been at the tops of mountains. Thus he might have had a different perspective.”
    Response: First of all, Mormon does not tell us he saw  how narrow the neck was, only that it's width could be crossed in a day and a half by a Nephite (Alma 22:32). He knew this, not from sight, but from the fact that he and others had traversed this land and he knew the approximate distance in travel time. Secondly, the comment above is a perfect reason why the Isthmus of Tehuantepec could not possibly be the “narrow neck of land” to which Mormon refers. All one has to do is look at the aerial view of Mesoamerica, then picture the gentle curves of both sides of the isthmus, and then try to see them as they would be seen from ground level, and one would realize that no Nephite could have known this area was even an isthmus, let alone would call it “narrow.”
    Comment: “It is interesting to note that a "narrow strip" of wilderness is not mentioned until after the Nephites have moved to the land of Zarahemla.”
    Response: There is nothing unusual about this since the Nephites would not have known there was a narrow strip to the north until they traveled in that direction, and until they discovered the land of Zarahemla, there is nothing in the record to suggest they even knew this area existed. The fact that it is first mentioned among the Nephites was done not in Alma's time (Alma's writing), but an insertion into the Book of Alma by Mormon, writing about 500 years after this insertion (Alma 22:35).
    Comment: “It is also worthy of note that after mentioning the phrase ‘narrow strip’ here in Alma 22:27, Mormon apparently never uses it again.”
    Response: Mormon does mentioned it again. Only once the Nephites were in Zarahemla, this narrow strip became what Mormon calls the “south wilderness” (Alma 16:6-7). But it is in the same location, to the south of the land of Zarahemla, where the headwaters of the river Sidon are located, and  north of the Land of Nephi.
    Comment: “Taking a look at travels through this same area, we find that it took Ammon forty days of wandering in the wilderness to find his way from the land of Zarahemla to the land of Lehi-Nephi (see Mosiah 7:5). 
    Response:  Ammon and his brethren were lost, or at least uncertain where they would find the city of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 7:4). It had been about three generations since Zeniff left to re-settle that area. Ammon wandered around for forty days before they came to the hill (mountain) that looked down onto the high valley land where the city of Nephi had been built (Mosiah 7:5-6).

(See the next post, “Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part VI,” for more on this article and our responses)

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