Sunday, December 15, 2013

Troubles in Justifying Mesoamerica – Part VI

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: “It also took the sons of Mosiah "many days" of journeying just to reach the "borders of the Lamanites" from the land of Zarahemla (see Alma 17:9,13).”
Response: Evidently, Miner has not read the following passages after the one he quotes. “And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness, and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth, to the knowledge of the baseness of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct. And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted. And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls” (Alma 9:9-11). Or, stated differently, the sons of Mosiah wandered in the wilderness preparing themselves for their mission, fasting and praying much. Eventually, the Lord did bless them, and then told them to go among the Lamanites, which they did. It is ridiculous to try and make this event a distance factor as Miner does, for clearly the sons of Mosiah waited on the Lord for his blessings and direction. 
    Comment: We might ask ourselves then, what does "narrow strip" mean?”
    Response: It means “narrow” and none of these inaccurate, irresponsible and misleading arguments have done anything but reinforce the narrow strip of wilderness and its location and that its north-south alignment was “narrow.” How narrow? It is not known, however, the Lamanites came down through this wilderness to invade the Land of Zarahemla almost yearly through the last century B.C. It is also the wilderness that rises to some height to where the headwaters of the river Sidon were located (Alma 22:29), and its east-west alignment was from the East Sea to the West Sea (Alma 22:27), with some movement cross-wise around the headwaters of the Sidon (Alma 43:22)
    Comment: “If we assume a Mesoamerican setting.”
    Response: Once again, herein lies the overall problem, trying to fit Mesoamerica into the scriptural account when already there have been so many errors in this rationale, and also that Mesoamerica simply does not meet Mormon’s description without changing the intent of the scriptural record. This insistence upon a model that does not meet Mormon’s description in any way at all except for ruined buildings, with not another scriptural match is beyond conscience, it is simply fallacious and downright disingenuous.
    Comment: There is concrete evidence that sea travel along the Pacific coast of not only Mexico but all the way to Ecuador in South America was an ancient, though probably not a regular, practice.”
Response: There was such contact. However, it is interesting to note that those who champion Mesoamerica always present this as though this travel originated in Mesoamerica and went south, while those who work with the history and antiquities of South America, always show this as moving from south to north. The fact is, archaeological dates favor the south to north movement with settlements in South America predating those in Mesoamerica. However, to find this information, one has to get away from those who favor a Mesoamerican model for the Book of Mormon and study archaeologists who are not connected with BYU, FARMS, or any of the teachings and writings of both on this subject and look at what archaeologists write about who have no connection to Mesoamerica.
    Comment: “The ‘ship’ of Hagoth, if it was like craft known later on the Pacific coast, was either a very large dugout canoe with built-up sides or a log raft with sails. Whatever its form, it could hardly have been a complex planked vessel at all resembling European ships.”
    Response: Why would we think craft known later in the Pacific rim would look like Hagoth’s ships? First of all, Hagoth came along about 500 years after Lehi landed. Nephi’s ship would have been the talk of the families who came over on it, and in the Nephite world, would have been talked about for generations, as well as described, perhaps pictures drawn of it by those who wanted their descendants to know what that event was like and its importance. By the time Hagoth came along, it is very possible that the description of Nephi’s ship was still somewhat known. In any event, the description of Hagoth’s ship certainly exceeds any description of “a dugout canoe with built-up sides or a log raft with sails.” Hagoth was a “curious” man, which in the sense of this description, like that describing the Liahona, had to do with ability, design, creativity, as in “curious workmanship” (1 Nephi 16:10). One definition of curious in this sense is “made with care,” and “exact,” “careful,” and “not to make a mistake.” As stated by Alma to his sons when describing the Liahona, said, “behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship” (Alma 37:39), referring to how intricately it was made. So, when reading Hagoth, we find he was “an exceedingly curious man” (Alma 63:5)—a man who was “careful” and “exact,” and built or made his ships with care. In addition, they were “exceedingly large” which is a term difficult to use toward any type of dugout canoe.
    Comment: “There is no evidence so far that such ships were constructed or used in the New World until after the Spanish conquest, and it seems unlikely that so important a technological item would have left no evidence, even in art.”
Left: 70-year old Wreck in shallow water of a steel transport ship during World War II; Right: 150-year-old wreck at bottom of ocean of a steel 19th Century ship. Note in both images the deteriorated conditions of metal ships after not very long exposure to the sea. Consider what a wood ship would look like after 2,000 years—obviously, nothing would be left to see
Response: The event of Nephi building a ship under the tutelage of the Lord and bringing Lehi and the others to the Land of Promise has to be one of the most celebrated events in the 1000 year history of the Nephite Nation, second only, no doubt, to the coming of the Savior. Yet, nowhere in the Western Hemisphere is there to be found any artifact, pottery shard, or other depiction of this event. One might wonder why, but the fact remains. So the fact that Hagoth’s ships did not survive in picture form of any type should not be a surprise. Nor is it a cause to discount such an event, or the type of ships Hagoth built. One might also consider that we are talking about men going to sea with their wife and children! Men do not do so in a flimsy canoe, with built-up sides, like those seen later along the southern Pacific coasts. A man might well chance his own life in an effort to achieve something, but he will not chance the lives of his wife and children. Consequently, we might want to look for a ship with a far more stable construction than a dugout canoe, much larger (in fact, exceedingly large), and far safer for transporting people.
In addition, these ships not only took large numbers of people, but also carried “much provisions,” suggesting for emigrating groups, farm implements, tools, seeds for planting, family supplies including food, tents, clothing, etc. Putting such things as these in a dugout canoe along with numerous men, women and children, simply stretches the imagination far beyond reality. In addition, we need to remember that Nephite construction is described as very advanced, working with iron, steel, wood and precious metals. They were far beyond the dugout canoe stage, such as the ship to the left—once the Nephites were annihilated, however, what was left were Lamanites whose abilities in construction are lacking throughout the scriptural record, and described by Zeniff around 150 B.C., as being lazy and “glut themselves with the labor of our hands” (Mosiah 9:12). After 421 A.D., and then after the civil wars or when time allowed, would have made such dugout canoes. But not the Nephites, whose building of ships and shipping endeavors are mentioned (Helaman 3:14).
    Comment: “Still, the large dugout canoe sighted by Columbus on one of his voyages off the coast of Yucatan was a very respectable size, capable of carrying scores of people for days at a time.”
    Response: On Columbus’ first voyage, he first landed among the Arawak Indians, who fished from dugout canoes. On his third voyage in 1503, en route between Cuba and Mexico, it is said he sighted about 50 Indians in a huge dugout canoe fitted with a large square sail; however, his own account dated August 2, lists the number at 25. It is also known that these Arawak Indians made canoes by chopping down huge trees and then lighting small fires in the logs. After burning out the middle, they would scoop out the ashes by using stone tools, fashioning huge oars from the limbs of the trees. It is said that an Arawak giant canoe could hold up to 100 people.
These are hardly the type of vessel a man would risk his wife and children in to sail outward into the ocean. These were fast-moving canoes, paddled by teams of warriors that, on occasion, were also used for fishing
There is also the fact that hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived to change the complexion of the Caribbean forever, Mayan merchants plied the coast of Yucatan trading salt, honey, parrot and toucan feathers, jaguar skins, ceramic pottery, and blades made of a volcanic glass called obsidian. However, the large sea-going rafts known off Ecuador or Peru, and which were able to reach the Galapagos Islands off South America, have not been found along the Mesoamerican and Mexican coasts.

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