Saturday, March 15, 2014

Two Glaring Problems with Mesoamerica – Part II

Continuing with the last post regarding the second problem of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, which has to do with the Last Stand of the Nephite Nation and Mormon’s decision to fight at Cumorah rather than continue retreating. In the last post we discussed John L. Sorenson’s defense of Mormon not moving further northward in retreat, though there was some 5,000 miles he could have fled through to escape certain death at Cumorah. 
   However, with that one ridiculous statement (see the last post), Sorenson introduces a factor not mentioned, suggested, or even intimated anywhere in the entire scriptural record of the Nephite Nation, and that is other people occupying the Land of Promise or adjacent areas. One has to ask, “Where did these people come from, and what makes Sorenson or any other Mesoamericanist believe there were other people in this land that was promised solely to Lehi and his descendants?”
In Mesoamerica, this is the land Mormon could have continued to retreat into northward. Even today, there are thousands of square miles of open, unoccupied territory in central and northern Mexico. It is hard to believe that this might have been so occupied in Nephite times that there would have been no room for the Nephites to pass through this area
    But, for the sake of argument, let’s go along with Sorenson’s comment. Consider that the Nephites were terribly outnumbered (Mormon 6:8) and Mormon himself knew this would be the Nephites' last stand (Mormon 6:6), so why not go farther north and take your chances?  Hope is always preferable to extinction, in an individual or in a group.  And why concern themselves with "all the best spots being taken"? 
    A secondary place, or even a desert, would be preferable to being slaughtered by the Lamanites who sacrificed Nephite women and children (Mormon 5:21), or to the total annihilation, which had been predicted since the days of Lehi (1 Nephi 12:19-20).  Surely these people would have been aware of the Israelites being led out of Egypt across a formidable desert, and of the Lehi colony being led across the Empty Quarter, the worst desert in the world in their eight years of wandering in the wilderness. 
    Then, too, the Nephites might even have held out hope that some of these "other people" would help them against the Lamanites, or that they would receive shelter and protection from them. The Nephites could even have avoided these "other people" if they feared them equally hostile and kept retreating until the Lamanites, hopefully, just gave up.  The Nephites had already lost tens of thousands in these running battles with the Lamanites (Mormon 2:15; 3:8; 4:11; 5:8), so why stick around and let the Lamanites catch up to them?  This simply does not make any sense at all.  Not, that is, if the Nephites had anywhere farther north to go as they most definitely would have in Mesoamerica.
    To offset this possible route of escape from Mesoamerica, though, Sorenson creates unconvincing reasons why the Nephites had to stay and fight. In addition, he wrote:
    “Moving farther on, they would have entered ecologically new territory, and the prospects would be slim that they could successfully feed their numbers in a new environment with no time to learn how to exploit the land.”
    The Nephites were running for their lives, if they stopped they would die. So whether or not they would have known how to exploit the land in an ecologically new territory would not have made any different to them. To live, even half-starving, is better than being slaughtered! In addition, the Nephites were never in a land further north than the land of many waters according to the scriptural record. They would not have known other peoples were there, or what food would be available. After all, they had been feeding their army and their people during the time of this long retreat. There were animals in the land and crops. They must have had some type of residue food to hold them for a while, and could have continued to hunt as they continued their retreat northward.
Since Mesoamericanists’ Land of Promise places their Land Northward in the area of central to southern Mexico, they would have been familiar with and endless supply of Josehua Trees, whose raw blossoms are not only edible, but the stems can be baked, blossoms cooked, and stalks eaten. One can also boil and eat creosote bush, rabbit brush, and sagebrush, along with wolf berry, ephedra and juniper for beverages and especially the yucca plant. The desert is full of food sources
    Can anyone but Sorenson believe that the Nephites, facing the possibility of complete slaughter by a relentless hereditary enemy with an overwhelming numerically superior force, would not have willingly taken the chance on an unknown area? These people had their wives and children with them (Mormon 6:7), and results show they were no threat to stop the Lamanites (Mormon 6:9-15). To stay and fight when there was a chance to retreat (they had already retreated hundreds of miles from Zarahemla) with hopes of a better tomorrow simply does not make any sense at all.
    Yet, Sorenson also adds: “Beyond they would come nearer and nearer to the territory of Teotihuacan proper, the powerful state allied culturally if not militarily with the Lamanites on their other side...any farther north by Mormon's people would have encountered this great power, standing in the wings but uninvolved directly in the present conflict.”
    Teotihuacan? That certainly didn’t come from any Book of Mormon statement, word, or idea. Where on earth is Sorenson getting this powerful state. And how does he know such a state, if it existed, was aligned with the Lamanites?
     First of all, Teotihuacan is about 30 miles northeast of modern-day Mexico City, and at its height, around 600 A.D., had about 125,000 population according to Rene Millon, who also claimed it was the sixth largest city in the world at that time. Now even using Sorenson’s scenario, Mormon’s 300,000-400,000 people, 230,000 warriors, would have had nothing to fear from a culture that small, which at most would have had only about 25,000 to 30,000 men for battle (the battle-tested Nephite army was about six times larger). So this entire idea of a great power standing in the wings is inaccurate and meaningless to start with.
The Nephites had thousands of square miles to the north where they could have escaped a final battle at Cumorah. The gray circle is Teotihuacan, the distance between the green arrows is 600 miles, the yellow arrows show how the Nephites could have bypassed Teotihuacan on their retreat northward. Thus, if these retreating Nephites wanted to avoid this city, they could have traveled around it and continued northward
    One might also ask at this point, what makes Sorenson think that this city of Teotihuacan was aligned in any way with the Lamanites, who had never been north of the Nephites? How could they be aligned culturally or militarily with a people they could not have known even existed some 40 to 50 miles north of the Land of Many Waters? Why, in fact, would the Nephites even know of their existence? But if they somehow did, why would Mormon or the Nephites think the Lamanites would be aligned, militarily or not, with any people to the north of the Land of Promise? The Nephites had always occupied the lands to the north and the Lamanites had never been north of the Land of Zarahemla, and never north of the Nephites!
    So, in all reality, none of Sorenson’s arguments hold true—nor is there any legitimate reason why the Nephites did not continue to retreat northward. Nor can we find any reason whatsoever that those who escaped into the south countries—“and also a few who had escaped into the south countries” (Mormon 6:15)—for them to have gone southward when they had all this land to the north of them into which they could have fled away from the Lamanites.
(See the next post, “Two Glaring Problems with Mesoamerica – Part III,” for the continuation of these two glaring problems with a Mesoamerican model as the Land of Promise)