Friday, May 9, 2014

A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part I

On March 1, 2011, we presented a post under the title of Narrow Neck of Land and the Fallacy of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec - Part I, as part of a six-part series of posts through March 8. On January 24, 2014, a lengthy rebuttal comment, by an avowed Mesoamericanist, John R., was on the old blog post. Unfortunately, this did not come to our attention until just now. Since it is lengthy, and states several points the author wanted to cover, we are replying to his entire comment, one point at a time. 
   John R: “That narrow neck of land causes an awful lot of confusion among LDS scholars, and I think too many Book of Mormon archeologists try to put far too many restrictions on it—restrictions that also happen to all-too-often point the way to their own personal candidates for Book of Mormon landmarks.”
Response: Any confusion stemming from Mormon’s writing is not in the writing or subject, but in the reader’s desire and intention to have that writing fit a pre-determined area that the rest of the writing does not fit at all. Much has been written on these pages about Mesoamerica, from Nibley to Sorenson to Allen, et all.
    One of the biggest problems each of these Theorists has had is in trying to find a narrow neck of land in their desired location or model. Since this is never done, then they resort to claiming Mormon’s writing is ambiguous, incomplete, misleading, not currently accurate to today’s language, etc., etc., etc.
Sorenson began this idea of a change in compass direction with lengthy, confusing description as to why Nephi through Mormon did not understand the correct compass position of their land, claiming the land to the west was really the Land Northward and the land to the east, was the Land Southward
    Take Sorenson claiming an entire change of compass orientation for the Nephites other than what is so simply and easily described by Mormon. Or take the claim there were really two Bountifuls in the Land of Promise and not just the one mentioned by Mormon, thus allowing for a narrow neck along the coast that does not fit Mormon’s overall descriptions. Or take your own claim that the narrow neck is not narrow at all, but only a strip of it beginning somewhere to the east and running to the West Sea.
    A summation paragraph was included in the post to which you are replying that stated: “Consequently, anyone trying to use the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has three obstacles to face. 1) It is far too wide for Mormon’s description; 2) it is oriented north and south and not east and west according to Mormon’s description, and 3) it cannot be viewed as a narrow neck based on the land around it without external aides, such as satellite imagery, aerial photos, or some type of long-range vision.”
Since you are obviously not satisfied with this, let us once again show the specific concept of a “small” or “narrow neck” as Mormon calls it (Moroni calls it a “narrow neck” also in Ether). So let us see what these words meant in 1829 in the northeastern United States when and where Joseph Smith lived and translated the plates:
• Narrow: “Of little breadth; not wide or broad; having little distance from side to side”
• Neck: “A long narrow tract of land projecting from the main body, or a narrow tract connecting two larger tracts”
• Small: “Slender; thin; fine; of little diameter; hence in general, little in size”
    Those are the words Joseph Smith used while translating Mormon’s writing on the plates, to which the Spirit agreed were accurate.
According to David Whitmer, “A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery and when it was written down and repeated to Joseph, and if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character appear”
    Now the other point is from what point this small or narrow neck was measured. You claim it was only a partial distance of the actual land base at this point. So let us see what Mormon said about it.
• Mormon tells us that only one piece of land kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water and that was this "small neck" of land (Alma 22:32)
• This neck ran from the “east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32)
• This neck led from the Land Southward into the Land Northward (Alma 63:5)
• There was a pass or passage between the Land Northward and the Land Southward (Alma 52:9; 2:29; 3:5)
• There was a pass or passage which led into the land northward (Alma 52:9), and into the land southward (Mormon 2:29; 3:5)
• This narrow pass led by the sea into the land northward—“by the sea on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34)
    To recap, there was only one land area between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, which was small and narrow. Within this small and narrow land area was a narrow pass or passage connecting or leading between these two lands. This small or narrow land bordered on the Sea West, and ran to the Sea East, as shown in Mormon’s writing illustrated and cited above. And most importantly, it was small or narrow enough for someone in the Nephite era, without benefit of satellite or aerial photos could stand on the ground and see that it was small and narrow!
    To make sure this is understood, we have Moroni’s comment translated from the Ether account, that the Jaredites “built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20, italics mine)
Mormon tells us a small or narrow neck of land ran between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, and through that narrow neck was a pass or passage. The West Sea and the East Sea was to either side of the narrow pass of the neck, and was the “sea that divides the land,” or where the sea divided the Land Northward from the Land Southward
    That is, the narrow neck of land is where the sea divides the land—almost completely surrounding the Land Southward, as Mormon told us, except for this narrow neck, which is where the Jaredites built a city and where Hagoth built his ships.
    John R: “The Mayans were remarkably proficient in a variety of technical areas such as astrology and mathematics, and while they didn’t begin to measure up to the ancient Romans and Greeks, they did have the concept of zero, a complex writing system and built impressive cities and flat roads, not to mention a thriving system of trade.” 
    Response: There is no question the people of Mesoamerica were all that and much more. The ancient Peruvians were all of that, too, and much more, which we have written about in these posts over the past nearly four years, and which is covered in some detail in the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica. Keep in mind that when Hagoth built his ships, several voyages of emigrants went northward in them with families and supplies to start a new life—many were never heard from again. 400 years later, Mormon did not know what happened to them. One might conclude that if they survived and settled somewhere to the north, the evidence of their existence (building abilities, civilization, etc.) somewhat similar to that of the Land of Promise, should be evidenced.
Left: Numerous sites in Mesoamerica attest to an ancient civilization settling there, especially dating from about the last century B.C. through the early A.D. centuries; Right: One of the massive structures built in Mesoamerica in the period of Hagoth’s emigrants
    Of course, to the north of Andean Peru is the archaeological sites and civilization to which you refer, which logically and reasonably answers the question of what happened to Hagoth’s emigrants. However, if you start in Mesoamerica, and try to apply Hagoth’s ships and emigrants northward of there, you have a very real problem:
1) Hagoth’s ships went northward (Alma 63:5, 7)
2) You cannot sail northward from the area of Mesoamerica narrow neck of land (Isthmus of Tehuantepec, or anywhere else the Nephites were said to have occupied there. As has been illustrated before, a course of over 1000 miles would have to be covered before any ship could turn northward leaving from the Mesoamerican isthmus.
As can be seen, any ship sailing from the Mesoamerican narrow neck of land would have to sail on a westerly course for about 1000 miles before it could turn northward as Mormon describes. Most Mesoamericanists claim Hagoth’s ships only sailed a couple of hundred miles, which means the ship would have traveled southward for 120 miles, then due west for 25 miles, before even turning along a West by Northwest course
    Of course, directions have never been a problem for the Mesoamericanist who simply say that Mormon and those before him had no idea of our compass directions.
(See the next post, “A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part II,” for more on John R’s rebuttal of our six-part post on Narrow Neck of Land and the Fallacy of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec)

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