Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part VI

We continue with John R’s January 2014 rebuttal of our March 1, 2011 article series on Mesoamerica, which did not come to our attention until now.
    John R: “To assert that one knows what a writer means when he writes something that’s clearly dubitable flies in the face of what DowDell stated elsewhere: “To find this patriarch’s ‘Land of Promise,’ it is essential that one not begin with a place already in mind....” But isn’t this what he, himself, is doing when he selectively forms his assertions in such a way as to put down the Mesoamerican geographical models to bolster his own?” 
    Response: Since you have addressed this comment to me personally, let me respond with my personal story by way of answer: First, let’s keep the record straight. My interest is not in putting down someone’s ideas, beliefs, or theories. My interest is in anyone writing abut the Book of Mormon to write about what the scriptural record says, and not what they want it to say. Every comment ever entered in these posts have a scriptural reference so the reader can verify what is being said by me, and the comparison being made.
Second, and again for the record, I did not come about a South American location and then set out to prove it. In fact, in my early years I held the common LDS belief of the time that the Land Northward was North America, the Land Southward was South America, and the narrow neck of land was Central America, etc. At that time I had never read the Book of Mormon for its geographical content, nor paid any attention to it at all. It was the Western Hemisphere and I cared little for any further explanation. As a young man with a family, I was given a book by a friend titled Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, by Hunter and Ferguson, comparing the works of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxocitl and the Book of Mormon, which I found most intriguing, but not motivational to learn more. Some ten years later, I attended a fireside where my Bishop presented John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, and since he had served his mission in the Yucatan and Mesoamerica, he had an interesting insight into this work. I found all that of interest, but still it was not a serious matter to me and time passed.
    Then in the 1980s, I was at a High Priests’ Social gathering in the backyard of a quorum member and for about two hours in a darkened corner of the lawn, had a very serious conversation with a friend who had spent much time in Andean South America during and after his mission there, and had written a book about where Lehi landed, and his isle of promise. Since I had never heard of anything connected with South America and the Church, I found it of interest and everything he said made a great deal of sense in a logical and reasonable manner, since he took scripture by scripture and showed where it led in the Andean area—it wasn’t a matter of this is where Zarahemla was, this is where the city of Nephi was, etc., but a matter of how did Lehi get to his land of promise in the first place.
However, I would have let it go and gone on with my life, but a few days later I was doing research for a business proposal at the large main library in Long Beach, California. By chance I glanced at a book someone left on a table and it was about Andean South America. I glanced through it and saw the old ruins that pre-dated the Inca, and was fascinated by them, as I had been earlier about those in Mesoamerican a Bishop showed at his fireside--to me, in both instances, they merely gave credence to the Book of Mormon.
    Still, I was involved in something else and put the book aside. However, for days afterward this idea bothered me. It was reasonable and made good sense, and I had no knowledge of the area or circumstances my friend presented. But one of my problems is that I have never been one to jump on bandwagons, nor accept things people say at face value. I suppose I am suspicious by nature, and untrusting by experience. Fortunately, I had a lot of free time then and I decided to check out the various ideas he had presented.  
Ships logs were kept by the master, and comprised daily recordings of the weather including winds and currents, their directions, the ship’s location, and all incidents—the collection at the Maritime Museum of San Diego archives, aboard the ferry "Berkeley" is excellent 
    For the next four years I haunted libraries. When I traveled for business, I spent my free time in every library I could find, especially libraries that had historical sections. I read (searched) through literally thousands of books, made copious notes, copied tons of pages and articles, studied mariner logs, oceanography, Naval books on sea currents and winds, ships of the line, and everything I could find on ancient ships, from early Egyptian, Mediterranean, and Arabic onward thru the Age of Discovery. It was amazing how many journals, diaries and logs that seamen of the ancient and medieval past have kept.
    I also spent a lot of time reading the Book of Mormon once again, this time for geographic content. I bought one of those large type books, and yellowed every statement of a geographic nature, then compiled the information in geographic settings, listing each description in its own location.
    The goal was simple.
    I knew where Lehi began his voyage in Nephi’s ship, which was somewhere along the southern Arabian coast (Yemen or Oman).
The Oman/Yemen coast of Arabia, showing Salalah (yellow arrow) at the end of the Frankensence Trail, about where Lehi would have set sail into his Irreantum Sea (the Sea of Arabia/Indian Ocean) 
    Once I located that area, I studied every sea current and wind, by month, that blew and affected movement by sail in that area. I read captain’s notes on their experiences trying to sail in the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea, numerous Indonesian waters, etc. It didn’t take long to become convinced that an eastward voyage across the Indian Ocean to and through Indonesia, would have been impossible for a ship capable of sailing into and across deep water because of the winds and currents that blew and moved against such a voyage.
    It was frustrating since every mariner description and every ship’s record I could find dating to the period proved that in no way could a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” have negotiated such a course. While it was true that ancient traders sailed in that direction, two things became clear—they stayed close to shore and set in for the night--every night--never sailing after dark, and their ships were small, shallow-bottomed, coastal vessels not capable of withstanding the pounding of deep ocean waves. The result of all that research was quite disappointing. I was dumbfounded. Could the scriptural record be wrong?
Knowing that would not be the case, I began looking elsewhere, and looked more closely at the wind and current directions to see where a ship “driven forth before the wind” capable of deep see sailing would have been carried—what is called a “drift voyage.” Such drift voyages have been calculated time and again by computers, and also by actual experiment, such as Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki adventure. When that course became inarguably clear, the next step was to see where such a voyage might end up.
    That is when I ran across an area of ocean that until about the year 2000 was not considered a separate ocean, but now is called the "Southern Ocean," which it was learned has a circumpolar current, traveling unobstructed around the planet. And coming down the western edge of the Indian Ocean's Southern Gyre, a sailing ship properly guided (think Liahona) would pick up this Southern Ocean current and winds (West Wind Drift and Prevailing Westerlies) which would wisk a ship before the winds across the southern portion of what is often called the South Pacific, and head on through the Drake Passage on its circumpolar course. However, a ship properly guided (think Liahona again) along the northern edge of this current is picked up by the Humboldt Current (Peruvian Current) and turned northward, where the fast speed of the Southern Ocean current continually dies down to almost a dead calm. If a ship doesn’t affect a landing at this point, the drift would eventually take the ship back into the current, which picks up and is pushed back out to sea by the bulge of Peru and picks up the Southern Pacific Gyre and head west, back across the Pacific toward Australia (or in the southern side of the current down into Polynesia).
Now, the interesting point of this is that the place where the current dies down along the South American coast, is at 30º south latitude, or Coquimbo Bay/La Serena, Chile. Exactly where Joseph Smith is credited as telling his personal Scribe, close friend (Joseph named one of his sons Frederick Granger Williams Smith), and confidant, as well as Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Frederick G. Williams, who wrote it on a sheet of paper evidently during a Presidency meeting, along with other instructional comments and even a revelation.
    It is also of great note that this is one of the only areas in the world with a Mediterranean Climate in which seeds brought from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 18:24) in 600 B.C. would grow (the others are southern tips of Africa and Australia and Southern California.
    For many years from that point on, I began to study the western Andean area of South America, from La Serena, Chile, through Peru, to Quito, Ecuador, and on to Colombia, and found matches for every single description mentioned in the scriptural record without having to change, alter, or add to anything, and without having to explain away anything--the wordage of the scriptural record was exact.
    You can say I began with a place in mind, but I did not. I knew absolutely nothing about Andean South America, nothing about Peru or Chile, and nothing at all about the ocean currents that led there. I doubted the veracity of what I thought was my friend’s tall tale for more than 15 years while continuing these studies. Finally, after almost 25 years, I felt the evidence was so compelling that I had to change my entire way of thinking about most of everything I had thought and been taught about the geography of the Book of Mormon up to that point, which admittedly was very little.
I also spent many years reading and studying everything on Mesoamerica I could find. I compared every statement made by more than two dozen authors (Nibley, Sorenson, Allen, Hauck, Aston, Porter, the Hiltons, Meldrum, Olive, Pate, et all), against the scriptural record and found a ton of errors, misleading statements, and downright fabrications. The excuses among these writers about why the statements in the scriptural record are not accurate, meaningful, or self-explanatory piled up and eventually led to the publication of the third book in my 4-volume series Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists. The inaccuyracies are were not based on my views, but on the scriptural record and their misinterpretation, changes, alterations, etc.
    Since you claim you are in the Mesoamerican Camp, I invite you to read that book, it is mostly about Mesoamerica, and compares hundreds of statements made with the actual scriptures involved. You might find it of interest. 
(See the next post, “A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part VII,” 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.)

1 comment:

  1. You stated above, "I compared every statement made by more than two dozen authors (Nibley, ...,Pate, et all), against the scriptural record and found a ton of errors, misleading statements, and downright fabrications. The excuses among these writers about why the statements in the scriptural record are not accurate,...".You might do well to read the monograph titled: "The Mormon Geography Problem - - Chapter and Verse", by Robert A. Pate, PhD, found at wherein he identifies non-scriptural interpretations from the Book of Mormon. You might learn something.