Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part VII

Continuing 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, we find him writing: 
    John R: “To assert that one knows what a writer means when he writes something that’s clearly dubitable…”
    Response: One might want to consider that the entire purpose of communication is to be understood. Clearly, Mormon’s entire writing is for us, his reader(s), to understand what he is saying and what he means. A statement from Teaching, No Greater Call, states: “One way to encourage diligent learning is to listen carefully when someone asks a question or makes a comment. Listening is an expression of love. It often requires sacrifice. When we truly listen to others, we often give up what we want to say so they can express themselves.”
The same may be said of reading. Sometimes, we have to give up our pre-conceived ideas so we can learn and understand what someone writes; however, not all speakers and writers are so clear they cannot be misunderstood from time to time. Thus, one must learn to understand a person’s meaning from the reasonable and logical interpretation of what is said or written. This does not mean to make up things that are not included, but to understand what is meant.
    Take, for instance, Nephi’s early parenthetical comment: “(my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days).” What is Nephi telling us in that simple thought he injected into his record? Note that it is found within a sentence that had nothing to do with where his father lived—“For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4).
Most people simply pass over the significance of one word—“at.” Most tend to insert in their mind the word “in” instead. But “at Jerusalem” means without, while “in Jerusalem” means within. So, Nephi is telling us the importance of where Lehi lived, which we can easily understand. So, not changing, altering, or explaining away, nor adding or subtracting, from Nephi’s words in any way, we find he is telling us that his father lived in the land of Jerusalem, in a home outside the city walls, where later we find he had donkeys (enough to carry the tents), seeds (enough “of every kind” to plant in the Land of Promise), tents (more than one), and supplies (provisions), and with all this, he was able to secretly drift into the desert (into the wilderness) with his entire family and belongings without anyone knowing.
    If we thought he lived inside the walls of Jerusalem, and knew about city life there at that time, we would question the validity of this record that would have Lehi possessing things he would have had no reason to own, nor any place to keep in the tiny confines of Jerusalem.
The Old City of Jerusalem. At the time of Lehi, it was only 0.35 square miles in size. There was no room for animals or extra, non-essential items. Those visiting the area today are struck with its tiny size. Note how narrow are the “streets,” bordered by buildings throughout
    If he had lived within the city, we would also question how he could have sneaked away with his entire family, donkeys, and possessions under the very noses of the Jews who sought his life (1 Nephi 2:1).
    In this way, you can come to know what a writer means because he has told you, and you can easily see the validity of the information and the time.
    Another example is when Nephi tells us twice he was “driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8, 9). By knowing this, one can look for currents, winds, etc., that would drive “forth,” i.e., push forward a ship, and thus know where his ship went. This also tells us that the sails on his “sailing” ship were not moveable, i.e., he could not tack, for this would mean he was being dragged or “lifted” forward.
The oceans gyres and currents, along with the world’s winds, are constant and minutely recorded. Drift voyages, like Lehi’s, follow winds and currents and are extremely predictable
    The point is, a reader has to know what the writer means, or he is simply wasting his time reading. On the other hand, this does not give the reader license to substitute or insert his own words for those of the writer, change the meaning of the writer, or show us why the prophet-writer isn’t accurate, which is what Mesoamericanists are always doing.
    John R: “In Alma 22:27, the king sends a proclamation throughout his realm “which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west.” But then it’s separated by “a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west.” The region did not run from coast to coast, but to the narrow strip. When the prophet wishes to insert “sea” he does so; but to assume “sea” in verse 32 when it doesn’t state “sea” is to misrepresent the text.”
    The Land of Nephi ran from the Sea East to the Sea West (Alma 22:27) and the Land of Zarahemla ran from coast to coast also, which is clearly seen in Mormon’s comment that both these lands were nearly surrounded by water (Alma l22:32) except there being a small neck of land between (Alma 22:32). Now, separating (like a border) these two lands (the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla) is a narrow strip of wilderness running the entire length of this common border, that is, from the Sea East to the Sea West (Alma 22:27).
Mormon clearly tells us that the Land of Nephi stretched from the East Sea to the West Sea; he also clearly tells us that the Land of Zarahemla ran to the north of the Land of Nephi and from sea to sea; and he also tells us that a narrow strip of wilderness ran from sea to sea between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla
    As to misrepresenting the text, this point is covered in a previous post in this series regarding the narrow neck of land being narrow with seas on either side. There is no misrepresentation involved at all. It is what Mormon tells us, when reading all his descriptions and not just the one(s) you like.
    John R: “Thus, the “day and a half” could be a distance from the west sea to someplace in the east, such as a strip of wilderness that was not navigable, but not all the way to the east sea. Perhaps it went east to an established trail of some sort?”
    Response: You cannot have it both ways. The narrow neck is narrow—not wide; you call the narrow neck an isthmus, which is, in every dictionary, described as a narrow strip of land with seas on both sides. How far across does this strip of land have to be that it cannot be reached from one sea to the other in a day-and-a-half journey from sea to sea? Your argument is misleading and fallacious, and has been dealt with several times in this series of posts.
    John R: “We must take care that we don’t go too far north or south, but remain in the parameters established by what the Book of Mormon writers wrote, what Moroni said when he introduced himself to Joseph Smith”
    Response: Hard to get any further north or south than Moroni’s statement of “this continent,” which up until World War II, meant the entire Western Hemisphere, i.e., North, Central and South America. Nor can we get further north than Helaman’s comment about a Sea North, or south than his Sea South (Helaman 3:8). The descriptions in the scriptural record tell us the parameters of the Land of Promise quite clearly.
    John R: “…and, of course, the comments of Joseph Smith, himself, who had numerous visions of the cultures and cities of the Book of Mormon peoples.”
Response: There is no question that Joseph had numerous discussions regarding the people, their culture, their achievements, their life-style, etc., for these are the things he used to tell his family of an evening according to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. And according to her record, geography was evidently never mentioned. You might want to read her writing of these stories Joseph told. However, whether they were visions or simply the instructions and stories told him by Moroni during his four year tutelage is unknown.
    John R: “Thus, it must be in the North American continent…”
    Response: No, it must be in the “American continent.” There is a big different, and you might want to learn about the history of “this continent” before writing about it.
(See the next post, “A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part VIII,” 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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