Friday, May 16, 2014

A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part VIII

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: “it [land of promise] cannot be in a cold, frozen environment…”
    Response: We do not know whether or not they had cold, frozen winters. They are never mentioned. Nor are hot, humid summers mentioned. The climatic temperature is mentioned only once in the scriptural record: “heat of the day” (Alma 51:33). A second statement that can be attributed to climatic heat: “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land” (Alma 46:40), suggesting two things—deadly fevers usually occur from mosquitoes, which is an area where standing water occurs, and that could be in the heat of the summer months; also, it mentions seasons, which suggests an area not tropical, which is limited to a warm to hot and moist year-round climate, but a rather normal four seasonal climate.
A seasonal climate, meaning winter, spring, summer and fall, not necessarily evenly spaced, but definitely in existence and noticeable
    Another way to determine if they had winters in the Land of Promise was to realize that the Lamanites, in their attacks and wars against the Nephites, would withdraw after a defeat or after a time, and not come down to battle again until the next year. This is typical, especially in ancient warfare, where battles are conducted in the spring to fall period, avoiding the snow and rainy seasons, because the inclement weather made warfare difficult and unpredictable. Since this is the pattern for hundreds of years, one might conclude that a portion of the year was not conducive to fighting—which sounds like winter to me. Cold, frozen winters, or rainy, muddy winters, etc.
Russia survived two ill-conceived campaigns against them because of first, Napoleon, and then Hitler’s Germany, trying to invade during winter
    Still another factor was that the seeds brought from Jerusalem (Mediterranean Climate) flourished extremely well when planted in the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 18:24). This climate has pronounced seasons, with dry summers, and after the summer drought, autumn brings renewal of plants, then typically cool, wet winters, though winter temperatures can fall and brings frost, and finally the change of spring. This is hardly the type of climate found in Mesoamerica (nor the heartland, western New York, Florida, Baja Californa, or Malaysia, etc.), nor would Lehi’s seeds have grown there “exceedingly” and provided “an abundance,” if able to grow there at all in 600 B.C.
    John R: “…it must support enormous populations…”
The darker the color, the greater the density. India, as an example, which is mostly red to purple, has a density of 378 people per square kilometer (997 per square mile), while the lighter (green) has 10 or less per square kilometer, and gray less than two
    Response: Most anywhere can support large populations if the area is large enough, has seasons, and an agricultural population, such as the Nephites, or plenty of fish and game for a hunting life style, such as the Lamanites. Anciently, this would have been just about anywhere in the Western Hemisphere south of Canada and north of Patagonia.
    It is also not a constant factor. As an example, the population density of Singapore has 7301 people per square kilometer; while Japan has 337, while the world in general (excluding oceans, seas, Antarctica) is 53. Macau has 20,069, Monaco 18,068, and Hong Kong 6,516, the United States has only 32, Guatemala 142, Mexico and Ecuador 61 each, and Peru 24; Australia, by the way, has 3. Not a lot can be learned from such figures, since people can be supported by various land arrangements.
    John R: “…be in an area where poisonous snakes can live year-round for eight generations and be of vast strategic value.”
Response: First, though the scriptural record calls them serpents (Ether 9:31, 33; 10:19), in 1829, a snake was defined as “A serpent of the oviparous kind; in America, the common and general name of serpent is snake.” Second, you might be surprised where snakes can live, since they become dormant in cold weather, and active in warm weather. As an example, there are fourteen species of native snakes in Massachusetts, of which two are poisonous; 14 in Connecticut, with 2 poisonous (rattlesnake and Copperhead), 11 in New Hampshire, with one poisonous, and 12 in Vermont with one poisonous. Each of these states in New England has winter freezing temperatures and blizzards, and overall has an average temperature of 25º F (-3º C), with January being 21º F (-6º C).
We also need to keep in mind what Ether wrote: “…and the Lord did cause the serpents” suggesting that the snakes were under the influence of the Lord in their actions, and not necessarily acting under their own natural nature.
    John R: “…it [land of promise] also can be gauged northward by the Mayans and southward by the Olmecs.”
    Response: The word “gauged” has a dozen simple definitions, but I assume “measured” is the one meant here, i.e., the Land of Promise is measured by the Mayans to the north and the Olmec to the south. However, this seems backward from the facts, for the Olmec civilization was to the north and the Maya civilization was to the south within the Mesoamerican area.
    Yet, since Olmecs and Mayans are not mentioned in the scriptural record, how can one use that as a criteria for finding the Land of Promise? According to both David L. Webster (The Fall of the Ancient Maya), and Michael D. Coe (The Maya), “the Maya dominated what are now the Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and most of the Yucatan. The empire also stretched through northern Central America, including Guatemala, El Salvador, western Honduras, and Belize. While much of Maya history is shrouded in mystery, it is believed today that the Mayan peoples began to settle in the Yucatan area of what is now Mexico between 2600 BC and 1800 BC. As the centuries rolled on, their culture and religion developed. What truly originated with the ancient Mayan people and what came from other peoples in the area we may never know for sure. What we now call the Mayan empire really came into its own between 250 AD and 900 AD. Large-scale construction was taking place, and major cities developed."
    Though these dates have some minor overlap, they do not really match neither Nephite nor Jaredite time frames. It also cannot be overemphasized enough that at no time in the entire scriptural record is there a single mention, no not even an intimation, that any other people lived in the vicinity, near, or anywhere within or around the Land of Promise. Not one word! There is not a single word or intimation that the Jaredites, ever, at any time, intermingled, saw, or knew of the Mulekites (people of Zarahemla), Nephites or Lamanites, nor that any of these ever knew or intermingled, or saw any other people than these mentioned.
Nor can it be claimed that the Olmecs were the Jaredites, since their time frame and settlement locations simply cannot be fit within the descriptions of the scriptural record in any way. Nor can it be claimed that Maya were the Nephites or Lamanites, since their time frame in Mesoamerica begins 1200 to 2000 years before the Nephites arrived, and continues on 500 years past the time of their total and complete demise.
    Obviously, then, it is both illogical as well as disingenuous to claim that another people existed there, or that those of Mesoamerica history were those of the scriptural record, no matter how often the claim is repeated.
(See the next post, “A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part IX” 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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