Monday, August 18, 2014

Interesting Things About Andean South America

There is no question that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring men to Christ. As a Second Witness, the scriptural record clarifies in some cases, expounds upon in others, and supports in still others the Biblical teachings regarding the Savior of Mankind. It would seem, among Latter-day Saints, that these points of doctrine are studied and understood in more-or-less a common unity. And if that is all the Book of Mormon accomplishes, it has far exceeded its purpose—in bringing people to the Christ.
    Yet, the events described in the scriptural record go beyond doctrinal knowledge of God and the Plan of Salvation, to include a somewhat historical view of the people involved, like the Old Testament does of the Hebrews, Israelites and Jews, often to such a point that one can become interested in the social events of the times, the life-styles of the people, their interactions, and accomplishments. Who does not feel spiritually motivated and convinced of the faith and strength of Abinadi, the military brilliance of Captain Moroni, and the sadness and disappointment of Mormon over the failure of his people?
    Who would not like to see the actual city of Zarahemla, the city of Nephi, or the Temple he built?
Left: Golgotha (Place of the Skull) where Jesus was crucified; Right: The Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York
    For those who have been to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked, to climb to Golgotha, to experience the peace of Gethsemane, know what it is like to see the places where such spiritual events took place. My walk through the Sacred Grove in Palmyra was one of the spiritual highlights of my life.
    After all, a desire to know more about the Jaredites and Nephites is a strong yearning in many people, and to better understand the areas and regions where their events took place.
    While distantly secondary to the main purpose of the scriptural record, the Book of Mormon is full of descriptions regarding the land upon which the Jaredites and Nephites lived, and Mormon, in his abridgement, made sure he inserted and left us sufficient information for us to draw a clear picture of how the land was configured, and Nephi told us enough to trace his voyage to Lehi’s Isle of Promise.
    Unfortunately, for those who do have a strong interest in this side of the scriptural record, people have written and taught numerous confusing and erroneous theories about the interpretation of Nephi’s and Mormon’s information that would normally allow one to easily determine where the Land of Promise was located.
    Not to recap the voyage, and the winds and currents that brought Nephi’s ship, which he tells us was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8-9), which has been covered most thoroughly in the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica, as well as in several posts in this blog, the point is we can trace his voyage when we follow those winds and currents from the shores of the Arabian Peninsula. And we can see where a landing would have taken place before his ship was moved back out into the South Pacific Gyre and back across the ocean.
Top: Coquimbo Bay (Coquimbo means “Place of Calm Waters”); to the Right of the bay (Bottom photos) is La Serena, where much of Chile’s produce is grown in this Mediterranean Climate
    That landing site, 30º south latitude along the Chilean coast of South America, where winds and currents die down and the peaceful and nearly still-water Coquimbo Bay is located. Here a ship could easily be steered out of the Humboldt Current and into shore before being pulled along and back out to sea and westward across the Pacific Ocean. And, too, this is where the city of La Serena now stands, which is located in one of only two Mediterranean Climates in the entire Western Hemisphere, which would have allowed seeds “brought from the land of Jerusalem…to grow exceedingly” (1 Nephi 18:24) and provide an abundant crop.
The Jorje Fray forest, the second largest rain forest in all of South America is perched atop the coastal mountains adjacent to La Serena, some 1,500 to 2,000 feet above the level of the nearby Pacific Ocean. These are patches of vibrant rain forest covering up to 30 acres apiece, where trees stretch as much as 100 feet into the sky, with ferns, mosses, and bromeliads adorn their canopies. All of this is watered by fog dripping from the tree canopy, which provides three-quarters of all the water they need
    In addition, right in that exact area are the other two things Nephi mentions (1 Nephi 18:25): 1) “A forest where beasts of every kind” were found (cloud forest now part of the Fray Jorge National Park), and 2) Numerous ore deposits “both of gold and of silver and of copper” (Chile has vast deposits of copper (1st in world production), silver (7th), and gold (14th) (Guatemala [Mesoamerica] is 37th in gold, 15th in silver, and not even listed for Copper).
The map (left) shows Chile copper mines in the area, each red dot shows a mine or copper deposit. Today, the mining sector in Chile is one of the pillars of Chilean economy and copper exports alone stands for more than one third of government income.
    Later, when Nephi left his brothers and took all those who would go with him (2 Nephi 5:5-7) and traveled northward (to what later was the northern boundary of the Land of Nephi, just south of the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:27), they settled in what today is the area of Cuzco, Peru, just north of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia), and the Atacama (Chile).
    Thus, we find the division of the Lamanites in Mosiah’s time, once the Nephites moved northward into Zarahemla, south of this narrow strip of wilderness, encompassing the southern part of modern day Peru and northern Chile. It might be of interest to note that the eminent Adventurer, writer and historian of the Andean area, Edward P Lanning, in his highly acclaimed book Peru Before the Incas (Prentice Hall, 1967) notes that “The prevalence of warfare at this time is abundantly clear in the archaeological record. Every coastal valley that has been well surveyed has turned out to have fortresses and fortified settlements dating to the Early Intermediate Period.”
Of this period, he also wrote, “Archaeologists have been puzzled by the contrast between the great cities of the north and the rural organization of the south during the Late Intermediate Period,” (p.154), and further,  “There is no reason to believe that the people of northern Chile were ever civilized. Their populations were never really dense nor organized around cities or ceremonial centers…there is no evidence they had any marked degree of either specialization or stratification,” (p. 197). This area, of course, would be the homeland of the Lamanites.
    When these many Theorists begin to use the scriptural record as their basis, as to how Nephi’s ship sailed, where it sailed and where it landed, and located in the place of their first landing, the forest, ore, and climate for seeds described, perhaps their models might be more in line with the scriptural record and serve a worthwhile purpose to the readers so interested in the geography of the Land of Promise.
    But when John L. Sorenson spends 36 pages in his book (see last post) to try and show why and how Mormon was wrong in describing the land he lived in, one has to wonder what is the purpose of such writing and what underlies such ineptitude of following the simple descriptions Mormon left us. It certainly cannot add to the validity of the Book of Mormon in the eyes of investigative readers.

No comments:

Post a Comment