Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part I

Since John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon is so highly touted by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” perhaps another look at some of his ideas would be in order here. 
According to his supporters in the Forward of his book, “John L. Sorenson astutely comments that any attempt to identify the New World setting for the Book of Mormon should be driven by relevant criteria.” Sorenson himself says (p6): “Our first task is to analyze from the text [the Book of Mormon] the key characteristics of the lands described. This will produce a set of requirements. Any area in the Americas proposed as the location of Book of Mormon events must match these criteria or else be judged mistaken."
    Sorenson also asks: “What does the Book of Mormon contain that can be used as criteria in a test for determining the validity of any proposed New World geographic setting for the Book of Mormon? ‘From the text,’ relevant, critical criteria that readers can easily deduce in identifying a valid setting for New World Book of Mormon geography are five in number:”
    Sorenson then goes on to list these five criteria—however, to better comprehend the inaccuracy and even fallaciousness of the material, we will add a clarifying response after each point:
    Sorenson: 1. “The area must show evidence of a high-level written language that was in use during the dates given in the Book of Mormon.”
    Response: First, there is no way to know what existed in the Land of Promise during Jaredite and Nephite times regarding a written language except what is found in the scriptural record. The so-called Mayan codices, which Mesoamericanists use to show that the Maya had a written language date no earlier, by the most liberal dating, than 900 A.D., five hundred years after the Nephite demise! (The Codices were destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa in July 1562, and were considered at that time to record Maya history 800 years back, which makes the oldest one 765 A.D., almost 400 years after the end of the Nephites in 385 A.D.) And as has been shown here, the Maya glyphs have no connection to, or semblance of, either Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian, and in no way can be claimed as an extension of those languages (for examples see previous post on "Questions I Would Like to Ask-Part IX," July 20, 2014). Second, the Lord made it quite clear to Mormon that any Nephite records found by the Lamanites would be destroyed.
Mormon hid the records in a hill in order to keep the Lamanites from destroying them. Any records not so hidden would have been found and destroyed by the Lamanites
    Mormon wrote: “having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord” (Mormon 6:6). Thus, the Book of Mormon survived, but no other records of the Nephites did that were not hidden by Mormon. So what would Sorenson expect to find about writing in the Land of Promise?
    Sorenson: 2) “The area must reflect two high civilizations that show extensive evidence of major population centers, continual shifts in population demographics, and almost constant warfare among the inhabitants—in harmony with the dates given in the Book of Mormon.”
    Response: First: there are only three shifts in population demographics that are noted during Nephite times: 1) Nephi left with probably half of the original group to found the city of Nephi, about 580 B.C.; 2) Mosiah left the city of Nephi with probably less than half of the inhabitants and joined with the Mulekites in Zarahemla, about 200 B.C.; 3) The final wars beginning around 320 A.D. and continuing until the Nephites were entirely destroyed in 385 A.D., in which the Nephites retreated to the Land Northward. Second: There were not two high civilizations described in the Book of Mormon during Nephite times—the Mulekites were not exactly a high civilization, though they lived in a city (Zarahemla) when Mosiah discovered them; and the Lamanites were never a high civilization unless one considers the 200 years where there were “no -ites” and the people lived perhaps on their highest plane in their 1000 year history; Third, Andean South America shows evidence of numerous very high population centers that far exceed anything yet located in Mesoamerica, and date to a more accurate Nephite period than do those in Mesoamerica when you consider hard evidence of buildings, etc., and not just diffusion.
    Sorenson: 3. “The archaeological dating of the proposed area must reflect thorough analyses of sites and artifacts with resulting radiocarbon dates that agree with the dates given in the Book of Mormon.”
    Response: We have written several times that Radio-Cardbon C-14 dating is far from accurate, though academicians and scientists love to use it because it provides a dating system for them. However, using those dates, Andean South America dates more accurately to Nephite times (587 B.C. to 385 A.D.) when it comes to actual buildings and hard evidence (other than assuming diffusion periods and the anthropological progression of cultures).
    Sorenson: 4. “The historical evidence from the area must provide valid findings that dovetail with the customs and traditions associated with the peoples and dates of the Book of Mormon. There is a footnote added here, which states: “For an extensive application of these criteria in resolving issues associated with the geography of the Book of Mormon, see Joseph Lovell Allen and Blake Joseph Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 2nd ed. (Orem, UT: Book of Mormon Tours and Research Institute, 2008).”
    Response: In other words, one Mesoamericanist, in support of his own views, is using the criteria of another Mesoamericanist, for a list of items that must be met. How interesting. However, the point here is that there is no historical evidence of the Land of Promise outside the Book of Mormon itself. There is no mention anywhere in the scriptural record of any other people who lived in the Land of Promise at this time, who interacted with the Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites or Lamanites, and, according to God’s promises to Lehi, did not exist in the Land of Promise. Any historical information is that of far more modern writers than those of the Book of Mormon, and that is through evaluating artifacts found in the ground, and using Radio-Carbon C-14 dating. Given all that, the record in Andean South America is far more accurately described by these archaeologists (non-LDS, non-Mesoamericanists), than anything in Mesoamerica (for more details on this, see Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica).
    Sorenson: 5. The geographic configuration of the area must resemble an hourglass as a reflection of two land masses and a narrow neck of land (an isthmus) dividing the two. The hourglass must be on its side in a horizontal position to justify the Nephite cardinal directions of “northward” and “southward” for the two land masses.”
From page 7 through page 24, Sorenson uses four maps (two shown, the others are nearly exact), of a vertical north-south Land of Promise. Then, suddenly, Sorenson changes to a horizontal map (page 37) and introduces his east-west Mesoamerica
    Response: This is the most flagrant violation of any scholarly measurement criteria and extremely fallacious. First, there is no mention of an hourglass shape in the scriptural record. Second, there is no mention of an Isthmus in the scriptural record. While an “isthmus” in today’s dictionary is described as “a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land,” however, in Joseph Smith’s day and Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, an “isthmus” was described as “a neck or narrow slip of land by which two continents are connected, or by which a peninsula is united to the mainland.” Consequently, an “isthmus” is not the meaning of Mormon’s description of the Land of Promise and its narrow neck (though it allows Sorenson to limit his model to just two seas, contrary to the scriptural record).
    Third, any land description should stand on its own when cardinal directions are given (as Mormon repeatedly does) with north as up, south down, etc. Therefore, to place the map descriptions on their side, they must be done so that north and northward is in the “up” position, a fact that Sorenson violates to the extreme (see pg 37). This little comment is inserted as a subtle way to show that a land mass that is placed in an east-west position, like Mesoamerica, somehow accurately depicts the north-south orientation and descriptions Mormon gives. It is absolutely meant to confuse and mislead!
(See the next post, “More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part II,” to see the criteria that should be used to match the Book of Mormon scriptural record to the Land of Promise)

1 comment:

  1. Del,

    I know you have talked about carbon dating before.. and have written a book on it. But briefly.. is there anyone out there that could input the original carbon dating formula and retest items to see how accurate it would be?