Thursday, August 28, 2014

More on Sorenson’s Land of Promise – Part X

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped 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,” that it needs a reality check every so often. 
    As stated earlier in these posts, Sorenson loves to create a people, climate, or situation that is not supported by the scriptural record in order to make his point. On p140, he states: “What can we tell about living conditions in the land of first inheritance? The coastal plain where the landing of Lehi would have occurred was uncomfortably hot and humid. That climate favored rapid crop growth, but the weather would be unpleasant for colonizers. The Nephites soon fled up to the land of Nephi, where the elevation permitted living In greater comfort. As Nephi tells the story, the Lamanites down in the hot lowlands were nomadic hunters, bloodthirsty, near naked, and lazy (2 Nephi 5:24; Enos 1:20).” He also adds, “As for getting a living, the tangle of forest and swamp along the coast itself may have been too hard for the Lamanite newcomers to farm effectively, since they wouldn’t immediately get the knack of cultivation in that locale.”
    There are several inaccurate or fanciful statements made here which need to be dealt with.     
    First, there is no mention in the scriptural record of the climate where Lehi landed, other than the seeds they brought from Jerusalem grew exceedingly and provided an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:24). The seeds came form Jerusalem, where a Mediterranean Climate prevails—consequently, for seeds in 600 B.C. from Jerusalem to grow exceedingly they would have requited a very similar climate, which Mesoamerica does not have. Wheat, barley and other European seeds would not have grown in the lowland hot and humid tropical climate of Guatemala where Sorenson places Lehi’s landing.
Left: Books show how to grow food gardens in tropical climates; Center: Chilies and peppers; Right: Eggplant. All do well in a tropical climate, such as Mesoamerica, but not in a Mediterranean Climate
    Second, Nephi and those who went with him did not flee because of the climate along the coast but because the Lord told him to leave his brothers who threatened to kill him (2 Nephi 5:2, 5). Third, according to Tropical Permaculture and Biodynamic Agriculture, Green Garden, and Garden Web, “Most Mediterranean plants…can’t stand humidity…the best thing to do during hot weather is to grow tropical vegetables that will withstand waterlogging, like heat and high humidity, such as Ceylon or Egyptian spinach, ibika, salad mallow, Asian greens and broccoli, pigeon pea, choko, lots, loofah (luffa), eggplant, chillies, pepper, jicama, capsicums, Chinese cabbages, okra, kangkong, pumpkin, squash, collards, kale, chard, and sweet corn. None of these plants are Mediterranean and would not grow in a Mediterranean Climate where Lehi lived and from where he brought his seeds (1 Nephi 18:24).
    Fourth, Nephi does not tell any story about the Lamanites or the Land of First Inheritance being a hot and humid climate or area. In fact, Sorenson’s reference of 2 Nephi 5:24 shows the reason the Lamanites became “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey” was because of “their cursing which was upon them.” Nor does his reference of Enos 1:20 have anything to do with the climate, but it was “their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people.”
    When reading Sorenson, one needs to look up his references since quite frequently, they do not support his statement, but gives an entirely different reasoning, as shown above.
    Fifth, and lastly, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, who had likely been farmers in the Old World, living outside Jerusalem on the surrounding farmland, and would have known how to plant and harvest if they chose. In addition, they would have been part of the first very successful planting (1 Nephi 18:24), that is, they would have if they wanted to survive in this new land that first year. The idea they didn’t know how to do anything is pure fabrication on Sorenson’s part.
    In another brief, but pertinent comment, Sorenson (p138) shows his lack of understanding of Nephi’s comments about his voyage, when he states: “Nephi lefrt us no information in the Book of Mormon about the route, nor did he tell us in modern terms where they landed.” Interestingly enough, Nephi did exactly that. He tells us his ship was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8), which is a very important and clear statement. In oceanography, a simple term “drift voyage” tells us how a vessel or object is moved across the ocean and, once we know and understand the currents and winds involved, exactly where that drift voyage would go.
    Thor Heyerdahl in his “drift voyage” Kon Tiki proved that winds and currents would take a vessel “driven forth before the wind” along a certain current until it reached land.
A drift voyage, such as Thor Heyerdah’s Kon Tiki, is a voyage where the vessel enters the water and is subject to only the winds and currents for its direction and movement. Within a slight range, steerage is possible, but only for a matter of yards, not miles. Note (black line) how Heyerdahl’s path followed the (white arrows) current
    A drift voyage, by definition—a transoceanic journey between continents by primitive boat or raft, propelled by ocean currents—drifts with the wind and current. Numerous such voyages have been undertaken, both accidentally and by design. In November 2001 a pair of Samoan fishermen were accidentally caught in a current that took them westward across the Pacific 2500 miles in four months to Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea off the northeastern coast of Australia, where they were rescued. In 1992 a storm washed several containers once carrying 29,000 plastic bathtub toys from a sinking ship bound from Hong Kong to Tacoma,
Washington. Over the next ten months, frogs, ducks, turtles and beavers began washing up near Sitka, Alaska, following the currents as they drifted thousands of miles.  Numerous studies have been made of the effects of ocean surface currents on drifting objects, until today it is well understood where currents flow and where “drift voyages” will end up.
    Such is the case with Nephi’s ship. We know where it left, we know the currents involved in the sea (Arabian Sea) it started on and where that current took it to the Indian Ocean, and how it was affected by the currents leading into the Southern Ocean, the West Wind Drift and the Prevailing Westerlies. We also know where a drift voyage would flow on such a voyage and where it would cease, as it was forced up the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current to a cessation of wind and current at 30º south Latitude along the Chilean coast at a spot called Coquimbo Bay. And, we know that if a landing was not affected at that spot, what would happen to the vessel as it continued drifting as the winds and currents picked up north of the Tropic of Capricorn and was pushed out by the Peruvian Bulge into the currents that form the South Pacific Gyre—the very current that took Thor Heyerdahl westward from Peru and across and into the Polynesian islands. We know all this today because of the tremendous studies of drift voyages, currents, and winds that have been accomplished in recent years.
As the map shows, any vessel moving northward from the Peruvian Bulge (just below the bottom of the picture) and along the Peru Coastal Current (Humboldt Current) would be sent, as the Kon Tiki was, out into the South Equatorial Current north of the Galapagos Islands or into the Peru Oceanic Current south of the Galapagos
    What is obvious from the map is that no vessel is going to continue northward toward Panama because of the strong oceanic currents moving south and southeast from Central America. Recent scientific experiments with Drift Voyages have shown the truth to this statement—such voyages, subject to the wind and currernts “driven forth before the wind” would never have reached Central or Meso-America.
    The point is, Sorenson can say (p138) “Nephi’s ship likely threaded through the islands of the western Pacific, then across the open reaches north of the equator to landfall around 14 degrees north latitude,” which would be along the southern Guatemala coast. However, as has been pointed out, a drift voyage would not have gone in that direction, a ship “driven forth before the wind” would not have traveled across the Pacific against either the Northern arm of the South Equatorial Current (south of the Equator) or the Southern arm of the North Equatorial Current (north of the Equator) as Sorenson so flippantly claims.
    Thus, it is not difficult to know where Nephi sailed, because he tells us how he sailed his ship, and modern oceanography has mapped the world’s oceans and currents so thoroughly that there can be no mistake about where a drift voyage “driven forth before the wind” would have gone, given its embarkation from the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
(See the final post on, “More on Sorenson—the Duplicitous Sales Job,” to see how the scriptural record is manipulated to support an erroneous conclusion)

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