Sunday, November 9, 2014

Comments from Readers – Part III

Continuing with comments, questions and critiques that have been sent in from readers of our blog.  
    Comment #1: “You can claim that your Nephi had a steel bow all you want, but the truth is that the Israelites knew nothing of steel for hundreds of years after your Lehi left Jerusalem. Every commentator on the Book of Mormon I have read and heard about has pointed out the many cultural and historical anachronisms in your Book of Mormon—the one about steel is such a blunder”  Rice T.
    Response: Hardly a blunder, though this criticism has been around a long time because when it was first mentioned many years ago, no one had any knowledge of its truth or falsehood from a scientific viewpoint. However, far more recent discoveries have shown this not to be a blunder, but an amazing proof of the ability of Joseph Smith to translate an ancient record which mentioned steel among the Jews in 600 B.C., long before such was ever thought to be true. According to Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly, and Tamara S. Wheeler, “How the Iron Age Began,” Scientific American (237/4 [October 1977]:127), who state: “It is increasingly apparent that the practice of hardening iron through deliberate carburization, quenching and tempering was well known to the ancient world from which Nephi came. ‘It seems evident,’ notes one recent authority, ‘that by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron.’”
In addition, in 1987, the Ensign reported that archeologists had unearthed a long steel sword (left) near Jericho dating back to the late seventh century B.C., probably to the reign of King Josiah who died shortly before Lehi began to prophesy (“Iron Sword from the Time of Jeremiah Discovered near Jericho,” Ensign, June 1987, p57.) This sword is now on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. The museum’s explanatory sign reads in part, “The sword is made of iron hardened into steel, attesting to substantial metallurgical know-how.”
    Comment #2: “I have read where it is claimed there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York, area in 1820, as Joseph Smith reported in his history.” Trevor K.
    Response. An interesting comment. Perhaps you might want to do a little more reading. With today’s greater access to original sources, including the Palmyra Register newspaper, there is ample evidence of religious revivals in the area during 1820 and for some years earlier. It appears that the Methodists had a regularly used camp meeting ground, and that revivals were common enough that often they garnered no coverage in the newspapers unless something out of the ordinary occurred such as a death.
Left: A drawing of one of the many Methodist revivals in the area in the early 1800s, especially by Peter Cartwright (right), a Methodist revivalist circuit rider in the Midwest who helped start the Second Great Awakening, and who baptized over twelve thousand converts. He was later elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1828-1832
    Comment #3: “What if all the facts are known—is reason still not truth? After all, the air and ocean currents have been constant since the land masses were formed in their present position. These land masses, coupled with winds, currents, solar heating, Coriolis and gravitational pull (ocean currents move clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere), are constant, moving warm water into colder areas, and colder water into warmer areas, making many parts of the planet livable that otherwise would not be. In fact, NASA calls it the “Perpetual Ocean,” because ocean currents are a continuous directed flow of ocean water capable of traveling great distances as the wind currents drag the ocean along with them for surprisingly long distances within well-defined boundaries, almost as if they were rivers. And western boundary currents are the fastest, deepest, and narrowest of all geostropohic currents, transporting an extraordinary volume of water, moving currents poleward in each of the gyres, beginning with warm water that cools en route and eventually sinks at high latitudes. In all mapping of currents, from now dating back to 160 million years ago, these currents are constant and flow under the same principle as they do today. I think if more people truly understood the truth of matters, they would not try to belittle truth just because they do not agree with it” Dr. Antonio F.
    Response: Thank you for your comment. It is interesting that at one time in the ancient past, early oceanographers believed the deep ocean was devoid of wind and assumed to be perfectly static; however, over time, experience and technology taught man that while surface currents are much faster, even the deep ocean has currents, and that these current velocities in deep water masses can be significant. It also might be of note that while the Bible states “paths of the sea” in Psalm 8:8, showing man knew about ocean currents 2800 years ago, though modern man (outside mariners) did not understand that until Matthew Fontaine Maury, a Naval Commander in the U.S. Navy (and later CSA Navy) considered to be the father of oceanography (“Pathfinder of the Seas,” “Scientist of the Seas,” “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology,” etc.), while bedridden during a serious illness, asked his son to read a portion of the Bible to him. While listening, he noted the expression “paths of the sea,” and upon recovery, Maury took God as His word and went looking for these paths. Among 20 books he wrote about sea and wind currents, his 1855 book on oceanography (The Physical Geography of the Sea) was written after studying thousands of ships’ logs as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and head of the Depot of Charts and Instruments, is still considered a basic text on the subject and is still used in universities.
Left: Matthew F. Maury; Center: William Ferrel; Right: Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis
    In 1856, William Ferrel proposed the existence of a circulation cell in the mid-latitudes with air being deflected by the Coriolis force (named after French engineer-mathematician Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis) to create the prevailing westerly winds, and in 1890, Valfrid Ekman noted that these currents decreased exponentially with depth and that the surface current moved at a 45-degree angle to the wind direction. Of course, mariners have known for centuries that ocean currents flow along generally consistent paths—Columbus understood the westward flow of current around the Canary Islands a few years before he actually sailed across the Atlantic; Benjamin Franklin used ships’ log books to draw a map of the current from Mexico to Spain (Gulf Stream) in 1769. This is not to suggest that the Biblical Hebrews all understood ocean currents, or that they were well understood through the centuries, or that mariners have not long understood many, if not most, of them. The fact is, ocean currents are relatively new in “constant and inarguable” knowledge (See the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica, for a further explanation of this).
    The problem of all this is, as you obviously know, that people are willing to write about, and especially criticize in support of their own cherished beliefs, things they often do not know much, if anything, about.
    Comment#4: “Joseph Allen claims that “One of the most dramatic name and directional correlations with the land of Zarahemla and the state of Chiapas, Mexico is the wilderness of Tehuantepec. The Aztec word Tehuantepec literally means wilderness of wild beasts, the same meaning as the wilderness of Hermounts,” the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts” (Alma 2:37).” Artem G.
    Response: To be accurate, the translation of tehuantepec, which runs along the eastern edge of the passage through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, is formed by an uninhabited mountain wilderness. This wilderness is sparsely inhabited even now. Meleseo Ortega Martinez recounts the origin of the word Tehuantepec (Melesio Ortega Martánez, Reseña Historico de Tehuantepec (Oaxaca, Mexico: H. Ayuntamiento Constitucional de Tehuantepec, 1998), 5). It is derived from the Nahuatl words tecuanitepec. Tecuani has the meaning of "wild beast," and tepec translates as "hill." According to the Nahuatl dictionary, tecuani also means "man-eating beast." The composite has the meaning “hill of the wild animals” or “hill of the demons.” However, the name was not given to the area because of the animals as Allen claims, but it was given by the Aztecs because of the ferocity of the native Zapotec warriors. The Zapotec name for the area is Guie-Ngola, meaning “Large Hill/Rock,” with the name of the nearby city Guisi’si Gui, as shown in the Guevea Codex (Zapotec Codex), and found in the Enciclopedia de los Municipios de Mexico Oaxaca, and also Vela Sandunga: Viven el splendor de la fiesta tehuana.
Ancient pyramid of Guie-Ngola Guiengola)
    Mormon does not state that this wilderness of Hermounts as an area of wild beasts, but only a portion of it: until they had reached the wilderness, which was called Hermounts; and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts” (Alma 2:37, emphasis mine). Note that Allen does not quote the entire meaning of wilderness in his comment, obviously realizing that Hermounts was not entirely, or maybe even very much of it was infested with such beasts—on the other hand, the Aztec meaning of tehuantepec is related to the mountain (hill) wilderness. A fine point, indeed, but evidently there was a large wilderness to the north and west of Zarahemla, and only a part of that wilderness was infested with “wild and ravenous beasts.” We don’t know how much of Hermounts was infested with wild beasts, but usually such animals have a habitat, and it is generally not an entire area. The Wilderness of Tehuantepec, being a mountain, would suggest a very large area. It also might be of interest that Robert M. Carmack has used the Popul Vuh and other historical documents to show that Nahuatl (the language under discussion here) did not arrive in the Maya lowlands earlier than 800 A.D., over 400 years after the demise of the Nephites, so Allen's comment seems to have little merit here.

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