Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Eye of Reason – Part I

The most outspoken, yet fairly reasonable, critic of the Jaredite barges I have yet found is Kent Ponder, Ph.D., who taught at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and who credits himself as very knowledgeable of construction engineering and ship building (for a complete understanding of his intellectual objections and our logical, scientific answers to those objections, see the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica, specifically Appendix XVI, “A Scholars Critical View of Jaredite Barges”). On the other hand, most objections are based on little knowledge, and even less understanding of what it is they are criticizing.
In Ponder’s “Order of Procedure,” openings in a boat would be built during the framing stage of construction, not afterward
    Ponder’s overall objection is not based on flippant criticism and emotion as are most, but based on what he calls “The Eye of Reason,” and in one such area, what he calls “The Order of Procedure.” Using these premises, he extensively covers the fact that, according to the Book of Ether, the Lord had the Jaredites build all eight barges and it was not until after that time that the brother of Jared realized they had no light and no ventilation (breathable air exchange).
    His critique of this begins with: “First, calmly think about what your own planning would entail if you were told that you and some friends would have to hand-build small, submersible boats in which you and your family would be taking a year-long ocean voyage, accompanied by flocks and herds of animals.” He then goes on to say: “Following the Lord's specifications, the workmen built each boat with just one tight-fitting door, and no window or other opening. Construction of all eight boats was completed, per the Lord's personal instructions …next, the Brother of Jared looked at the finished boats and wondered for the first time, Whoa! How will we breathe in these things?...It was only then, that he noticed that the boats were air-tight (He also noticed they were totally dark inside).”
It is completely dark inside a modern submarine without artificial light. If the barge was a self-contained tube-like affair as a submarine, gutting the insides first (such as in a Baobab tree as we have mentioned) before cutting any opening would be understandable. After all, the Jaredites built “according to the instructions of the Lord” (Ether 2:16). Obviously, they knew from the beginning what the vessels were for and how they were to be used
    He then goes on to say: “Now let's pause to consider: How do the eyes of faith and reason interpret this account? The LDS eye of faith typically accepts the story unfazed. But consider the following "Eye of Reason and Common Sense" questions…” He then asks a series of forty questions, which he concludes with: “It seems to me that all 40 of the above questions are honestly, fairly and sensibly stated.”
    And they are. Based on his singular viewpoint, each question is reasonably stated and both fair and sensible in content. Each is a valid question and deserves an answer (for the questions and answers, see the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica, as stated above).
    While we will not endeavor to discuss and answer each question here, let’s just illustrate the reasonableness of his critique with the first question: “Is it reasonable that men smart enough to build such watertight and airtight boats, following divine instructions, would do all the planning, material gathering and construction, and finish all eight before the question of breathing and seeing occurred to any of them? How could they not have noticed this problem for months?”
Using his “Eye of Reason,” let’s consider the circumstances at the time. First, the Jaredites, though living in the area of the Tower Nimrod and his followers were building, were not themselves involved. What experience they had in building ships is questionable, since they were far more likely to have been farmers and herdsmen, as Noah and the earlier Patriarchs had been, and were down through Abraham. Secondly, the brother of Jared, who talked with God and received specific and detailed instruction from Him, was being obedient and following that instruction. Third, it is not likely that the Lord laid out the entire plan in the beginning, but instructed him one step at a time. Such is illustrated in Nephi’s later experience in building his ship when he said, “And he did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1), and “I did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3).
    Consequently, the brother of Jared worked, along with his brethren, in carrying out each step in the order it was given by the Lord. While some people, especially today, would think to question the Lord in his methods and the problems encountered along the way, the brother of Jared was a man of great faith that even the Lord acknowledged (Ether 3:9), and was a man who had perfect belief in the Lord (Ether 3:15), and one of great knowledge (Ether 3:19). Such a man had full and complete trust in the Lord and awaited his instruction and carried them out to the fullest. Then, when the Lord was finished with his instruction, Jared looked around and a couple of problems were obviously evident, and since the Lord did not instruct him further, he inquired of the Lord about the light and ventilation.
What Ponder and most people today do into seem to realize about the Lord, is this one very important fact—he will instruct and guide us so far, then it is up to us to take the next step. In this fashion, the Lord sat back and waited for the brother of Ether to figure some things out for himself. And when he inquired, the Lord took that opportunity to further instruct the brother of Jared on some finer points of what we would call ‘scientific knowledge’ today.
    One: You cannot have windows like what you are used to in your world, because the pressures of the sea pounding against them will dash them to pieces (no mention is made of glass and none is implied—Noah had windows, but they were wooden covered [shuttered], and wood, like glass, can be broken and smashed and dashed to pieces under extreme force and pressure);
    Two: You cannot build fires in the enclosed spaces of the airtight vessel because the fumes (carbon monoxide poisoning) would eventually kill you;
    Then the Lord took another tact, which he often does, and asked the brother of Jared to figure out the answer to his own question: “what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25). It is also interesting and noteworthy that the Lord did not ask that question until after he had reiterated all that he had already done for the Jaredites (Ether 2:24).
    Now, the brother of Jared, with the burden on his own shoulders, not only had the task of figuring out how light could be provided, but as a result, experienced the most exciting and spiritual moment of his life and as a result eventually saw the finger of the Lord, then the entire personage of the Lord (Ether 3:8-16).
    In what many critics refer to as the stupidity of the Jaredite God, the Lord took this opportunity to both instruct, present an opportunity for growth and development, and provide a spiritual experience that not only would have a life-long impression on the brother of Jared, upon the Jaredites overall, but also on millions of people thereafter who have and will yet read of this account. It is always interesting that while critics revile and rail against the Lord’s methods, mankind itself is benefited from the simple and meaningful acts of God's omnipotent knowledge and understanding.
    There is also an interesting secondary message here. While Ponder and other critics think this Jaredite event is bordering on a lack of reason and improper “Order of Procedure,” let us consider that a higher power with ultimate knowledge far beyond ours, asks us to build something that will take us to a far off planet via a means far beyond our experience and understanding. We are given the plans. Do we look at the plans and question them? Do we build the first, second or third stage, then stop and question the validity of the design and our construction of it? Or do we finish the plan first, then ask for further information?
In an interesting parallel story, Earth designers, because of their “Eye of Reason” and “Order of Procedure,” decided to add a chair to the design provided by a higher intelligence for the safety and comfort of the single passenger, which nearly resulted in her death
    In a movie some years ago a somewhat similar occurance took place. It was called “Contact” and starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. In the movie they built this plan for a space vehicle supplied by a distant, unknown power. When finished, they realized the vehicle had no seat, so they decided to build one in--after all, any vehicle should have a seat, right? However, in the course of the vehicle's “flight,” the seat was torn apart from the unknown forces involved in the transit and could have killed the occupant had she been in it at the time. Obviously, the higher power knew and understood this, but the humans did not. While this is just a fictitious story, it does show the idea that a higher power probably has more knowledge and understanding than those he is trying to help.
    The point is, the Lord knows all things and his instruction is always accurate and beneficial. If we cannot understand this at the time, we need to have faith and carry out the task at hand as instructed. When completed, we can then look it over and ask…but, as with the case of reading the Jaredite account, we have to ask (evaluate) with an eye to understanding, not one of criticism because of our own lack of understanding and knowledge.
    The brother of Jared followed the Lord’s instruction and did as he was told. The Ponders and critics of the world unknowingly seek to question and ridicule the things of God through placing, whether knowingly or not, their knowledge and understanding above that of God.
(See the next post, “The Eye of Reason – Part II,” for more on the way the Lord does things as opposed to the way man thinks it ought to be done)

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