Friday, February 20, 2015

The Problem with Theories

Wherever you go someone has a theory about where Lehi landed and where the Land of Promise was located. They theorize this direction or that, from landing in Mesoamerica, the Great Lakes, the eastern United States, Baja California to even Malay. The problem is, these are all theories. That is, they are hypothesis, conjecture, supposition, speculation, beliefs or assumptions. What’s more, and the most important thing, is that they are not often based upon the actual scriptural record itself—at least not all of the statements Mormon and others have given to explain and describe the promised land. 
Some theories are instead based upon a single issue—Phyllis Carol Olive’s placement of the Hill Cumorah in western New York; Peter Covino’s idea of his H38 virus, that is, one scriptural statement found in Helaman 3:8; W. Vincent Coon and the location of mounds found over the eastern U.S.; David Rosenvall’s Baja California theory and the fact that it is a peninsula; Ralph A. Olsen’s Malay peninsula because it has the animals described in the scriptural record; even Mesoamerica, because it has ruins of an ancient civilization.

    The problem with any theory is that it almost inevitably and very predictably begins with an end point in mind and then works backward to the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Lehi’s Bountiful. That is, the theory begins with where a person believes the Land of Promise was located (where Lehi landed), and goes backward. This, of course, is the opposite of the events described in the scriptural record, and the reverse order of how to find where Nephi’s ship sailed and where it landed.
    Phyllis Carol Olive begins with the location of the Hill Cumorah in western New York, an area that is covered with “many waters.” Her belief is that the events in the Book of Mormon played out in the lands around the Hill Cumorah in New York.
    This is an idea, by the way, that in and of itself, is not accurate based on the scriptural record, for the Hill Cumorah was located in the Land Northward, in an area referred to as “a land of many waters,” which is described as being far to the north—in fact, at the northern extremity of the Land of Promise, where Mormon was forced to conduct his last stand of the Nephite army in 385 A.D.
Yellow Arrow: Land Northward; White Arrow; Land of Bountiful; Green Arrow: Land of Zarahemla; Black Arrow: Land of Nephi; Red Arrow: Hill Cumorah; Blue Arrow: Land of Many Waters. Note how they do not line up as described by Mormon, for Olive has the Hill Cumorah east of Bountiful and not in the Land Northward, and north of the Land of Many Waters, which land is east of Zarahemla. Note also the very small size of the Land Northward
     Every other event in the Book of Mormon, except for one occurrence in the Ether account (Ether 15:8), took place to the south of the Hill Cumorah, all the way south to the Lehi landing site along the west sea of the Land of Promise (Alma 22:28), and area in the south of the most southern land mentioned in the scriptural record (the Land of Nephi)—obviously a distance of hundreds of miles. Olive's theory is like saying that the Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, so to understand the land of the Saints, we need to start in Boise, Idaho (an area 340 miles away), and look at the lands around Boise.
    As Olive wrote: “I became curious about where had it all taken place. With the hill Cumorah the only known landmark we have, I knew this was the place to begin, thus out came the maps of New York where I located the Hill Cumorah.”
    Again, this is an inaccurate statement. We do not have a known landmark of the Hill Cumorah in New York state. We only know that the drumline hill where Joseph Smith found the buried records was in this location. We have no indication in the scriptural record that this Hill Cumorah is the hill Cumorah mentioned in the record, which by the way, is said to be in “the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah” (Mormon 6:2). Interestingly enough, the Hill Cumorah in New York is not in the land of Cumorah, as indicated in the scriptural record. In fact, it was the “land of Cumorah” (Mormon 6:2, 4, 5, 6), which is singled out in the record more than the hill (Mormon 6:4, 6, 7).
    Olive went on to say, “As I studied the map, I noted that the area south of Lake Ontario was nearly surrounded by water as described in Alma 22:32. There is no mention of Seas in the scripture, just water, which could easily have been waterways of one kind or another like just a river or creek.”
The area in the center-right of the map lighter colored is New York. The area closer to the two lakes is Olive’s Land of Promise. Is there any reason to think that this land would be considered “and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water” (Alma 22:32)? 
    Again, another erroneous statement. Of course seas are mentioned—actually two of them—since the entire idea of the water mentioned in vs 32 is in regard to these two seas: “from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water” (Alma 22:32). It is always suspect when someone quotes a scripture inaccurately or only partially, especially by quoting only that part that agrees with their point.
    The point is, when you start off with the end result already determined, you make concessions with the scriptural record since it seldom agrees with such theorizing. In the case of Olive, instead of seeing what the scriptural record had to say and what it meant, she was forced to try and fit Mormon's information into an area she had already decided upon. In Olive’s case, she is forced to claim the Hill Cumorah is to the east of the East Sea in opposition to Mormon's descriptoin, and far to the east of Zarahemla and Bountiful, and north of the Land of Many Waters (which are east of Zarahemla and Bountiful)--all of which is contrary to the scriptural record.
    In her theory of land locations, nothing fits where Mormon placed it; however, still undaunted, Olive goes on to make her case that this was the Land of Promise. The problem, once again, is that once an end location is determined, the fact that the scriptural record does not agree with it does not alter the opinion of that being the Land of Promise.
    Take John L. Sorenson’s Mesoamerica location. Despite the directions of Mormon’s descriptions being very clear, Sorenson goes on to use an east-west directional land rather than the north-south directional land of the scriptural record. Despite the narrow neck of land being the width a Nephite could cross in a day and a half, he uses a land where the narrow neck would take four or five times that long to cross.
    This is what happens when a theory is developed and the starting point is the end location.
    In another example, Olive, Covino and Coon, as well as all those who place the Land of Promise in the eastern United States, either around the Great Lakes or the Mississippi valley, either location Lehi could never had reached by ship. Oceanographers, hydrologists, water management experts, researchers and historians have all made it clear that the early inland rivers of the eastern United States, including the Mississippi River and the St. Lawrence River (in Canada), could not be used for interior sailing to any great distance, most to no more than a few miles.
Top: Mississippi River rapids; Bottom: St. Lawrence Rapids. Not until the 1800s were many of the U.S. inland rivers negotiable, and many others not until the 1900s 
    Not until the early settlers (Erie Canal, etc.), the Royal Army Engineers of Canada (St. Lawrence Seaway) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Mississippi River, etc.) dredged, dug, altered, diverted, etc., inland rivers, were ships of any kind able to sail even to within walking distance of the Great Lakes because of numerous shallows, rapids, whitewater, falls, cataracts, etc., that blocked even movement by canoe (see the numerous earlier posts on this subject).
    So let us say that again: when a theorist decides upon a location, then tries to fit the scriptural descriptions to it, they have to  bend, change, alter, or eliminate the scriptural descriptions in order to make Mormon’s Land of Promise fit their pre-determined model. Also, as shown, they often hang their entire model and theory on a single issue, yet there are numerous descriptions of the Land of Promise given by Nephi, Mormon, and others (see "So Where is the Land of Promise?" Parts I thru XII, posted between December 26, 2013 and January 7, 2014).
    We have spent much time on this blog to show how Theorists many claims and models simply do not fit the scriptural record. It has nothing to do with what we show as the Land of Promise—but whether or not ideas match the scriptural record. If they do not match without making drastic changes, then they simply are not accurate.

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