Monday, May 25, 2015

Looking Through a Keyhole – Part I

In a recent Saturday session of General Conference, Dallin H. Oaks spoke on having a “Keyhole View” of the gospel. His point of looking through a keyhole seems quite appropriate to the events surrounding many theorists’ views of the geography of the Book of Mormon and their placement of the location of the Land of Promise. 
   In the more than fifty years I have been involved with the Book of Mormon and the more than thirty years I have been researching the geographical setting of the Jaredite and Nephite nations, and reading all that has been written about this by various individuals and groups, I have found that nearly every person with an opinion on this subject falls prey to Elder Oaks’ example of looking through a keyhole.
When looking through a keyhole, all that can be seen is that very limited view that the keyhole opening allows
The problem arises in thinking the keyhole view is everything on the subject. However, the keyhole view may show what appears to be a very tranquil scene.
The size and shape of the keyhole determines your field of view beyond it
    Again the problem arises when one thinks that what one is seeing is the entire picture, and is unaware that the actual view can be much larger, and provide a total different image than what the limited view through the keyhole provides.
    But what if there is more beyond what can be seen that is important to the scene being viewed.
    As an example, through the keyhole (the singular view) a person can become quite convinced one thing is the case; however, when seeing beyond that (more than the keyhole allows), the view might be very different and change the entire meaning of the first (limited) view.
In reality, the view through the keyhole may show a very inaccurate view of what may be the Big Picture, as these two shots suggest 
    This can be seen in such views as certain approaches show. Take, as an example, those in the early days of the Book of Mormon who heard about the ruins in Central America and immediately decided those were ruins of the Nephites and centered their attention in that area, believing that was the site of the Land of Promise.
    Or take those who decided that the hill Cumorah in upstate western New York was the same as the hill Cumorah mentioned in the scriptural record, and centered their belief and drew up their model that the Great Lakes area was the site of the Nephite nation.
    In both of these instances, the “keyhole view” centered on what could be seen in 1) Mesoamerica, and nothing beyond that area; or 2) on the Hill Cumorah in New York and its surrounding area, with anything beyond that view being ignored.
    In these cases, the architect of the theory builds an entire model of the Land of Promise based on a single idea, looking then for anything that would match that idea and, unfortunately, ignoring anything that did not fit into that pre-conceived idea or model.
    As a result, such people (the theorist) finds themselves having to squeeze something into the model that does not fit, usually by fudging with the scriptural record so it looks like it fits. A good example of this is John L. Sorenson’s model of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise. In order to make Mesoamerica fit, Sorenson had to change the meaning of “north,” “east,” “south,” and “west,” in the scriptural record to what he called “Nephite North.”
Blue Arrow: Land Northward; Green Arrow: Land Southward; Red Arrow East Sea; Yellow Arrow: West Sea; White Line: Narrow Neck of Land 
    This change of directions allowed him to take Mormon's very clear compass directions stated in the scriptural record and alter them to a different meaning that was clearly stated in the scriptural record. Thus, “north” became “west,” and “south” became “east,” resulting in the north-lying Gulf of Mexico becoming the “Sea East,” and the south-lying Pacific Ocean becoming the “Sea West,” and the narrow neck of land being to the west of the Land of Bountiful, and the Land of Desolation being to the west of the narrow neck of land, instead of to the north as Mormon so clearly states it. To support this, he creates his "Nephite North" with a very distinct "clouding the issue" explanation of how the ancient Israelites knew "east" and their cardinal directions.
Joseph Allen’s map of the Land of Promise: Brown Arrow: Land Northward; Green Arrow: Hill Cumorah; Blue Arrow: Land of Many Waters; Red Arrow: Bountiful 
    Or, other theorists like Joseph L. Allen, who positions Bountiful far north in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is about 600 miles away from the Land Northward, the hill Cumorah and his narrow neck of land, as well as placing the Land of Many Waters about 300 miles to the east of the hill Cumorah, though Mormon places this hill within the many waters area, and Bountiful along the border of the Land Northward and Land of Desolation. In addition, others create two Bountifuls in order to squeeze the scriptural record statements into their models.
    Like Phyllis Carol Olive and her “keyhole view” of the hill Cumorah in New York (see the previous 10-part Series: “What is in a Description”); or Rod Meldrum’s “keyhole view” that places the Land of Promise in the heartland of the United States.
Meldrum’s heartland model showing the (Red Arrow) Land of Zarahemla to the west of the (White Arrow) Land of Bountiful, and the (Yellow Arrow) Land of Nephi south of Bountiful, not Zarahemla, all completely out of the alignment in which Mormon describes the land he lived upon, walked upon, and fought across all his life 
    There are several other “keyhole view” approaches that have been written about and persevere despite their not matching the scriptural record in most of the matching descriptions Mormon left us or Nephi wrote about. As an example:
1. Trying to identify the Narrow Neck of Land since it was the most notable feature of the Land of Promise, therefore, looking for a place with a narrow isthmus or neck;
2. Belief in Moroni’s comment about “this continent,” limiting the Land of Promise to North America;
3. Parochial view of the United States, eliminating other areas, such as Canada, Latin America, etc.
4. Belief in U.S. Mound Builders mounds being built by the Nephites;
5. Belief that the Land of Promise of the Western Hemisphere was limited to the land promised in the Book of Mormon;
6. Trying to match Book of Mormon geography to existing geography;
7. Belief that any one scripture (such as Helaman 3:8) is the only determining factor;
8. Looking for identifiable sites of cities and events, such as locating the Waters of Mormon;
9. Looking for a people in the Western Hemisphere with a written history;
10. Looking for a location of the final Lamanite-Nephite battle area, with buried bones, weapons, etc.;
11. Looking for a Peninsular area, such as Malay or Baja California, since the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water;
12. Articles in the Times & Seasons suggesting where Lehi landed, written by Joseph Smith or other early-day leaders;
13. Prophetic comments about America being the Land of Promise, and centering within the United States.
   The point is, and always will be, when one starts looking for one specific issue, it may be found or at least identified with one specific area. But where do you go from there? Do you just say, well this must be the Land of Promise. Or do you look further and if something fits, add to your claim, but if it does not fit—like the north-south arrangement of Mormon’s Land of Promise and east-west Mesoamerica? You are left with two choices: 1) Discard your first belief, or 2) Change, fudge, reinterpret, etc., the scriptural record so it does fit.
(See the next post, “Looking Through a Keyhole – Part II,” to see what others have done and what one should do)

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