Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Theories—The problem with Speculation – Part III

Continuing from the last post about Vernal Holley’s speculation on the names of surrounding towns in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Canada that existed when Joseph Smith was translating the plates leads to a unique comparison. However, as was shown in the last post, the names covered had no connection at all. Here we continue with Holley’s list:(Image A –
As for Midian, or a “Land of Midian” in central Pennsylvania on Holley’s map, no such place is listed as ever having existed there. There was a “Land of Midian” in the Bible, of course, located in Egypt, but then, the Nephites came from that area of the world and probably would have known of such a name and simply used it. This is like Jordan, in the Middle East, which is also one of the names Holley claims was borrowed by Joseph Smith—but why not borrowed by the Nephites who certainly knew about the Jordan area in Israel through Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram.
    Jerusalem is another such “borrowed” name on Holley’s list and on his map. While there are 345 place names in the Book of Mormon listed, only 28 were singled out by Holley as connections, and of those 28, these two posts have covered all but three: Noah, Sodom/Sidom, and Conner/Comner, which he listed. Noah and Sodom, well known Biblical names, seem unnecessary and no listing for a Conner in eastern Canada has been located.
    Thus, it can be seen from the above and the last two posts that they do not represent copies of towns or names that Joseph Smith made to create his own Book of Mormon names—almost all were either names that came into being after the Book of Mormon was published, or in small, out-of-the-way areas that were far distant from Palmyra and not likely known by Joseph Smith at the time; nor can it be suggested that these places were named because of the Book of Mormon.
    As one critic wrote about this: “Joseph Smith did have access to maps and books and probably found many names that way. Contrary to popular LDS belief, he was actually very literate, having been home schooled.”
    The problem with this type thinking is that books and maps were not available in the backwoods of western New York (Palmyra) in the 1820s. Today, of course, we have the internet, TV news, numerous maps and atlases, telephones and other means of up-to-date and immediate information, and because of that we simply think that information has always been available, but it was not.
In addition, in the 1820s, men worked on the farms from sunup to sundown, and what reading they had time for, was usually the Bible. Though there were such things as gazetteers (a geographical dictionary which described towns and villages, sizes of population, rivers and mountains, and other geographical features), they would not have been much use on a farm during Joseph Smith’s time, and it is unlikely these were widely distributed, especially on distant farms where people did little travel and had even less use for such material.
    Other speculation is seen in E. L. Peay’s comments in The Lands of Zarahemla Vol II, “Mulek and his people landed on the central part of the Yucatan, where the city of Mulek was built. They spread inland and settled the area that was later called Zarahemla” (p 127), when Amaleki tells us “Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:15-16), showing that where Mosiah found them (the city of Zarahemla) is where they landed and had always lived.
    Or “The Jaredite barges were shaped like a dish” (p 265), when the scriptural record says that the barges “would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish” (Ether 2:17).
Top: Peay’s speculated course for the Jaredites; Bottom: Unfortunately, the winds and currents do not blow in that direction across the Mediterranean, but blow in from the Atlantic in the opposite direction
     Or, in discussing the Jaredites, that “Being led north probably arrived at the Black Sea where barges were used to travel west and south to the Mediterranean Sea and on to the place where the land divided the two seas at the Straits of Gibraltar” (p 261). However, this course would not have availed the Jaredites anything since their barges, which were dependent upon the winds and currents being blown toward a destination could not have made it through the Mediterranean Sea in the opposite direction of the winds and currents as the maps above show.
    In addition, there are no mountains of any height along the Morocco coast of Peay’s great sea or Atlantic Ocean. The Anti-Atlas Range, High Atlas Range, and the Middle Atlas Range all are far inland; the Rif (Er Riff) mountains along the Mediterranean, but not on the Atlantic seashore. Mt. Tidighin (Adrar n-Tidighin) in the Rif is located far back from the coast and nearer the Mediterranean, yet along the ocean seashore, Ether tells us there was an exceedingly high Mount the Jaredites called Shelem (Ether 3:1), which could not be located along the ocean coast of Morocco where Peay places Moriancumer.
    Or another of Peay’s speculations that “The Jaredites gathered 200 animals to transport and sustain life for the group over an extended time” (p 259). There is simply no way to determine how many animals would have been taken, for whatever the number, the Jaredites spent a long time on the trail to the great sea and then 4 years at the seashore, where food would have been needed. On the other hand, in a year’s voyage for eight vessels, more food would have been needed. Then there would be the repopulating of the animal kingdom in the promised land since nothing would have survived after the Flood. Picking 200 is simply speculation that serves no purpose.
Another of Peay’s speculations is that “the brothers were wealthy and intellectual people having the means to facilitate such a lengthy undertaking” (p 259). It is hard to suggest that wealth was a matter of fact in Mesopotamia at this time. The Ark had disgorged animals of every kind two hundred years earlier, the mountains and valleys would have been full of animals for the rounding up and taking. Whether Jared and his brother and their friends had their own animals, or gathered them in when the Lord told them to take herds and flocks, though the Lord said “thy flocks” (Ether 1:41), and perhaps they were large herdsmen, but that does not necessarily warrant the term “wealthy.”
    John L. Sorenson, in his book, claims that “the right to rule was the chief bone of contention in Nephite affairs,” (p 163), yet we have only one instance where this is shown as an issue, and that was in the case of the king-men, who wanted to “alter the law and overthrow the government to establish a king over the land” (Alma 51:5). In reality, the chief bone of contention in Nephite affairs was from those who did not want to follow the religion of the people (not unlike today).
    It is just that such speculation lends nothing to the scriptural record itself, or to our understanding of it, but does often lead to giving fodder to critics and provide difficulty to those with weaker testimonies.
(See the next post, “Theories—The problem with Speculation – PtIV,” for more of the problems with speculation and its effect on the scriptural record and those who read it)

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