Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Have You Ever Wondered Why? – Part I

Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon is generally struck with the directions given and the imagery those directions create. Of course, not every reader obtains the same map image, however, most have held to a north-south directional system. Even so, it is interesting that the words “north” or “south,” appear only a total of seven times, while the words “land northward” and “land southward,” appear a total of 47 times. However, the word “westward” is never used at all, and the word “eastward” is used only twice, both in Ether and both describing the eastern portion of the Land Northward: “and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom” (Ether 9:3); and “Shiz did pursue Coriantumr eastward, even to the borders by the seashore” (Ether 14:26).
    These words, as Joseph Smith translated them in 1829, would most closely reflect the English used in his region (New England) at the time as found in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (Webster, himself, being a New Englander):
The width on a compass of “northward” would be between the two small arrows (red line) on the compass, which is from within the eight half-winds (or 16 points) northwest by north (Maestro-Tramontana), to northeast by north (Greco-Tramontana)—which is a 45º angle from 337 ½º to 22 1/2º
    Defined  by definition:
    Northward – (adjective or adverb) being or toward the north, or nearer to the north than to the east and west points
    Southward – (adverb) towards the south, as to go southward; however, as a noun, it means “The southern regions or countries”
    Eastward – (adverb) toward the east; in the direction of east
    Thus as a direction, the suffix ward means toward a point, i.e., northward, toward the north; southward, toward the south.
    Consequently, when Mormon gave us the directions of the Land of Promise, and Joseph Smith translated into English the Reformed Egyptian characters Mormon used, the Spirit acknowledged the correctness of Joseph’s use of northward, southward, and eastward. So when we look at Mormon’s descriptive language, we would read:
    Alma 22:30: “And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far toward the north that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed”
    Alma 22:30: “Thus the land toward the north was called Desolation, and the land toward the south was called Bountiful”
    Alma 22:31: “Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land toward the north for food”
    Alma 22:32: “there being a small neck of land between the land toward the north and the land toward the south
    Alma 22:33: “had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land toward the north
    In those five short verses, which Mormon inserted into Alma’s record so his future reader could better understand the description of the land, he uses north/south or “toward the north/south” eight times within a 97-word statement about directions.
The Land of Promise running north and south as Mormon so clearly describes in Alma 22:27-34). The "Land North" and the "Land South," are added to the map from Alma 46:17; Helaman 6:10; and 3 Nephi 1:17, for completeness in the use of all north-south land terms
    It is hard to imagine how anyone could read these directions, understanding the meaning of the words, and not recognize that this land ran vertically, from the south (Land of Nephi) to the north (Land of Desolation).
    Yet, John L. Sorenson insists on creating a totally different meaning for Mormon’s directions, changing everything to actually read east and west as his model of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise so clearly shows. And, too, other Mesoamericanists, like Brant A. Gardner, while not using Sorenson's skewed map, or Nephite North, uses a different approach that still skews the directions to fit Mesoamerica (see a later post series on Gardner's approach).
Sorenson’s map (Map 5) showing his Land of Promise running east and west; however, Mormon’s descriptions do not include east or eastward, or west or westward, which are the directions Sorenson’s map shows
    This brings us back to the question originally asked. Why did Mormon use the terms northward and southward? In all of our contemporary dictionaries the term northward literally means: (adjective) “in a northerly direction,” (adverb) “toward the north,” (noun) “the direction or region to the north.”
    This means that the term “northward” is an inescapable reference to the Land Northward being or laying to the north, or that the Land of Desolation is an area being or laying to the north. Thus, any reference using northward means Mormon was referring to a land, region or area toward the north—literally “to the north.” Even Sorenson’s first four maps in his book (Map 1, 2, 3, and 4), between pages six (6) and twenty-five (25), show a north-south alignment as he introduced the terminology from the scriptural record, as opposed to the horizontal map he later uses (Map 5) of Mesoameria (above).
Two of the first four maps Sorenson uses to illustrate his Land of Promise. Note that the Land Southward is in the South and the Land Northward is in the North in an accurate portrayal of Mormon’s description; however, when he changes to Map 5 (above) of Mesoamerica, the Land Northward is in the West and the Land Southward is in the East
    Following these first four maps and some twenty pages of explanation of a north-south arrangement, Sorenson then, in his book, introduces his east-west map (Map 5 above) to change everything he had written and begins to introduce in the next eighteen pages redefining the Hebrew meaning of north, south, east and west.
    It is interesting that on page 36, opposite his introduction of a now east-west map for the Land of Promise, Sorenson writes: “More detail is not necessary at this point, The general agreement between Mesoamerica and Book of Mormon geography can be grasped directly by studying map 5 carefully.” Yet, the point is obvious, that nothing checks out between Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon Land of Promise descriptions. The difference in direction alone is almost 90º off kilter, with the Land Northward to the west of the narrow neck of land, and the Land Southward to the east of the narrow neck. How can anyone, without having their tongue deeply implanted in cheek make a claim that “more detail is not necessary” when they change the entire alignment of the map the Mormon described?
    In Sorenson’s attempt to redefine the word “north” in the Hebrew language, he states (p38) that “We in the European tradition say that “east” is “where the sun comes up,” but in the arctic, the sun unconcernedly rises in the south,” which is little more than trying to cloud the issue, since in Mesoamerica, at the Gulf of Tehuantepec (Sorenson’s narrow neck of land), the sun does rise in the south, i.e., it rises along a compass heading of 90º, which is about as due east as one can get.
His next point is that the Hebrews understood east by putting their back to the sea (Mediterranean Sea) and literally facing east , which is where the sun rose in the Middle East. He goes on to claim that people of Labrador use a term meaning “seaward” that actually is east, but across the Labrador Sea, people in Greenland are looking “west” and using the same word for “seaward.” Thus more confusion is introduced as though where the sea was located; however, any maritime country or people know the sea is located in different directions from cardinal points—or may even be completely surrounded, such as in Polynesia as Sorenson points out (p38).
(See the next post, “Have You Ever Wondered Why? – Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s discrepancy on changing the cardinal points of Mormon’s descriptions and confusing the issue of cardinal directions of the Land of Promise)

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