Thursday, August 13, 2015

Have You Ever Wondered Why? – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the directions of the Land of Promise, why Mormon used the terms “north,” “northward,” “south,” and “southward,” and the purpose of confusing the simple issue as to the direction of East to the Hebrew or Jew.  
    Once again, Sorenson writes (p38) that Hebrews identified the direction of east (where the sun rises) by putting their back to the sea (Mediterranean Sea), and only in this way would they identify east. Since the Hebrews well understood "east" as all Easteners do whose very religion is centered in the "east," this idea of having to have a back to the sea is downright foolish.
    What Sorenson evidently does not know, or has conveniently forgotten, is that to the Hebrew and later Jew, “east” was more than a direction, more than a place where the sun rose, more than the direction the Tabernacle and the Temple faced. It was the direction for Telfillah. It is the direction for the “enhancement of the mitzvah” that is, the divine commandment, or “beautification of the mitzvah,” beyond the formal demands of the law.
    The “east” holds a very specific reference to the Hebrew and is found throughout the Old Testament as well as in Christ’s time. After all, when the Messiah came, he was to come from the east. The east was where God dwelled. The star of God shone in the east. The east is the source of blessings and divine salvation. Jews were to face east to the site of the Temple during prayer. Every Jew at all times knew where east was located from wherever he was—it was not just a direction it was an entire way of life and religious thinking. In fact, it was customary in traditional Jewish homes to mark the wall in the direction of mizrah (east) to facilitate proper prayer.
For this purpose, people used artistic wall plaques (left) inscribed with the word mizrah and scriptural passages like "From the rising (mi-mizrah) of the sun unto the going down thereof, the Lord's name is to be praised" (Psalms113:3). Traditional Kabbalistic (Mekubbal) inscriptions, or pictures of holy locations, were placed on east walls, and generally in rooms where people prayed, such as the living room or bedrooms.
    Like magnets attracted to metal, Jews, no matter where in the world they found themselves, turn their hearts and prayers, to one direction: Jerusalem. “If I forget Jerusalem, then let my right hand forget its own strength” (Psalms 137:5).
    Sorenson’s claim that the Jews needed to place their backs to the sea in order to know which direction was east is a naive understanding of Middle Eastern directions and direction finding.
Left: If the Jews needed to place their backs to the sea in order to know the direction of east, as Sorenson claims, then Right: how confusing it would have been to land in Mesoamerica as Sorenson claims and be faced with trying to determine east by putting their back to the surrounding sea--as shown, you could come up with 10 different directions for East
    To the Hebrew and Jew, the east was (and is) where the soul united with its Creator, the life-line of all humanity. The Jews face east because they are facing their land, their unity, their destiny. They face Jerusalem because they are facing their past, their present and their future. Unlike many modern thinking people and societies, to the Jews, the world faces east towards its destiny! To think that the Nephites, who lived the Law of Moses until the Savior appeared to them after the crucifixion did not know which way was East no matter where they might have been would to accuse them of forgetting their own beings--both their religion and their God!
    There is another point Sorenson has conveniently forgotten since it allows him to cloud the issue even more and that is the direction of the rising sun. While we say loosely the “sun rises in the east,” the fact of the matter is that the sun rises in due east only two days out of the year: when passing (rising at) the celestial equator. Half-way along its march to the winter and summer solstices (when the sun reaches its furthest point away from the equator, it passes the mid-way (equinox) when the length of the day and night are equal, generally around March 21 and September 22. Every other day of the year, as the Sun marches toward the Winter and Summer Solstices it rises somewhere along a north-south range in the east—obviously, along a curve path, moving northward and then returning in the Northern Hemisphere and southward and returning in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus, in midsummer, the sun sets close to the northwest, and in midwinter it sets close to the southwest—and that difference between sunrise directions in midsummer and midwinter is an exact 47-degrees. As a result, "east" would be considered along that 47º arc, with "due east" in the exact middle.
    Of course, the exact bearing of sunrise and sunset in any area is determined by the latitude and the time of year. The greater the latitude and the closer to one of the solstices, the further from east and west the sun rises and sets. If you take it to the extreme as Sorenson does in his book (p38), then in the Arctic Circle in June the sun rises so far north of east and sets so far north of west that these points actually overlap–in other words the sun doesn’t rise or set for up to many months. The point is, and why it is unimportant and merely clouding the issue, is that the Land of Promise and the Nephties were not in the arctic, or anywhere else where the sun does not rise in the east.
    Obviously, in the areas of suggested locations of Lehi’s Land of Promise, the changes are not that great, and can be understood within one full season (one year) following the sun from solstice to solstice. To think that the Nephites did not know the direction of the compass, the direction of the sunrises and sunsets (when their planting and harvesting—their very lives—depended on it) is simply foolhardy. It is one of the reasons why ancient civilizations built observatories, so they could track the season, pinpoint the Solstices and Equinox and know when to plant and harvest.
    If they did not learn that in the first year, they would not have survived a second year. There were no corner McDonald’s or grocery stores in 600 B.C.
Lehi and his sons, armed with the Liahona and a past knowledge of seasons, planting and harvesting, would have had to know and understand where they were and the direction of the sun in their lives at all times
    It is unrealistic to think that Lehi and his sons, who would have known about farming, sun location, equinoxes, and seasons, armed with the Liahona, did not know the direction they traveled, thus the direction of their Land of Promise upon landing. After all, their entire survival of planting and harvesting depended upon this knowledge and their discussing it when they arrived as they “did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24). This would not have occurred if they did not know where the Sun was, in which direction east was by following the Sun and pinpoing the all important planting and harvesting times. That they knew east is shown in Nephi's comment after separating from his brothers and settling the area they called Nephi: "And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things according ot the law of Moses" (2  Nephi 5:10)--one of those things would have been to orient themselves toward the "east" in all things, including the building of the temple like Solomons, as well as knowing the sun's movement for planting and harvesting in this new area (2 Nephi 5:11).
    Considering the fact that Lehi, Nephi, Sam, Zoram, and their wives would have know all about the sun, seasons, planting and harvesting, to attribute to them a totally different way of thinking about directions when their entire history at Jerusalem would have been the opposite, is also unrealistic. 
    Another point of clouding the issue is in Sorenson’s comment (p 39) in which he writes: “In fact, we don’t know what Laman, Lenuel, Sam, and Nephi did call their directions, since the first terms for directions appear in the Book of Mormon only hundreds of years after the first landing (Mosiah 7:3; 9:14). It should be noted that 7:3 is not accurate, but Mosiah 27:6 is especially of interest, since all four cardinal directions are mentioned; direction of north is found in Mosiah 10:8; 11:13, with Mosiah 7:31and 12:6 mention an east wind in a general sense. From all of this, one should conclude that A) the Nephites early on knew and understood these cardinal directions, and B) used them, writing them into the record when the occassion arose. Whether they were used more often and Mormon did not include them in his abridgement we do not know.
    The clouding the issue comes here in the form of trying to say Nephi did not know the cardinal directions and used other terms and the Book of Mormon does not show any directions prior to Mosiah (200 B.C.) The problem is that Sorenson should know, at least all the rest of us know, that Nephi made directions very clear when he accurately stated the third-level of directions as they traveled down the coast of the Red Sea. He stated, quite clearly, “we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer” (1 Nephi 16:13).
This third level of directions involves the 16 points of the compass (1=south; 2=southeast; 3=south southeast, which is the 8 winds of SSE). That is a pretty specific and complex understanding of the compass—hardly something Nephi would have come up with off the top of his head. Most likely it came from the Liahona, which suggests that Nephi had that Liahona showing him compass directions all along. If not, then it can only tell us that Nephi was very knowledgeable of in-depth compass directions. Either way, when he arrived in the Land of Promise, would have set up a system of directions that would have been known to all down through the centuries.

1 comment:

  1. Because of problems with the internet, today's final post or article was not complete until now, about two hours or more after first posted this morning. We apologize for the inconvenience.