Saturday, August 15, 2015

Have You Ever Wondered Why? – Part IV

Continuing for a moment with John L. Sorenson’s writing about directions in the Land of Promise, he states (p42): “What began as a direction “problem” has been plausibly resolved. We have discovered that the Nephite record makes sense when it is linked to Hebrew thought and language on the one hand and to Mesoamerican conditions on the other.” 
   Thus, Sorenson is telling us that the fact that Mesoamerica runs east and west and Mormon’s description of the Land of Promise runs north and south, that this difference has been plausibly (his word) answered.
    So perhaps we ought to consider what “plausibly” means.
    It is defined as  “superficially fair,” “valuable but often specious.” Specious means “misleading in appearance,” “misleadingly attractive.” Or stated differently, still within the meaning of the word: “superficially plausible, but actually wrong.” Synonyms of specious are misleading, deceptive, false, fallacious, unsound, spurious.
    Noah Webster, in 1828, defined “plausibly” as “With fair show; speciously; in a matter adapted to gain favor or approbation.” Webster also defined “specious” as “Showy; pleasing to the view; apparently right; superficially fair, just or correct, plausible; appearing well at first view; as specious reasoning; a specious argument; a specious objection; specious deeds. Temptation is of greater danger, because it is covered with the specious names of good nature, good manners, nobleness of mind, etc.”
It seems Lewis Carroll understood this type of thinking quite well. Humpty Dumpty, as he sat on a wall looking down at Alice, sounded scornfully indignant when he said, “'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” A moment later, after a befuddled Alice states “That’s a great deal to make one word mean,” he adds, “When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra.”
     Speaking of words, it was Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda, who said, “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas in disguise.”
    According to Goebbels, the art of propaganda, “when introducing an idea or thought that is especially biased or misleading, meant to promote or publicize a particular point of view, for it to be credible, its credibility alone will determine whether it is true or false. The information may be true or false, but it is always carefully selected for its effect.
    When we look at communication in this light, we can often see things are not as they first appear. Thus we find Sorenson saying that Mesoamerica is the Land of Promise, knowing from the outset that its compass alignment was in disagreement with that of Mormon’s descriptions. This, then, led to the next step, how to convince people that the two were consistent. How do you get people to accept west as being north and east as being south? As Sorenson writes (p42), “None of these considerations imply that the people involved did not understand directional realities. Ancient inhabitants of Guatemala knew as well as you or I where the sun rose. The problem was not one of ignorance but of difference in conceptual framework and language between their culture and ours.”
“Conceptual framework” is defined as “an analytical tool with several variations and contexts. It is used to make conceptual distinctions and organize ideas. Strong conceptual frameworks capture something real and do this in a way that is easy to remember and apply.” Stated differently, a concept is not necessarily right or wrong—it is merely an idea. Thus, Sorenson introduces the “concept” of a compass point “determining the direction of east” (p38) among the ancient Hebrews through the process of standing with one’s back to the sea (Mediterranean Sea) and facing the desert. Yam (“sea”) then meant “west,” for the Mediterranean lay in that direction, while qedem (“fore”) stood for the “east.”
    In this way, Sorenson attempts to convince us that to the Hebrew, even in Nephi’s time, but especially in Mormon’s time, did not understand compass directions except in connection with the “sea to the back” and the “desert to the fore.”
    The interesting (or ridiculous) thing about this is that when looking toward the east—the direction in which the sun rises, it is the issue of the sea behind that makes the direction. One might think that “the sun rising in the east” would have been the predominant issue to this and the pervading and enduring point. However, as has been pointed out earlier in this series, in Sorenson’s Mesoamerica, the sun rises in the east, thus there is no confusion to be considered. 
The obvious point of Sorenson’s idea is that in the Hebrew language of antiquity, the term “east” would be far more connected to the sun than to the sea—and since this agrees with his Mesoamerica “east,” the question then becomes “why cloud the issue with such direction talk when the sun rises in then east in his Land of Promise”?
    The answer lies much deeper than just the “yam,” ”yamin,” and “qedem.” The point he has to get to is that his map and model of Mesoamerica are off—not the rising of the sun. Consequently, he introduces this confusion in order to mask the alignment of his land that is about 90º off kilter from the directions Mormon gives us for the Land of Promise.
    Having taken us to that point, let’s not forget Sorenson’s other comment: “between their culture and ours.” In other words, by introducing the fact that the Hebrews had a different culture than ours of today, or of the entire rest of the world who use the four cardinal points of the compass, even though the “sun rises in the south” to the Eskimo—it is still correctly stated as “south.”
    Thus, we see that it is not a cultural difference, merely a design difference. But what if it was a “cultural difference”? Does that mean that the Spirit who guided these early prophets to record directions for our better understanding later on would allow the wrong direction to be inserted in the scriptural record? Does that mean, that despite the Spirit’s role in guiding us to the truth as we read the scriptural record, the Spirit allows this extreme error in reporting east—the direction of the sun’s rising—which those in Guatemala well knew, to enter into the scriptural record as “East” and not “North” because of a cultural difference?
    What was it Goebbels said? “The information may be true or false, but it is always carefully selected for its effect.” And what effect does one have in telling others that it was not a question of accuracy, but of cultural differences—and those differences centered around language.
    Sorenson then concludes (p42): “We have discovered that the Nephite record makes sense when it is linked to Hebrew thought and language on the one hand and to Mesoamerican conditions on the other.”
However, it is not Hebrew thought that connects the directions Mormon uses in the scriptural record, but a need to validate a land mass that is shaped entirely different from his descriptions. And in so doing, introduce a “conceptual learning” idea that is neither enlightening nor helpful in understanding why Mormon wrote, Joseph Smith translated, and the Spirit allowed, an incorrect set of descriptions covering the extensive use of what Sorenson wants us to believe are incorrect directions from what we know today,
(See the next post, “Have You Ever Wondered Why? – Part V,” for a better understanding of why Sorenson introduces ancient Hebrew thought into an explanation of a modern directional system)

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