Sunday, September 13, 2015

North – South and the Argument Goes On…Part II

Continuing with the article about one theorists’ defense of changing the scriptural record for it to match his own viewpoint of the Land of Promise. 
   Comment: “Likening scriptures to oneself does not come with license to flatten cultural distinctions. The issue of directions pervades all aspects of Book of Mormon geography and not just the identification of the narrow neck.”
    Response:  While it is true that not all people are alike, or that all things relate to all people, the Lord’s scriptural message is for all people in all circumstances at all times. It is also true that the term Samuel the Lamanite uses, “mountains whose height is great,” can vary in meaning for someone living in flat expanse of Kansas as opposed to someone living in the Rocky Mountains of Utah, or someone living among the Andes or the Himalayas, and a little “common sense” needs to be applied to understand the purpose and circumstances of Samuel’s message and why the Lord chose that as a sign. Likewise, the message “turn your garments as white as snow,” would have no meaning to someone living on an island off the coast of Belize where it has never snowed, and they have never seen nor heard of snow.

Comment: “To the degree that Mormon's descriptions of directions conform to those for rural Utah today, Warr's proposal will prove superior to Sorenson's on this criterion—and vice versa.”
    Response: The compass directions of the Book of Mormon as stated by Nephi and also by Mormon were translated by Joseph Smith while living in the eastern United States before “Utah” was even known. It is the directions that we know and understand culturally, linguistically, seasonally, topographically, latitudinally, and historically. While different languages use different terms, one would be hard pressed to find any culture, civilization, and people in any period of history who did not understand the four basic directions of a compass, based on the sun rising and setting, and the other two sidereal directions thrown in, provided they lived between 60º north and 60º south latitudes, which includes over 90% of the world’s population, and both Jerusalem from which Lehi came, and any proposed area of the Land of Promise, including Mesoamerica.
    Comment: “Flanked by a west sea and an east sea. This criterion is also dependent on directional systems and naming, both of which make sense only from a particular vantage point. One's point of reference is critical. “
The Land of Promise is described as an Island by Jacob, and recorded as such by Nephi (2 Nephi 10:20), giving it four seas in the four cardinal directions as well as all around the island
Response: There is no mention in the scriptural record to suggest the Land of Promise was flanked by two seas. There were four, twice mentioned (Island and by name). The two seas mentioned or referred to more than 20 times are the Sea East and the Sea West, where much of the activity in Alma takes place.
The comments regarding the Sea West, are mostly in connection with Hagoth and his shipbuilding enterprise, but also where Moroni was fighting his battles with the Lamanites. Both the Sea North and the Sea South are mentioned only once each. Still, when theorists use the concept of “flanked by two seas,” not only are they referring to Mesoamerica, which only has two seas, they are trying to condition and limit the reader’s thinking to a Land of Promise with only two seas, which is not what the scriptural record tells us. Again, that is neither scholarly nor honest. It is meant to further one’s own personal agenda, beliefs, and Land of Promise model. It is the type of writing that Sorenson began in 1984 in his book An Ancient American setting for the Book of Mormon, and has permeated since then with every writing of Mesoamerican theorists who try to further their own beliefs rather than those of the scriptural record.
    In addition, the author, never one to use one word or a simple phrase when several words or a complicated phrase can be managed, writes: “This criterion is also dependent on directional systems and naming, both of which make sense only from a particular vantage point”—which, stated in plain English, means “This condition (flanked by two seas) is based on compass directions in use and the vantage point of the user, i.e., how the viewer sees directions.” This latter part is dependent, as an example, on a Westerner thinking “north is up” on a map, an Easterner thinking “east is up” on a map, Chinese thinking “south is up” on a map, etc. However, in relation to how the statement is used above, the “directional system” becomes one unique to the Book of Mormon, or unique to Mormon, or unique to the Hebrews, depending on which the author chooses to use. And the vantage point is in relation to whether or not the reader (or writer) is thinking in terms of cardinal points or trying to assume another system is used in order to justify a change in cardinal points.
Aborigines of Bali in Eastern Java, Indonesia
    As an example, like in all mainstream knowledge, there are exceptions to almost everything. In compass directions, there are some exceptions, but almost always these are backward or aborigine cultures, such as ancient Hawaii and Bali, which uses “toward the sea” or “toward the mountains” since that was the extent of their worlds, i.e., toward the ocean or inland, which would pretty much cover almost all directions on a small island.
In Egyptian, (left) A boat  under sail, meaning traveling downriver, north, or northward; Right: A boat with an oar, meaning traveling upriver, south, or southward
    Another is ancient Egypt, which was a narrow strip of land running along the Nile River in either a north (Lower Egypt or south (Upper Egypt) direction—there was no width to the land, i.e., away from the river was desert which was not livable or traversable. Thus, since the winds blew downriver and, travel downriver was depicted in hieroglyphs as a boat with sail, and upriver, a boat with oars, which is translated into English as upriver and downriver, which was the only two directions in their world.
    Comment: “It is obvious to everyone that Mesoamerica around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has oceans to the north and south rather than to the east and west. But from the point of view of the Lehites and the Mulekites leaving Jerusalem, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans were eastward and westward paths to the promised land. The designations of these seas appears to be tied to these original, arduous journeys across oceans and the receding direction of their forfeited homeland"
    Response: Lehi named the sea he saw as they approached Bountiful, “Irreantum,” which means “many waters.” In 1828, the word “many” meaning “numerous, comprising a great number.” Thus, either from view or vision, Lehi understood that when he saw the Sea of Arabia, he was looking at many seas or oceans that ran into one another. It is unlikely that he or Nephi would have considered that the sea they took to reach the Land of Promise, which no doubt took them in several different directions (south, then southeast, then east, then north) would have been considered a West Sea. It is much more reasonable to think that the cardinal directions for the seas was given once in the Land of Promise, because they had the sea all around them (they were on an island and Nephi and Jacob well understood that).
    Comment: “That the directional name might not be an accurate descriptor for every inlet, bay, or stretch of beach is a different matter.”
    Response: To be reasonable about this, when we look at the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the United States we also see numerous coves, bays, inlets, and stretches of beach—we do not change the name of the ocean to relate to any of these, any more than the Hebrews changed the name of the Mediterranean as it hit upon the shores, bays and inlets of their homeland. The name Mediterranean comes from then Latin, mediterraneus, meaning “inland” or “in the middle of the land,” because they saw it between Africa, Asia and Europe. In Biblical times, it was called “The Great Sea.” (Numbers 34:6,7; Joshua 1:4, 9:1, 15:47; Exekiel 47:10,15,20), or simply "The Sea" (1 Kings 5:9 and also in 1 Maccabees 14:34; 15:11), because it was the only real sea or ocean known to them (Galilee and the Dead Sea were tiny by comparison); however, it has also been called the "Hinder Sea" (הַיָּם הָאַחֲרוֹן), due to its location on the west coast of Greater Syria or the Holy Land, and was behind (hinder) a person facing east, which also translates to “Western Sea” or “West Sea.” (Deuteronomy 11:24; Joel 2:20).
(See the next post, “North – South and the Argument Goes On…Part III” to understand more of this line of thinking about Mesoaemericanists and other theorists trying to change the scriptural record or its meaning)

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