Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Going Far Afield With Personal Views—Part III

Continuing with John L. Sorenson’s landmark book that supposedly shed new light on the Book of Mormon and the location of the Land of Promise, we can see how far afield from the actual scriptural record and its intent we get when we try to place everything in a pre-determined location, such as Mesoamerica, as Sorenson insists on doing.
    In the last post, Sorenson had written a lot about the errors in the dating of the Book of Mormon scriptural record. Our response was to clarify some of the calendar issues of our time.
Continuing with this, we find that since 800 A.D., the vernal equinox year has been longer than the mean tropical year. The mean calendar year is longer than both the mean tropical year and the vernal equinox year, because the tables used by the Papal astronomers were based on historical observations, and over centuries tidal drag slows the earth's diurnal rotation. Clavius noted that the tables did not agree on when the sun passed through the vernal equinox. As a result of this slowing down the equinox will never reach 22 March.
    The point of all this is to show that numerous directions in such a discussion could be taken regarding calendars. As an example, when Samuel the Lamanite announced that “four hundred years would pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people” (Helaman 13:5), which was said in 6 B.C. according to the footnotes. (By the way, it wasn’t 400 years between Christ and the Nephite extinction as Sorenson claims [p274] but between when Samuel delivered the message and the extinction, which is a difference in and of itself of some 40 years). It was actually Alma who said, “I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief. Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct” (Alma 45:10-11).
    Note that Samuel's comment is not 400 years will pass away, but "and four hundreds yearss pass not awawy" (Heleman 13:5), meaning it will be less than 400 years!
    In any event, some 400 years would not pass away from:
1. When Samuel spoke the words (6 B.C. to 394 B.C. = 400 years);
2. When Christ appeared to the Nephites  (34 A.D. to 434 A.D. = 400 years); or
3. When Alma spoke these words in 73 B.C., from then to 400 years, would be 327 A.D.
    The latter dating would be more accurate, i.e., that is around 327 A.D. the Nephites began to “dwindle in unbelief”—in fact, in 327 A.D., Mormon was appointed chief captain over the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:2), and a few years later, 345 A.D., Mormon said “I saw that the day of grace was passed with them” (Mormon 2:15). Certainly, they began to dwindle in unbelief in 327 B.C. and by 345 B.C., grace no longer applied to them.
    During those intervening years (327 to 345 A.D.), the Nephites were frightened and fleeing for their lives, losing battle after battle, passing land after land and gathering in whom they could save and “it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land” (Mormon 2:8). The land was filled with thieves, robbers, murderers, magic art, and witchcraft, causing a mourning and lamentation throughout all the land, especially among the people of Nephi (Mormon 2:10), and during those 15 years, the Nephites had lost 12,000 men, and there was nothing but wickedness and abominations that had been before Mormon since he was young. 
As for the interval between Christ and the extinction of the Nephites, one can make an argument for several days. According to the footnotes in the Book of Mormon, Samuel said this around 6 B.C. 400 years would take it to 394 B.C. The final battle at Cumorah took place, according to footnotes, in 385 B.C., so his comment is accurate--not four hundred years would pass away and it did not reach 400 years.
However, while Sorenson uses different dictionary definitions in his explanations, he ignores the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language that gives us the closest understanding to the English language as known and used by Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Mormon. The 1828 New England usage of the word “year” is defined as “The space or period of time in which the sun moves through the twelve signs of the ecliptic, or whole circle, and returns to the same point.
This is the solar year, the “year’ in the strict and proper sense of the world. Around the time of Julius Ceasar, the Julian year was used throughout the Roman world, consisting of 365 days and 6 hours. Later, this was corrected to the Gregorian calendar, which consists of a year containing 365 days 5 hours 14 minutes  (which is based on the Anonalistical year, or the time that elapses from the sun’s leaving its apogee until it returns to it). Until after the settling America, the year began on the 25th day of March, now begins on January 1, of course.
    The problem is, clouding the major point with side issues that have no bearing on the intent and purpose of the scriptural record only creates confusion and serves no purpose. The scriptural record of the Book of Mormon was never intended as an academic pursuit, but to bring man to a clearer understanding of God and serve as a Second Witness to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
    In addition, it might be noted that the dates in prophesy are not exact and never have been. They generally range from a little to a lot of difference, depending on time frames involved. It is like how the Nephites “traveled for many days,” when in reality that could have been a few days to a few months—we simply do not know the length of time in any given circumstance.
    When Sorenson tries to make an issue over this and discredit the scriptural record in favor of the Mayan calendar, it seems both unnecessary and fallacious. It is not that we do not need more scripture, but we certainly do not need more secular calendars.
    (p274)  “Not only is the “problem” eliminated, but we obtain an important perspective of the Nephites’ use of the calendar system that prevailed in their geographical and cultural setting.”
    Actually, the opposite is true. The problem was resolved without delving into his lengthy and misleading series of calendar explanations and the three Mayan calendars of Tzolkin, or sacred year, with 260 days of 13 months with 20 days each; or their haab calendar, of 365 days using 18 months of 20 days each, plus a five day year carry over; or their tun calendar of 360 days. Nor was any problem solved using the Mayan calendar since Sorenson misread and misused the difference of the 400 years regarding both Samuel and Alma’s prophesies.
    (p278)  “What kind of evidence is there? The most compelling sort consists of actual specimens found where an early date is positively indicated. Over a dozen of these significantly precede 900 A.D. The earliest piece so far probably dates back around the first century B.C.—a bit of copper sheathing found on top of an altar at Cuicuilco in the Valley of Mexico.
Cuicuilco is said to have developed in Central Mexico during the Formative Period, between 700 B.C. and 400 A.D., when it was totally destroyed by a volcanic eruptionthat, by the way, is an 1100-year period swing and could have existed at any time during that period, that is, it is not known when it was built or much about it since it was totally destroyed and only a written comment about it being "A place where they make songs and dances," or "Place of the Rainbow"
   Response: First of all, it is interesting that “the most compelling sort” of evidence is something that “the earliest piece so far probably dates” to around 100 B.C. Something that probably dates, can hardly be considered “compelling.” Nor something found resting on top of an object in a ruin that was destroyed by a volcano. From there, Sorenson goes on to claim that other finds, “not firmly dated, could be pre-900 A.D. It is all shaky, at best, though one would not know this by reading his firmly stated writing unless one looked up his references and studied the events for themselvesthen the problems become significant and the correlation non-existent.
However, given all that, the point we need to consider in all of this is that Hagoth’s ships went north around 55 B.C. Secondly, Nephties with all the skills and crafts that had seen their remarkable building accomplishments in the actual Land of Promise for some 600 years, went with them. Where they landed, in “a land which was northward” could well have been in Mesoamerica—and from that point of time forward, first century B.C., we find evidence (buildings) dating to that period. If metallurgy was found dating to that first century B.C., it certainly fits in with Hagoth’s emigrants being those that settled Mesoamerica.
    Thirdly, all the experts in South and Central American metallurgy have shown that metal crafts began in Andean Peru long before anywhere else in the Americas and eventually spread northward into Mesoamerica.

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