Saturday, March 19, 2016

More from John Sorenson—Instant Expertise – Part III

Continuing from the last two posts regarding the article John Sorenson wrote entitled, “Instant Expertise on Book of Mormon Archaeology,” in which he downplays all the work, study, and writing that others have done who do not have a degree in archaeology, etc. Our last post ended in the middle of Sorenson’s attack on Church members and Venice Priddis work) 
    Sorenson: “As with ancient art for the ignorant rich, the "demand" from large numbers of Saints for easy explanations of difficult subjects which they are unwilling to pay the price to understand lies behind the exploitation represented by these volumes.”
Response: How interesting. Members of the Church, according to Sorenson, are evidently just an ignorant mass who want simple answers in regard to understanding the Book of Mormon rather than pay the price of real study. Hmmm, personally, I don’t feel that covers the readers of this blog judging from most of their comments, which shows a high degree of knowledge and intelligence and quite perceptive minds, whether we agree or disagree on the subject at hand. In my discussions over the years with adults on this matter who have an interest in it, their knowledge seems certainly on a par with Sorenson’s if not beyond in several cases. Perhaps it is that Sorenson has been teaching 18-23 year olds all his life and is unaware of the level of understanding adults have on the subjects he claims are so complex and difficult. It also seems unlikely that Mormon thought his abridgement was that complex that the people he was writing to would not understand him, and Nephi certainly commanded his replacements in keeping the record that it should be plain and simple” (2 Nephi 31:3).
    Sorenson: “Ancient Israel insisted Samuel give them a king, and with equal impatience, LDS readers today bring down on their heads the kind of books that serve them right.”
Response: I guess if we are not reading and accepting Sorenson’s books and writings, we are just part of the impatient mob that will bring down on our heads and those we know the trivial and insubstantial literature that is so superficial that we learn nothing without knowing it and get what we deserve.
    Sorenson: “Anyone willing to be this selective in what is to be noted and what ignored could construct at least two dozen other geographical correlations for the Nephi scripture which could be equally (im)plausible.”
    Response: Implausible means “unlikely, improbably, questionable, not having the appearance of truth or credibility,” which seems to fit Sorenson’s book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” more than Priddis’ work. As for selective work, Sorenson makes almost no comment at all about South America where older, more extensive, and exceptionally excellent stonework exists across a large area. In fact, almost every archaeologist and anthropologist who has studied and worked (in the ground) in South America claims it is both older and the father area of civilization in the Americas, claiming that Meso and Central America were settled by people moving north from South America. Yet, Sorenson completely ignores South America, and in his entire book, South America is listed in the Index as being on pp 1-5; however, it is really only mentioned once, on page 1, where he discounts an early church view that South America was the entire Land Southward. Based on all the evidence of Book of Mormon activity in Andean South America, his rejection of the area out of hand in favor of Mesoamerica, giving it no credence whatsoever is about as selective as one can get.
    Sorenson: “As with ancient art for the ignorant rich…”
    Response: I didn’t realize one had to be an art expert in order to enjoy exceptional art, or even its monetary value for an investment, either way the purchase would not be by ignorant people.
Top left: The Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Money Lender,” the realism of all his work is finely detailed and exceptionally important in the pre-camera era; on the other hand (top right) the Spaniard Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, a Cubist, does not bother with detail and lacks the realism I prefer like the Flemish artist Frans Snyders’ “Cook with Food.” While I have dabbled in art most of my life, I am neither an art historian nor a critic who specializes in evaluating, analyzing and interpreting art. I just know what I like, I guess that makes me “ignorant,” but unfortunately, not “rich”
    Sorenson: “The demand for large number of Saints for easy explanations of difficult subjects…
    Response: All readers, at times, are lazy and want “cliff notes.” I suspect when Sorenson, like almost all students, used some variety of “cliff notes” in his own studies. The idea is to get an overall appreciation and understanding of the scriptural record, which any type of reading will do. Not all people are interested in an indepth study of a subject, while others are. The geography of the Book of Mormon is not a major topic with most, but most people are curious as to where the Nephites and Lamanites were located.
    Sorenson: “But all this criticism may be too narrow. There is plenty of evidence that we Latter-day Saints are gullible on many subjects, not just this one."
Response: Let us stay on this subject for a moment. How gullible are people who are sold an idea that the Nephites did not know true north or true east, and that Mormon had his own usage of those words that the Spirit allowed to be written incorrectly called "Nephite North" by Sorenson? How gullible are those who are told that a width of 144 miles can be covered by a Nephite in a day and a half journey? How gullible is one that is fed a line that a ship in 600 B.C. “driven forth before the wind” can sail against winds across the Sea of Arabia, against winds through Indonesia, and across the entire Pacific against the winds to land in Mesoamerica? How gullible does one have to be to read Sorenson's book without having a skeptically cocked brow?
    When Sorenson writes the way he does, changing scriptural meanings while claiming he is not, he must think members of the Church really are gullible! It seems that those who write for those who want "Instant Expertise on Book of Mormon Archaeology" are far more likely to get more correct answers than reading the works of the guru of Mesoamerican archaeology as the location of the Land of Promise no matter his impressive credentials. Little of Venice Priddis conclusions are very far from the scriptural record in all her writing, while Sorenson's work is so distant he sounds like a con man at times trying to sell us comparisons that simply do not compare and becoming angry that we won't buy into his scheme. After all, his work begins in conning the reader to believe his east-west map is the same as the north south maps he lists first, by telling his readers if they lay the map down horizontally, they have the same map held up vertically. The fact that he tries to con you into thinking his laying down of his map isn't being turned at all as you can plainly see he does, by claiming it is simply your imagination. 
Two of Sorenson's first four maps are shown on top and his fifth map (Mesoamerica) on the bottom; by laying down his drawn map (top) flat, and turning it toward the left, he obviously changes north to west, and considers that a legitimate action. But north is still north and moving a map around on a desk top does not change the cardinal directions, only the direction in which you place the direction north of your map
    In fact, every reader should at least check out his first 4 maps in his book, and then compare those four with his own horizontal map on page 37. I realize "con man" may be too strong, but when someone shows me something through 35 pages that is one way (four north and south map layouts), then flips the map to east and west and says: "The general agreement between Mesoameirca and Book of Mormon geography can be grasped directly by studying map 5 carefully...many features of south and central Mexico and Guatemala seem to match up decisively with the requirements for the Book of Mormon territory except for one major anomaly." 
    That anomaly, of course, is they line up east to west, not north to southwhich is like drawing a map of Utah and placing Ogden in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, and Provo to the east where Park City is, and Tooele where BYU is located, and then trying to convince people that the map lines up perfectly except for one detail. And this anomaly Sorenson seems to consider a minor point brushed over by his claim that the Jews did not know cardinal directions once away from Jerusalem with the Mediterranean no longer at their back while facing eastand takes several pages trying to sell (con) us on that explanation.
    And he claims Venice Priddis' work is "unscholarly, her conclusions adduced are trivial, and the arguments are fatally flawed at point after point."
    The answer to such problems as Sorenson so inelegantly points out are real to some extent; theorists do cause a great deal of difficulty with their “my way or the highway” attitudes about the lesser areas of importance to the Book of Mormon, and less importance on the purpose of the work, as Another or Second Testament of Jesus Christ.
But there can be no question that we both live in the latter days and in the latter days the Lord will “reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven” (D&C 101:32-34).
    It seems to me we are in that day now, and the Lord is revealing all sorts of information that further explains the hidden mysteries of the ancients, i.e., the details of what the Lord has done, is doing, and will yet do. This further light and knowledge is not to be argued about, but to be appreciated and enjoyed. And one can grasp these further insights if they look at them with an open mind, and not a mind already closed to pre-determined ideas.

1 comment:

  1. I read John Sorenson's work years ago and found it very interesting, but some things just didn't make sense especially the change in cardinal directions. After reading this blog (starting with the first entry and reading every entry and every comment), I pulled back out my old copy of Sorenson's book. I found it interesting that, as Del notes above, his first 4 internal maps fit South America very well- as do most other internal maps of the B of M. I think Sorenson means well, but got it in his head early on that MesoAmerica were the Book of Mormon lands and can't get out of that mindset (indeed MesoAmerica was settled by Nephites and Lamanites from Hagoth's ships). In terms of scholarly work, I have now read Del's first two books and have gone back and reviewed my copy of Sorenson's book and Del's work is far more logical, scholarly, and well documented. No offense intended to Mr. Sorenson.