Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Dominance of Mesoamerican Theory - Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding Mesoamerican dominance of Land of Promise theories where there simply is not sufficient evidence to connect to the scriptural record. 
    In the previous post we discussed how Mesoamerica, when discovered by John L. Stephens and drawings from Frederick Catherwood reached Joseph Smith, he was excited to see evidence of an advanced civilization in the Americas dating to many centuries before Columbus.
In appreciation for receiving the book from his friend John Bernshisel describing the finds in Central America, Joseph responded in a letter to his friend dated November 6, 1841, in which he wrote in part: “I received your kind present by the hand of Er [Elder] Woodruff & feel myself under many obligations for this mark of your esteem & friendship, which to me is the more interesting as it unfolds & developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprehensive.”
    How could Joseph not be excited about such a find and verification of his many statements and stories regarding the Nephite Nation and their earlier civilization in the Western Hemisphere? Wouldn’t you be excited to learn that archaeologists had dug up horses in the Americas dating back to Nephite times?
Think how exciting it would have been for Joseph and for early Church members after being ridiculed by everyone so severely about their stand on the Book of Mormon to actually find non-LDS sources found an exact model of a Nephite city? Why wouldn't Joseph want to show this and talk about it to everyone? After all, it was not the location, other than the Americas, that was exciting at the time, but that it existed!
In addition, of particular interest are five articles that appeared in the Times and Seasons in 1842 when Joseph Smith served as editor. These articles, two signed “Ed.” (presumably indicating editor) and three left unsigned, promoted the work of Stephens and Catherwood among Latter-day Saints. The five editorials highlight Latter-day Saint interest in the discoveries and also encouraged the view that they were consistent with and supportive of the claims of the Book of Mormon.
To go further, however, is to suggest something that Joseph Smith did not say and can be inferred by his interest, but not verified for intent. And that is further interest in Central America and the ruins there. That Joseph would want the Saints to learn more about these ruins and the civilization that created them is understandable—certainly any leader of the time would feel that way, for here, after all, was evidence of the Nephites of the Book of Mormon, i.e., a set of magnificent ruins depicting a civilization dating probably to that same time period.
    However, to suggest that Joseph knew this was where the Land of Promise as described in the Book of Mormon was located is not supported by any statement Joseph made. Again, let’s come back to the earlier scenario of archaeologists finding horses in the Americas dating to Nephite times. If that were to occur now, don’t you think church leaders would suggest an interest in having BYU archaeologists, or others, investigate that information since it is supportive of the Book of Mormon? Would it matter to anyone other than certain theorists where the horses were found? What if they were found in the Great Lakes area—would that excite Mesoamericanists? What if they were found in Andean South America, would that excite Great Lakes theorists?
    To Joseph, who was not promoting a location but an overall idea—i.e., Nephite civilization in the Americas, the find was scientific support of what he had been telling everyone about the Book of Mormon. However, to Mesoamerianists, anything outside of their particular model interest, might not receive the same fanatic interest as if it was found in Mesoamerica. The same is true of the Great Lakes, Heartland or eastern U.S. theorists, or any other theorists of the many different viewpoints found today.
    That is not true, however, of Andean South America enthusiasts, for this belief stems from the scriptural record which makes it clear that when Hagoth’s immigrants went “to a land which was northward” we know that Nephites settled in Central America, and built the numerous Mayan, Yucatan and other ruins now found there. We also know that the Nephites and Lamanties did not stop there, but continued northward and that Zelph, the White Lamanite, and the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the “eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains” was part of the spreading of the Nephite-Lamanite civilization through the Americas.
The point is, finding horses today anywhere in the Americas that dated to Nephite times would be sufficient to show the progression of these movements of the Nephites as we have pointed out. Think, then, how exciting Joseph Smith and other Church leaders and members felt when the information about Stephens’ record of an advanced civilization in the Americas would have been received by the Prophet.
    In fact, these discoveries and drawings caused great excitement among the Saints, and subsequently five editorials appeared in the Times and Seasons commenting on what these meant for the church. Although the author of the editorials was not indicated, historians have wondered if Joseph Smith penned them since he was the newspaper’s editor at the time.
    While many want to argue or contend over whether or not Joseph Smith actually wrote the five editorials that appeared in the Times and Seasons during the 1841-1842 period, the point is those articles appeared and drew our attention to the fact that Joseph was interested and involved in the spreading of the word about the ruins found by Stephens and Catherwood in Mesoamerica. It matters little who actually penned a statement on this matter as does the fact that Joseph found himself and the scriptural record vindicated by the existence of a Nephite style, 600 B.C.-400 A.D. civilization found in the Americas.
    We need to stop promoting ideologies and start describing the consistencies of the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon as has been found in the Americas. If we are going to promote an area, then we should feel duty-bound to make sure our beliefs not only support,  but match the scriptural record as Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni wrote and abridged it. The time is long past for people who want to prove the scriptural record is wrong, misleading, or inaccurate in what it says. North and south, northward and southward, are as they are stated—if the Lord, Spirit, and writers wanted us to know it was not north and northward, they would have seen to it that the record was written and translated correctly. If Mormon says a Nephite could cross the narrow neck of land in a day and a half, then we are duty-bound to report it that way, not try to justify a wider area that would take a unique Mohave Indian who could run 100 miles in a day to cross as Mormon’s meaning as Sorenson tries to convince us. 
    If Nephi says he planted seeds from Jerusalem, and they grew exceedingly and provided abundant harvests, then we are duty-bound to find an area in the Western Hemisphere that matches the location in Jerusalem, a Mediterranean Climate, where those seeds would have grown so well in 600 B.C. If Mormon says the Land of First Inheritance, where Lehi landed, was on the Sea West (south along the seashore), then we cannot promote an interior lake with no ocean route to it as the Land of Promise.
We need to stop thinking we know more than the original writers—basically all prophets of great standing and character—and try to point out where they meant something other than what they wrote, or that we know more than the Spirit who guided Joseph through the translation process, and above all, we have got to stop promoting the opinions of early Church leaders as factd over those definitive comments made by those who lived in the Land of Promise and left us their writings that were translated by the will and assistance of the Lord through the Spirit via Joseph Smith.
    There is not a single person at BYU or any other University, nor anyone with unlimited letters after their name, that knows more about the Land of Promise than did Mormon. He was born in the Land Northward, and fought the Nephites last, final battle there where 230,000 of his people were killed, and in between moved to Zarahemla in the Land Southward, knew the Lands of Nephi and Lehi well enough to give us specific descriptions of them, and traveled the entire Land of Promise, from the narrow strip of wilderness in the south to the Land of Many Waters in the north, and from the Sea East to the Sea West, over more than fifty years while writing about the events, and from time to time giving us descriptions so we would know what the land was like and where certain events took place and how we might understand them better.
    How Mesoamerica, with its incorrect directions, lack of four seas, including a sea that divides the land, with no narrow neck of land that could have been discerned in 600 B.C. to 421 A.D. short of an aerial, satellite view, and not having  two animals, two grains, and herbs that cure killing fevers, as Mormon tells us were in the Land of Promise, no location where wheat and barley would grow in its tropical lands, or ocean currents that could even reached the area from the Arabian Peninsula claim to be the Land of Promise is beyond the explanation of even the most astute individuals, as clearly seen by the critics who attack the idea daily.
    The same can be said about the Great Lakes, Heartland and eastern U.S. theories where there are no “mountains whose height is great,” no ocean access to a Sea West, no two animals, two grains, herbs to cure fevers, etc., can be found and a hill Cumorah not even within their Land Northward, no narrow neck with a narrow passage, etc., claim to be the Land of Promise is also unbelievable.
It is as though people today feel they are so much smarter than the scriptural record, they simply pick and choose what they want to accept and reject what disagrees with their views.
    Perhaps all would be better served if the different theorists stopped arguing over minor issues and start reading the scriptures—all of them—and recognize that their models simply do not agree with the scriptural record. There would certainly be less fodder for critics to use in their fight against the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and a lot better chance for the Book of Mormon to stand for what it was written, a Second Witness of Jesus Christ.


  1. Del- why do you believe Nephi's temple to be at Sacsayhuaman next to the King Noah's possible tower site rather than Coricancha- temple of the sun?

  2. I believe Nephi's temple would be at the same location as the city that Nephi's descendents fled from and that Zeniff's expedition wished to reclaim.

  3. Actually, there are two schools of thought on this. It'll take a post or two to cover them both and I'll do that soon in a regular article. I lean toward one of those possibilities, but not 100%. Thanks for the inquiry.