Monday, May 16, 2016

What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part III

Continuing with the amount of opinions that are bandied about regarding the Book of Mormon and passed off as facts, that one might wonder where to find the truth. We continue here with a description of where to find that truth: 
First of all, opinions are everywhere, whether in the numerous theoerists’ models and their statements, or even elsewhere:
• The great and last battle, in which several hundred thousand Nephites perished was on the hill Cumorah, the same hill from which the plates were taken by Joseph Smith, the boy about whom I spoke to you the other evening." (Apostle Orson Pratt, Feb. 11, 1872 Journal of Discourses Vol. 14, pg331)
    Since the Church has no official position as to where the final battle was fought, we are looking at Orson Pratt’s opinion.
• Following the normal sailing patterns from the Persian Gulf eastward, it is assumed that Lehi's party would have sailed either past Singapore to the Philippines, or south of Sumatra to New Guinea. Either route would have left them sailing against the trade winds and the equatorial current in their passage across the Pacific. From the Philippines they could have sailed north towards Japan, at which point both wind and current would have been favorable to a Pacific crossing.”
    This is an opinion on two levels. 1) That normal sailing routes in 600 B.C. would have seen Lehi sailing through Indonesia, which is not only wrong, it would have been impossible in a ship “driven forth before the wind.” 2) That once beyond Indonesia, they could have sailed against the Trade Winds. In addition, a northern route past Japan, which is the route the Spanish finally found with their treasure galleons returning to New Spain (Mexico), would not have reached south of Baja California because of northward inshore currents.
• Apostle Mark E. Petersen: “I do not believe that there were two Hill Cumorahs, one in central America and the other one up in New York, for the convenience of the Prophet Joseph Smith so that the poor boy would not have to walk clear to Central America to get the gold plates” (123rd Annual Conference of the LDS Church, April 4-6, 1953,  Conference Report pp 83-84, Improvement Era, June, 1953, p423).
    “I do not believe,” is an opinion.
• One Mormon author suggests that Lehi and his family may have re-supplied at Moroni during the voyage: W. Vincent Coon, Choice Above All Other Lands, pg. 68)
    That is an opinion.
• John L. Sorenson’s claim that Mormon did not use our cardinal directions, but had a set of directions unique to the Hebrews or Jews and so that is why the Mesoamerican model Land of Promise is off kilter about 90º.
    That is an opinion.
• “How Exaggerated Setting for the Book of Mormon Came to Pass” and “A Feasible Voyage,” reflects the argument of others that the tradition that Lehi and his company voyaged across the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and finally the Pacific Ocean is "extreme" and non-authoritative.
    That is an opinion.
• Of the various models proposed over the years, John L. Sorenson’s limited Mesoamerican geography is arguably the most widely accepted. Sorenson states that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrow neck of land and that the record suggests a distance of about 75 to 125 miles for a day and a half journey (Andrew H. Hedges, associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU)
    That is an opinion in the light that no average man (a Nephite) can make a journey of 75 miles in a day and a half, let alone 125 miles. All averages from almost all sources place that distance at about 30 to 50 miles maximum. Tehuantepec, according to the Mexican government’s own statistics is figured at 144 miles from Pacific Ocean to Gulf of Mexico. Sorenson bases his proposed distances on the “nearly 100 miles a day” some California Native Americans were reportedly capable of traveling under nineteenth-century conditions.
• "Cumorah, the artificial hill of north America, is well calculated to stand in this generation, as a monument of marvelous works and wonders. Around that mount died millions of the Jaredites; yea, there ended one of the greatest nations of this earth. In that day, her inhabitants spread from sea to sea, and enjoyed national greatness and glory, nearly fifteen hundred years...." (The Latter-day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Vol.2, No.2, p.221)
    That is an opinion.
Recently, experts on Pacific Islands navigation have suggested an alternative which should now be familiar to most 1998 inhabitants of this American continent: El Niño. El Niño is a reversal of the normal Pacific wind and current patterns. It's now known to occur about every ten years. Under El Niño conditions a Pacific crossing from either the Philippines or New Guinea could take a ship to either South or Central America
    This is an opinion. First of all, there are no current experts on the technique of “sailing forth before the wind,” since no such sailing vessels have existed using that method for the past nearly 1000 years (this occurred in conjunction with the disappearance of the single large square sail that had dominated classical ship design until the 9th century A.D.) and the introduction of the Lateen sail by the Bysantine Emperor Justinian’s fleet in the mid-sixth century A.D. Thus, the ship could sail into the wind with the sail acting as an airfoil, pulling the ship ahead. This began the age of ships pretty much sailing from anywhere to anywhere—but for European vessels, this did not really occur until the so-called Age of Sail, several hundred years later.
El Niño causes such havoc across the Pacific, devastating islands and leveling cities, villages and settlements, that sailing during an El Niño is not only not recommended, but warnings are issued to stay completely clear of one. This would not be a benefit to Lehi's sailing across the Pacific in an El Niño
• "This second civilization to which I refer, the Nephites, flourished in America between 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. Their civilization came to an end for the same reason, at the same place, and in the same manner as did the Jaredites’" (President Marion G. Romney in General Conference, October 4, 1975, Ensign Nov. 1975 pg. 35)
    That is a fact, born out by the scriptural record (Ether 15:11). Note no location for the Hill Cumorah is given.
• "The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon...definitely establish the following facts: That the Hill Cumorah, and the Hill Ramah are identical; that it was around this hill that the armies of both the Jaredites and Nephites, fought their great last battles; that it was in this hill that Mormon deposited all of the sacred records....We know positively that it was in this hill that Moroni deposited the abridgment made by his father…” (President Anthony W. Ivins, Conference Report, April 1928-Morning Session)
    These are all facts and can be supported by several scriptural references.Again note that no location for the Hill Cumorah is given.
• “...and that it was from this hill that Joseph Smith obtained possession of them. " (President Anthony W. Ivins, Conference Report, April 1928-Morning Session)
    This is not a fact for no scripture makes this connection—it is an opinion that both hills were the same.
    On the other hand, there are numerous facts regarding the scriptural record.
(See the next post, “What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part IV,” for more regarding what is fact about the Land of Promise and the scriptural record)

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