Thursday, May 19, 2016

What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part VI

Continuing from the previous posts regarding what is actually “fact” and not just opinion when dealing with the Land of Promise location, in which the first question to be asked and answered is “What does the scriptural record actually say?” (Not what I want it to say, not what I hope it says, not what it should say--but what it actually states).
    First of all, let us show what we mean by “opinion” as opposed to “fact”: In an article written by Richard G. Grant, entitled: “Lehi in the promised Land: What did he Find?” the author says: “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.”
While the El Niño is a fact, the idea of sailing from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean to reach the Philippines or New Guinea is strictly opinion, since the South Pacific Gyre, which brings the circulation of the southern Pacific Ocean in a counter clockwise circulation is neither affected by El Niño, nor could it be because of the Coriolos effect, which also is not affected by El Niño.
    In short, El Niño moves from west to east along a very narrow course or current called the Counter Current of the Pacific, which runs between the North Pacific and South Pacific gyres. All El Niño does is increase the current flow and adjacent weather along this path, disrupting the ocean flow into Central America that curves up into Baja California peninsula and Southern California. It might also be understood that El Niño is a dangerous flow of water that is destructive to shipping, to populations, and island villages along its track. Any sailing ship caught in its path “driven forth before the wind,” would be hard pressed to survive, let alone reach a specific destination.
    Thus, while a current is established between the two gyres where the doldrums normally lie, it does not change the current flow coming off the southern Pacific Ocean, which precludes any vessel sailing through the Indonesian island archipelago for any sailing vessel “driven forth before the wind,” and even today takes the most experienced seamen to sail those waters from west to east into the Pacific.
    Thus, we see the difference between fact—yes, there is El Niño, but that does not change the fact that Lehi’s ship could not have sailed through Indonesia (opinion) under any circumstances. Even with fair winds (which do not blow in that direction any time of the year, in any year), the maneuvering capability necessary would have been far beyond anything Lehi and his families could have managed.
In another statement by Grant in the same article, he writes: “While there is not a great deal of detail in Nephi's record from which the point of landing can be determined with any certainty, there is one confusing comment that has led to some interesting speculation. Nephi said that they were on an "isle of the sea" (2 Nephi 10:20). While I've never read any speculation that the entire Book of Mormon history might have been lived out upon an island (no way would the text support such an assumption), I have encountered those who have concluded that the point of landing must be the southern coast of Chile. This conclusion satisfies both this identification by Nephi, as there are many islands along that coast, and the reported statement by Joseph Smith that Lehi's landing was in Chile. There are problems with both of these threads of evidence.”
    The “facts:” of this statement are 1) Landing on an island, 2) Landing on the western coast of Chile, 3) Joseph Smith’s (or Frederick G. Williams, Joseph’s Secretary and Counselor in the First Presidency) comment about landing on 30º South Latitude along the coast of Chile—a location also subscribed to by Orson Pratt and Franklin D. Richards. The “opinions” are: 1) There is not enough information from which the point of landing can be determined, 2) There are many islands along that coast—once north of Patagonia, which may have been under water at the time, there are no islands along the coast of Chile or Peru to warrant such a statement, and 3) While I've never read any speculation that the entire Book of Mormon history might have been lived out upon an island (no way would the text support such an assumption).
    The point is, there is only one place along the entire Chilean coast where a ship “driven forth before the wind” could have made landfall, and that is Coquimbo Bay, right at 30º South Latitude, where the strong currents and winds along the Humboldt Current die down to almost nothing. South of there is another bay at Santiago, but that area does not satisfy any of the other descriptions Nephi gave us of the landing sight. Nor do the winds and currents slow down sufficiently there to make landfall with Nephi’s ship and crew very likely.
In addition, there is nothing in the scriptural record after Jacob’s statement (2 Nephi 10:20) to indicate an island or a mainland regarding the Land of Promise. The “isle” (there was no such word as “island” used in normal language in 1829 New England) mentioned is not given a size, and if one thinks of it as a tiny island, like Easter Island (off the Chilean coast), or the Galapagos (off the Ecuadorian coast), then it would be very difficult to fit the Book of Mormon occurrences there; however in the “isle” that was the western shelf of the continent exposed above the water in western South America, including a portion of southern Colombia south to just below La Senera (Coquimbo Bay), Chile, and inland to where the Andes now rise up, then you have an island large enough for all the events described in the Jaredite, Nephite and Lamanite lands.
    Another opinion Grant states is: “In the Old Testament the Hebrew word most often translated isle by the King James scholars is now known to mean "coast land" or "boundary." Actually, the Hebrew word referred to literally means “far off land,” but that is assuming the word used, which was Reformed Egyptian, means that same thing and that is not likely. Besides, the word Joseph Smith used and the Spirit verified in the translation of the scriptural record means exactly as we have interpreted it—an island in the midst of the sea surrounded by water. Here Grant falls into the trap of quoting people like Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists who have tried to limit the value of the word “isle” as Jacob used it to describe the Land of Promise since it does not fit their scenarios and models. Another “opinion” Grant makes is “more probable explanation, however, is that Nephi and his people had not at this time made a sufficient exploration of the land to identify it as a continent rather than an island. With this thought in mind, we are to believe that Jacob would stand up in the temple during a two-day conference and make a statement he neither knew or fully understood, and that Nephi, who said he would write nothing in the record that was not sacred, copied down the statement without knowing of its truthfulness or sacredness.
   Another stated opinion by Clark is that "In their cultural experience, every land they had ever encountered off of their native continent had been an island. In Nephi's day, the concept of multiple continents likely did not exist.”
First of all, it is strictly opinion that Nephi and his people had not made sufficient exploration to have understood the actual size and circumstance of their Land of Promise. This is interesting based on the fact that Nephi rewrote his record onto the small plates 30 years after leaving Jerusalem, at least 20 or more years after landing in the Land of Promise. The other “opinion” is that Nephi had seen other islands—if he had, the record does not tell us that. The only possible disconnected land that Nephi might have seen would be across the Red Sea, and that would have been Egypt—hardly an island. The scriptural record is completely silent about any other island or land Nephi would have seen or crossed before reaching the Land of Promise.
    Now that we have firmly established there is a difference between “fact” and “opinion” when people write about the Book of Mormon lands, let’s take a look at what Nephi said he found when he landed to see what verification this landing sight has with the scriptural record.
(See the next post, , “What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part VI,” for more regarding what is fact about the Land of Promise and the scriptural record by comparing the scriptural account with the location)


  1. I have had someone bring up this particular map and say the following:

    The premise of landing in Chile at 30 degrees S relies on the Humboldt current, but that current works because of the current configuration of the continents and seas. The dramatic, rapid change postulated by Nephicode would have changed the ocean currents significantly. Look at the map here and you can see how the currents would be nothing like what they are today, including the Humboldt current.

    1. I don't see your reasoning MrNirom because the Western coast of South America was largely intack. Also the continental shelf would have been present at a shallow depth along the southern tip of SA. The wind and currents all fit perfectly for landing in SA. Nothing else does. Do you have a better solution? I'd like to hear it. Ira

    2. Water depth above the submerged South America would be extremely shallow compared to that of the open Ocean. Ocean currents would remain largely the same. Show a modern map of South America including the depth of the surrounding waters and it is obvious that the submerged sections of the continent exert considerable influence on the currents.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.