Friday, November 18, 2016

Evaluating the Deseret News Opinion of two Land of Promise Theories – Part I

Michael De Groote of the Deseret News weighed in on the Land of Promise and evaluated what they consider the two most prominent theories, Mesoamerica and the Heartland. Following are their comments on some “random strengths and weaknesses from both theories”:1. Geographic correlation of Mesoamerica. Hundreds of different geographic descriptions in the Book of Mormon—such as two seas, a narrow neck of land, a large north-flowing river and so forth—correlate with features in Mesoamerica.
    Response: There are not hundreds of descriptions of the Land of Promise in the entire Book of Mormon, nor do hardly any of Mesoamerica’s features match those of the scriptural record from the directions of the land disagree with Mormon’s descriptions to just being two seas instead of four; from the lack of a small, narrow neck to the lack of a narrow passage between the Land Southward and the Land Northward; from the lack of being an island as Jacob and Nephi describe, to the lack of a climate where seeds from Jerusalem would grow; from the lack of plentiful copper, to Hagoth’s ships not being able to travel northward; from the lack of a sea that divides the land, to abundant and advanced metallurgy during Jaredite and Nephite times, and so forth.
2. High level of Mesoamerican civilization. There is civilization in Mesoamerica, and civilization is what the Book of Mormon describes, said John L. Sorenson, author of An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. Civilization, meaning cities—even great cities, large masses of people, large wars, big agricultural base for the economy, temples and towers and so on.
Uxmal a Mayan temple in Mexico was built in 500s A.D.

    Response: The level of civilization in Andean Peru is even greater than Mesoamerica, dates earlier, larger and greater city complexes, larger masses of people matching Book of Mormon populations, constant wars, larger agricultural base of the types of grains brought from Jerusalem (wheat does not grow in Mesoamerica), and so forth.
3. Writing. In Mesoamerica, there are at least 15 types of script, of writing, Sorenson said. The system of writing that is typical for Mesoamerica is all of the Egyptian style…The only thing that is different about them is the characters. 
    Response: First, the Lord told Mormon and Moroni that if the Lamanites got ahold of any of their writings they would destroy them and that all their records should be hidden (and we know they ended up in a depository seen by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and described by several early prophets of this dispensation. Second, the languages used in the Land of Promise were Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian, neither of which have showed up, or anything similar, to those languages in Mesoamerica. If Meso glyps are considered similar to Egyptian, then one needs to recognize that Rongorongo of Easter Island (which came from the mainland of Peru anciently) is also a glyph base and would be considered similar to Egyptian as well. The point is, with the Lord’s warning, it should be understood that no written language should be found in the Land of Promise.
4. Archaeology. Mesoamerica has cities—large urban areas that date to the right time for the Book of Mormon.
Response: This is not true. The C-14 dating of hard evidence of actual buildings and structures datein Mesoamerica only date to the last century B.C. and the first century A.D.; however, they date from far earlier B.C. period in Andean Peru.
5. Peoples. There would have to be some remains of Jaredites, of a particular era and scope. There would have to be Nephites distinct from, separate from and opposed to Lamanites. There would have to be Mulekites. And there are, as a matter of fact, evidence for all of these—for such groups, for multiple groups, in Mesoamerica, Sorenson said. 
At no time did the Jaredites occupy the Land Southward, yet Sorenson’s Olmecs built and lived in La Venta 

    Response: Sorenson and most Mesoamerican theorists claim the Olmec were the Jaredites, but in Mesoamerica, the Olmec lived in both the north and the south of their narrow neck of land (Isthmus of Tehuantepec), negating them as Jaredites, who never lived south of the narrow neck. In addition, Sorenson claims there is evidence of the Mulekites, however, this is inaccurate. They do not even know where Mulek landed, with Sorenson claiming it might have been in the abandoned Olmec LaVenta on the north coast of Tehuantepec in the Gulf of Mexico, relating to the fact that there was “warfare in the background in the centuries before 200 B.C.” in this area and that, according to his footnote, is not understood well and only of recent determination. On the other hand, the Olmec are claimednot to have abandoned this site until after 400 B.C., which dates to not agree with the Mulek landing period. In reality, Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists do not have a ‘niche’ for the Mulekites in Mesoamerican history.
    Thus none of the cited geographic correlations of Mesoamerica in the so-called hundreds of different geographic descriptions in the Book of Mormon match the scriptural record at all.
    Continuing with the article:
6. Mesoamerican weaknesses, such as metals. Although Sorenson said he has several hundred specimens of smelted metal from Book of Mormon time periods, he acknowledged that most archaeologists would dismiss them. Linguistic evidence, however, finds words for metal that go back to 1,000 B.C. I see that as a problem for archaeology, Sorenson said. 
    Response: This is simply not true. Sorenson claims to have such evidences that show metallurgy in Mesoamerica as early as 600 A.D., and expects that earlier ones will someday be found. No one has ever found, nor even claimed to have found, metallurgy artifacts in Mesoamerica during Nephite times, let alone clear back to Jaredite times. In fact, of the 6 Central Mexico sites, 18 West Mexico sites, 6 Eastern Mexico sites, and 19 southern Mexico sites, the earliest date found to-date is 800/900 A.D. Of the 10 Central Maya sites, 3 Northern Maya sites, 12 Northern Mexico sites (not in Mesoamerica), the earliest dates ran 900/1000 A.D. Only in the 14 Southern Maya area sites do we find a very questionable date of 450(?) A.D.
Dorothy Hostler teaching at MIT

    The leading experts in the archaeological fields (such as MIT Dorothy Hostler), that have spent a lifetime from Mexico to South America studying metallurgy have all agreed that metallurgy began in South America, in Ecuador in South America, dating to around 2100 B.C. and eventually made its way northward from Ecuador to western Mexico around 900 A.D. This is not a debatable issue among archaeologists—only with Sorenson.
7. Mesoamerican weaknesses, such as directions. The East Sea in the Mesoamerican model is more northeast, and the West Sea (Pacific Ocean) is southward.
    Response: Sorenson’s entire map is off about 90º, making Mesoamerica an east-west land while the Book of Mormon Land of Promise runs north-south.
8. Mesoamerican weaknesses, such as Statements of Joseph Smith. Although there are some apparent statements from Joseph Smith that some Book of Mormon places were in Central America, there is also some dispute that he made those statements. 
    Response: Joseph Smith, as he said many times, unless speaking for the Church, was just another voice with an opinion. Joseph never made an official statement about the location of the Book of Mormon either way, other than it was in the Western Hemisphere.
9. Mesoamerican weaknesses, such as Transporting Gold Plates. The distance from Mesoamerica to the New York Hill Cumorah is thousands of miles—a long way to carry a heavy package. 
Response: It is amazing that for the deity that created the universe, someone is troubled about the transporting of the gold plates, as if a mere man was involved in this work of Moroni carrying the plates from one distant location to another.
10. Mesoamerican weaknesses, such as Limited Geographic Model. Some question that the limited geographic model of Mesoamerica is big enough to contain all of the described civilizations and travels. 
    Response: Mesoamerica is a smaller area that the scriptural record suggests of the Land of Promise. Yet, when you get right down to it, except for Nephi’s fleeing into the wilderness and leaving the Ladn of First Inheritance to travel “many days” to settle in an area they called the land of Nephi, and the wars that began around the waters of Moron in the third century A.D. and ended in the Land of Many Waters at the hill Cumorah in the Land Northward, much of the information in the Book of Mormon took place between the Land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla, and then later, the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful. You need a larger land, but events did not take place regularly from one end to the other.
(See the next post, "Evaluating the Deseret News Opinion of two Land of Promise Theories-Part II," for more on these erroneous ideas)

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