Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Mind is Made Up

There is an old saying that seems to have been around for some time, that seems to have gotten its start nearly 75 years ago when a group from an ad agency had just finished its presentation of a market survey. The findings were conclusive—clearly showing that the policies being followed by the client would lead only to disappointment and perhaps disaster for his company. Despite the facts given in the presentation, however, the client had no desire to change the strategy that had been previously selected. “I still think we’ll go along as we have been doing,” the client said. “But how can you say that in the face of this evidence?” protested the agency man. The client stared at the presentation, deep in thought. At last said forcefully: “Don’t confuse me with facts!” 
    This appeared in a 1945 article titled “Don’t Confuse Me With Facts!” by Roy S. Durstine in the periodical Advertising & Selling. It reappered during the Nixon Watergate scandal, and then through Hollywood and the movies.
As Scott A. Johnson stated in Helping You Raise a Healthier Generation Naturally, ”I feel sorry for those who make a conscious choice to avoid objective analysis of situations, people, politics, products, companies and more. These people choose to ignore facts and evidence, simply because they challenge their entrenched beliefs. The reality is these people who are unwilling to think for themselves are surrendering their free will to the situation, person, political party, product, or company they are clinging to. As sheeple these people not only lie to themselves, they are willing participants in their own manipulation.”
    It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former New York Senator, who once said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” People who want to have their own “facts” independent of truth fall victim to what is called a “confirmation bias.” This occurs, according to Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D, regarding Science of Choice, in "What is Confirmation Bias," Psychology Today, “occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.”
    It takes place when one thinks he knows something and tends to be blind and deaf to anything that disagrees with it. Even worse, people influenced by a confirmation bias selectively interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceived notions. Take these few examples of a belief overshadowed by the facts:
    Belief: Great Lakes, Heartland and Eastern U.S. was the home of the Nephites and Lamanites.
Fact: Samuel the Lamanite prophesied from the city wall that at the time of the crucifixion, valleys would become mountains “whose height was great” (Helaman 14:23). There are no mountains in these areas that could possibly qualify for that prophecy.
    Belief: Seeds Lehi brought from Jerusalem grew in Mesoamerica.
    Fact: The seeds of wheat and barley from Jerusalem (Mosiah 9:9) grew exceedingly in the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 18:24). These seeds and crops do not grow in a tropical climate such as Mesoamerica.
   Belief: Seeds from the Mediterranean Climate  of Jerusalem grew exceedingly in the Land of Promise and provided an abundant crop.
   Fact: Only La Serena in Chile and central and southern California have matching Mediterranean Climates in the Western Hemisphere where Lehi’s seeds could have grown in 600 B.C.
    Belief: Lehi landed along the West Sea (Lake Erie) in the Great Lakes area.
    Fact: According to Alma 22:28, Lehi’s Land of First Inheritance was along the West Sea; however, no inland water way (Mississippi, St. Lawrence, Ohio, etc.) could reach the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico until the Corps of Engineers and the Canadian Engineers widened, built new channels around rapids, deepened rivers, etc., and built locks to raise ships up to the level of the Great Lakes could a ship from the ocean reach the Great Lakes.
    Belief: Great Lakes theorists claim the Land Southward (Zarahemla and Nephi) were nearly surrounded by water in western New York.
    Fact: Jacob said, “we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.” The isle they were upon was in the midst of the sea, not inland reached by rivers, etc.
    Belief: Eastern North America and Mesoamerica have animals that are as useful to man as the elephant.
Fact: Both in eastern North America and Mesoamerica, there are no animals that are as useful to man as the elephant and whose name would have been unknown to Joseph Smith in 1830; however, in Andean Peru, there is the llama and Alpaca, both extremely valuable animals and beasts of burden—the only Western Hemisphere animals that would have been unknown to Joseph Smith, but as valuable as the elephant and more so that horses and asses.
    Belief: Great Lakes, Eastern U.S. and Heartland areas of the United States is the home of the Nephite nation.
    Fact: There “were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place” (3 Nephi 6:8). There are no ancient evidences of “casted” (formed, shaped, lay out) roads other than natural progression of usage in North America dating to the Nephites; however, Andean Peru has some 24,000 miles of stone highways that were laid out by engineers and built by laborers, much of which is still in use today, and the system is considered by experts as second only to the Roman road system in length, accomplishment, design, and building. By comparison, the longest Mayan stone road (sache) is 62 miles long.
    Belief: Theorists claim that their location (North America, United States, Mesoamerica, etc.) is the home of the Nephites Land of Promise.
    Fact: Only Andean South America qualifies under the scriptural reference that “there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land -- but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40). Only in Andean Peru was found the single indigenous plant that cured killing malarial fevers, called the cinchona which produces quinine, the only natural cure for malaria.
    Belief: Metallurgy during the Jaredite and Nephite periods was found in North- and Meso-America.
    Fact: Only in Andean Peru is found the earliest period of indigenous peoples of the Americas using native metals from ancient times, dating to 2155 B.C. (about the time the Jaredites arrived). To date "no one has found evidence that points to the use of melting, smelting and casting in prehistoric eastern North America” (S. R. Martin, Wonderful Power: The Story of Ancient Copper Working in the Lake Superior Basin, Great Lakes Books Series. Wayne State University Press, 1999, p136); and Metallurgy has not been found in Mesoamerica prior to about 800 A.D. (D. Hosler, "Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy: South and Central American Origins and West Mexican Transformations," American Anthropologist.  Vol.90, 1988, pp832–855), though some claim 600 A.D.
    Belief: Columbus discovered America (North- and Meso-America), verifying either of these two areas as the land where Nephi’s brethren (Lamanites) were located (1 Nephi 13:12)
Fact: Columbus discovered the Bahamas and Caribbean islands, lower Central America and South America. He never set foot  on North America, Mexico or Mesoamerica.
Belief: Lehi landed in, and the area of the Land of Promise was, the Malay Peninsula in Indonesia.
Fact: The Angel Moroni said that the plates contained a history of the people of "this continent" meaning North and South America.
    It seems universally true from all we have been able to uncover that what people want to believe is more important than what is true. In fact, people tend to disregard clear facts when presented to them and doggedly hold to opinions that can no longer be shown to be correct. As the old adage claims, “a person with conviction is a hard person to change; tell him you disagree and he walks away; tell him facts or figures and he questions your sources, and even your intelligence; appeal to his logic and he fails to see your point.” The fact is, often beliefs are rooted in emotions and facts are often irrelevant. One thing that people seem to forget is "That which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence” (Christopher Hitchens).
    The facts of the Book of Mormon deserves better than that.


  1. North America and South America are different continents. So how could it be assumed that Moroni was referring to both? North America is where the gospel was restored, is it not the promised land?

  2. Seeker,

    North and South America were generally referred to as a single continent up to WW2. This is how Joseph Smith would have understood the terms "this continent" or "American continent." Del has covered this extensively in his blog.

  3. This is my first comment, though I've been binge reading this blog for months and absolutely love it. As a passionate reader of the Book of Mormon and a person of faith, I see the world through the window of my beliefs and spiritual testimony. I find it amazing that more believers don't see the increasingly obvious connections in South America to Book of Mormon civilization and geography. But that also makes me one of the "sheeple" who suffers from "confirmation bias" when viewed by the vast majority of the world. Thus this particular blog post seems slightly ironic. Any parallels and connections drawn between Book of Mormon events or references, and ancient ruins or discoveries, is part of my own confirmation bias, when looked upon by those who don't share my belief and testimony.

    Do we not "selectively interpret information in a way that confirms [our] preconceived notions" when we look at a ruin and say, "this is Zarahemla" or "this is the city of Nephi"? I'm not saying that those aren't correct interpretations, but we never would have made them without our beliefs acting as illumination.

    For example, I can only say that The Land of Promise requires mountains of exceeding height (or look for a Land of Promise at all) because I already except that Samuel the Lamanite was a real person who truly prophesied, and my spiritual testimony of the Book of Mormon makes it fact, to me. But the outside world usually functions outside of that paradigm. They can't see it as I do, because my understanding (being primarily a spiritual witness) is tainted in their eyes. Thus, what is obvious to me is a delusion built of confirmation bias to non-believers.

    I've read Del, in some answers to reader questions, basically say, "well, you don't accept this as truth, but I do" and that's where people part ways because one is seeing through a confirmation bias of predominant world view or popular science, and the other is seeing through confirmation bias of faith and scripture.

    The Nephi Code blog is amazing to me and makes the Book of Mormon come alive like it never has for me before, so keep it up! I just had to shrug this post off a bit, because it is only thanks to our shared beliefs that we are able to see things for what they are, because we share the same scriptural bias.

    Oh, and I too have read enough rebuttals to the Malay theory. Time to move forward. Thanks!

    1. An excellent post! Without a belief, or a seed of belief, in the BoM then discussing the location of the BoM lands is rather pointless. Del's publications, and other similar works, can help to confirm a testimony, but without a preexisting testimony, these works will not "prove" anything to you.

    2. Todd, excellent post! When do we know we've found the right place and therefore can begin to say this site fits perfectly with Zarahemla or this place is the City of Nephi.

      When you find a truth whatever the truth is then more doors begin to open to understanding. That is the problem with the other theories as we've seen. When something is incorrect doors slam shut and you become more and more boxed into a biased interpretation. We saw this blatantly on display in the Malay theory.

      The South America theory is very robust and can stand criticism as you've been able to see in this blog. At some point you realize that you've actually found the right place. The pieces of the puzzle fit together.

      You've mentioned one scripture for example that tells us of high mountains. But there are many more the describe the geography, climate, minerals etc. When these are all brought into the picture then I think we can say those ruins fit perfectly with the descriptions given in the book. Noah's tower and it's connection to Cuzco is a great example of this. Your point is well taken however, but at some point with all the evidence piling up, you have to move beyond a few basic interpretations.

      Del has a policy of sticking to details that can be verified rather than get into a bunch of speculation. I appreciate that approach. It has worked very well in revealing the true Book of Mormon lands.

  4. Mesoamerica is normally regarded as extending from Central Mexico to include Honduras, and in some definitions includes Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Columbus sailed along the northern coast of Honduras making at least one landfall where he traded w/natives and even took possession of the land in a formal ceremony w/hundreds of natives in attendance.

    He also stopped and traded and took on provisions at least twice along the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican coasts.

    Mesoamerica is more of a cultural/ archaeological term, whereas Central America is a geographical one. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Columbus made only a brief stop near the Paria Peninsula in present day Venezuela, but at the time didn’t even know it was part of a large continent.