Monday, October 23, 2017

Limiting Distances and Other Criteria – Part I

A reader sent this article in to us recently and since it would take quite a bit to answer, we decided to make a complete post out of it. 
    The article has to do with limiting criteria about the Land of Promise, and lists James Warr’s 12 criteria for identifying the Land of Promise (which he places in Central America).
    Comment: “We must take the Book of Mormon at face value. To alter its directions, as some current literature suggests, or to demand unbelievable distances, as tradition outlines, is unacceptable.”
    Response: There is certainly agreement that we need to take the Book of Mormon scriptural record at face value, as well as in not altering its directions. However, when someone says to not accept the demand for unbelievable distances, as tradition outlines, being unacceptable, while I assume he means the tradition of North America being the Land Northward, South America being the Land Southward and Central America being the Narrow Neck of Land, which at one time was a tradition among most Church members, I think we need to be careful of saying what distances are involved in any one situation since, except for one instance in the entire record, no days and distance figures are given or implied that would allow any distance recognition.
    Still, we would agree that the Book of Mormon part of the Land of Promise is limited to a much smaller area than the entire Western Hemisphere. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that when Lehi’s trek in the wilderness that took 8 years and covered in the first 18 chapters of 1 Nephi, that distance actually covered some 2,600 miles from Jerusalem to Bountiful. Consequently, we need to be a little cautious in trying to limit distances and stick with the fact that we simply do not know.
    Comment: “We must be willing to accept existing maps at face value.”
    Response: Existing maps have been altered over the course of history, specifically since the Biblical days and the Great Flood, the division of the Earth during the days of Peleg, and the destruction outlined in 3 Nephi during the crucifixion that tells us mountains fell to become valleys and valleys rose to become mountains “whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
    Seemingly being ignored by Warr is the fact that our physical map of the world has changed numerous times over its history, and even in this past 20th century, areas like the Aral Sea, the world’s fourth largest lake, has become more than 90% smaller, almost disappearing entirely; and the Mesopotamia Marshlands in Iraq, once the world’s largest ecological region, lost 97% of its water 70 years ago, completely changing the physical map of Mesopotamia and the fertile crescent, and the entire northern coastline of the Persian Gulf; and going back just 300 years, hundreds of islands in the South Pacific were added to the world map, unknown to  have existed before their discovery. 500 years ago, the map of the world underwent a huge change, with entire continents being added not known earlier; and 1000 years ago, the huge area of Greenland was added to the map, having been unknown before that time, though the addition did not actually take place until 1502.
China has built three major islands and four smaller islands in the South China Sea in the past three years, altering the entire physical map of Southeast Asia

More currently, a 2010 map of the South China Sea would have just shown an open ocean with a few scattered reefs in the Spratly archipelago—an area of reefs, atolls, banks, cays, etc.—810 miles south of the Chinese mainland, but only 338 miles from Sabah in Malasia and Borneo, and 472 miles from Palawan islands of the Philippines. However, today, there are seven new islands in the area, created by China through dredging sand and rock from the sea floor and pumping it (depositing it) upon coral reefs until it breaks the surface and forms islands.
    On the other hand, we also need to look at the descriptions of Mormon when he discusses and talks about the Sea East so much in B.C. times, yet after the crucifixion it is never mentioned, not even once. Nor is the “narrow neck of land” ever mentioned after the crucifixion. The point is, we do not know what happened to the Land of Promise during the destruction written about covering the crucifixion and cannot put limitations on what changes may, and likely were, made at that time.
    Comment: “We cannot put water where none exists today.”
    Response: Again, there is no way to know what waters changed. However, when an entire city “sinks into the depths of the sea” (3 Nephi 8:9), and “many great and notable cities were sunk” (3 Nephi 8:14), we have to realize that something drastically changed and waterways or seas were effected (3 Nephni 9:4). As for the Sidon River, as mentioned in the previous series of posts, after the crucifixion it is not mentioned at all, and only once is the “waters of Sidon” mentioned as the location where the last war with the Lamanites commenced around 322 A.D. (Mormon 1:10). Also, when an entire mountain forms to bury an entire city (3 Nephi 8:9-10), again, we are talking about something drastic taking place, which had some effect on bodies of water.
    Comment: “We cannot create a make-believe narrow neck of land.”
    Response: However, we have to realized that land masses change over 2000 years and without knowledge of what has happened and where, other than the scriptural record, we have to keep in mind that changes during the crucifixion played an important role in the scriptural record and the events involved. Whatever map we create, or use, has to have geological backing and acceptance among the geological community, albeit the time frames would be far different from their world of 4.55 billion years and the Biblical account of about 13,000 years. Still, vast and major changes are described as taking place (3 Npehi 8:12,17).
    Comment: “We must not alter the directions of the map.”
    Response: Correct! Map directions as stated by Mormon do not change, and unless someone can show a change in the continental movement of such a significant degree, which none has ever been recorded since the continents were settled into their current position, we are pretty safe in agreeing with this point.
    Comment: Quoting from James Warr: “There is no evidence of the geological changes described in the text for the land northward, which took place at the time of the crucifixion" He then goes on to discuss the Yucatan as the Land Northward.”
    Response: The Disciple Nephi wrote: “But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth” (3 Nephi 8:12). He then goes on to talk about roads and highways broken up, of cities sunk, burned, shook by the earthquake and fell, and the places left desolate (3 Nephi 8:13-14). It obviously sounds like the Land Northward underwent some extreme destruction. As for the Yucatan, while some Mesoamericanists have considered it the Land Northward, there is no way to fit Mormon’s descriptions into that model (see our previous posts on this issue).
(See the next post, “Limiting Distances and Other Criteria – Part II,” for more on the article sent to us and our responses)

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