Monday, October 15, 2018

Are Theorists’ Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent with Scripture? – Part III

Continued from the previous post, regarding the meaning of the scriptural record as opposed to statements frequently made by theorists in order to support or lend credence to their erroneous beliefs and opinions. Below we continue with Phylis Carol Olive’s view of the Hill Cumorah as found in her book: The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, (Bonneville Books, 1998) about the hill Cumorah being in western New York.
Samuel the Lamanite preaching to the Nephites from the wall of the Temple in Zarahemla 

First, we should compare this idea with the scriptural record, in which we find Samuel the Lamanite prophesying to the Nephites from the wall of the Temple in Zarahemla, when he said, that the Land of Promise, after the crucifixion would be filled with new mountains, “whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23). O.K., we all know that, but what does it mean? First of all, it means that in the Land of Promise today, there should be mountains. And not just any mountains, but ones whose height is great, that ast the time of Samuel, there were mountains present, but evidently not much more than high hills or small to medium high mountains. These new mountains that would arise at the time of the crucifixion that he mentions, were to impress the Nephites, and therefore would have been much higher than what had existed in the land previously. This is why Samuel said “whose height is great.”
    To better understand that comment, we might want to consider that geologists and geographers have long classified a mountain as a landform that rises at least 1,000 feet or more above its surrounding area (called its prominence), below that was considered a hill (the Oxford Dictionary places that height at twice that amount).
    Prominence is that distance between the surrounding land and the height of the mountain peak, i.e., a 15,000-foot mountain elevation above sea level is not its prominence, which is determined by the distance between the peak and the land below that is around it. So if the land around the mountain is at 12,000 above sea level, the prominence is only 3,000 feet. As an example, the height of   in Chiapas, Guatemala, is 13,343 feet; however, its prominence is only 3,402 feet; while Montañas Peña Blanca in Guatemala has an elevation of 11,542 feet above sea level, it has a prominence of 6,096 feet, and the elevation of Volcán de Agua is 12,339 feet and the prominence is 6,499, making both these smaller mountains appear much higher than the taller mountain, Volcán Tacaná.
    The point being, that the mountains “whose height is great” would have to be both high in overall elevation and high in prominence for them to have impressed the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Land of Promise—for the Lord to have told them through Samuel, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men—and this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation” (Helaman 14:28-29).
    As an example, while the tallest mountain in Mesoamerica is Volcán Tajumulco, a dormant volcano located in western Guatemala, near the Mexican border, with a peak elevation of 13,845 feet, Peru alone has 24 mountain ranges with 41 mountains between 19,000 and 22,200 feet elevations, 12 peaks with over 6,000-feet prominence, one over 9,000-foot prominence, one over 8,000-foot, one over 7,000-foot, and nine over 6,000-foot.
The high Mountains of Andean Peru 

In addition, mountains do not change height (other than through improved measurement methods and devices) with growth or loss generally measured in millimeters (one inch equals 25.4 millimeters). Thus mountains, if they change at all, do so very, very slowly—except when the Lord is involved. By comparison Mesoamerica has 16 peaks over 7,000-feet, and only 8 over 10,000-feet, with the highest at 13,845-feet.
    It should also be noted that while mountains tend to remain stationary, with growth and shrinkage measured in millimeters per year, those in the Land of Promise rose in the course of just three days (Helaman 14:27), and for the purpose that “these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28). Thus, not just any mountains would do, even medium to tall ones, unless they were quite prominent in their height and prominence.
    As for the Heartland and Great Lakes theories, are there any mountains whose “height is great”? No. As an example, in the land the Phyllis Carol Olive  claims was the Nephite and Lamanite lands around Cumorah in western New York, of the fifteen counties that could be considered in the area of her Land of Promise, not one has a hill that could be called a mountain, let alone  “whose height is great”: Wayne County, 892 feet; Monroe County, 1026 feet; Genesee County, 1470 feet; Oswego County, 1550 feet; Seneca County, 1640 feet; Cayuga County, 1860 feet; Erie County, 1940 feet; Niagara County, 1940 feet; Oneida County, 1940 feet; Onondaga County, 2060 feet; Wyoming County, 2116 feet; Yates County, 2140 feet; Livingston County, 2244 feet; Ontario County, 2256 feet; Orleans County, 3858 feet. Just from this one check, it is easy to see that Olive’s claim of starting with the Hill Cumorah for a location of the Land of Promise doesn’t even qualify under one simple scriptural reference.
    No wonder that when it comes to lists of things theorists talk about the list for support of their theories, they never mention Samuel the Lamanite and his prophecies Yet, the problem is more than just no mountains. In another example of ignoring the scriptural reference in light of her own opinions, she has on her map has the Land Northward North Countries far to the east of the East Sea, and also has the Land of Many Waters to the east of the East Sea, which does not match a single comment in the scriptural record which never mentions anything to the east of the East Sea. Olive also places the Land of First Inheritance in the southeast shore of Lake Erie, her West Sea, between Cleveland and Sandusky, however, as we have reported here so many times that there was no way to get a sea-going ship into Lake Erie from either the Mississippi (or inland waterway system) or up the St. Lawrence River.
Left: U.S. Corps of Engineers Snag Boat in the 1800s, capturing floating logs and river debris: Right: The Engineers strengthening a levee along the river; even in the 1800s  flat-bottomed paddle wheel boats were being damaged or sunk because of the shallow depth, changing sediment layers, and floating debris; since 1812, the Corps of Engineers have been tasked to dredge, deepen and keep the river open to shipping, including building side channels, locks, and throughways

None of these waterways were open to the Great Lakes until the Corps of Engineers and the Canadian engineers dredged rivers, deepened them, built canals around extensive rapids and built locks to raise vessels to the level of Erie and Ontario. This is not an opinion or belief, but factual information that can be easily checked and verified, yet it is totally ignored by all Heartland and Great Lakes theorists, who want to claim that Lehi could sail up the Mississippi River to the Nauvoo area, or up the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes area—neither of which was possible until the 20th century.
    Olive has also placed numerous large islands along the coast of the East Sea, both adjacent to her Land of Zarahemla and the Land Northward, yet there is not a single inference, suggestion, or intimation of large islands or other lands as part of the East Sea in the scriptural record. In addition, she claims this East Sea is the Genesee River—originally known as the Zinochsaa by early writers (Jeddidiah Morse, Dobson’s Encyclopedia, Vol.4, the first encyclopedia in the newly independent U.S., cites Morse as its source, probably the American Gazetteer, 1795)—where it flowed through the Genesee Valley, according to geologists, was never more than a mile or so wide, which cannot lay claim to being a sea—having always been called a “river” by geologists, map makers, and historians.
    In addition, according to geologist Ray Hughes Whitbeck, the Genesee River was often referred to as a gorge, with the river a fast moving flow of water, often no more than a few hundred yards wide (“The Pre-Glacial Course of the Middle Portion of the Genesee River,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol 34 No1, 1902, pp32-44). The rock-cutting effects Olive claims occurred during Nephite times is said to have been a part of the pre-glacial era (more than 12,000 years ago) of the pre-glacial rock-cutting events (Report of John Bogard, State Engineer and Surveyor of New York, 1890).
    In fact, according to Richard A. Young (Department of Geological Sciences, SUNY, Geneseo, NY, “Genesee Valley Glacial and Postglacial Geology from 50,000 Years Ago to the Present: A Selective Annotated Review”), geologists have pieced together the extent of the Genesee River and the Genesee Flood Plain back 100,000 years in detail, with additional information dating to some 2.5 million years ago (International Union of Geological Sciences).
    In all this time, the widest the Genesee has been is 2500 meters, or 8202 feet, which is about 1½ miles, which can hardly be called a sea, and only a theorist who needs to make it a sea would call it one. The point is, just because Olive wants to pick the hill Cumorah where the plates were located by Joseph Smith, as her starting point for location the Land of Promise, does not mean that anything else in the scriptural record fits her location for the Land of Promise. That however, did not keep her from claiming that this was the Book of Mormon lands and claiming that “everything fit perfectly.” Saying something is one thing, but having it be accurate and correct is another thing entirely.
Geologic history of the Genesee Valley is well known and understood 

According to geologists, the middle and late Wisconsin glacial history of the Genesee Valley has been extended back approximately 50,000 years by the dating of glacial and interglacial sediments, as well as wood samples recovered from water well drill holes, and by a complex stratigraphic record preserved in two adjacent gravel excavations on the west bank of the Genesee River near its confluence with Honeoye Creek (Richard A. Young, Geololgical Sciences SUNY College, and Les Sirkin, Earth Sciences, Adelphi University, 1994; Richard A. Young and G. S. Burr, 2006). The glacial history has been extended back through a middle Wisconsin ice advance that occurred approximately 35,000 years ago to a warmer interstadial episode that peaked globally around 50,000 years ago. This middle Wisconsin ice advance buried interstadial spruce trees growing on the ancestral Genesee floodplain that have finite radiocarbon ages as old as 48,800 Carbon-14 years Before the Present and extending slightly beyond the range of conventional radiocarbon dating (Richard A. Young and G.S. Burr, 2006).
    A pithy statement regarding geology, namely “Geography is not an indoor sport,” is clearly an accurate statement since one of the problems so many theorists make is writing about places they have not been and do not understand its history or the greater details of which they write—which results in numerous mistakes and erroneous assumptions or conclusions. This is especially true of critics who are looking for the slightest comment or statement they think will support their opinions and beliefs. 
(See the next post, “Determining the Location of Cumorah – Part IV,” for more on these criteria as to how theorists place geographical features of the Land of Promise wherever they want them to be despite what the scriptural record states)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Are Theorists’ Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent with Scripture? – Part II

Continued from the previous post, regarding the meaning of the scriptural record as opposed to statements frequently made by theorists in order to support or lend credence to their erroneous beliefs and opinions.
According to the American Society of Soil Science, a wasteland is “land which is incapable of producing material or services of value”

Continuing with Jerry L. Ainsworth’s comments, in another instance he simply changes the meaning of clear statements so they match his theory: “The land Desolation was a segment of land that was unfit for and devoid of habitation—a wasteland.”
    However, the scriptural record states the meaning of the land being called Desolation quite differently: “Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land. And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate” (Helaman 3:5-6, emphasis added).
    Despite all the rhetoric to the opposite, theorists are continually trying to change what is written in the scriptural record so that it supports their theory and model. Take, as an example John L. Sorenson’s comment regarding the distance of a day-and-a-half width of the narrow neck of land.
He writes (p9) in his book: “in the nineteenth century small groups of Mohave Indians in California could cover nearly 100 miles a day, sometimes going without food or even water for days.” He also writes: “Father Sahagun wrote of a pre-hispanic Mexican people, ‘The Toltecs were tall, of larger body than those who now life; for which reason they called them tlanquacemilhuique which means they could run an entire day without tiring,” yet then claims in the same sentence that “During the movements of the Toltecs described in the Mexican chronicles, dawn-to-dusk marches without animals along averaged six leagues, somewhere between 15 and 24 miles,” which means that in a day and a half these Toltecs covered at the very most 36 miles, which is far short of the 120 to 144 miles of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
    However, not finished, Sorenson later gives an extensive explanation of travel in explaining “a day and a half journey,” which just about anyone would consider to be a continuous journey as Mormon makes the statement, but Sorenson injects a comment that “such term said nothing about any particular route or number of hours of consecutive travel,” then changing the meaning, adds, “Or the phrase “a Nephite” might imply that a special messenger was the one doing the traveling, for the statement occurs in the context of military defense.”
A Nephite, as used by Mormon in this case, would suggest a typical Nephite person on a normal journey across the land 

First of all, Mormon’s statement: “now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea,” does not imply, suggest, or intimate that a special messenger was involved—just a Nephite. Secondly, the statement of distance has nothing to do with military defense, but in explaining the width of the narrow neck.
    True to the modus operandi of most theorists, Sorenson throws out so many varying ideas, none of which hold true to Mormon’s stated meaning, but obviously tend to cloud the issue and change the very intent and dialogue of Mormon’s writing. In so doing, he , creates doubt in his reader to the actual meaning Mormon had in mind.
    Yet, on (p8) of his book, Sorenson earlier countered the idea of varying speeds when he writes: “Other groups of travelers don’t move even this fast. Richard E.W. Adams, an archaeologist who has worked in Guatemala, reports that travelers on routine trading trips on jungle trails and streams from the Cotzal Valley to the Peten, about 120 air miles away, take 19 days or more averaging a little more than six miles a day.”
    The point is, anyone can change the meaning of the scriptural record, or add words that convey a specific reference not intended, such as Sorenson and all Mesoamericanists calling the “small or narrow neck of land” an “isthmus.” Now a narrow neck of land is an isthmus, but an isthmus is not necessarily small or narrow. However, the term “isthmus” is used exclusively by these theorists to make it easier for them to sell the scriptural reference being the “Isthmus of Tehuantepec” in southern Mexico. An area that could not be considered under any circumstances a “small neck of land” (Alma 22:32).
    It should also be noted that the term “isthmus” was known and used at the time of Joseph Smith’s translation—it is described by Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary as: “Isthmus: a neck or narrow slip of land by which two continents are connected, or by which a peninsula is united to the mainland…But the word is applied to land of considerable extent, between seas; as the isthmus of Darien, which connects North and South America, and the isthmus between the Euxine and Caspian seas,” the latter being 350 miles wide, the former being about 400 miles long. On the other hand, the Karelian Isthmus is between 25 and 68 miles wide, but the Corinth Isthmus is only 6 miles wide. Obviously, an Isthmus can be of any distance today, but a “small neck” is quite restricted in its width and length. 
    As stated earlier, it is not difficult to change the meaning of words in the scriptural record, or anywhere else. Simply change the inference of the meaning, or simply inject enough counter ideas until the original meaning is lost, then pick one of those ideas to process, and then go on to write about it.
As Sorenson states (p17), “If some mode of travel other than on foot were used, the 125 [mile width] figure might be increased. Or the distance might be as little as, say, 50 miles. If the low figure applied, it would be harder for Limhi’s explorers to fail to notice they were going through a narrow isthmus; if we push toward the high extreme, the ‘day and a half’s journey’ becomes more troublesome. A plausible compromise range seems to me to be 75 to 125 miles.”
    Thus, Sorenson brings us to his 125 miles as a plausible distance for the width of the narrow neck of land, even though there is no way a typical man, “a Nephite,” could cover that distance in a day and a half. In such a reasoning manner, Sorenson violates two of the criteria mentioned above; i.e., that of “considering the text of the Book of Mormon to be flexible enough to let you adjust the wordage and information according to your own views” and “ignoring those verses and information that do not agree with what you think and believe.”
    This is how you can choose a ridiculously wide area as being narrow, and how you can place a feature in the Book of Mormon Land of Promise wherever you want it to be.
So, as stated in the previous post, there are six factors for locating the hill Cumorah:
1. Use the writings of Mormon and others exactly as worded, without adding to, changing, or altering the obvious meaning;
2. Look for and use supportive verses and statements in the scriptural record that backs up and supports the textual information obtained;
3. Do not ignore contrary scriptural writing (this is not a cafeteria style exercise of picking and choosing what you want—consider it all);
4. Do not consider the text of the Book of Mormon to be flexible enough to let you adjust the wordage and information according to your own views;
5. Do not just look for information that agrees with your point of view, but try find any
6. Do not add sweeping information, ideas, or beliefs that are not specifically suggested in the scriptural record.
    The first choice above would be to go along with other theorists ideas, such as Phyllis Carol Olive’s view of the Hill Cumorah. As she wrote in the preface of her book, The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, (Bonneville Books, 1998), “Perhaps the time has now come to concentrate more heavily on those lands surrounding the only known landmark we have—the Hill Cumorah in New York state.” She goes on to make this statement as well, “All the lands fit together and can ultimately see how the various descriptions of lands and territories found within the text fit the terrain of western New York perfectly.” She then sums up her preface with: “But beyond all else, it is a work that introduces a setting that meets all the requirements necessary to be the lands of the ancient Nephites and Jaredites.”
    One might, in looking for the hill Cumorah, think to adopt her view, for it sounds very convincing; however, there are a few problems with this. When anyone claims an area fits perfectly, there can be only one way to check it out and that is compare it with the various descriptive scriptural references. One of the quickest comparisons is the area is Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy.
(See the next post, “Determining the Location of Cumorah – Part III,” for more on these criteria as to how theorists place geographical features of the Land of Promise wherever they want them to be despite what the scriptural record tells us; and often directly ignore the written descriptions involved)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Are Theorists’ Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent With Scripture? – Part I

The location of any one item described to exist in the Land of Promise may not be overly significant in and of itself, for few places can be determined with unerring accuracy given the limited amount of information provided in the scriptural record. Therefore, like the location of any place in the record, an individual has four choices:
1. Pick an area suggested by others;
2. Pick whatever area seems good;
3. Pick the area that matches the descriptions in the scriptural record;
4. If there is a simple, straight-forward meaning in the scriptural record, do not add some hidden, unknown or contrary reason.
In addition, there are six factors to follow when evaluating scriptural information and making these choices:
1. Use the writings of Mormon and others exactly as it is worded, without adding to, changing, or altering the obvious meaning;
2. Look for and use supportive verses and statements in the scriptural record that backs up and supports the textual information obtained;
3. Do not ignore contrary scriptural writing (this is not a cafeteria style exercise of picking and choosing what you want—consider it all);
4. Do not consider the text of the Book of Mormon to be flexible enough to let you adjust the wordage and information according to your own views;
5. Do not just look for information that agrees with your point of view, but try find any
6. Do not add sweeping information, ideas, or beliefs that are not specifically suggested in the scriptural record.
    As an example, in the case of the last point, it would be inaccurate to claim that other people existed in the Land of Promise before Lehi arrived, since there is no scriptural reference or intimation regarding such additional people. The fact that someone could build a case for such an idea based on personal views, such as numbers of Lamanites in the land, etc., is not conducive to only having other people there that joined them. The scriptural record is not open to opinions and beliefs that do not stem from actual reference. At the same time, claiming that the Jaredites continued into the Mulekite, Nephite, and/or Lamanite period is also not mentioned or suggested in the scriptural record, and claiming such was the case is not in keeping with truth and facts.
In addition, consider these five points regarding the location of the narrow neck of land that separates the Land Northward from the Land Southward that contains a narrow passage leading by the sea on both sides (Alma 50:34).
This list can also be used to evaluate the narrow neck of land that both Mormon and Moroni mention. In applying the first point above, that is “using the writings as it is worded, without adding to, changing, or altering the obvious meaning.” Consequently, in using this point, one should use Mormon’s several descriptions of the narrow neck of land, which he calls: both “narrow” and “small,” with both Alma and Moroni also calling it “narrow” (Alma 63:5; Ether 10:20).
    Now the word “narrow” was defined in Joseph Smith’s time as:
1.  Of little breadth not wide or broad;
2. Having little distance from side to side;
3. Of little extent, very limited
4. Near, within a small distance;
5. A strait, narrow passage through a mountain, or a narrow channel of water
In addition, the definition in Joseph’s time of the word “small” was:
1. Narrow, strait, little, slender, thin;
2. Of little diameter;
3. Short.
    Thus, the first thing to consider is that this narrow neck of land is “small and thin, of little width, narrow from side to side.” In fact, Mormon backs up that description with his further comment that a Nephite could cross that distance in a day and a half (Alma 22:32), which would be a distance of about 25 to 35 miles under normal circumstances, but certainly no greater than 50 miles under the most liberal of circumstances==thus, any narrow neck of land would have to be within at least a 25 to 50-mile width.
    We are further told that this narrow neck was all that kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water (Alma 22:32), thus it was the only connection between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, with the sea on both sides (Alma 50:34). This means that any narrow neck would have to be:
1. No more than 25 to 50 miles wide;
2. Be the only connection between the two major land masses;
3. Contain a narrow passage within it;
4. Have the sea on both sides of the narrow neck.
The small or narrow neck of land with seas on either side, and a connecting narrow pass from the Land Southward into the Land Northward; yellow arrows show the “day-and-a-half” distance of its width (Alma 22:27-34)

It should also be kept in mind that the sea on both sides, would be the Sea East and the Sea West, both of which are major seas, since they almost entirely surround the Land Southward, and are the seas on each side of the narrow neck (Alma 50:34), and extend northward to encompass much of the Land Northward, if not all (Mormon 2:6; 4:3;9:3;14:12-13,26).
    With this kind of reasoning, it should be rather simple to pick and choose a narrow neck of land in any model of the Land of Promise. As an example, does the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, claimed by Mesoamericanists to be the narrow neck of land, which runs between 125 and 144 miles across, meet this criteria? Of course, we can change the criteria by saying that a Nephite could have made the journey of 125 to 144 miles in a day and a half, though that would not be a practical response, since such an endeavor would tax the ability of almost all men unless they were specially equipped as runners, etc. But this is exactly what John L. Sorenson has done in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (p29-30) when he writes: “The only narrow neck potentially acceptable in terms of the Book of Mormon requirements is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. All LDS students of Book of Mormon geography who have worked systematically with the problem in recent decades have come to agree on this.”
So while the chosen narrow neck of the Mesoamerican model does not fit the criteria outlined by Mormon, Alma and Moroni, Sorenson simply changes the criteria, advocating that somehow the typical Nephite was a long distance runner, or a special messenger, or rode a horse, or whatever fits his fancy to make it possible for a Nephite to cover 125 miles in a day-and-a-half.
    In another instance, Jerry L. Ainsworth, in his book The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, states that while he agrees that the terms “Small Neck” and “Narrow Neck” represent the same land area, he then changes direction and states that the “Narrow Pass” and the “Narrow Passage” mean two different places (PeaceMakers Publishing, 2000). He states “there is both a pass as well as a passage through which people had to travel, indeed something like a gateway, from the land northward to the land southward, or vice versa.” Perhaps in explanation of this stand, in citing an area in Mesoamerica, he states under the caption “The Wider Corridor Beyond the Pass,” referring to an “S” shaped route between Mena and Chivela, that “once travelers are through this narrow pass, there is a wider corridor—a narrow passage—that continues to run north for another fifteen to twenty miles.”
    As demonstrated above, it is a simple thing to change meanings of scriptural wordage, by simply putting your own “spin” on the meanings, wrapped in some semblance of accurate-sounding statements that often cannot be challenged other than through a correct understanding of the scripture being used.
(See the next post, “Are Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent with Scripture? – Part II,” for more information on how a correct use and reading of the scriptural record leads a reader to a clear and accurate understanding of what was written, especially about the geographical setting of the Land of Promise)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Who Were the Andean Quechua?

When the Nephites arrived in the Land of Promise around 587 BC, there were no other people present according to Lehi’s promise from the Lord (2 Nephi 1:5-8), which he clearly states to his children and descendants just prior to his death, not long after arriving in the land the Lord promised him. Shortly thereafter, the Mulekites would have landed north along the coast where Mosiah found them about 400 years later in the area called Zarahemla (Omni 1:16).
    Today, it is arguable among LDS historians and scholars whether or not the Jaredites, who had landed in the far north, an area called the Land Northward, about 2100 BC, were still in the Land Northward when Lehi landed in the Land Southward, but based on the events of their demise and the following encounter of the Jaredite Coriantumr with the people of Zarahemla (Omni 1:20-22), not long after the latter arrived, seems unlikely their civilization overlapped that of the Nephites. Certainly the two knew nothing of each other, and there was never any contact between them according to the accurate records the Nephites kept as far as we have been informed.
Left: The Hebrew Land of Promise today; Right: The Lehi Land of Promise today

To make sure we understand the layout of the Land of Promise and the region in which it was located, we need to remember that the Hebrews’ Promised Land was a small region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, today called the Levant, surrounded on three sides by a much larger land mass, that of the Middle East. In that same sense, today, the promised land Lehi was given by the Lord is a region along the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean surrounded on three sides by a much larger land mass, the rest of South America, though when Lehi landed, that area encompassing the Land Southward, where he landed, and the Land Northward, where the Jaredites landed and lived out their entire 1500-year civilization, was an island as Jacob said (2 Nephi 10:20).
    It became a solid land, connected to the rest of South America, at the time of the crucifixion when the entire face of the land was changed (3 Nephi 8:12). At that time, the Andes rose to their present height, “which was great” (Helaman 14:23), bringing upward what is now the huge Amazon Basin, and much of the central lands of South America.
    As is well known, in 385 AD, the Lamanites succeeded in their 1000-year quest to annihilate the Nephites, and by 421, at the end of the Nephite record, these Lamanite victors were in the midst of a 36-year civil war among themselves and “no one knoweth the end of the war” (Mormon 8:4; Moroni 1:1-3). How long this bloody war lasted is unknown to us today, nor is the result of it and its effect on the Lamanite populace. It might be assumed that the result was the breaking up of the Lamanites into tribal groups, as happened among the Nephites (3 Nephi 7:2) just before the appearance of Christ in the Land of Promise (3 Nephi 9:15). In fact, in North America, and also in Central and South America, where the Lamanites were scattered by the time of the arrival of the Spanish and other European nations, the indigenous natives, or Indians as they were called by the newcomers, were broken up in individual tribal groups, though in Central and South America, three formidable and dominant groups had earlier consolidated much of their lands into powerful states: The Aztec, the Maya and the Inca.
Left: Tribes in North America; Right: Tribes in South America—hundreds of different tribes are located today in North, Central and South America
 
Irrespective of the several tribal groups, or “cultures” as the anthropologists call them today, most of the people in western South America at the time of the Spanish arrival, were a tightly-knit civilization of Quechua-speaking people. Today, anthropologists and archaeologists separate these so-called “pre-Inca” people into numerous cultures and time periods, though that is strictly based on their interpretation of ceramic styles and variances in the types of artifacts found—not in actual knowledge.
    Currently there are approximately 2.5 million Quechua people in South American, who are the largest of any indigenous peoples in the Americas today. The Aymara and Quechua languages (which have many spoken dialects) are collectively the most widely spoken of all indigenous languages in South America. The Quechua are also the only people to have migrated both north and south along the ridges and valleys of the Andes mountains and east into the rainforest of the Amazon Basin. This early divergence in their migration paths has created distinct mountain- and jungle-identity and cultures of the Quechua people, who were among the earliest peoples to be conquered by the Inca empire in the mid-15th century.
    Ironically, the Inca empire itself consisted mainly of people who spoke the same Quechua language! Though the Quechua were a large portion of the people in western South America at the time of the Spanish colonization, their population level fell drastically after 1532, as a result of the capture of the Inca Emperor, Atahuallpa, by Francisco Pizarro, and the resultant deaths from war and European diseases the indigenous peoples were unable to survive.
Pizzaro’s arrival in South America and capture of the Inca Atahuallpa

It should also be understood that there is a distinct difference between the Quechua people of today and those who speak the Quechua language. While there are 2.5 million of the former in South America today, there are around 10 million of the latter. This is because there were many languages adopted over the previous 1000 years that today are extinct languages, and those peoples who once spoke them now speak Quechuan. Even the Quechuan people of antiquity are difficult to discern today, since during the 500 years since the Spanish colonization, there exists a mixtures in Quechua culture and even language dialects.
   It is also understood by linguists that prior to the Spanish arrival, the Quechua people, or indigenous people of South America, were pre-literate. That is, they had no written languages, though some had developed an interesting way of recording events by tying knots in cords—what the later Inca called quipus and used exclusively to communicate certain types of information.
    In addition, inter-marriage with the Spanish was practiced from the early days, creating "Mestizos" who were, and are, virtually counted as a separate ethnic group! One has to venture into remote communities today to find majority "pure-blood" Quechua. While Roman Catholicism is today widespread following the efforts of early missionaries, Jesuits and padres, pagan and Animist tradition happily co-exists alongside it. Day-long, multi-day festivals, parades, and activities often mix and even combine Christian and Pagan undertakings, though outlying communities still remain true to the Quechua history during weekly marketplace gatherings or celebrations, with the unchanged old ways still surviving.
    Over the last couple of centuries, many Quechua migrated east to the Amazon Basin, partly to escape the invasion of Europeans and their insistence on changing their Old Ways, and partly for the different landscape, climate, indigenous plants and animals their culture developed separately in the past, and where rivers, not roads, are the primary means of transport, and where Spanish is spoken much less than in the mountains.
While many of the rainforest Quechua communities, where there are few schools, and little tendency toward change, and who have their primary contact with the outside world the battery-powered radio, life is slowly changing. Volleyball and soccer are the sports of choice, and even Western style clothing has all but replaced traditional dress. Yet, despite all the changes brought about, even reluctantly, villages still have a traditional shaman trained in ancient rainforest Quechua practices of magic and healing.
    In addition, the preparation of tea is still done with ayahuasca ("vine of the spirit") plant, a hallucinogen that is used by many rainforest peoples for ritual clairvoyance, healing and spirit worship. Still, change is inevitable and while the uneducated resist it and lack an understanding of its effects, change is seen everywhere in the mountains and the Amazonian lowlands.
    So who were the Quechua, and who are they today? It seems most likely that the Quechua are today’s remnants of the Lamanites who survived that ancient civil war following their annihilation of the Nephite nation. As the Lord foretold through Nephi, who “saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land. And I saw them gathered together in multitudes; and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away…And t I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (1 Nephi 12:20-21, 23).
    The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “One of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, through the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, is the gathering of Israel (of whom the Lamanites constitute a part).” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:357). And in a proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the restored Church in 1845, we are told—speaking of the Lamanites of North and South America—“They will also come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and of the fulness of the gospel; and they will embrace it and become a righteous branch of the house of Israel.” (Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, New York, “Prophet” Office, Apr. 6, 1845, p3). Spencer W. Kimball added of the Lamanites, “We must look forward to the day…when they shall have economic security, culture, refinement, and education; when they shall be operating farms and businesses and industries and shall be occupied in the professions and in teaching” (Conference Reports, Oct. 3 1947, p. 22).
    We are seeing this tremendous gathering, taking place throughout the Americas, especially in Latin America, where the Lamanites are being gathered in, and becoming a righting branch of the house of Israel.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

New Understanding that America’s First People Arrived by Boat – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the so-called open land corridor in northwest Canada and southern Alaska, and how a simple understanding of the ice sheets of the last Ice Age shows this corridor did not exist for people or animals to cross through until long after people and animals had reached the Americas.
    The reason is that along the western edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which had been assumed to have ended along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there are thousands of erratics boulders. And the story behind them shows that no land corridor could have existed between the Laurentide and the Cordilleran ice sheets.
Huge “erratics” boulders and massive rocks pushed by glaciers across the western Canadian plains during the Last Ice Age

These boulders are part of the “Foothills Erratics Train,” in southern Alberta, where thousands of large boulders (erratics) form a train over 580 miles long. These rocks contain clues that have helped scientists to understand the movements of the ice sheets that covered Canada during the last Ice Age, and when geologists examined them, they discovered that the boulders were all made of the same kind of rock, which they traced back to an area around Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper Park, just north of the confluence of the Athabasca and Astoria rivers.
    The pathway of these boulders, named the Foothills Erratics Train by geologists is important, because it is the reason why the previously so-called open land corridor between the ice sheets has now been discarded as the means by which the first people arrived in the Americas. First of all, to better understand what this “boulder train” is and why it exists where it is, and the significance of it, is to understand that “erratics boulders” are those boulders that differ from the surrounding rock and brought from a distance by glacial action. And in knowing where they are now located in relationship to their original placement, shows when and along what path they were moved by the glacial action.
    Originally located along Mount Edith Carvell by the city of Jasper in the Jasper National Forest, the 580-mile-long Foothills Erratics Train, with its thousands of angular boulders of distinctive quartzite and pebbly quartzite that lie on the surface of a generally north-south strip of the temperate grasslands and shrublands of the Canadian Prairies. These boulders, which are between one and 135-feet in length, are glacial erratics that lie upon the surficial blanket of Late Wisconsin glacial till.
Map showing the area of Mt Edith Cavell, the city of Jasper and the general area of the Jasper National Forest, along with the Athabasca and Astoria Rivers

This narrow strip of boulders extends along the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and Northern Montana. The boulder train consists of pink and purple Lower Cambrian shallow marine stones that are not native to this region of Alberta—they came from the Cog Group Sedimentary Basin that is exposed in the Tonquin Valley in the Rocky Mountains of central western Alberta.
    Their specific source has been identified as being near Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park. Lying on prairie to the east of the Rocky Mountains, the larger glacial erratics of the Foothills Erratics Train are visible for a considerable distance across the prairie and likely served as a prominent landmark for Indigenous people in antiquity.
    More importantly, the erratics reveal the direction in which the ice sheet travelled. The rocks take a sharp right-angle turn out on the Plains, changing from an easterly to a southerly direction. Scientists believe that the western Cordilleran ice sheet "bumped into" the eastern Laurentide Ice Sheet, and was deflected southward. This shows that the two ice sheets were joined together, and no "ice free corridor" could have existed between them until later, when the glaciers started to melt. Yet, even after the ice melted, it would have taken many years before the land could support plants and animals (Lionel Jackson, Adjunct Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Burnaby British Columbia, Canada, 2005).
Map showing ancient coastal sites that support man being in the Americas before the end of the last Ice Age, and before the so-called Open Land Corridor through Canada could have possibly been opened, and five of the fifteen before the Clovis (11,500 BC), and seven others only 500 years after them, making any pretense of a Land Bridge inaccurate as the means that people first arrived in the Americas. Note that two specific areas in South America date to 1500 years and 1000 years and are about 5000 miles to the south, with another four within 500 years to migrate of the Clovis people arriving in the U.S.—If the uncalibrated dates (actual measurement dates) are used (11,500 to 1,000 years ago (which is 9,500 BC to 9.000 BC, then 14 of the 15 sites were occupied before the Land Bridge existed

This study by geologists of the movement of the huge erratics boulders shows that the Cordilleran Ice Sheet moved further east than is claimed by anthropologists and archaeologists, in fact so far east that it joined the Laurentide Ice Sheet, eliminating any claim for an open corridor through the ice covering Canada that was 8,000 to 10,000 feet thick. It also might be of interest to know that new research supports an early sea arrival, by way of the Pacific coast through the dating of rocks and animal bones. Scientists have always found it of extreme variance to “the normal” migratory practices of people, that a large amount of migrants would have traveled northward in Siberia, which is, despite all the rhetoric by anthropologists and others that the far north during the Ice Age was, for some reason, warmer than the lower latitudes—in reality, the further one goes northward from the equator, the colder the latitude is throughout the world, with one exception to this, the area of warm wind-driven Gulf Stream current which warms the Britain climate on its way to the Arctic, making it the same general temperature as that of Maine in the U.S.
    Until about twenty years ago, the debate itself was settled: Researchers were certain that the first people to enter North America walked down an ice-free corridor in western Canada some 13,500 years ago. School textbooks claim it as fact, all research and dating was based upon that so-called fact. However, recently, many archaeological sites in the Americas have been dated even earlier, as shown on the map above. According to Quentin Mackie, associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, and who has spent the last fifteen years excavating sites and studying their results of modern climatic and vegetation conditions and their effect on the early indigenous populations that first settled along the British Columbia coast—a set of islands once known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, and now the archipelago of over 150 islands covering 3900-square miles, Haida Gwaii, states: “Early sites on Haida Gwaii are changing our thoughts on the earliest occupation of the Northwest Coast and the Americas.”
    In fact, though not involved in the erratics train study, Mackie claims that “Ancient landscape reconstructions like this provide a good starting point for imagining how ancient peoples would have come down the coast, and where archaeologists should look for their settlements.” In the work he has personally done, he says that the early ancestral Haida people were fluent in marine resource use and organic technologies so early adds context to broader models of early West Coast occupation—they also showed human occupation at a time of extreme environmental change, which attests to the resilience of these early coastal adaptations.”
    With these recent archaeological evidences casting doubt on the Land Bridge theory, scientists are seeking new explanations. Today, most archaeologists are thinking the first Americans left Beringia, the now-drowned land between Siberia and Alaska, about 16,000 years ago—likely before the ice-free corridor opened—and traveled by boat down the Pacific coast, though any direct evidence for such a journey is lacking.
    At least the Land Bridge theory is no longer the prevailing idea of how the Americas were first populated, and scientists are now looking to the arrival of the first people into the Americas as traveling by boat. Alia Lesnek, a geologist at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York system, wanted to figure out when the trip would have been possible. So she spent the summer of 2015 helicoptering between remote islands off southeastern Alaska, seeking rocks exposed to the sky. Such rocks are constantly hit by cosmic rays hurtling down from space, which change individual oxygen-16 atoms in quartz to beryllium-10 atoms, one by one.
It is claimed that measuring the exposed rocky shore along Alaska’s coastline has pointed to a time when the last ice on this area had melted away 

By measuring the concentration of radio-active beryllium-10 (10Be), which is formed in the Earth’s atmosphere by cosmic ray spallation of nitrogen and oxygen, researchers can calculate how long the rock has been out in the open (in this case, uncovered by the elimination of snow and ice covering it). When Lesnek dated the rocks from four islands along the coast of southeastern Alaska, she found that the ice covering them had melted away about 17,000 years ago—just in time for the hypothesized coastal migration. As reported in the journal of Science Advances, “Making the actual measurement is very, very difficult, so each one of these data points is a diamond,” says Derek Fabel, an expert in this dating technique at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow. He also states that “Clues on Alaska’s ancient coastline suggest an early arrival by boat was possible for America’s first people.”
    The point of all of this is to show that the idea of a Land Bridge across the Bering Strait, no matter if it existed or not, and there are those who insist it did—it does not alter the fact that the so-called open land corridor between and through the ice sheets did not exist until long into the period of the sheets melting since they were abutted into one another as the Foothills Erratics Train proves.
    It is of interest to us that scientist have moved now from man walking from Siberia to North America via a land bridge and open land corridor has now been shown to be in error and not possible to provide the original migration into Alaska, Canada and the U.S. That scientists are now entertaining the idea that man arrived in the Americas via the ocean is of interest—though they do not yet have it right, at least they are moving in the right direction!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New Understanding that America’s First People Arrived by Boat – Part I

Archaeologists have fought for decades over how and when people first arrived in the Americas. Did they walk from Siberia over a land bridge called Beringia and down an ice-free corridor between the great glaciers of western Canada? Or in their boats did they travel to the area south of the ice sheet in North America, and then through Central to South America?
    First of all, scientists claim there was an ice-free corridor is an area believed to have existed between the two ice sheets that covered Canada during the Late Wisconsinan Glaciation, which is claimed to have existed between 25,000 and 10,000 years ago. These two sheets, called the Laurentide in the east and the Cordilleran in the west are believed to have covered most of Canada and into the northern United States.
Map of the ice sheets that covered much of Alaska, all of Canada, and parts of the U.S., a fairly accurate estimate based upon measurable factors, such as glacial evidence. Note there is no Corridor from Alaska into the U.S. area

According to what is called the “ice-free corridor hypothesis,” it is claimed there was an area of land, or a passageway, between the two ice sheets on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. This land was thought to have been ice-free for all or part of the ice age, allowing early human travelers to make their way through this corridor to central North America. It is also thought that the humans followed herds of the large grazing animals they hunted, such as mammoths and bison, across an area now referred to as the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia, and then through the corridor to lands south of the ice sheets. At the same time, it is claimed that horses, which existed in North America, but became extinct around this time, had made their way across this same land bridge in the opposite direction from North America, through Alaska and into Siberia.
The so-called ice-free corridor along the east side of the Rocky Mountains from Alaska to the northern United States

While no proof of any of this exists, archaeologists and anthropologists still claim that early man came across such a Land Bridge, while continuing to search for supportive evidence. Such evidence, scientists claim, would have to include confirmation that the passage was open for humans and animals well before the time it is believed the Clovis people were already established in the southern part of the continent, somewhere between 11,500 and 11,000 years ago. This dating is in, which is a euphemism meaning that when radiocarbon dates do not agree with the calendar years, an adjustment has to be made since the carbon-ratio might have varied over time. 
    It was not until discrepancies began to accumulate between measured ages and known historical dates for artifacts that it became clear that a correction would need to be applied to radiocarbon ages to obtain calendar dates. The point is, radiocarbon years have to be converted to calendar years to arrive at the date or range of a c-14 radiocarbon dating period. Stated differently, radiocarbon dating is not accurate, and has to be adjusted by manipulating the figures to arrive at a date believed to be more correct.
According to the Clovis Culture theory, people came across a Land Bridge from Siberia into Alaska, then traveled down through the Ice Sheets of Canada via an open land corridor, and settled on the coast

Thus the Clovis culture is believed to have been in existence around 9,500 to 9,000 BC (Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology: "9,500–9,000 BC"), though Archaeologists use the dating of 13,200 to 12,900 years ago, and that the Clovis people are considered to be the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas (Michael Waters, et al, "Redefining the Age of Clovis: Implications for the Peopling of the Americas," Science, Vol.315, 2007, pp1122–1126; David R. Starbuck, The Archeology of New Hampshire: Exploring 10,000 Years in the Granite State, UPNE, 2006, p25).
    For more than 20 years anthropologists have debated whether the first Americans arrived in the New World by walking over a land bridge across the Bering Strait, as millions of schoolchildren have been taught, or by sea from southwest Europe. A new analysis challenges the out-of-Europe hypothesis, which has figured in a political debate over the rights of present-day Native American tribes. Scientists announced that they had, for the first time, determined the full genome sequence of an ancient American, a toddler who lived some 12,600 years ago (before the Land Bridge) and was buried in western Montana. His DNA, they report, links today’s Native Americans to ancient migrants from easternmost Asia (Sharon Begley, “Ancient native boy’s genome reignites debate over first Americas,” Reuters, 12 February 2014). The study, published in the journal Nature, “is the final shovelful of dirt” on the European hypothesis, said anthropological geneticist Jennifer Raff of the University of Texas, co-author of the report.
Native Americans consider their ancestral lands to be sacred and want them isolated from the rest of America, often denying entrance to non-tribal U.S. citizens

According to Begley, this report and claim has angered Native Americans since the idea that the first Americans arrived millennia earlier than long thought and from someplace other than Beringia. This they feel would question their theory that the continent’s first arrivals originated in Europe and cast doubt on their origin stories and claims to ancient remains on ancestral lands.
    So the debate goes on. However, the importance of the claim by anthropologists and archaeologists has other problems since the area of the open corridor through the ice sheets is claimed by scientists due to new studies never to have existed until more than a thousand years after people are claimed to have been in South America. This study, by geologists, says that a chain of large boulders along the east side of the Rocky Mountains proves that the ice free corridor was closed until long after humans would have had to come through there. These boulders are part of the “Foothills Erratics Train,” and show that no such Land Bridge could have existed.
    The reason for this is that in southern Alberta, along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, thousands of large boulders (erratics) form a train over 375 miles long. These rocks contain clues that have helped scientists to understand the movements of the ice sheets that covered Canada during the Ice Age. When geologists examined the rocks, they discovered that they were all made of the same kind of rock, and they traced the source of that rock to an area around Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper Park.
Map showing the Cordilleran Ice Sheet and the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which archaeologists claim had  an open corridor between; Red Circle: Mt. Edith Cavell, at (Yellow Circle) Jasper in the Jasper National Park; Blue Line: Foothills Erratics Train of boulders, which was shoved from the west to its present position

Thousands of years ago, these large stones fell onto the surface of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet during a landslide, and then were slowly carried by the ice sheet outward onto the Plains. When the ice melted, a long train of boulders was left behind. Scientists claim that 12,000 years ago, the Laurentide Ice Sheet was between 8,000- to 10,000-feet high, which is comparable to Greenland today. When the planet started to warm, this ice began to melt, and the process took several thousand years to complete, some claim
    One such case was an abrupt cooling event across the Northern Hemisphere which occurred about 8200 years ago and which is documented by multiple types of paleoclimate records as lasting several decades to a few centuries. Separate geologic lines of evidence document the catastrophic drainage of the prehistoric glacial Lakes Agassiz and Ojibway in Canada into the Hudson Bay at approximately the same time.
(See the next post, “New Understanding that America’s First People Arrived by Boat – Part II,” for more on how science is now claiming the first Americans did not come across the so-called Land Bridge and open corridor through the ice sheets, but arrived by boat)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What Did Nephi Mean “Eight Years in the Wilderness?

It is interesting how often theorists, with answers right before their eyes, skip over what they consider of little import on their search for answers. When Nephi later sat down to write his story on the Plates as commanded by the Lord, he said of their journey in the wilderness after leaving Jerusalem and before reaching Bountiful, “we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:4).
    How did Nephi know they had spent eight years in the wilderness?
Jewish Passover is a critical part of celebration among orthodox followers of the Law of Moses, which the Nephites were. They would have had to know when that took place exactly each year, as well as numerous other points in time

How did he know that? How did he know that eight years had passed? None of the normal events he had been used to before leaving Jerusalem had been available to him, such as Passover, planting and harvesting time, mid-day points, rising measure or mid-evening day-marks (i.e., points on the horizon to which the sun crosses that helped the ancients know the time of day).
    During his stationary life at Jerusalem, Nephi had been used to seeing the sun’s movement through the heavens, perhaps even known of an observatory or at least its results as early astronomers tracked the sun across the heavens through its equinox—this can be done by recognizing that no matter where the Sun rises or sets, the middle of its path is above about the same part of the horizon. That means you can always tell when the middle of the day is if you know above which point on the horizon the highest point of the Sun's path is, referred to as Midday Place (Highday).
    Also, no matter how high the Sun is above the horizon, it always passes over the same points on the horizon after the same interval of time. Using these facts, Nephi would have been able to develop a system of time-keeping that would enable him to know the time frames through which they traveled for eight years, most of which would have been along either the same longitude (Jerusalem to where they turned almost due east), and latitude (the Red Sea to Bountiful).
    Of course, long before Nephi’s time, the day had been divided into time periods for work or ritual, people had divided the day into 12 periods, or hours (the hour did not have a fixed length until the Greeks decided they needed such a system for theoretical calculations, some time after Nephi). They were based on the 12 hours of daylight and the 12 hours of darkness on the days of the Equinoxes, though people continued to use seasonally varying hours for a long time (the invention of mechanical clocks in the 14th century A.D., standardized the hour—that is, an equinoctial hour for all times of the year).
    This resulted in some days having daylight hours as long as 75 minutes and nighttime hours as short as 45 minutes, or visa versa in the other half of the year. Only on the equinoxes were their hours actually “60 minutes” long for both day and night.
    In fact, not until the pendulum clock in the 16th and 17th centuries was this standardization consistent with what we have today, and there was no device for keeping accurate time at sea until the latter 18th century, and soon after Greenwich Mean Time became the standard international time in 1884.
Left: Red Circle—Polaris in the Little Dipper; Blue Circle—Thuban in Draco; Right: Red Circle—Polaris; Yellow Circle—Errai in Cepheus; Green Circle--Alderamin also in Cepheus

A stationary or pole star was not discovered until 169 A.D. (by Claudius Ptolemy), and became a navigational tool around the 5th century when Stobaeus described it as “always visible.” Known today as Polaris, though earlier known as Phoenice, it is referred to as the North Star, and is not constant because of the “wobble” of the Earth (precession of the equinoxes) and the star the North Pole points to will change (it will be Errai (Gamma Cephei) by 4000 A.D., and Alderamin after that around 7500 A.D. Before Polaris the North Star was Thuban about 3000 B.C., which was well known to the Egyptians—who also invented the merkhet (“instrument of knowing”) for keeping time. This allowed for time keeping at night by holding up the device, which had a string with a weight attached to one end, enabling a straight line to be held across the sky. When two merkhets were aligned with the North Star, they formed a celestial meridian in the sky. The time could then be determined by counting how many stars crossed this line.
The Egyptian markhet, was an ancient time keeping instrument. It involved the use of a bar with a plumb line, attached to a wooden handle—when held against the North Star, time could be counted

The point is, while Nephi did not have privy to the modern conveniences we have to tell time and mark the years, such matters were well enough known in his day that he was both knowledgeable of such matters and able to determine their length.
    Consequently, when Nephi was capable of determine the length of eight years in the wilderness while they were constantly moving along the Red Sea and also then across the Empty Quarter on their trek to Bountiful, he was able to determine the time it took for them to make that journey.
    Now for someone in Nephi’s era, when civilizations needed time as a matter of basic survival for such things as crop planning and harvesting, it was naturally imperative to have a knowledge of seasonal changes—to know when the planting season for their location was, and when the harvesting period took place.
    While modern man spends little, if any time at all, thinking of such matters, that knowledge alone could determine whether people lived or died in the period of Nephi, particularly when on their own and away from the normal sequences of life, such as wandering in the wilderness. If modern man runs out of food, he can run down to the grocery store, but in antiquity, food was not readily available and unless you could go out and find game, a difficult task in the winter months, you would likely starve. To show ho this was important to Lehi’s party, consider how everyone became fearful and even the staunch Lehi murmured against the Lord because they “could obtain no food” (1 Nephi 16:18,20).
    This began, no doubt, with methods of telling time involved through simple observations of the natural world, perhaps by wedging sticks in the ground and monitoring the movements of the shadows. This particular experiment would have evoked the most fundamental part of a sundial, (gnomon), which is the component that casts the shadow. It's easy to imagine this practice advancing into the use of obelisks, pillars and other megalithic clocks and calendars.
    For the most part, however, the earliest natural events to be recognized were in the heavens, but during the course of the year there were many other events that indicated significant changes in the environment. Seasonal winds and rains, the flooding of rivers, the flowering of trees and plants, and the breeding cycles or migration of animals and birds, all led to natural divisions of the year, and further observation and local customs led to the recognition of the seasons—while they were not aware of, and had no need for, the hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute and even second-by-second our modern world needs, ancient man needed far less accuracy—a day or two seldom made a difference in anything. With Nephi, of course, for eight years moving through the wilderness for some 2000 miles from Jerusalem to Bountiful, almost all of the normal time-keeping methods would not have been available to him; however, some would have been as listed above.
There are several ancient observatories in Andean Peru, since understanding astronomical observations was important to the ancients; the one at Licurnique us dated to 2000BC, and the one above is at Chinkillo, a 4th century BC complex along the Peruvian north coast

The point of this is simply that anyone who could have determined an eight-year time keeping span with only the heavens as the source, would certainly not have been confused by the directions of a new location of the sun and its movement across the heavens as John L. Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists claim about the Nephites not understand the directions of their Land of Promise.
    The requirements of understanding an eight year span, with nothing whatever familiar to them to make such a judgment because of the changing topography, yet still understand correctly the passage of time would not have been confused about the passing of the sun and its adjusting directions and seasonal locations, which they would have observed each day and marked its passing. Consequently, “eight years in the wilderness” would be the same thing as knowing and understanding “land northward,” “land southward,” “land which is northward,” “land north,” “land south,” When writers, no matter their credentials, begin telling us that the Nephites did not understand directions, we should recognize they have little understanding of the needs, knowledge and understanding as well as abilities of ancient man, whose very existence required such knowledge and understanding, especially when those ancient people were isolated from their normal environment, as Lehi and his party were for those eight years.