Friday, February 23, 2018

What Keeps the Idea of Mesoamerica Floating? – Part I

Despite all the discussion to the contrary by so many people writing about the Land of Promise as described in the Book of Mormon, and despite the more than 44 specific scriptural references and a total of 65 different issues covered in the scriptural record that give us insight into the location of the Nephite Land of Promise, Mesoamerica, which has little to offer along these lines in matching such scriptural criteria continues to be at the forefront of beliefs regarding the site of the Book of Mormon Nephite history. 
    How many times must a location be on the wrong side of the scriptural record to finally fall out of grace with the public view?
    When you get right down to it, and all the issues the scriptural record cites as a criteria for the Land of Promise location, scholars and people continue to write about and support Mesoamerica as though they had never actually read the Book of Mormon in regard to its many geographical comments and descriptions.
    Of course, the first and foremost problem any Mesoamerica model has is the directions of the actual land and those described in the Book of Mormon.
Land of Promise Map of John L. Sorenson in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Map #5). According to he and other Mesoamerican theorists, the Land of Promise map runs east and west; on the other hand, according to Mormon in the scriptural record, the Land of Promise map runs north and south

Mesoamerica, without question, runs basically east and west, while the scriptural record tells us that the Land of Promise runs north and south. In order for Mesoamerica to be right on this (or John L. Sorenson who “invented” Nephite North, a swing of direction almost 90º off from true north and south) then Mormon, the Spirit, and Joseph Smith have to be wrong.
    And then there is Joseph L. Allen, another Mesoamericanist from BYU, who has made more than 130 trips to Mesoamerica, has led paid groups there to show them where he considers the various sites to be as listed in the Book of Mormon, yet despite there being as many as 65 criteria promoted by the scriptural record that we have covered here in these articles many times, Allen sites only three issues of importance as he sees it.
Thus, regarding Mesoamerica, he bases his model and proposal on three major arguments: 1) Scholars have determined that the only place on the American continent where a written language was in use during the time period in which the Book of Mormon history occurred was in Mesoamerica. It is in this area that the calendar system and the written language of the Americas had their origins; 2) Archaeologists have determined that the vast majority of discovered archaeological sites dating to the time period of the Book of Mormon are located in Mesoamerica; 3) The oral traditions, the cultural patterns, and the written history of Mesoamerica contain many interesting parallels with the writings in the Book of Mormon.
    While the scriptural record does show that the Jaredites and Nephites had a written language, though the Lamanites evidently did not have one continually and had to be taught writing by the Nephites at lease on two occasions, and does show that they built vast complexes whose ruins should be visible today, the third category Allen picks is quite questionable—still, in the defense of his position, he fails to cover the scores of references that are far more compelling than such ambiguous ones that he does.
    In a simple response to his three items, consider the first one: a written language. It might be of interest that during the time the Nephites were in the Land of Promise, there were 24 languages spoken in various parts of the world, 22 of which were definitely written languages, and only one of those was Mayan (dated at 292 B.C.) The point being, the fact that there was a written language among the Maya is not unique at the time of the Nephite record. However, the obvious question is, what good is a written language if it does not relate in any way to the two languages known to have been used in the Book of Mormon by the inhabitants of the land there, namely, Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian? There is nothing in any of the claimed writings of Mesoamerica that related to either Hebrew or Egyptian, despite the flippant comment often made by Mesoamericanists that it does. No Eygptologist has ever come forward and claimed that the Mayan language symbols represent any form of Egyptian writing, and none other than LDS Mesoamerican archaeologist and linguists have ever made a connection between Hebrew and Mayan.
    In fact, there is little in Mesoamerica that ties into either Hebrew or Egyptian, even in their artifacts. As an example, the pyramids of Egypt and the pyramids of Mesoamerica have no connection in design, purpose or appearance. Their functionality serve entirely different purposes. Mayans put staircases on the outside leading to the top, the Egyptian pyramids were not to be climbed or have any purposeful use on the exterior. The Mayan pyramids were built in the last century B.C. and totally unrelated to those of Egypt.
    While both the Egyptians and Mayans used symbols to convey meaning in written language, the similarity pretty much stops there. The Egyptian hieroglyphics didn’t have punctuation and were written in long lines of script. They were found on everything from paper, to stone, to jewelry. Reading the glyphs, you go from left to right, and are divided into phonograms, representing sounds, and ideograms, representing ideas or objects. On the other hand, the Mayans’ system used picture blocks to convey meaning, and are very different from Egyptian, being read left to right and a “pair” at a time, then go down to the next line and read the next pair. They form a sort of zig-zag pattern. Thus, if reading, you would read block 1A, then block 1B. Then you go to the next line and read 2A, then block 2B. Mayan glyphs are divided into logograms to express meaning or syllabograms to represent sounds.
    Hebrew, of course, reads right to left. In addition, original American religious ideology and Eastern religions are not related in their origins or ways of delivery. In fact, one has to stretch several points to claim any similarities exist between Mesoamerica and Egypt or the Middle East.
    Thus we can conclude without question that there is no similarity between these writings.
    In addition to all of that, the question that is never raised by Mesoamericanists is why would we expect any examples of Nephite writing to exist? The Lamanites threatened time and again that they would destroy anything Nephite, especially their “sacred” records. Even the Lord showed his concern over the safety of the records in commanding both Mormon and Moroni to hide them in the ground when they were completed so the Lamanites could not find them. In fact, we learn that the Nephites had an enormous amount of records and that eventually they were in the hands of Mormon who hid them in the Hill Cumorah. Later, when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went to the hill Cumorah in New York to return the plates to Moroni, they were given a vision of a room where these plates were then stored—so many, Joseph told Brigham Young. who said they would fill several wagon loads.
    Consequently, we can suggest that the first of Allen’s three important criteria pointing to Mesoamerica really does not rise to the level since there is no connection between Hebrew and/or Egyptian with the Mayan language in any way.
Top Left: Sumerian; Top Right: Akkadian; Bottom Left: Elamite; and Bottom Right: Eblaite

Thus, Maya, like other ancient languages, was simply a written language like the world’s oldest written languages: Sumerian, Akkadian, Eblaite, and Elamite—all unrelated, but each a written language.
    Now, for the second of his list of three: “Archaeologists have determined that the vast majority of discovered archaeological sites dating to the time period of the Book of Mormon are located in Mesoamerica.”
First of all, this is simply not true. There are far more archaeological sites in Andean Peru (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile) than in Mesoamerica. Secondly, the stone structures found in Mesoamerica all date to the last century B.C., not the first half of the Nephite occupation, let alone to the Jaredite period. In archaeology, it is important to separate the archaeologists’ “belief” in diffusion, i.e., if an archaeologist finds a pottery sherd, then they date backward into pre-pottery period, to the hunter-gatherer, etc., since archaeology is based strictly upon the development of stages over time. It is simply not prepared to deal with the Nephites, Mulekites, or Jaredites before their arriving on the scene with an already developed and advanced society.
    After all, the Jaredites did not begin in the Western Hemisphere as a group of people who had been cave dwellers, moving through hunting-gathering, herding, agriculture, pre-pottery, pottery, etc. They came from a society in the East that had built several ziggurats of great height. They were an advanced society, with hundreds of years of advancement behind them when they arrived in the promised land.
(See the next post, “What Keeps Mesoamerica Floating? – Part II,” for more information regarding the belief that Mesoamerica was the Land of Promise and showing how that is not the case according to the scriptural record)

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