Saturday, April 7, 2018

It’s Time for a Paradigm Shift

For the past 72 years, most of what is often termed “Mormon Thought” regarding the geographical setting of the Book of Mormon and the Land of Promise in particular has centered around Max Wells Jakeman’s pre-determined belief that Lehi landed in southern Mexico and settled in the area of what is now Guatemala City. Dr. Jakeman, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1938, having written his dissertation on “The May States of Yucatan,” and wrote an article for the Deseret News in August of that year entitled “Present Trends in Maya Research,” was unique at the time, having entered archaeology primarily through the door of ancient history in contrast with that of those who enter the disci­pline through the door of anthropology and whose orientation is therefore that of “prehistoric” archae­ology, rather than textbook or written “historic” archaeology.
His thinking, teaching, and writing over the years as head of Archaeology at BYU, and his involvement with early foundations, including F.A.R.M.S., now called the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, has created a paradigm in Book of Mormon geography centered solely around Mesoamerica.
    Initially a “paradigm” was considered “an example” or “a model,” and originated in the late 15th century A.D. from Late Latin taken from the Greek paradeigma, meaning “pattern,” and paradeiknunal, meaning literally “to show side by side,” or “compare.”
    Over time, the word paradigm became more to show something, especially of a pattern of thought, a system of beliefs, or a conceptual framework. Eventually, the word has evolved into meaning or at least suggesting, an incomplete or biased perspective due in part to the 20th century American physicist, historian and philosopher of science, Thomas Samuel Kuhn’s landmark 1962 controversial book Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he introduced the term “paradigm shift,” which has since become an English-language idiom.
    The idea behind the term originated with his claim that progress of scientific knowledge—that scientific fields undergoe periodic "paradigm shifts" rather than solely progressing in a linear and continuous way, and that these paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding what scientists would never have considered valid before; and that the notion of scientific truth, at any given moment, cannot be established solely by objective criteria but is defined by a consensus of a scientific community, such as today "evolution" being the standard "community" thinking and way of explaining human origination and development.
    Thus, a paradigm today is pretty much considered merely a standard way of doing something, or thinking a certain way, or having an ongoing belief, but that it is not necessarily accurate and can be altered depending upon the attitude and changes in beliefs of those who accept it as a standard way of thinking or believing something. According to Kuhn’s claim, however, in order for that paradigm to change, or be replaced by another thought, idea, method, or belief, there has to be a “shift” in the present condition.
Jakeman being appointed as the head of the new Archaeology Department at BYU in 1946 caused a Paradigm Shift in the thinking about where Lehi landed

In this way, we see that from 1946 to the present, the idea of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise and Lehi’s landing site, has become a paradigm, believed by most to be accurate. However, as paradigms typically are, it is not necessarily true unless it continues to be borne out by evidence, increased knowledge, and current understanding. Thus, paradigms of the past have often been replaced by new thinking and knowledge, such as what used to be considered “Business as usual,” has changed dramatically with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Email, etc., and “Knowledge is Power,” has been replaced with “shared knowledge is energy,” energy being the primary force in relationships today.
    A paradigm shift, then, is when the usual way of thinking about or standard way of doing something is replaced by a new and different way. Thus, shifting the paradigm requires giving up old mental models and replacing them with more accurate and updated world views. As an example, the age-old cherished assumptions that ours is a world of things, mechanics, leverage, hierarchies, and rigid organizations, is now being replaced through a quiet revolution of the intellect, placing a premium on our greatest natural resource—our human minds in relationship with one another, and no longer just on things, machines, and hierarchies. In fact, as we let go of the machine models of work, we begin to step back and see ourselves in new ways, to appreciate our wholeness, and to design organizations that honor and make use of the totality of who we are.
    Another paradigm shift that is now in the works has to do with the fact that for the past fifty years or so, technology has followed a fairly predictable path. According to Greg Satell in “These 4 Major Paradigm Shifts Will Transform the Future of Technology,” in which he states "We squeeze more transistors onto silicon wafers, which makes chips more powerful and devices smaller. Manual processes become automated, productivity increases and life gets better. Rinse and repeat. However, today, we’re at an inflection point and that predictable path to progress will soon be closed off. What lies ahead is a period of extreme disruption in which most of what we’ve come to expect from technology is becoming undone. What replaces it will be truly new and different.”
    The point is, technology has reached a place where a shift in the paradigm driving it needs to be changed. As Gordon Moore, the Intel co-founder said in 1965, the number of transistors on an integrated circuit was doubling every two years. Today we have reached a point where a new paradigm shift is needed to drive future accomplishments such as moving from improving the chip, to improving the system.
    The same can be said about the claims of Lehi’s landing site. We have reached a point where no new discoveries are breaking within the Mesoamerican and Heartland or Great Lakes models. The paradigms that have led to those locations are in need of revision since none of these areas, or any of the others anywhere in North America actually fit the scriptural record descriptions that Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni left us.
A New Paradigm Shift is needed

A paradigm shift is needed to draw researchers attention to the many descriptions of the scriptural record, of which we have listed 44 specific scriptural references in the past, as well as 69 topics overall related to the scriptural record. These contain specific descriptive places and/or items that need to exist or did exist in the area being claimed.
    This includes such items as: the Land of Promise being an island (2 Nephi 10:20); there being four seas (Helaman 3:8); North-South land direction (Alma 22:27-34); a sea that divides the land (Ether 10:20); a Small and Narrow Neck of Land (Alma 22:32; 63:5); No other people in the land (2 Nephi 1:5,8); Where seeds from Jerusalem would grow exceedingly (1 Nephi 18:24), requiring a Mediteerranean Climate like Jerusalem; Abundant gold, silver and copper (1 Nephi 18:25); Two unknown animals (Ether 9:19); Two unknown grains (Mosiah 9:9); Mountains whose height is great (Helaman 14:23); Cure for killer fevers (Alma 46:40); Extensive roads and highways (3 Nephi 6:8); Nephite temple like Solomon’s (2 Nephi 5:16); Great tower next to the temple (Mosiah 11:12); Stone walls around the land (Alma48:8); Buildings of all kinds (Mosiah 8:8); Metallurgy (Ether 10:23; Helaman 6:9); Plants and herbs to cure disease (Alma 46:40); Landing on the seashore of the West Sea (Alma 22;28); Growing wheat and barley (Mosiah 9:9); Circumcision thru Living the Law of Moses (2 Nephi 5:10); and many, many more that have specific descriptions in the scriptural record and should be identified in any Land of Promise location, but never is except with our Andean South America statements.
    This paradigm shift that is needed is for researchers, historians, scholars and writers to move away from the previous paradigms of picking a site first, like where Joseph Smith was located in the eastern United States and where the modern history of the Church began. Or of picking a scriptural location, like the hill Cumorah, as is found in Phyllis Carol Olive’s work, The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, in which nearly her first words in the Preface are, “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.” When we combine that with one of her supporters who is quoted on his website as saying, “The Hill Cumorah in New York is the anchor. Landing sites are not important, North America is,” we find the old paradigm of picking sites not supported by the scriptural record itself for there is nothing in the record that suggests a connection between the hill Cumorah of the Land Northward and the hill in New York where Joseph Smith found the records, and which later became known as the hill Cumorah, among other names. However, there is scriptural record indications of where Lehi sailed, and how Nephi’s ship was driven by winds and currents. Others still have picked obvious landmarks, such as the narrow neck of land, or a physical location like the ruins in Mesoamerica, which has proven impossible to find any connection between the Nephites and that site other than Hagoth’s ships full of emigrants that sailed northward.
Nephi’s ship was “driven forth before the wind” along known paths of winds and currents southward away from the Arabian Peninsula and through the Sea of Arabia, then the Indian Ocean Gyre and finally into the Southern Ocean, which winds and current took him eastward across the Pacific to the Humboldt Current moving northward along the west coast of South America

We need, instead, to change that old paradigm and adopt a new viewpoint of following Lehi’s course by learning about and understanding Nephi’s explanation of where they set sail and what winds and currents would have been available for his ship to be “driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8-9). That is, where would those winds and currents leaving Bountiful in the Irreantum Sea have taken a drift voyage in 600 B.C.? And at what point would a landing have been possible in the Western Hemisphere?
    Such thinking would take a paradigm shift among the concept of trying to identify Lehi’s landing site. It has never been tried and implemented prior to the routing of Nephi’s ship through the Sea of Arabia, into the Indian Ocean Gyre and along the Southern Ocean to the Humboldt Current where the winds and currents die down around the 30º south latitude, allowing a landing. Some historians have given sea routes lip service, suggesting routes that in fact would not have been possible for a deep ocean vessel such as Nephi’s to have taken, or to claim they “island hopped” across the Pacific, which would have taken an expertise far beyond what Lehi’s party could have managed. 
    The paradigm shift being suggested here is in starting with the scriptural record, not some pre-determined area, or a long-held belief, and following that line of thinking to its reasonable conclusion according to the descriptive information found in the scriptural record. And once landed, then compare that exact site with the descriptions Nephi gives us of that landing site and what they found there (1 Nephi 18:23-25).
    We need to break away from the old paradigm of M. Wells Jakeman’s 1946 beliefs and teachings within the newly formed Archaeology Department at BYU, which he founded and was hired to establish, and start thinking in terms of the scriptural record and the numerous descriptions of the land left us by those ancient writers who lived there and traveled that land.
    But it will take a paradigm shift in the thinking of researchers and writers—one that includes and depends almost entirely on the scriptural record and not pre-determined ideas that have not proven accurate in the past.

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