Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Was Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part II – “The Map”

Continuing with James L. Allen’s critique of John L. Sorenson, both Mesoamericanists, of the latter’s claims about his location for the Land of Promise in Mesoamerica. Of this Allen writes: “The error here on Sorenson’s part comes because he does not read Alma 22:32 carefully and then analyze its content correctly in relation to other Book of Mormon geographic statements. Frankly, such errors simply cannot be tolerated on the part of those who are truly respected as the elite of Book of Mormon scholars—a role that Sorenson unequivocally holds in the academic environment of Brigham Young University.”
    Such a fiery statement regarding his own colleague is a strong condemnation of Sorenson’s model, but Allen’s model has as many faults as well. In fact, fellow Mesoamericanist John E. Clark, a professor of Anthropology at BYU, in a critique of Allen’s book “Sacred Sites,” states: “[it] merits a glance, but not a careful read…its substance evaporates with scrutiny” (Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Orem, UT, 1989)
    Ralph Olsen, a Malay theorist particularly criticizes Sorenson’s “Nephite North” concept which, however, if he were up to date on current scholarship, would know has been abandoned by most Book of Mormon Mesoamericanist scholars. But the fact remains, for whatever reason, they still deal with an east-west land mass instead of a north-south land mass.
Allen’s Land of Promise Model Map. Note the problems stated below

1. Violet Circle: Shows where Allen claims is the “place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). However, if you were to walk along this shoreline for the several hundred miles that is indicated, there is no way you would see anything that divided the land. This is the Gulf of Mexico, and does not divide lands, but is a shoreline of several hundred miles;
2. Blue Circle: this is the “narrow neck of land” (Alma 22:32) which Mormon tells us could be crossed in a day and a half by a Nephite, yet it is about 144 miles across, hardly possible to cross that in a day and a half, and again, if you were to stand on either shoreline, there is no way you could see that it was a narrow neck of land;
3. Red Arrow: shows the physical location of the Land Northward (left) and the Land Southward (right). This places the Land Northward to the west and the Land Southward to the east, not north and south as Mormon tells us (Alma 22:31);
4. Purple Arrow: shows Desolation to the west and Bountiful to the east, yet Mormon described them north and south: “Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful” (Alma 22:31);
5. Green Circle: shows where Allen has placed the West Sea, which is obviously to the south. However, Mormon tells us that “Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5); however, Allen has the Sea West to the south of the narrow neck and both Desolation and Bountiful many miles apart);
6. Yellow Arrow: While Allen has placed Bountiful to the north of Zarahemla, where Mormon describes it; but he also tells us that Desolation was north of Bountiful: “which they called bountiful. And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward” (Alma 22:29-30).
7. Maroon Arrow: Allen’s “narrow strip of Wilderness” is landlocked in the Land Southward; however, Mormon tells us that “a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west” (Alma 22:27) which Allen’s map does not have.
8. Brown Circle: After seven glaring mistakes on his map, Allen finally places the Sea East in the correct general area.
    Despite the fact that Allen makes all these errors, he goes on to criticize Sorenson’s work by saying: “The next error Sorenson makes is associated with his rotation of the compass to justify his designation of the Gulf of Mexico, which is north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, as the east sea of the Book of Mormon.”
    While John E. Clark critiques these works in an extensive article, he leads off with the statement: “The Book of Mormon communicates clearly four fundamentals about its setting: its lands were warm, narrow in at least one place, flanked by “seas,” and small.
    It is interesting that Clark chooses these four areas for discussion. As an example:
1. Warm. The climate is rarely mentioned in all of the Book of Mormon. It is true that the Lamanites wore loincloths, but the fact that natives in non-warm areas have also dressed only in loincloths does not give evidence that the Land of Promise was only warm. Obviously, it was warm at certain times of the year. So much so, that Mormon tells us: “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land…to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40), thus we find that certain seasons were frequent in the land. On the other hand, having spent some time in Minnesota, which is freezing cold in the winter with high levels of snowfall, the summers are such that the area (because of the many lakes) is infested with the worst mosquitoes known to man. Even backyard patios are screened in to protect people from the mosquitoes. So you do not need a tropical climate to be infested by mosquitoes.
Palestine (Israel) today as in the past, is a long and narrow land, as is the scriptural description of the Land of Promise occupied by the Nephites

2. Narrow. The land was narrow, at least in one place. That one place was the narrow neck of land, and the word “narrow” would normally not be translated to 144 mile-width as in Mesoamerica, though Clark and other Mesoamericanists do. In fact, from what we read in the scriptura record, the entire Land of Promise, both in the Land Southward and the Land Northward, was rather narrow, at least far more narrow than its much longer length. Mesoamericanists, however, had a great difficulty with this fact, since Mesoamerica is not narrow at any point
3. Flanked by “seas.” The word “flanked,” typically used by Mesoamericanists, literally means “on the side” or “situated on each side,” which Mesoamerica is so “flanked” by seas—the Gulf of Mexico to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south; however, the Land of Promise is not so described by Mormon. Jacob tells us it is an island, which by definition would place a sea in all four directions, or surrounded it—a fact that Helaman verifies when he tells us there is a Sea South and a Sea North, a Sea West and a Sea East (Helaman 3:8); and Mormon tells us that the Land Southward, at least, was completely surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32). This ought to suggest to even the most stubborn of theorists that the Land of Promise was more than flanked by two seas.
By comparison to the entire South American continent, the actual area of the Land of Promise, being the island Jacob claims, makes up a small portion of the overall continent that eventually emerged with the rising of the Andes Mountains during the crucifixion
4. Small. The Land Northward alone sported several million people (Ether 15:2).
    The point is, theorists all fall guilty of the same thing. When they start to describe the Land of Promise, they do not use the scriptural record, but their own model. To illustrate this, Clark goes on to say, “The confusion arises initially because Sorenson works exclusively with his hourglass map that is always reflected in a vertical position. In this vertical position, because north is routinely expressed at the top of his vertical hourglass, as shown in all instances by Sorenson’s north directional arrow, the resulting narrow neck of land (isthmus) runs in an east to west direction. Had Sorenson merely positioned his hourglass map in a horizontal position to match the horizontal hourglass configuration of Mesoamerica and to justify the Nephites’ use of “northward” and “southward” as cardinal directions, he probably would have avoided this error.
    Here we see one person using his own model for his example of the Land of Promise criticizing another theorist for using their own map and model to describe the Land of Promise. The funny thing is, just because a map shows the north location at the top of a land mass (the hourglass shape), does not mean that you can lay it horizontal (from left to right, with the top now to the left) and still claim the top faces north. Maps do not work that way—never have and never will. Not a single vertical map ever drawn, other than the Mesoamericanists’ hourglass shape, has ever been placed flat horizontally to bring north (top) to the west (side). And it is foolish to say it does.
    If that were really the case, then we would have to conclude that Mormon was playing games with us, by telling us things were north-south, when he knew they were east-west. Somehow, I find that so hard to believe and accept that the idea of it is beyond reasonable and borders on the ludicrous.
(See the next post, “Is Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part II, for more information on James L. Allen’s critique of John L. Sorenson, both Mesoamericanists, of the latter’s claims about his location for the Land of Promise in Mesoamerica).

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