Thursday, May 24, 2018

Was Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part III – Different Directions

Continuing from the previous post in which the Mesoamericanists’ narrow neck of land was discussed.
    In the 1970s and 1980s, David A. Palmer was a contemporary and colleague of John L. Sorenson. Both authored books about Book of Mormon geography, with Palmer’s work entitled In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico. Although Palmer’s book was “officially” published before Sorenson’s An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Sorenson’s manuscript was used extensively as a photocopied version in looseleaf binding for several years prior to its publication by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies.
    The point of this discussion is to ask the following question: “Who made the initial decision to rotate the compass to justify labeling the Gulf of Mexico as the Book of Mormon’s east sea—John Sorenson or David Palmer?” An answer to that question is not critical to this discussion. Both Sorenson and Palmer espoused a rotation of the compass in their writings, and each supported the other in this configuration.
After four maps in his book, Sorenson then shifts from the vertical, north-south orientation  of maps 1-4 to a horizontal east-west orientation in map 5, without any other explanation than: “The general hourglass shape is evident in both maps. The dimensions are very similar—that is, if we ignore the northern and western expansion of Mesoamerica, which we may do…we must also ignore the Yucatan Peninsula and adjacent lowlands, for we noted earlier that the Nephite-controlled portion of the coast along the east sea was short…there are no contradictions.” Of course you have to also ignore the extreme width of the isthmus, and also ignore the unending extension of the land, which eliminates the two other seas in Helaman 3:8

Sorenson refers to his rotation of the compass as simply that—a rotation. Palmer refers to his rotation of the compass by coining a new “cardinal direction,” i.e., Nephite north. Sorenson denies that the results of his rotation of the compass can legitimately be labeled “Nephite north” when he says, “The concept of ‘Nephite north’ is not mine, consequently it is not appropriate on a map representing my views.”
    Palmer provides several maps with “true north” and “Nephite north” clearly labeled; the degree of rotation on these maps to accommodate the new direction of “Nephite north” is apparently seventy degrees northwest of north.
    While that difference might be Sorenson’s or Palmer’s, actually, in the immediate vicinity of the Land Northward and the Land Southward at the Narrow Neck of Land for Mesoamerica, it is truly 100º east and west as any map will show. The further away you go, the more you can add a few degrees to that in a change northward and southward, but that difference is many miles away from the narrow neck.
    In speaking of the Nephite north, Palmer makes two noteworthy statements:
    “An obvious problem with identification of Tehuantepec as the “narrow neck of land” is that it runs north-south, not east-west as would be expected if it were to separate the land “northward” from the land “southward.” However, this is only one part of the larger problem of Book of Mormon geography. If one assumes that the Book of Mormon “north” is actually true north, one has the same problem as Hammond (1959), who placed his map of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica generally but was unable to develop a specific correlation with present topography of the area. The solution, which is now agreed upon by many serious students of this subject, is that the Book of Mormon north was west-north-west in our coordinate system.”
One can only chuckle at such a comment. Here “serious students of the book of Mormon” are saying that the land they have chosen as the Land of Promise, runs due east and west instead of due north and south, thus, we need to alter the due north and south so that it is more in line with our model and map.” In so doing, they then say that they are not altering the scriptural record or the writings of Mormon at all.
    Palmer continues: “This is the reason for the orientation of some of the maps presented in this book which have west-north-west at the top.”
    Now, how is that the work of a “serious student of the Book of Mormon”? Wouldn’t a serious student of the scriptural record take the record as it is written and go from there? That, to many of us, seems the appropriate way to treat the scriptural record, but geography theorists of the Book of Mormon insist on having “literary license” to make what alterations—not changes according to them—in the scriptural record so that it adjusts to fit the model and map of the theorists.
    In a recent film entitled Pearl Harbor, actor John Voight as FDR convenes his military advisers after the attack. Finding them depressed and defeatist, FDR makes a melodramatic "when I had the use of my legs" speech and then, to illustrate the point, rises from his chair—theatrically, clumsily, angrily struggling to stand using leg braces and cane—with the ringing admonition: "Don't tell me it can't be done." That, of course, did not happen in real life, and when confronted by the fact, the Director Michael Bay shot back, “Well, he should have done it!” But Roosevelt would have been mortified at the antic.
    While the modern politician thinks nothing of playing on pity or exploiting weakness, FDR was very careful about disguising his disability that he would receive his White House dinner guests in one room, fixing drinks while sitting at a table, then have Eleanor take the guests on a long and winding trip downstairs to give him enough time for his Filipino stewards rushing in, wheeling and carrying him downstairs, then quickly transferring him into a regular chair so his guests would enter the dining room to find the smiling president awaiting them at the head of the table.
FDR was always seated in all public appearances, even with his closest staff—never drawing attention to his infirmity

The point is, the makers of the movie felt it was all right to re-write history, and theorists for whatever reason, feel it is all right to re-write the scriptural record so long as it then agrees with their view, beliefs and model. This is why we keep “harping” on what the Book of Mormon actually says, what Mormon wrote, and its obvious and factual meaning—not someone’s opinion of the meaning.
    “North,” after all, means “north,” and “northward,” after all, means “toward the north,” not something else. It meant “north” to the Hebrews and Jews in ancient times, it means “north” to the Jews today, and it will continue to mean “north,” no matter who or when the Book of Mormon is read. If Mormon meant some other direction, he would have said so. If he meant some other reason, the Spirit would have known that. And if the Lord wanted us to understand some other direction, the Spirit would have conveyed that to Joseph Smith, who would have written it the way the Lord wanted us to know that. To consider that Mormon, the Spirit or the Lord is making it difficult for us to understand plain and simple language is beyond comprehension. It was Joseph Smith who make that quite clear—said he, “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3). It is amazing how many theorists, who profess belief in the divinely inspired Joseph Smith writing, yet ignore what that writing actually says when it disagrees with their personal views.
    As one theorist claims Malay is the Land of Promise when Moroni told Joseph Smith that the plates contained a history of the people “of this continent,” how can you claim Lehi landed on another continent where “this continent” meant both North and South America in Joseph Smith’s time.
Did Moroni really ignore the Spirit and write the way he wanted to as Joseph Allen claims?

Joseph Allen writes: “There are indications that in making the abridgment of Ether’s Jaredite history, Moroni used his own geographical definitions and directions. Therefore, throughout this work we will attempt to consistently give directions in the Nephite coordinate system when speaking of Nephite or Jaredite events. In other words, if we say that Alma went north, the reader can translate that to west-north-west in modern terms. When not speaking of the Book of Mormon text, conventional directions will be used.”
    If Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and he tells us that the Lord speaks to us in our language for our understanding, we don’t have to translate north to mean west by northwest (which is a correct direction, not west-north-west).
(See the next post, “Is Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part IV, 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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