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)

1 comment:

  1. All LDS students of Book of Mormon geography who have worked systematically with the problem in recent decades have come to agree on this.” ~John L.Sorenson

    The are 1.5 Billion Muslims who believe their religion is the only true religion. There are 1.2 Billion Catholics who also believe that their religion is the only true religion. All the LDS... I am LDS and I do not agree with John's statement. Just because many people agree on something does not make it a fact of truth.