Sunday, October 14, 2018

Are Theorists’ Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent with Scripture? – Part II

Continued from the previous post, regarding the meaning of the scriptural record as opposed to statements frequently made by theorists in order to support or lend credence to their erroneous beliefs and opinions.
According to the American Society of Soil Science, a wasteland is “land which is incapable of producing material or services of value”

Continuing with Jerry L. Ainsworth’s comments, in another instance he simply changes the meaning of clear statements so they match his theory: “The land Desolation was a segment of land that was unfit for and devoid of habitation—a wasteland.”
    However, the scriptural record states the meaning of the land being called Desolation quite differently: “Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land. And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate” (Helaman 3:5-6, emphasis added).
    Despite all the rhetoric to the opposite, theorists are continually trying to change what is written in the scriptural record so that it supports their theory and model. Take, as an example John L. Sorenson’s comment regarding the distance of a day-and-a-half width of the narrow neck of land.
He writes (p9) in his book: “in the nineteenth century small groups of Mohave Indians in California could cover nearly 100 miles a day, sometimes going without food or even water for days.” He also writes: “Father Sahagun wrote of a pre-hispanic Mexican people, ‘The Toltecs were tall, of larger body than those who now life; for which reason they called them tlanquacemilhuique which means they could run an entire day without tiring,” yet then claims in the same sentence that “During the movements of the Toltecs described in the Mexican chronicles, dawn-to-dusk marches without animals along averaged six leagues, somewhere between 15 and 24 miles,” which means that in a day and a half these Toltecs covered at the very most 36 miles, which is far short of the 120 to 144 miles of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
    However, not finished, Sorenson later gives an extensive explanation of travel in explaining “a day and a half journey,” which just about anyone would consider to be a continuous journey as Mormon makes the statement, but Sorenson injects a comment that “such term said nothing about any particular route or number of hours of consecutive travel,” then changing the meaning, adds, “Or the phrase “a Nephite” might imply that a special messenger was the one doing the traveling, for the statement occurs in the context of military defense.”
A Nephite, as used by Mormon in this case, would suggest a typical Nephite person on a normal journey across the land 

First of all, Mormon’s statement: “now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea,” does not imply, suggest, or intimate that a special messenger was involved—just a Nephite. Secondly, the statement of distance has nothing to do with military defense, but in explaining the width of the narrow neck.
    True to the modus operandi of most theorists, Sorenson throws out so many varying ideas, none of which hold true to Mormon’s stated meaning, but obviously tend to cloud the issue and change the very intent and dialogue of Mormon’s writing. In so doing, he , creates doubt in his reader to the actual meaning Mormon had in mind.
    Yet, on (p8) of his book, Sorenson earlier countered the idea of varying speeds when he writes: “Other groups of travelers don’t move even this fast. Richard E.W. Adams, an archaeologist who has worked in Guatemala, reports that travelers on routine trading trips on jungle trails and streams from the Cotzal Valley to the Peten, about 120 air miles away, take 19 days or more averaging a little more than six miles a day.”
    The point is, anyone can change the meaning of the scriptural record, or add words that convey a specific reference not intended, such as Sorenson and all Mesoamericanists calling the “small or narrow neck of land” an “isthmus.” Now a narrow neck of land is an isthmus, but an isthmus is not necessarily small or narrow. However, the term “isthmus” is used exclusively by these theorists to make it easier for them to sell the scriptural reference being the “Isthmus of Tehuantepec” in southern Mexico. An area that could not be considered under any circumstances a “small neck of land” (Alma 22:32).
    It should also be noted that the term “isthmus” was known and used at the time of Joseph Smith’s translation—it is described by Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary as: “Isthmus: a neck or narrow slip of land by which two continents are connected, or by which a peninsula is united to the mainland…But the word is applied to land of considerable extent, between seas; as the isthmus of Darien, which connects North and South America, and the isthmus between the Euxine and Caspian seas,” the latter being 350 miles wide, the former being about 400 miles long. On the other hand, the Karelian Isthmus is between 25 and 68 miles wide, but the Corinth Isthmus is only 6 miles wide. Obviously, an Isthmus can be of any distance today, but a “small neck” is quite restricted in its width and length. 
    As stated earlier, it is not difficult to change the meaning of words in the scriptural record, or anywhere else. Simply change the inference of the meaning, or simply inject enough counter ideas until the original meaning is lost, then pick one of those ideas to process, and then go on to write about it.
As Sorenson states (p17), “If some mode of travel other than on foot were used, the 125 [mile width] figure might be increased. Or the distance might be as little as, say, 50 miles. If the low figure applied, it would be harder for Limhi’s explorers to fail to notice they were going through a narrow isthmus; if we push toward the high extreme, the ‘day and a half’s journey’ becomes more troublesome. A plausible compromise range seems to me to be 75 to 125 miles.”
    Thus, Sorenson brings us to his 125 miles as a plausible distance for the width of the narrow neck of land, even though there is no way a typical man, “a Nephite,” could cover that distance in a day and a half. In such a reasoning manner, Sorenson violates two of the criteria mentioned above; i.e., that of “considering the text of the Book of Mormon to be flexible enough to let you adjust the wordage and information according to your own views” and “ignoring those verses and information that do not agree with what you think and believe.”
    This is how you can choose a ridiculously wide area as being narrow, and how you can place a feature in the Book of Mormon Land of Promise wherever you want it to be.
So, as stated in the previous post, there are six factors for locating the hill Cumorah:
1. Use the writings of Mormon and others exactly as 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.
    The first choice above would be to go along with other theorists ideas, such as Phyllis Carol Olive’s view of the Hill Cumorah. As she wrote in the preface of her book, The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, (Bonneville Books, 1998), “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.” She goes on to make this statement as well, “All the lands fit together and can ultimately see how the various descriptions of lands and territories found within the text fit the terrain of western New York perfectly.” She then sums up her preface with: “But beyond all else, it is a work that introduces a setting that meets all the requirements necessary to be the lands of the ancient Nephites and Jaredites.”
    One might, in looking for the hill Cumorah, think to adopt her view, for it sounds very convincing; however, there are a few problems with this. When anyone claims an area fits perfectly, there can be only one way to check it out and that is compare it with the various descriptive scriptural references. One of the quickest comparisons is the area is Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy.
(See the next post, “Determining the Location of Cumorah – Part III,” for more on these criteria as to how theorists place geographical features of the Land of Promise wherever they want them to be despite what the scriptural record tells us; and often directly ignore the written descriptions involved)


  1. Del- May I make a suggestion for your blog? I refer a lot of people to your web site, but realized, it is difficult to find where to read about the evidence for the South America model is written. I believe it was erichard who I saw referred someone to your Oct 10, 2016 post - the first of the 33 part series explaining the evidence for South America being the lands of the Book of Mormon. My recommendation is on your home page of and your blog landing page, you have a link to that post and a brief explanation.
    I also think a brief overview of what the blog covers would be helpful as well as instructions that you can search for a specific topic using the search bar in the upper left corner.

    Here's the link to the first of the 33 part series:

    In the meantime, I've followed erichard's example and started including this link when I refer people to your blog.

  2. It actually is just a 30 part series, not 33. Here is a short url for the start of it:

  3. I have always questioned how far a day and half's journey really is. What is a days journey? From sun up to sunset? 24 hours? The Book of Mormon is not specific enough to me to make that determination. If I told people it took me a day and a half to get from Pocatello Idaho to my mother inlaw's house in San Jose... would one assume that I traveled all night... or would I have spent the night somewhere and then continued the next day? The only way someone could make any sort of assumption would be to calculate the distance from Pocatello to San Jose... guesstimating the average speed I made... and then divide the distance by the speed. If you plug the two cities into Google maps... you get 818 miles at 12 hrs & 24 min. They averaged the speed at 67 miles per hour to come up with that period of time. So now knowing that... you know I did not drive straight through... but my total journey still took me a day and a half. So... if you calculate a day and a half to be 24+12=36 hours... my average speed driving straight through would be 22.7 miles per hour. But no one is going to drive 22.7 MPH for 36 hours. All one can really say is that it took me a day and a half to travel 818 miles. So with that thought in mind... How far does a Nephite walk in a day and a half?

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  5. I suspect it means a long day of walking -- say 16 hours -- a night of sleep --8 hours -- and then 8 more hours of walking. Or something close to that. If the land was fairly easy to walk over, then I guess they could make 4 miles per hour average. So that would make the entire trip 24x4= 96 miles. Or maybe more. Maybe even the average Nephite could really get out and walk because they did it a lot.

  6. One branch of my family settled in Lake town Utah on the shore of Bear lake. I heard from my father years ago that it would take the family 3 days to travel down Logan canyon to stay in Logan. Then to Brigham city area for the night. Then they would stay the 3rd night near Bountiful. The distance is about 132 miles. Now of course they were traveling by horse and carriage in those days.

    I also heard my father talk about his grandfather who bragged that he could walk 20 miles in a day. He was an outfitter when the saints crossed the plains and made the trip back and forth 14 times between salt lake city and the East where the Saints were living before making the trip west.

    I don't believe the narrow neck was flat like the plains, but more like rolling hills. So 30 to 50 miles is tops in my view for walking a day and a half for an average person at that time. Those rugged pioneers would likely be pretty much equal to a Nephite. They were all rugged and strong but they weren't super human.

  7. At 62... I can walk 4 miles in an hour. But that is for 1 hour only... and I am really pushing myself. Not a comfortable pace. There is the mind set of urgency when walking that pace. I am 6' and my wife is 5'2". When we are walking together.. her little legs are almost doing double time in trying to keep up with my long stride. If we guesstimate... that a day and a half is from sunup to sunset... then sun up to half a day. What is the length of time on an average for the sun to come up and then set? 6am to 9pm? If so.. then that is 15 hours plus 6am to 12am = 6 hours.. so that is 21 hours total. If someone can really walk 4 miles an hour for 15 hours then (4x15 = 60 + 4x6 = 24)= 84 miles. But 3 miles an hour is far more comfortable... so that would be 63 Miles. But again.. are there hills? What is the terrain like? All we know... it takes them a day and a half. 2 miles an hour is 48 miles. But none of these examples make 130 miles.