Saturday, December 15, 2018

Comparing Mesoamerican, Heartland, and Andean South American Lands of Promise-Part I

Originally among members upon first reading the Book of Mormon, the area of South America was seen as the location of the Land of Promise; then the site moved northward to Panama, then to Mesoamerica, and finally to the Heartland and Great Lakes theories. Most models created by theorists have some positive factors that match Mormon’s descriptive terms for the Land of Promise. Almost all have negatives within their models that cannot be overcome.
Six specific areas where theorists claim the Book of Mormon Land of Promise was located

While all theorists make the initial claim that the Book of Mormon scriptural record is the basic factor involved in determining such a location, almost all deviate from the record in numerous ways in order to bend the writing to fit their models. Perhaps we should take a look at these three areas, Mesoamerica (Central America), Heartland (Great Lakes) and Andean South America, and view the positive or strong points of each, as well as the weaknesses and errors of each.
    The information for the Mesoamerican and Heartland theories were submitted by Michael De Groote in a published article in the Deseret News, May 27, 2010. Not much has changes since then regarding this information. So let’s compare using his subject areas and comments about Mesoamerica and the Heartland.
    Mesoamerica, is that area from about central Mexico (Mexico City) southward, including the Yucatan, and including Belize, Guatemala, and part of Honduras. This theory was first introduced when the Department of Archaeology was established at BYU as part of the College of Arts and Sciences on 13 December 1946, and the appointment of M. Wells Jakeman as the department chair the following year.
John L. Sorenson’s Mesoamerica map

Claimed Mesoamerican strengths:
1. Geographic correlation
It is claimed there are hundreds of different geographic descriptions in the Book of Mormon, such as two seas, a narrow neck of land, a large north-flowing river and so forth

Response: More than words, we need to compare meaning. As an example, there are two seas (Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean), how they do not match the directions of the seas as Mormon describes them, i.e., in Mesoamerica, those seas are to the north and south of their Land of Promise; in the scriptural record, they are north and south.
    In addition, there are four seas, which precludes a north river, which is not mentioned, naming a Sea North and Sea South as well as a Sea West and a Sea East (Helaman 3:8). Plus there is a “sea that divides the land” (Ether 10:20). In addition, there is a mention of the “waters of Ripliancum” which was in the far north—not a river.
Heartland has only the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri rivers and several small rivers and streams. There are no seas other than the Gulf of Mexico, far to the south, the the Great Lakes far to the north—but no West and East seas. The Great Lakes has two lakes, the Erie and Ontario, but no east or south seas.
Andean South America. This area, which includes northern Chile, Peru, western Bolivia, Ecuador, and southern Colombia, was at one time and island and surrounded by four seas. It also has a sea that divides the land, called the Gulf of Guayaquil.
2. High level of civilization
"There is civilization in Mesoamerica, and civilization is what the Book of Mormon describes," stated John L. Sorenson, author of "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon." He goes on to say that "Civilization, meaning cities—even great cities, large masses of people, large wars, big agricultural base for the economy, temples and towers and so on."

Response: While the Heartland and the Great Lakes area has no real evidence of big cities, temples and towers, large masses of people, great wars and a big agricultural base, such are not unique to Mesoamerica.
Heartland had no high level civilization, but numerous small native tribes, a handful of which were advanced, but certainly not to the level of the Hebrews in 600 BC.
Andean South America. This area, which covers all of Peru and Ecuador, southern Colombia, western Boliva, and northern Chile, dates before Mesoamerica, with far more ancient cities of size, including fortresses and mountain outposts, temples, towers, large population centers, and massive wars. The Inca were considered to be the epitome of ancient civilization for all of the Americas, and before them were scores of well-known and advanced cultures.
3. Writing
"In Mesoamerica, there are at least 15 types of script, of writing," Sorenson adds. "The system of writing that is typical for Mesoamerica is all of the Egyptian style. The only thing that is different about them is the characters."

Response: There were two writing systems in the Land of Promise, one Hebrew, the other Egyptian, referred to as “Reformed Egyptian.” We do not know, of course, what form either evolved to since Moroni around 400 AD claims they were both altered. However, there are two important things to keep in mind: 1) Mesoamerican writing, what little existed before the Spanish arrived, was not similar to Egyptian. The latter was picture hieroglyphs called mdju netjer (“words of the gods”). These hieroglyphs were pictographic, i.e., drawings of actual living things such as owls, birds, insects, snakes, lions, worms, flowers, plants, legs, hands, bodies, eyes, people, etc., and also non-living things, like twisted rope, bowls, clothing, tools, boats, sails, etc., numbering overall about 700 to 800 basic symbols or glyphs. These glyphs could represent actual things or ideas. As an example, a pair of legs could represent legs, movement, “to approach,” or “give directions.”
    While Mesoamericanists like to comment about ancient writing, there is no evidence such writing existed at the time of the Nephites, but more importantly, the writing found does not match any Egyptian or Hebrew writing and shows no connection to anything else, other than it is a collection of glyphs, though not of realistic imagery as is Egyptian. The only thing in common or similar to Egyptian is the same thing that makes Mayan similar to all other glyphic writing of antiquity—they used pictures or symbols, not letters, as a basis for writing.
Top: Egyptian hieroglyphics; Bottom: Mayan Writing. Other than they are both glyphs, there is little to claim these writing systems had anything else in common as is being claimed

In fact, Mesoamerican writing, according to Welby W, Ricks of BYU, was primarily geometric, not pictographic (paper read at the Seventeenth Annual Symposium on Archaeology of the Scriptures, October 14, 1967). This writing was a mixture of logograms and pictures that represented the subject or words, with variants for nearly each word that could be multiple glyphs written in many different ways. They also were syllabic where the picture represented the sound or word makes.
Heartland. There is no evidence of any writing in antiquity.
Andean South America. There is one additional item of importance. Both Mormon and Moroni, those who claim to have hidden up the Nephite and sacred records, were concerned that if the Lamanaites found any of the Nephite writing they would destroy it, as had Ammaron much earlier who also hid records (Mormon 2:17; 4:23; 6:6; 8:4). It seems unlikely that any Nephite writing would have survived other than all the books (which we understand would have filled wagons) that Mormon hid. This would suggest that no writing would have survived and supports the idea that no writing would be found in the Land of Promise.
(See the next post, “Comparing Mesoamerican, Heartland, and Andean South American Lands of Promise-Part II,” for more regarding the Deseret News article about the pros and cons of Mesoamerican as opposed to the Heartland models)

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