Friday, December 21, 2018

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

Continued from the previous post regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the Mesoamerican and Heartland models of the Land of Promise listed by Michael De Groote, as appeared in the Deseret News. We continue here with the Weaknesses of the Mesoamerican and Heartland models #4 and #5 were in the previous post, as was #1 of the Heartland weaknesses,with #2 continuing below:
2. Joseph Smith statements
Joseph Smith made several statements throughout his life that indicate that he believed Book of

Mormon events took place in North America.
Response: What any Church leader, including Joseph Smith, might have thought or believed is not doctrinal knowledge, as so many Presidents of the Church have indicated, as did Joseph Smith himself. We all have opinions, some based on better knowledge than others, but not necessarily accurate.
    It might be of interest to know that around the end of the 19th century and into the first decade of the 20th, a general attitude among many experts was that the U.S. Patent Office should be shut down, since “Everything that can be invented has been invented" (The Economist, London, 13 April 1991, p83).
All patent applications and patents issued since 1890 by the U.S. Patent Office after officials considered shutting it down because “everything had been invented”—Last year reported 2015, the total was 1,124,877

While this statement has been erroneously attributed to the U.S. Patent Commissioner of the time, Charles Holland Duell (1898-1901), it was actually stated by an earlier Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth, who stated in a report to Congress in 1843, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end." It also appeared in the well-known British magazine Punch in 1899 as a dialogue cartoon. In 1981, it appeared in The Book of Facts and Fallacies, by Chris Morgan and David Langford as a Duell statement.
    In tracing back these so-called “several statements” made by Joseph Smith, two stand out because they are so often repeated: 1) The skeleton found in Illinois during the Zion Camp march, which Joseph said was that of a white Lamanite named Zelph, and 2) A letter during the same march as they passed over the land, which he called the “Plains of the Nephites” in a reminiscing letter to his wife, Emma. Neither of which became standard church doctrine. On the other hand, it would not matter, since the Nephites and some Lamanites went north in Hagoth’s ships in about 54 BC. These Nephites settled in Central America, later in Mesoamerica, and later still in North America.
    The point is, opinions are not necessary accurate, no matter how often repeated and how importantly proclaimed. The Church for more than century has officially declared that there is no known location of the Book of Mormon lands.
3. DNA
Journal studies of Native American DNA shows that the rare X DNA haplogroup is found in the parts of North America where the heartland theorists say the Book of Mormon took place. Although geneticists' dating of the DNA does not correlate with Book of Mormon times, the X DNA haplogroup has its origins in the Middle East, not Asia.

Response. Though science has come a long way in detecting DNA relationships, they still have a very long way to go to guarantee unquestionable accuracy. As an example, an analyst in the DNA unit of Arizona’s state crime laboratory noticed something interesting. Two seemingly unrelated individuals—one white and one black—shared the same two markers at nine of the 13 places in the standard DNA profile. Yet that particular genetic profile should have been exceedingly rare—meaning that if you plucked a non-Hispanic white person at random from the population, there would be only a 1 in 754 million chance of finding that profile. For African Americans, the number was 1 in 561 billion. Yet, in a database of less than 100,000 people, it was appearing twice—and in people of different races. 
Lab Technician reading the results of a DNA profile
    When the lab could offer no explanation for why 1 in 1 trillion events were happening regularly, the court ordered them to conduct a full search of the known-offender database and report back all matching pairs. From this it was found there were 122 matches in a 65,000-person sized database. One can only wonder how many matches might be found in the 11-milion-person sized national database. While the FBI called the Arizona results “misleading’ and “meaningless,” and suppressed the findings, threatening to cut off access to the national database to any lab that independently conducted their own such studies (Erin E. Murphy, “The Dark Side of DNA Databases,” Scientific American, Springer, New York, Oct 8 2015).
    On this subject, the Church has made a statement regarding DNA: “Basic principles of population genetics suggest the need for a more careful approach to the data. The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples, and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected. For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon” (The Church’s new LDS Living Series, highlighting the Church gospel topics essays, approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. See “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies,” Church website,
4. Archaeology 
North America has sites that date to the right time for the Book of Mormon and that match descriptions of fortifications.
Many stone walls found in the northeastern U.S. are short stacks of random rocks providing little cover and no defensive deterrent

Response: While North American theorists all claim that evidence has been found of walls and fortifications, no such artifacts (other than arrowheads) have been found, and little dating before the colonization period from about the 1600s onward. Numerous battles were fought in these lands, especially around the Great Lakes during the Indian wars, the French-British wars, and the Revolutionary war; however, earlier remains are highly speculative and have not been authenticated by archaeology as a whole, though some individual claims have been made. Yet, even the archaeological societies of these states tend to disavow such activities prior to the 1400s.
    While noted New England stone wall expert Robert M. Thorson, a geologist at the University of Connecticut, claims that a stone wall is distinguished from a pile of stones is when “any continuous row of large stones or stack of smaller ones that is more than four times as long as it is wide. Anything shorter is just a cluster or pile of stones, not a wall.” With that in mind, it should be recognized that what rock stacks or “stone walls” that have been found throughout New England, western New York, etc, are just that, uneven flat rocks stacked on one another, and that only a couple of feet high, looking more like a temporary or moveable boundary than any type of defensive wall.
    In fact, as people believe upon seeing such “walls” throughout these areas, is that they were “built by farmers in order to divide their fields.” Others have written that “Most of New England (except for far northern Maine) was deforested for small-scale agriculture from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The stone walls were built from rocks cleared from farm fields and used as boundary markers.” As one long-time researcher in the area said, “One can find remnants of people’s impact everywhere. In New England [the] orderly collections of the rock that was everywhere that people tried to farm [were used to] build walls…walls were more orderly than stacks of rock” (Christian Bergland, “Who built the stone walls found in the New England wood?” Quora, Mountain View CA, December 28, 2016).
Walls built by farmers, stacking cleared boulders and rocks from their fields to mark off their boundary and make the field suitable for plowing and planting

In this overall northeastern area, there are walls called “lace walls” built of a stack of stones just one stone wide, and which are full of holes that make them look like lace. There were also tossed walls—literally just stones tossed on top of one another—sometimes three or four stones wide built to keep animals out, mostly sheep. These were not built to look nice, just to get rid of the stones as quickly and efficiently as possible when clearing the land for farming.
    In addition, these old stone walls or rock stacks do not circle anything, enclose anything, or are even associated with any semblance of an ancient structure of any type. They were what is seen today where stacks still remain—a long line, delineating an area or boundary, or separating where fields were plowed and planted in early colonial times.
(See the next post, “Comparing Mesoamerican, Heartland, and Andean South American Lands of Promise-Part VIII,” for more regarding the Deseret News article about the pros and cons of Mesoamerican as opposed to the Heartland models and South America)


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  2. I have a funny story to tell that goes along with this article. Years ago I was tasked to do a little bit of drilling along the shores of Utah Lake in Utah. I had to bring an archaeologist out to look over the site so that we don't disturb anything. She came back all excited because she had found an "ancient archaeology site!" The farmer came over to where we were standing and discussing things. The archaeology immediately began talking to the farmer about her exciting find for which the farmer said "Are you talking about the foundations of the old homestead?"

    Kind of makes me giggle when people tell me all the archaeology that is found supporting the Heartland and Great Lakes Theory.

  3. It is better for Del to use critical thinking and show these "theorists" the problems with their idealistic models than for non-believers to come along later and do it. But if they will not even consider the valid criticism that Del provides, they leave it wide open for non-believers to intelligently use their theories to discredit the Book of Mormon.

  4. iterry: Hilarious! I've read of several incidents over the years similar to this.

    George W: That is exactly the point. Already the internet is full of critics' negative comments fueled by both Meso- and North America not substantiating the Book of Mormon, which, of course, they do not--but it places a negative connotation on the entire Book of Mormon, yet these theorists keep pressing their point, adding fuel to the critics' fire as though they are oblivious to the problem.