Saturday, December 1, 2018

Is the Chilean Landing Site Really a Myth? Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding Dan R. Hender’s erroneous and completely misleading article on his website about what he thinks is the Chilean landing of Lehi being just a myth.
    Hender goes on to say, “The Book of Mormon also states that as Lehi's party began to journey in the wilderness from the site of landing to the Land of First Inheritance, they found in the forests beasts of every kind wild and domestic. The 1000-mile desert north of the Chilean site was no forested land filled with beasts of every kind (See 1Nephi 18).”
    The scriptural record does not say that the land 1000 miles north of Lehi’s landing site was filled with animals of any kind. Nephi only said: “And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men” (1 Nephi 18:25).
After landing and setting up their settlement, Nephi and others likely went on an exploration journey around the area to see what was about them, no doubt looking for possible food sources, hunting opportunities, and what dangers might be near

Since “they journeyed in the wilderness” occurred long before Nephi left the area (2 Nephi 5:5-6), it obviously has to do with when they investigated or journeyed around their settlement that they found domestic beasts, and evidently, further out, they found wild beasts. It so happens that in the southern area of La Serena, along the mountain range of the Cordillera de la Costa, known as Altos de Talinay, with gentle slopes and peaks at only 1824 to 2188 feet, is located a huge misty, foggy hydrophilic cloud forest along the coast surrounded by semi-arid land. Called the Fray Jorge National Park, this humid, temperate rainforest has multiple ecosystems in an immense park including Valdivian forests overflowing with ferns, alerce, olivillo, cinnamon and tepa trees, as well as mixed and temperate broad leaf plants. There are views across the Pacific and the valleys that surround it, and this forest is home to a variety of species including eagles, falcons, and quail, including hundreds of unusual and unique bird species. In addition, there are pumas, foxes, pudu, kodkod and guanacos, i.e., wild animals.
    Clearly Hender is unfamiliar with the area he chooses to write about and the information he chooses to criticize.
    He continues: “A later Book of Mormon reference states that these animals had wandered into the land southward for the want of food.”
    That is not what the scriptural record states or infers. These animals did not “wander into the land southward for the want of food,” but because “there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla” (Ether 9:31). Nor is there any later mention of animals, in fact, the term “animals” is mentioned only once in all of 1 Nephi and that is the one mentioned above; and only once in 2 Nephi and that is regarding the Nephites raising flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind” (2 Nephi 5:11), which was after Nephi left his brothers and settled in the area they called the Land of Nephi.
    Hender continued: “This would imply that they were from the Jaredite source and that as Shiz swept the land desolate, any surviving animals had to leave the land northward and travel to the land southward to find food.”
Not many years before the total annihilation of the Jaredites, an army led by Shiz pursued an army led by Coriantumr, and the struggle between the two armies became so protracted "that the whole face of the land was covered with the bodies of the dead

First of all, when Shiz enters the scene, it is at the end of the Jaredite kingdom, when as the brother of Lib, during the final wars between Coriantumr and those rebels who sought to overthrow him (Ether 14:17). This would have been several hundred years after the event of the Jaredite flocks being driven into the Land Southward by the poisonous serpents.
Secondly, as stated above, the Jaredite animals did not flee into the Land Southward in search of food. And thirdly, what became of the Jaredite animals after the last battle of the Jaredites is not stated, however, when Limhi’s 43-man expedition to erroneously wandered into the Land Northward in search of Zarahemla, they “discovered a land which was covered with the bones of men, and of beasts” suggesting many of the Jaredite animals of the time were killed, maybe all of them, very likely for food during the final many years of the Jaredite wars.
    Time and again, Hender demonstrates his lack of knowledge of these facts.
    He continues: “Any such hungry animal will so migrate for food, even dumb cows.”
    First of all, a migrating animal does not wander around aimlessly in search of food, but is following a pattern of behavior that has been ingrained within it, such as the Great Migration, where each year close to two million wildebeest, zebra and other antelope gather up their young and start the long trek north from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, an annual trek that has been going on as long as anyone knows. Their journey runs in a clockwise circle, covering some 1,800 miles and is notoriously fraught with peril, where it is estimated than annually, an estimated 250,000 wildebeest die along the way. 
    There is no connection between the Jaredite animals, which had never been out of the Land Northward in their long history in the Land of Promise until driven out by the poisonous serpents. This was not an annual event of searching for food, for the Lord had caused a great famine (Ether 9:28,30), and after the Jaredites repented, sent rain upon the face of the earth once again (Ether 9:33), obviously, relating a one-time event.
    In addition, once beyond the narrow neck, there was no longer a threat to the animals, since the Lord caused “the serpents that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass, that whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents” (Ether 9:33). While animal migration is the relatively long-distance movement of individual animals, usually on a seasonal basis, and the most common form of migration in ecology. It is found in all major animal groups, including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans. Calling the Jaredite animals fleeing into the Land Southward a migration is not only a misunderstanding of the event and the Lord’s involvement in planning for the coming Lehi landing, but is totally misleading.
Once in the Land Southward, of course, the animals grazed and foraged over the land, that is went in search of food and eating along the way, a natural inbred instinct for survival, both providing the animal with and expending energy. It should be noted that when animals are not fenced in or contained, they do not forage or graze in one area, but wander more in a straight line, rather than circle or double back such as when one mows a lawn. This “straight line” foraging takes a wild or feral animal across large distances over time, so long as grazing and foraging lands are continuous. Each animal species has their own type food from which they graze, causing most animal species to eventually move in different directions and into different areas. Over time, with reproduction numbers, areas can become “crowded” by different species.
    Obviously what happened to the Jaredite animals as they grazed and foraged southward through a long and narrow land. They would have have gone north, because that is where the danger had been and their movement initially would have been away from that area. Naturally, as the size of the herds and flocks grew, movement into new and ungrazed area would have continued, thus moving the animals southward toward where Lehi would have eventually landed.
    Finally, Hender adds, “In the July 1950 Improvement Era, John A. Widtsoe on page 547 discounts the so called Joseph Smith revelation…its source was an obscure slip of paper in the possession of the Church Historian and was said to have been the property of President Frederick G. Williams, one of Joseph's counselors.” After describing some of the reaction over the years surrounding this, he adds: “It seems from these sources that it was the logical and reasonable assumed truth that Lehi landed 3000-4000 miles south of the Land occupied by the Jaredites.”
    The distance from the narrow neck of land (Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador) to the landing site of Lehi (La Serena, Chile) is about 2500 miles, far less than he suggests, but not so far in considering the foraging distance of animals over at least a 500 year period, if not longer.
    Hender adds, “And thus Elder Roberts concludes that it was totally impossible for the Jaredite domestic animals to be those found by Lehi's landing party.”
    What Elder Roberts believed is not the point. The fact that animals, left on their own and not infringed upon by humans in large open areas, does not suggest the Jaredite animals would not have grazed and foraged their way across all of Peru and into norther and central Chile.
Predation also has something to do with wild or feral animal movement across large areas

As mentioned above, foraging over great distances is not uncommon for uncontained wild or feral animals. In addition, the presence of predators often speeds up movement of herds and flocks of nonaggressive animals, such as those Nephi describes (feral domestic animals). In Africa, herds of ungulates have been known to be driven hundreds of miles by following carnivores, such as lions, leopards, cheetah, hyena, on the hunt. Stampeding herds and flocks considerably increase distances traveled, and few such animals will turn back on the ground they had been driven from by such hunting packs.
    Finally, Hender concludes: “So where they came from is not ascertainable thus leaving gaps in the logic of fit. For one thing there are no such forest lands near that landing site and for another the domestic animals couldn't just appear out of thin air so to speak.”
    Again, Hender lacks knowledge of which he speaks. First, where the animals Nephi found and describes could only have come from the Jaredites, the only suggested source of animals moving from the Land Northward, which the Jaredites occupied, into the Land Southward, where Nephi saw the animals,  found in the scriptural record. Secondly, there is a huge forested land around the area where Lehi landed, as described above.
    Hender, like many theorists, find it necessary to criticize all the evidences pointing toward the landing site of La Serena Chile. Unfortunately, his arguments, like those of other theorists, simply are inaccurate and misleading.

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