Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding Sorenson’s Mesoamerica map and its mystifying directions and how he arrived at these directions.
    As we saw in the last post, Brant A. Gardner’s statement: “From the East to the West: The Problem of Directions in the Book of Mormon,“ creates a strawman argument since there are no problems with directions in the Book of Mormon, except for Mesoamericanists and others who want to alter the clear and precise meaning of Mormon’s descriptive words, and those who insist on claiming the Land of Promise was in an area (Mesoamerica) that is skewed in land design 90º off from Mormon’s description in the scriptural record.
    This problem, of course, should have, from the very beginning disqualified the area as the Nephite lands; however, the persistence of the BYU archaeology and anthropology departments from the very beginning with M. Wells Jakeman, founder and chairman of the Department of Archaeology at Brigham Young University and his conviction that Mesoamerica was the Land of Promise—thus from the very beginning, from Jakeman to Sorenson to the present, that is all that has been taught there.
    Consequently, the problem with directions is falsely created!
    As indicated in the last post, this idea of changing the directions of the scriptural record—at least our perception of the meaning of those directions—so that Mesoamerica fits the scriptural record of the directions of the Land of Promise, has created whatever problems of direction claimed to exist. As illustrated and described by Mormon’s abridgement and Joseph Smith’s English translation, this is at the heart of the movement by Mesoamerican theorists in order to lay claim to that portion of middle America as the Land of Promise, even though it does not meet the provided criteria of the scriptural record.
    It seems unconscionable for scholars and historians to change the meaning of the scriptural record at will in order for Mormon’s descriptions and Joseph Smith’s translation to fit their particular personal predetermined locations for the placement of the Nephite lands. Yet, it seems “open season” on the scriptural record and within anyone’s purview to do so if they can put together a rationale that, at least to them, makes sense., no matter how they have to adjust the scriptural record to make it do.
However, our stance is that the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon as abridged by Mormon (left), Moroni and written by Nephi and Jacob, and others, contains the exactness of the original meanings as intended by the authors and verified by the Spirit in the translation as we have it from its first transcription.
    That does not mean that there were grammatical errors and incidental wordage that might have been in error, misspellings or other such minor and immaterial differences. In fact, Royal Skousen, drawing upon the Yale University Press publication of his edited work, has identified 256 spelling errors of names, 719 alternative readings of textual words, etc., in An Analysis of Textual Changes, some like changing “servant” to “servants,” “my forefathers,” to “thy forefathers,” or “pressing their way,” to “feeling their way,” or “he met the sons of Mosiah,” to “he met with the sons of Mosiah,” or “take away the sin of the world,” to “take away the sins of the world.”
    Having written more than a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, with several different publishers, and going through enormous problems with editors, etc., there is always a possibility of small errors creeping into writing and over the subsequent publications of the Book of Mormon, this has happened and numerous corrections have been made, which is quite normal in any publication, even the Bible.
    The point is, the kinds of changes this blog and current series addresses is the major changes some scholars feel free to make and justify, such as Sorenson’s directional changes to Mormon’s descriptions, Hugh Nibley and Sorenson’s inclusion of other people in the Land of Promise despite not a single mention in any scriptural passage that anyone else is included, as well as the promises Lehi describes to his family in 2nd Nephi shows none other were there.
Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists claim there were indigenous natives living in the Land of Promise before and during the time Lehi landed, though none are mentioned in the scriptural record in any way

Some of our readers, of course, might feel we have written about this problem sufficiently and that more on the directions are unnecessary, however, the problem arises when scholars and writers continue to make issues over these directions in an attempt to convince the membership that the Land of Promise was really very different than Mormon and others describe it and that information, as persistent as it is, continues to obfuscate an believability of the true area of Lehi’s landing, as illustrated by Nephi’s writing of their directions in sailing his ship.
    Joseph Goebbels is credited with the statement that if one tells a lie often enough it will be believed. Well, Mesoamerican theorists are telling the story that the scriptural record is wrong—and that Mormon had a different orientation to the cardinal compass points, and the Land of Promise did not really run north and south, but east and west.
    However, we believe that as long as historians and scholars champion an incorrect view, we will write about its inaccuracy and lack of agreement with the scriptural record. In fact, Sorenson’s rationales to support that change are so weak and out of date, that anyone who looks at them closely should be able to see their fallacy. The problem is that this understanding of Mesoamerica has been going on for so long, people have become used to and accepting of it. The problem is compounded when those people do not look up information and fact check it against the scriptural record, or challenge the thinking of the purveyor of the information. As a result, this idea has taken on a life of its own and has become part of the LDS mind set.
    Such facts need to be addressed from time to time and the truth brought forth that the scriptural record is accurate, and Sorensons and others’ changes to the meanings of what Mormon wrote are completely inaccurate and out of step with the way in which Mormon abridged and Joseph Smith translated the record.
Thus, we turn the article in support of the Mesoamerican location of the Land of Promise, that Brant A. Gardner (left) wrote: “In 1985, John L. Sorenson published An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. That book was the culmination of decades of work establishing a real world setting that plausibly fit the textual geography in the Book of Mormon.”
    While that statement, in and of itself, is not true, i.e., it is neither plausible nor does it fit textually with the geography of the Book of Mormon (two points that we have addressed numerous times over the past years), we need to take his view one by one and address them as they relate to the scriptural record as well as the knowledge available about Mesoamerica and Andean Peru. Most importantly, though, it is about what the scriptural record has to say and how Gardner and other Mesoamericanists play rather footloose with the scriptural record and its simple meanings.
    As Gardner wrote: “In addition to his work on the geography, Sorenson took his correlation to the next step. He examined the relationship between the available historical and cultural information for that region and the descriptions and events in the Book of Mormon. The correlations were impressive and have led to further productive investigation.”
    Response: Sorenson began, as all Mesoamericanists appear to have done, with the idea that Mesoamerica was the Land of Promise, without any verification from the scriptural record at all, though Nephi gives us an excellent understanding about how his ship sailed, what drove it and where. The problem is always when people start with a location in mind, then try to prove it is correct. All would be better served if one started with the scriptural record and follow where it leads.
Gardner: “The correlations were impressive and have led to further productive investigation.”
Response: Sorenson’s work has led a myriad of other people, scholars, archaeologists and writers to concentrate on Mesoamerica rather than concentrate on the scriptural record and what it tells us of the Land of Promise.
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part IV,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, along with our responses)

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