Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions - Part XXIV

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamericanists’ skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words that Joseph Smith used in the translation and their accuracy, and particularly how maps come into play in understanding directions and the ancient cultures who may have never seen one.
    As we all know, our maps all have North at the top, and our directions are oriented to the North; i.e., facing north, the east is on our right hand, the west is on our left hand, and south is behind us. However, as stated earlier, not all cultures lay out their maps that way. The early Chinese maps, even after they invented the compass, had a different orientation of their maps and that was placing south at the top of their maps.  To them, the south was considered to be more desirable than deepest darkest north. However, in Chinese maps, the Emperor, who lived in the north of the country was always put at the top of the map, with everyone else, his loyal subjects, looking up towards him. “In Chinese culture the Emperor looks south because it’s where the winds come from, it’s a good direction. North is not very good but you are in a position of subjection to the emperor, so you look up to him.”    
    In the Orient and Middle East, the reason was different for their placing the east at the top of their maps, and that was because east was where God dwelt. The Hebrew temples faced east, both Jews and Muslims prayed toward the east. Yet, despite being a close neighbor, Egypt had their maps facing south, to the head of the Nile River.
(Image A – The Four Quarters of the World after the discovery of the Americas by Columbus and Amerrigo Vespucci 

What God placed in Joseph Smith's mind was the text of the original document in its original written form--"records that are of ancient date"--and perhaps the sounds as well. Along with this, the seer was given the practical gift of tongues. That is, as he read and/or heard the original writing, he was able to understand it. However, the understanding flowed into his mind as pure knowledge, not as English translation, and so to render it into English, Joseph Smith had to study it out in his mind, searching for English words that would faithfully convey, phrase by phrase, the meaning that he had received so perfectly.
    The more Joseph read the original language and/or heard it spoken in tutelage3 from The angel Moroni, and others, the more he would be able to understand without the intense intervention of the Holy Ghost; he might, by the end, have been able to read the other language fluently, needing help only now and then when an unfamiliar term or construction was used. Or he might have relied on the gift of tongues all along. Either way, he would in every verse have to study it out in his mind in order to render a translation, and would have to concentrate intensely in order to perform this very complex mental operation. As worked it out, he dictated to the scribe who faithfully wrote it down. When the scribe read it back, if it was inaccurate, the next phrase did not appear either in the hat or in his mind, and he would redecipher the phrase, or correct the scribe’s writing.
    The gifts of the Spirit would still have left an enormous amount of work for the Prophet to do in creating the translation that we now have.
Gardner: “In Mosiah 27:6 we find: “And there began to be much peace again in the land; and the people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.” Of course, this is not definitively a translation from the plate text because we also find quarters of the land in the Bible and it is always possible that the term was borrowed from biblical usage. Nevertheless, it fits with the entire system, even if it cannot be probatory of the source of the concept.
No matter the culture, the usage of four parts, no matter the spatial orientation someone wants to assign them, are still four directions, and the four cardinal directions are the standard used the world over, irrespective of the words and how they were initially used because the solstice to solstice movement of the sun is always in the east for those outside the arctic or Antarctic 

Response: This is really an odd argument for a culture using five cardinal directions as Gardner tries so hard to force upon us, since quadrants, quarters, and fourths (fourth part) are all used in a culture using four cardinal directions. Here we see the four quadrants of spatial direction, which, by the way, mirrors the four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west. It also matches the four parts of the world, and quadrants (four) in general. In fact, there is no case of such a word used in connection with anything but a four cardinal compass arrangement, either in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The very nature of a quarter, whether of land or of an area, or of the earth, is that the total can be divided into four equal parts, which leaves nothing over for a fifth part! A quarter of a year, 3 months, equals 12 total months with nothing left over. A quarter of the land, means one of four parts of a designated area of land, with nothing left over. Therefore, a quarter as used in the scripture relates to four directions than to Gardner’s mysterious fifth part or direction of the ancient Maya, i.e., his Nephite Land of Promise.
    As an example, when Mormon wrote: “And now, behold, the Lamanites could not retreat either way, neither on the north, nor on the south, nor on the east, nor on the west, for they were surrounded on every hand by the Nephites” (Helaman 1:31), he is showing us that the entire land area of the battle, evenly divided into four parts, had no means of escape for the Lamanites.
    Also, his statement: “Nevertheless, it fits with the entire system, even if it cannot be probatory of the source of the concept,” really means in simple English, that his argument “cannot prove, persuade, or provide evidence of a particular argument or point he is trying to persuade us to accept or believe.” Yet, “probative” suggests a significant and important point. But if his argument cannot achieve his results, then why make it since it neither furnishes evidence nor proof.
Gardner: “Combined with the differences in terminology and cultural perceptions, it is little wonder that the Book of Mormon directions appear difficult fit onto a modern map.”
A straw man is a form of argument and an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent

Response: This is a favorite verbal trick of the Mesoamericanist. Create a problem where none exists, relate it to your argument as proof there is a problem, then answer it to your benefit. There are no differences in terminology, none have been proven, none have even been successfully questioned. Yet, here he is trying to tell us a problem exists so he can show us that his argument is correct. In some circles this is called a “straw man” argument, i.e., create a sham argument.
    That is, his argument is based on a fallacy involving a purposeful logic fallacy that is a misrepresentation of an argument, in this case that cannot be countered since the argument point does not exist. Gardner has not shown any “cultural perceptions” or any “differences in terminology” to bring up in the first place; therefore, there is no problem in fitting Mormon’s descriptions of the Land of Promise fitting on any modern map, so long as that map represents the condition of the land at the time of the Nephite Nation.
Gardner: “That inherent difficulty becomes even greater when we insist upon reading literal geographic statements where the text does not intend a literal reading.”
If we listen to the scholars and academicians, we will think there are errors and hidden meanings that cannot be understood by anyone but them 

Response: First: “That inherent difficulty—there is no difficulty except what Gardner tries to create to prove or further his point.  Second: “when we insist upon reading little geographic statements,” meaning what Mormon has written to help his future readers (us) better understand the layout of the Land of Promise he feels it important for us to understand. What we insist upon reading is what Mormon wrote, rather than some mysterious point scholars (Mesoamericanists) are trying to ram down our throats with clever tricks or turn of phrase.
    Third: “Where the text does not intend a literal reading.” Again, what part of the Book of Mormon is not literal? Is baptism literal or figurative? Is the advent of Christ in the Americas after his crucifixion literal or symbolic? Is the destruction of the Land of Promise at that time literal, or merely a false description?
Why is it that scholars always seem to think they know more than what the Lord has had written for our benefit and understanding. Not to be redundant, but another reading of 2 Nephi 31:3 seems in order here: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” What part of Mormon’s abridgement was meant to be so difficult and misleading that it takes an academician or scholarly writer to correctly define for us since we are not capable of understanding what Mormon wrote?

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