Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XXV

Continuing with this, the last of our series of Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamerianists’ 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.
Gardner: “The surrounding lands, to the various wildernesses, were considered quarters of the land. A Bountiful quarter (Alma 52:10, 13; 53:8; 58:35) and a Manti quarter (43:26; 56:1-2, 9; 58:30) are mentioned. Moroni was another “part” of the land (Alma 59:6). We lack information on the eastern quarter; my designation of “Melek” is merely my best guess.”
Response: This is rather self-serving. It is not that Bountiful was considered a quarter of the land, or a Bountiful quarter, but that Teancum was assigned to an area to defend, which included not only Bountiful, but Mulek and other cities in the area. But quarter is simply an expression as used here, like that “part of the land,” as is also used (Alma 52:13; 53:8). “The northern boundary” could also have been used, or simply “your area,” “your area of operations,” etc. In Alma 43:26, the term “in that region,” could also have been used. In fact, in Alma 56:1-2, he uses both terms to describe the same place, i.e., “quarter” in vs 1, and “part of the land” in vs 2.
The Nephite Land North (Helaman 6:10) in the overall Land Southward (Alma 22:32), which is separated by the Narrow Strip of Wilderness, and divided into quarters: Northeast – Bountiful, Mulek, Gid; Northwest – Chan Chan; Southeast – Morianton, Lehi, Moroni, Nephihah; and Southwest –Zarahemla, Manti, Melek        
While Gardner is trying to use “quarter of the land” as an official designation, like we might use “country,” “province,” etc., the reality is, it was just a manner of speech. Any number of phrases, including “region,” “section,” “local,” etc., would serve the same purpose. Where one person might use “region,” another might use “area,” and still another use “section.”
The point is, while many specific words generally have a meaning, sometimes words are used very broadly. A quarter of the land has numerous meanings and uses, depending on what overall is meant. As shown above, the words “quarter” and “part” were used in two subsequent verses to mean the same thing.
Gardner: “We have seen that the Nephite lands were surrounded by wilderness on every side.”
Response: The Nephite possessions were not surrounded by wilderness on every side, since wilderness is simply defined as “an unoccupied tract of land.” That some lands were separated by hills or mountains, others had common borders, such as Morianton and Lehi (Alma 50:25); Zarahemla and Gideon (2:26); Zarhemla and Melek (Alma 8:3,6); and Zarahemla and Ammonihah (Almas 25:2). On the other hand, the East Wilderness, which at one time was occupied by itinerant Lamanites (Alma 50:7),who were driven out of the land and southward into the Land of Nephi, moved Nephites into what was once the East Wilderness who built the city of Moroni (Almas 50:13).
    Thus, while there were sections in each direction that were not occupied or impacted by man (yet to be developed), we cannot say that, as Gardner does, that every area of Nephite occupation was surrounded by wilderness. The scriptural record does not give that impression at all.
Gardner: “And, conceptually, beyond each wilderness lay a sea to the south, north, west, and east. Thus the land was conceived as surrounded by seas or floating on one large sea.
Response: This sounds like some early cultures who envisioned the flat earth sitting on the back of a tortoise in the middle of a sea; or on the shoulders of Atlas; or held up by the columns of the Earth. The problem is, myths and legends are often only myths and superstitious legends fostered by the ignorant for consumption of the masses. They certainly do not, in and of themselves, stand as any testament of accurate world views of any value.
An example, an island in the midst of the sea (2 Nephi 10:20) surrounded by water(Alma 22:32): An east sea, west sea, north sea, and south sea

The seas mentioned in the scriptural record, along with the idea of being on an island in conjunction with the spreading or filling of the land was not a conceptual idea, but a real landmark like any other a people would use to described boundaries of a land. “From sea to shining sea,” (an American idiom meaning from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans) , which is similar to the Canadian motto “A Mari Usque Ad Mare” (from sea to sea). Note that  both of these mottos use the sea in singular terms and refer to just two seas, such as those on the east and west on either side of the U.S. and of Canada.
Gardner: “The main point is that the reference to north and south seas fits nicely into the Mesoamerican scene as part of a metaphor for the whole earth and was probably used in a metaphorical sense in the Book of Mormon.”
Response: Here we are again with a metaphorical (figurative) scriptural record. That must mean that baptism for washing away sins is merely a metaphor, since we don’t really have to wash away sins by going down into the water; or perhaps the priesthood as “the power of God” is just a metaphor, meaning that we don’t really need to have a priesthood. Really, where do we draw the line between a metaphor and reality? Can we pick and choose which we want to be real, and which we want to be metaphors? Or is it possible every word in the scriptural record is literal, meant to help us understand what the Lord expects of us, and Mormon included geographical descriptions so we can get a better idea of what the Land of Promise looked like and how various parts related to one another?
Jacob speaking to the Nephites in the temple on the second day of a two-day conference, under the direction of Nephi, the prophet. His message was one of hope for those Nephites who thought God had forgotten them. In this context, he says: “And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20)

The obvious point is, though none of the theorists are going to use Jacob’s language since none of their location models fit it, the Nephites were on an island—two prophets told us that: Jacob and Nephi. This idea of picking and choosing what one wants to accept from the scriptural record really gets tiring after a while.
    You choose, but for “me and my house” we will accept every word as having a literal meaning in the Book of Mormon and let it go at that!
    Since we have concluded with Brant A. Gardner’s lengthy article, some might wonder why we spent so much time on it on this blog and, in fact, why we spend so much time on such matters, and on people like John L. Sorenson, the Mesoamerican guru, and former head of the Archaeological Department at BYU.
    The simple reason is, that people like Sorenson are looked at as being the authority on Book of Mormon geography and any work is compared to his 1985 “landmark” book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, and frankly, if someone chooses to write about this geography and not follow his Mesoamerican line, it is ridiculed and set aside as unimportant and outright inaccurate.
    On the other hand, true scholarship is to evaluate a work based on its own merits, not on a developer’s personal viewpoints. Thus, since our work is based solely on the scriptural record and an exact usage of the scriptures involved, not changing, deleting or trying to explain away things, we take exception with all those who play word games and tricks in trying to “sell” their ideas that do not agree with Mormon’s descriptions.
    As for Gardner, he is trying to “sell” a new way to look at the Sorenson idea of skewed directions of Mesoamerica as though he has come across something no one else understands and wants to explain why Mormon, Joseph Smith and the Spirit got the translation wrong. We have taken this time to show that all of his arguments, a do all Mesoamerican model arguments, simply fall short of factual knowledge on the subjects presented, and that his take on his material is his own personal view, slanted to fit Mesoamerican directions, and not the facts involved. His quotes, in almost every case, are from fellow Mesoamericanists who have a similar view with him and nothing new, after all, is really presented.
    Proverbs suggest that men should not “be wise in your own eyes,” (Proverbs 3:7; and also that “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2), and also “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12). The Lord has also said, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (I Corinthians 1:19). The Lord then invites us to “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18), and the way the Lord reasons with us is through his scriptures, and the way we reason with him is to understand his scriptures. Such an arrangement does not allow us to change, alter, re-write, or try to explain away the Lord’s words, but to understand them the way they are written, for “he speaketh unto men according to their own language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).
    In fact, it seems appropriate again to raise Enoch’s question: “and why counsel ye yourselves, and deny the God of heaven?” That is, why discuss and take counsel among yourselves rather than listen to God’s prophets? He has spoken to us through his prophets, Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni, regarding the location, description and arrangement of the Land of Promise. We need to reason with him on this by understanding what is written—not try to change it!


  1. I, for one, fully support Del in exposing any scriptural problems with those that make claims about Book of Mormon geography. And I trust that Del would change his own model if scripture and evidences warranted it.

    The disunity and financial costs of multiple conflicting models needs to be replaced with everyone searching for evidences in the same places. For sure, the majority of websites, ebooks, books, seminars, classes, tours, etc. are focused on the wrong locations. This confusion and lack of unity in this research is seen as a proof that the Book of Mormon is not true by non-believers.

  2. I was in Deseret Book yesterday and stood in front of the shelf dedicated to Book of Mormon study guides. Both Mesoamerica and Heartland were abundantly represented and available to purchase. I lingered, almost as if somebody might come talk to me and I could comment that the geographical truth was not represented on that shelf. But I just walked away. It would do no good to complain. When the world is ready to know, the Church will make a stance. Until then, we only find opinions for sale.

  3. I maintain that you will never be able to sell the South American model until the members of the Church are able to accept Noah's flood as a reality and the fact that South American was an island before the time of Christ. This is unthinkable to BYU and most (practically all) members. If the members would accept the scriptures and blow off the garbage taught in the universities they would be able to accept the South American model. Till then I don't believe most in the Church will accept it. Very tough sale.

  4. ITerry, I agree.

    Men are ever more quick to embrace the knowledge of man, and slower to trust the omnipotence of God.

  5. Three things would make me change my mind about South America-- 1)revelation to the contrary; 2)release of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon if it showed the South American model to be incorrect; and 3) Having the large plates of Nephi that, again, showed South America to be incorrect. Thus, according to the information at our disposal, South America is currently the only place that matches scripture.
    I submitted the book "Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica" to Deseret Book when it was first published. The initial information was that they would distribute (sell) it; however, when I submitted to them the actual book, they rejected it without a comment. But a few years before that, Sheri Dew, then VP of Publishing told me that Deseret Book would never publish anything that was contrary to John L. Sorenson's Mesoamerica book. At that time I met with the Sr. VP of Bookcraft. He loved the book, but told me Bookcraft could not afford to publish it, but if I got it published, they would handle it. However, by the time I published it, Bookcraft had been purchased by Deseret Book.