Saturday, November 7, 2020

One Theorist’s View of Mesoamerica – Part VI

 In this final article, which is continued from the previous post regarding Joseph L. Allen’s erroneous comments about Mesoamerica and the scriptural record. Below, continuing with page 73, are the pages on which Allen’s comments are found.

• (Page 73) “Interestingly, the Nephites not only adopted their spoken language from the natives who already lived in Highland Guatemala at the time of the Nephites' arrival, but also the Nephites adopted other traits from the natives, such as the reckoning of their monetary system.

Coins were used and may have been invented by the early third millennium BC Anatolian traders who stamped their marks to avoid weighing each time used. Herodotus states that the first coinage was issued by Croesus King of Lydia, spreading to the golden Daric (worth 20 sigloi or shekel) issued by the Persian Empire and the silver Athenian obol and drachma. Early coins were money stamped with an official seal to certify their weight, with later authorities deciding who designed coins.   

The earliest coins struck in the U.S. contained large amounts of Gold


It might be of interest to consider that our present money today, where gold coins were issued in the beginning of this country—they were stamped with the amount of value in silver (half dime, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar, and dollar) or in gold (quarter eagle [$2.50], half eagle [$5], eagle [$10]). This was originally done to keep weights from being determined with each transaction, just as they did hundreds of years earlier. We still use this system today, only the silver and gold has been replaced with nickel, zinc and copper.

As for the Nephites not using the system of the Jews, Nephi was so desirous of disenfranchising himself and his people from the Jews altogether, or may simply have been that it was easier and less bulky to adopt a different, simpler method of monetary accounting.  However, there is no mention in scripture of adopting a system already in force as learned or borrowed from an existing people in the Land of Promise.

Nor does Allen suggest what or how that system evolved in Mesoamerica before the Nephites arrived.  It might also be noted that metal, especially as used in coinage, has never been found in Central America, but found profusely in South America, namely Peru and Ecuador.

In fact, while Alma 11:20, and much of the first part of the entire chapter deals with money and the measurement of precious metals, no record of remains of any such coin or monetary system has ever been found in Mesoamerica.  Of this disparity, another Mesoamerican, and former dean of Anthropology at BYU John L. Sorenson, re-asks Hugh Nibley's question "What is money?" as though the word in Alma means something entirely different than it does today or did in Joseph Smith's day.

Used the cocao beans as a barter currency to exchange for food or clothes, as well as for preparing a bitter drink, known as Xocoatl


To further this point, he discusses the Mesoamerican cacao bean and other systems as forms of money, then concludes: "Whether there was Mesoamerican weighed money we cannot say."  However, even Sorenson has to acknowledge that coined money has been found in large amounts in South America during the Book of Mormon period. Yet, despite this "startling" confirmation of Book of Mormon accounts of money and the presence of precise metals (1 Nephi 18:25; 2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Alma 1:29; 11:1-20) in a possible Book of Mormon setting, Sorenson can only say: "Such a startling find in Mesoamerica could change our present limited idea." And what is that limited idea?  That the mention of money in the Book of Mormon account must be in error, or that it means something different than what we associate with money today since no evidence of money or its usage has ever been found in Mesoamerica.

Clearly, when a person has his mind made up, the facts can only get in the way. Despite one of the criteria of locating the land of promise being its precious metals and the evidence of extensive metallurgy (as mentioned time and again in the scriptural record), the absence of this in Mesoamerica does not deter the Central America theorists from their sacred hypothesis.  Sooner or later one must come to the realization that when it does not look like a duck, or does not sound like a duck, or does not walk like a duck, then it is likely not a duck!

To this fact, Sorenson lamented, "No reliable data show that minted coins were used anywhere in the pre-Columbian New World, despite rare, puzzling finds of Old World coins." Yet, showing he means only Mesoamerica, he adds "South American metallurgy is much better understood than in Mexico and Guatemala—most recently a burial containing 12,000 pieces of metal "money" was found in Ecuador, for the first time confirming that some ancient South Americans had the idea of accumulating a fortune in more or less standard units of metal wealth” (John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985, p233).

Joseph Allen studied at BYU under Sorenson who is considered one of the fathers of Mesoamerican Book of Mormon studies.  But his thinking is as erroneous as that of Allen and others who promote Lehi's Land of Promise in Central America. 

• (Page 73) “Both language and archaeology provide us with substantial justification to label the Land of Nephi and the Land of Kaminaljuyú to be one and the same.”

Location of Kaminaljuyú near Guatemala City in the southern part of Guatmala


Allen gives little reasoning as to why he has decided Kaminal juyú (Place of Ancestors)

An interesting statement when there is absolutely no scriptural justification for it.  Nor is there any correlation between Guatemala and the Land of Promise as spelled out in the record Joseph Smith translated under the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit.  It is always interesting how these Mesoamerican scholars love to develop a scenario and then tell us how accurate it is though it cannot be supported in any way by scripture.

Kaminaljuyú could not have been the city of Nephi because:

•. Shilom and Nephi had to have been within eyesight of the narrow strip of wilderness—there is no such wilderness of mountain or canhons near Kaminaljuyú;

2) There must have been a substantial and visible hill north of Shilom and Nephi upon which Ammon and those with him pitched their tents and observed the Lamanite cities below—there is no such hill north of Kaminaljuyú;

3) There is no mention or suggestion that when Nephi led his people northward to escape his older brothers, that the area they called the Land of Nephi was occupied by another people—yet Kaminaljuyú had a very large Maya population living there before Nephi would have arrived;

4. Kaminaljuyú was located too far from their waters of Mormon if the waters of Mormon were located at or near Lake Atitlan, which is 73 miles to the south away from their city of Nephi.

What is left of Kaminaljuyú or their city of Nephi—despite the size of the city of Nephi in the scriptural record the size is not seen here in Kaminaljuyú


• (Page 73) “In all of the Americas, Kaminaljuyó was the most prominent city canter that had an appropriate written language base during Middle Preclassic times, 600 BC to 300 BC.

Despite this being the Olmec (Jaredite) language, which should immediately disqualify it altogether, there is another interesting point to make about the scriptures regarding a written language since Mesoamerican theorists like to make such a big deal out of there being no written language found in South America.  As Mormon grew older and knew the pending battles (Mormon 6:5) would be the last struggle of the Nephites, hid the records in  the hill Cumorah.  He made it quite clear that if he had not hidden up the records, the Lamanites not only would have found them, but completely destroyed them (Mormon 6:6).  Obviously, the Lamanites had been destroying everyone (Mormon 4:14, 21; 5:6-7) and everything (Mormon 5:5) Nephite for nearly one hundred years, and had an avowed blood pledge to wipe every Nephite off the face of the earth, which they finally did (Mormon 8:7), even tracking the escaping few down until all were killed (Moroni 1:2)  Thus it can be readily argued that anything Nephite, their written language, artifacts, cities, etc., would have been eradicated by the Lamanites.  This exact thing happened to all the records, buildings and evidence that the Hyksos shepherd kings ever ruled in Egypt or that Joseph ever administered during this time under the Pharoah as the Biblical record indicates.

The purpose of these articles was to show that high profile theorists are in error about most of what they say or write regarding their theories. Evaluating just four pages of Joseph L. Allen’s book “Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon,” covers about 15 pages of rebuttal, pointing out the errors of Allen’s writing. In our book, Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists, we cover hundreds of entries of Mesoamerican and other models and how their views are far from the scriptural record.

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