Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part I

One might wonder why so much information about John L. Sorenson is included in these posts and the book “Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists.” One reason is the statement in the forward of Sorenson’s book written by Truman G. Madsen and John W. Welch: “This book has been many years in preparation and will undoubtedly endure for many years to come. It will become required reading for all people interested in the antiquity of the Book of Mormon. Those who comment on the historicity of Book of Mormon accounts henceforth are irresponsible or uninformed if they ignore or neglect Dr. Sorenson's present work.”
John L. Sorenson pictured at left.

Thus, there needs to be an understanding of what Sorenson believes and wrote.

In the Introduction of his book on pages 9 and 10, John L. Sorenson wrote: “When I arrived at Brigham Young University in 1949 with a wife and child, I had decided, with no rational motive, to pursue studies in archaeology. Over the next three years Professors Jakeman, Nibley and Sperry led me to understand that the Book of Mormon was not only a religious resource but also a challenging intellectual and historical puzzle. I came to see it as a document so subtle and complex that it virtually demanded to be analyzed and understood in new terms. As my knowledge of archaeology, history and languages deepened, hundreds of questions rose to my attention -- questions the academic disciplines I was beginning to probe seemed capable of answering someday.”

Of course Wells Jakeman, Hugh Nibley, and Sidney B. Sperry are very accomplished intellects and degreed academic scholars as well as members of the Church. But as scholars, their very nature is to search for meanings and information beyond what was written anciently. The very study of archaeology and anthropology demands the blanks be filled in to understand what is observable in the past. However, the Book of Mormon was never meant to be read or interpreted in that manner.

After all, Mormon gave us enough information to obtain a clear record of all that we need to know. When we start to read what is not written, only problems and errors can result. Even the Lord himself said, “for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them” (D&C 10:63) and “the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught” (D&C 76:9). Paul said, “Ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of what is true.” (2 Timothy 3:7). Yet, the Lord speaks to men “after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). Nor will the secrets be shown to the learned and wise: “but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto "babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times” (D&C 128:18).

Sorenson also wrote: “My desire to understand both the volume and its setting inevitably colors all my work touching either. But the same is probably true of any scholar or scientist working on a complex problem, whether it be developing a new variety of rice or reconstructing the history of the Jews.” The thing is, we are not reconstructing anything regarding the Book of Mormon. It is complete for us in every way—all we need to do is understand its plain and simple language and not go afield introducing unnecessary complexities. As has been stated in these posts several times, the Lord speaks to us in our own language for our understanding.

Sorenson also wrote: “As my knowledge of archaeology, history and languages deepened, hundreds of questions rose to my attention -- questions the academic disciplines I was beginning to probe seemed capable of answering someday.”
That someday took on two meanings to him. 1) If something does not prove his Mesoamerican theory, like the lack of metal working in B.C. times despite Nephi’s statement about it (2 Nephi 5:15), he simply claims that someday it will be found, which is shown in the case of no known connection in the language of the Zapotec people of Mesoamerica, he writes: “Should further work confirm some relationship between ancestral Zapotec and Mixtec and Near Eastern languages, possibly it would be attributable to the Semitic speech of the Jaredite group,” which shows he is never without an explanation of what does not exist; or 2) Finding his own answers to problems that do not agree with his Mesoamerican model, he simply answers it by changing the record.

(See the next post, “A Theorist’s Way of Understanding the Record – Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s method of proving his Mesoamerican model theory)

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