Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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

Continuing with the last two posts regarding the flawed way John L. Sorenson views the geographical settling of the book of Mormon, he also claimed: “the land of first inheritance can lie only on the west (Pacific) coast of Central America.” Thus, he shows his lack of understanding of winds and currents that moved weather vessels “driven forth before the wind” across the oceans from the beginning of time to the present—and most importantly, before modern ships, sails, and maritime knowledge.

Such a lack of awareness of reality is incredulous. Any good atlas will show these winds and currents, and they do not end up on the west shores of Mesoamerica. The clockwise gyre of the North Pacific Current turns back out to see around San Diego, California, and the northern counter-clockwise gyre of the South Pacific Current turns back out to sea around the Bay of Guayaquil in southern Ecuador. Winds and currents in between in the Pacific Counter-Current are far to weak to move shipping, and sailing vessels (like Magellan) are generally becalmed there for weeks.

In addition, when Sorenson wrote: “We have discovered that the Nephite record makes sense when it is linked to Hebrew thought and language on the one hand and to Mesoamerican conditions on the other,” he again shows his misunderstanding of the record.

While we may say it was linked to Hebrew thought, only Nephi knew of such matters—all the rest who wrote the scriptural record had never been to Jerusalem, among the Jews, or would have understood the Hebrew way of thinking. Nor did Nephi teach his people about the Jews “For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations“ (2 Nephi 25:2), and “Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:1).

Certainly it was not linked to Hebrew language, for the record was written in the “the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). As Moroni said 1000 years later, they had “written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32).

Nor can it be said, except by Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists, that “the Nephite record makes sense when it is linked to…Mesoamerican conditions.” Except in Sorenson’s mind, there is no connection between the scriptural record and Mesoamerica—so what difference would it make to try and understand the text based upon Mesoamerican conditions? Sorenson himself said, “So in a strict sense there is nothing specific for us to compare between scripture and the external sources. Because all we have to go on are inferences.”

In addition, when trying to prove a short distance between the City of Nephi and the City of Zarahemla (a short distance in his Mesoamerican model), he wrote: “If we assume that Alma's people and animals went at ordinary speeds, they might plausibly have traveled at a rate of around 11 miles a day.” Why would we plausibly settle on 11 miles a day, when the Mormon Pioneers, according to their roadometer, designed by William Clayton with the help of Orson Pratt, and built by the carpenter Appleton Milo Harmon, showed that they averaged between 14 and 20 miles per day?

Evidently Sorenson needs to limit the distance to Zarahemla to meet that of his model. As he said, “Zarahemla would then be 21 days or 231 miles of actual travel at 11 miles per day.” At 14 miles per day, it would take 16.5 days, at 20 miles per day, it would take 11.5 days, so to justify the 21 days, the distance would have to be 294 miles or 420 miles—far too long for his model.

Sorenson added: “During the movements of the Toltecs described in the Mexican chronicles, dawn-to-dusk marches without animals along averaged six leagues, somewhere between 15 and 24 miles.” That would make the distance covered at 15 miles per day, 315 miles, and at 24 miles per day, 504 miles. Both distances much too far for his Mesoamerican model. However, such travel time could be what was achieved—we simply do not know how far the Nephites traveled.

On the other hand, Mormon writes that it took 21 (8+1+12) days, the last 12 days concluding with: “after they had been in the wilderness twelve days they arrived in the land of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 24:25). The Land of Zarahemla is not the City of Zarahemla. How far the border of the land was from the city is not stated. So in all reality, we cannot attribute any specific distance between these two cities.

The point is, we cannot read into the scriptural record what we want, no matter how much it agrees with our model, thinking or beliefs. The record must stand on its own without changes, additions, deletions or having to be explained away. This is a problem for Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists who continually have to change and alter the record to meet their model.

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