Saturday, September 17, 2011

Focusing on the Philosophies of Men—Looking Beyond the Mark - Part II

In the previous post, it was discussed about the importance of not looking beyond the mark, and not trying to alter, add, change, or delete the meaning of the scriptural record. The post ended with countering Sorenson’s effort to change the meaning of the cardinal points of direction of which Mormon so often wrote. However, Sorenson does not accept Mormon’s directions, and to counter this, Sorenson wrote:

“Eastern Eskimo language groups distinguish direction primarily as either inland (literally ‘above’) or seaward (‘below’). From this we have the interesting contradiction that in Labrador a word meaning ‘seaward’ translates as ‘east,’ because the sea happens to lie more or less in that direction, while the same word across the strait in nearby western Greenland corresponds to our ‘west,’ for there the sea is on the west. Polynesians use a similar pair of terms for basic directions, ‘inland’ and ‘coastward,’ sometimes combined with a ‘fore’ or ‘behind’ distinction. Icelanders referred to directions in terms of where a traveler had come from, not the route by which he arrived. (This idea applied to us would mean we'd say a traveler arriving in New York from Miami had journeyed ‘east,’ as long as his trip had begun in California.) At Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico, five directions are distinguished and labeled, none of them equivalent to our own cardinal points.”

In the above map, white line is Jerusalem (Mediterranean Climate); yellow line is Lehi’s landing site (Mediterranean Climate); red line is Sorenson’s Mesoamerica as well as the area of Bountiful where Nephi built his ship; green line is where the land of Zarahemla was located; blue lines indicate the two tropic zones (Capricorn and Cancer) where the sun reaches its furthest point from the equator in winter and summer; purple line is Greenland and Iceland where Sorenson draws his so-called parallels (far outside of the sun’s normal movement). The point is, at no time is the Lehi colony outside their understanding of the sun’s location except for the reversal of summer and winter (from white line to yellow line). The white (north) and yellow (south) lines shows that the Nephites were within the same distance from the edge of the sun’s route with the summer-winter reversal.

Thus, looking beyond the mark, Sorenson clouds the issue of simple directions in a writing meant for our understanding, with directional differences in numerous cultures. However, what he seems to have forgotten, is that Lehi and Nephi were brought up in a culture that understood cardinal points correctly—the fact that their ancestors might have referred to them by local terms does not change the fact. They knew “north,” “south,” “east,” and “west,” in their correct cardinal points. Certainly the Lord knows the correct cardinal points, as does the Spirit, so when Joseph was translating, he read the direction he understood and the Spirit acknowledged that it was correct. Sorenson does not help this understanding by bringing into play how some cultures view directions.

Also, while Jerusalem is about 32º north latitude, the area of Bountiful where they spent at least a year or two building a ship and preparing for their ocean voyage, is located at about 17ºnorth latitude—the exact same latitude of Sorenson’s city of Nephi in Guatemala. Now when the Lehi colony reached Bountiful, they knew they were traveling eastward (1 Nephi 17:1), thus they would have known for the time spent there were the sun was in the east each day throughout at least a full year, and probably more. If they reached Sorenson’s Land of Promise in Guatemala (Mesoamerica), the sun would be in the exact same rising point as it had been in Bountiful. Therefore, there can be no confusion regarding that direction no matter how much Sorenson wants to “look beyond the mark” to “find the new” that “tramples on what is true.” We do this, Elder Cook wrote: “When we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths, engage in gospel extremism, seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration, or elevate rules over doctrine.”

Whatever rules the Eskimo, Greenlander, Polynesian, Icelander, or man of New Mexico might have for directions, it cannot be elevated over doctrine—the scriptural record.

The Lord said regarding important doctrine, “Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me” (D&C 10:68), and “That which is more or less than this cometh of evil” (D&C 124:120)

And, as a side note, Sorenson’s comment about “we'd say a traveler arriving in New York from Miami had journeyed ‘east,’ as long as his trip had begun in California” is simply not true. Such a traveler would have arrived in New York from the south. He earlier arrived in the South from the West. So for his trip from California to Miami he would have “journeyed east,” but his trip from Miami to New York, he would have “journeyed north.” To those in New York, he came “from the west,” but he did not “arrive from the west.” Playing on words simply is no substitution for correctness.

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