Saturday, October 29, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part IV

Continuing with the last post regarding John L. Sorenson’s article about the abilities of ancient man to sail across the oceans. The first seven comments were covered in the last three posts.

8. “We now know that the first settlers of Australia crossed open sea from the north as early as 60,000 years ago. While others reached islands east and north of New Guinea nearly 30,000 years ago.”

Now, let’s be realistic. There is no way for anyone to know what happened 60,000 years ago, or 30,000 years ago. That is foolishness. We can only guess who the first settlers of Australia were, nor can we know where they came from, whether north, east or west. All of this is simply archaeological and anthropological guesswork. The most ancient historical writing we have is that of Moses, who wrote about matters some 6,000 years ago because the Lord showed him the information. Moses himself lived around 1450 B.C., less than 3500 years ago. Yet, ever the anthropologist, Sorenson basis his understanding on secular guesswork rather than the scriptural records.

In addition, the comment of 60,000 and 30,000 years ago is an interesting one, since Sorenson claims in his book that the Flood occurred in the 3rd millanium B.C., no more than 5,000 years ago (it actually occurred according to Moses 4,400 years ago). But the point is, Sorenson knows there was no movement of people to which we would now “know” 60,000 or 30,000 years ago, but it does not keep him from making such outlandish statements.

9. “These observations have tended to pull the teeth out of old objections about ancient nautical technology being too crude to allow sailing out of sight of land.”

Again, not to slight the great achievements of ancient or primitive mariners, we need to be realistic and not give them more credit than what they achieved. They did not sail from Europe to America. They did not sail from America to Japan or China. They did not sail around Africa. They did not sail from the Indian Ocean to the Western Hemisphere. By 600 B.C., it is doubtful they had sailed very far in any direction. Marco Polo in the 13th century A.D. was astonished at what he saw on the east coast of China; however, none of those ships had ever ventured into the vast oceans of the Pacific other than some island hopping into Micronesia, and possibly Melonesia—no one voyage more than a few hundred miles in distance, at best. Contrary to popular scientific beliefs, Polynesia had not been populated from the east, but rather from the west, very possibly in the ships Hagoth built, but certainly off the west coast of South America as Thor Heyerdahl showed in his Kon Tiki voyage.

10. “Nowadays it is acceptable for an established archaeologist like E. James Dixon to assume that navigators would have been able to come from Asia to America around the North Pacific by "perhaps 13,000 years ago.”

The key word here is “assume.” Yes, archaeologists assume a lot. We do not know what might have taken place 13,000 years ago. To believe in the oft-quoted Siberian crossing of migration that peopled the Western Hemisphere is totally nonsense and runs contrary to the revealed word of the Book of Mormon and also contrary to the promises the Lord made to Lehi and Nephi. Let us not get carried away with secular history that is more assumptions than facts!

11. “These changing opinions do not imply that the Jaredite or Lehite voyages would have been easy, but at least those trips as described in the Book of Mormon now look quite feasible.”

We do not need secular guesswork to verify the Book of Mormon. But more importantly, secular “changing opinions” have never provided anyone with the last word on anything—it changes from time to time as man becomes a little smarter, or more taken with his own inventive genius in ideas and facts.

It is always interesting to see how academic minds work. As an example, if sailing across the Pacific was so prevalent, as scholars now insist, why on earth did the Lord have the Jaredites build submarine type barges that took 344 days to cross the ocean? Why not ships like others evidently were using to cross the oceans? And, why did Nephi have to build a ship not “after the manner which was learned by men” but “after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2), if man’s ability to build ships that crossed the oceans was so prevalent?

In the days in question, the Lord’s comment is most incisive: “ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come” (Ether 2:25).


  1. To further lend creedence to your article, and to make sure important seafarers are represented, there are some theories of China circumnavagating the globe, possibly around the 13th century AD (according to a chinese map dated to about 1421). And don't forget the vikings reaching the northeast coast of North America likely around 1000 AD. Both cultures are well known for their sailing/sea-faring prowess but neither of them reached the new wolrd until relatively modern times (at least in early recorded history).

  2. The Chinese junks were seaworthy craft in their later stages of development, and were perhaps the largest ships ever built before modern metalwork. As for the Vikings, they took short trips between known lands and were not seagoing (deep ocean) sailors, nor were their craft capable of such voyaging. Their mariner expertise was fast, short attack jaunts along northwestern Great Britain and Europe, or exploring along the calm waters of the Iceland, Greenland, eastern Canadian lands. Worthwhile endeavors, but not the same as deep sea ocean voyages.