Friday, May 31, 2013

The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part III

Continuing from the last post regarding the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise. These posts surround the comment made by John W. Welch in his book Reexploring the Book of Mormon (Chapters 52 “Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian and Nephite Language”).
It cannot be overstated that the Nephites had to know and understand the seasons, the movement of the sun and moon, the solstices, which mark the beginning or the mid-point of the winter and summer, and equinox, the latter being the only times when the subsolar point is on the Equator, with the point crossing northward at the March equinox and moving southward at the September equinox. All these movements throughout the year were known and understood by ancient cultures
A solargraph taken from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in northern Chile of the southern hemisphere. This six-month-long-exposure photograph taken in a direction facing east of north, from mid-December 2009 until the southern winter solstice in June 2010, showing the Sun’s path each day from right to left across the sky; the path of the following day runs slightly lower, until the day of the winter solstice, whose path is the lowest one in the image, at which time the sun reverses itself and begins to track upward back over its earlier tracks
Most ancient cultures built observatories to track the sun and moon across the heavens, and knew and understood the significance of the solstices and equinoxes and knew when to plant and harvest as a result.
After all, the Nephites had no grocery stores, refrigerators or freezers, they had only limited methods of preserving food, and had to continually plan for food to be available. A planting season was extremely important, as was a harvest season. They could ill-afford to miss either. Obviously, they had to have food daily and that depended on their planting and harvesting, and that depended upon their knowing where the sun was pretty much every day of the year. They understood the movements of the sun, moon and stars, and basically understood the sky and all in it probably better than most people today. Of course to modern man, it probably seems hard to understand why such knowledge was so critical to their salvation, but they did not possess telescopes, or GPS, or digital watches, and lived their entire lives under a constantly moving sky, with no TV, news or weather reports, no street lighting, and no other distractions.
The sky was a necessary tool for them to know when to plant and when to harvest, and nearly every ancient civilization created their own calendar system—after all, studying the stars helped them tell the time. It would be very important to ancient peoples to have an accurate calendar so they would know when to prepare the land, when to till and plant, and when the harvest time would be. By observing the rising of certain stars over a long period of time and keeping accurate records the Egyptians discovered that a day had 24 hours. From this they put together a year-long calendar, which originally had 12 months with 30 days in each month and five days left over, which were given over to feasting and celebrating. Around 1500 B.C., the Egyptians developed the so-called shadow clock, which was a portable sun dial, which were L-shaped or T-shaped with a raised end bar that measured the morning hours as the sun swept overhead, then were turned around to count down the afternoon—an instrument that probably would have been known to Lehi with all his dealings with the Egyptians.
Mesoamericanist John L. Sorenson talked extensively about the Nephites putting their back to the sea and knowing they were facing east; however, putting their back to the Sea would mean they were facing north, and they would know this as soon as the Sun came up and crossed the heavens
The silliness of such an idea of putting one's back to the ocean to determine east is ridiculous unlesss one was actually facing east. Obviously, different seas were in different locations. While at Jerusalem, one would know that the sea (Mediterranean, known as the Great Sea) was to the west, therefore, to the front when facing away from the sea would be the east and the rising of the Sun. However, when Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram were moving along the Red Sea, did they think that putting their back to the Red Sea meant they were facing east? Or when they arrived in Bountiful, with the Irreantum Sea to the south, did they think they were facing to the east when facing away from it? Such rationale is not only silly, it serves no value to talk about the orientation of the Jew once leaving Jerusalem. Consequently, when they arrived in the Land of Promise, after several months at sea where the only reckoning factors were the sun, moon and stars, they would have looked to the sun rising and setting each day, the moon in its course through the month, and how the stars moved across the heavens through the year, and certainly come up with a clear understanding of north, south, east and west--which directions could certainly could be verified by the Liahona which showed them the way across the sea.
For Sorenson, Welch, and others to claim otherwise is to limit the knowledge and intelligence, as well as the farmer experience of these stalwart people and their ancestors, in a sad attempt to justify their Mesoamerican model which, again, is upwards of 90º off-kilter to the directions given in the scriptural record.
When the Sun came up in the east, anyone in Mesoamerica would see that the Sea was both on their left hand (north) and on their right hand (south). Further they would not be claiming they were going north when they knew it to be west, etc.
We also have to keep in mind that the Nephites would not have been developing methods of knowing the seasons, time, and calendaring in a void. The practice of studying the passage of time—whether minutes, hours, days, seasons, years or much longer—was a passion of several ancient civilizations, including the Hebrews/Jews. Many of them were astoundingly accurate. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese all devised clocks and calendars that reflect our current numerical model in a variety of aspects. To think that this would not have been known and understood by the Nephites is foolhardy.
And to try and convince anyone that the Nephites had no idea that when the Sun came up, that to move toward it would not be moving eastward, but southward, or when the Sun was setting, that to move toward it would not be moving westward, but northward, besides being silly, is nothing short of being disingenuous. In addition, to the natural understanding of the Sun, Moon and Stars, the Nephites would have clearly understood their basic directions and made adjustments to any thinking that was so many degrees off-kilter.
Yet, as an unbelievable follow-up statement, Welch added, “If Nephi used the Egyptian terms with Hebrew meanings in mind, and if Joseph Smith then translated those terms literally, a remarkable coincidence occurs. In the Hebrew (and modern) concept of directions, land westward (Hebrew rear) would have been written in Egypto-Nephite characters as land northward (Egyptian behind), and land eastward (Hebrew front) would have been written in Egypto-Nephite as land southward (Egyptian front). In other words, the conceptual geography of the Hebrew universe must be "distorted" in relation to the Egyptian vocabulary in precisely the way that Nephite geography seems "distorted" in relation to Mesoamerica.”
In fact, other directions written in the scriptural record in the reformed Egyptian translate correctly into English, such as….
(See the next post, “The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part IV,” for the reformed Egyptian translations of Joseph Smith that we can see are correct to show that the argument of the Egypto-Nephite difficulty is not an accurate argument in favor of changing the directions in the Land of Promise)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise
The fact that “the Hebrews, like most Semitic peoples, oriented themselves by facing east,” toward the rising sun, is not significant, no matter how much Welch, Sorenson and others may want to sell us on the idea. The Americans, like most English speaking people (and many others), oriented themselves by facing north, with the rising sun on the right hand. The word north comes from the Old High German nord, which descended from ner, meaning “down” or “under.” However, it is doubtful that many Americans even know this, let along would think of it when talking or writing about “north.” As for the Chinese, they oriented themselves facing south (nan). South permeates names in China, such as Nanking (South Capitol), Chinan (Tsinan), which is a city in eastern China, it literally means “south of the Chi,” Minnan (Min’nan) is South[ern] Min, etc.
To the ancient Greeks, north was boreas, and to the Romans, borealis, both referring to the wind out of the north. Some cultures have specific meanings for the cardinal directions, such as Navajo: South=child; North=adult; West=death; and East=birth. Ancient Celtic: East=air; South=fire; West=water; North=earth. Chinese with their animal meanings: North=rat; East=rabbit; South=horse; West=rooster. Some cultures refer to North=as the infinite; South=the present; West=the past; East=the future. Others see North=as wisdom; East=salvation; South=beginnings; West=conclusions—while others see North=thought; East=spirit; South=purity; West=-fullness.
The point of all this is that the cardinal directions have elicited ideas, beliefs, concepts, mystery, etc., in just about every culture that has ever existed. And in each culture, these words (north, south, east, west) have different originations, background understanding, and etymologies—however, in every language and culture, the meaning of the words have not changed over millennia when applied to directions. East is where the sun comes up, north is where you face with the sun coming up on your right hand, etc.
It is not, as Mesoamericanists want us to believe that East is where you face, with West behind you and north on you left and south on your right—unless you are facing where the sun comes up! After all, where one faces is constantly changing, as is having the sea behind or at your back, but directions do not change, nor their meaning—the sun always rises from the east and always sets in the west. And as long as a person or people are between the 30º north and south latitudes (which Jerusalem and Mesoamerica are, as well as Peru—and all other suggestions for the location of the Land of Promise), then the rising and setting of the sun is not going to cause a people to mis-align their directions much at all, let alone upwards of 90º off-kilter as Mesoamerica is from Mormon’s descriptions.
Mesoamerica (Middle America) is aligned almost due East and West, though the upper half of Mexico to the north and Central America (beyond Honduras) to the south are more in a northward-southward alignment
Nor is anyone going to face east with the sun coming up and then align themselves to north—no matter the language they use, unless they are a child just learning directions. Nor is it that you place your back to the sea and then know you are facing east—unless the sun comes up in that direction. And here is the major issue with all of this—the Nephites (as almost all ancient people) were agrarian, that is they were farmers, and dependent upon planting in season and harvesting in season. Thus, they tracked the sun across the heavens, knowing where it rose and set at different times of the season. They built observatories so they could track the sun and moon. So “How would the Nephites, using the "learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:2) have written north, south, east, and west?” They would have written it, spoke it, and thought of it, just as you and I do today! After all, their existence depended on it.
And let us not misunderstand the two comments Nephi makes when he said, “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). In breaking this statement down, we find that Lehi’s language was 1) the learning of the Jews, which would have been religious oriented, that is, the language of the fathers (the patriarchs), and 2) the language of the Egyptians. This latter would be the Egyptian language that Lehi knew and used, which is later called a Reformed Egyptian. Since it was used for brevity on the plates, perhaps it was some type of shorthand, or at least a condensed version of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Stated differently, when Nephi made his record, “which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge” (1 Nephi 1:3), he used his understanding and knowledge of 1) the words of the patriarchs (no doubt as his father had taught him), and 2) his father’s condensed or reformed Egyptian language. For accuracy, let us be clear on this point—Nephi spoke Hebrew and wrote Hebrew, and obviously, thought in Hebrew for it was the language of Jerusalem at the time where he grew up. Secondly, Nephi used the reformed Egyptian characters in order to save space on the plates.
However, he did not think in Egyptian, any more than a brand new missionary learning a foreign language, thinks in that foreign language—that comes about some 14 to 18 months in the field, and that happens because that is the language he speaks every day, day in and day out. However, Nephi was not speaking in Egyptian, any more than he was writing (other than on the plates) in Egyptian. Missionaries do not write home in a foreign language, but in their native tongue (unless they are writing to someone who is of that foreign language) or showing his parents how much he has learned. Thus we can conclude that the reformed Eyptian was not Nephi’s native tongue and, except for writing on the plates, would not have used it for much, if anything, in his daily work or conversations.
As a result, when he wrote on the plates, he thought in Hebrew and used the Egyptian characters to convey that thought onto the plates. Since Nephi was obviously brought up knowing the Egyptian language, he would have known their wordage for directions--and would have known that Egypt and the Nile ran south to north, and that north was toward the Mediterranean in Egypt, but was west from Jerusalem. When he began writing on the plates, he was around 30 and had his father to ask any unknown words or word meanings. A thousand years later, Moroni, the last Nephite alive, tells us that the reformed Egyptian with which they were still using to write on the plates had been altered by them according to their manner of speech! That is, the Egyptian characters had been altered by the inclusion of Hebrew thought and speech--an altered language that Mormon would have thoroughly known when he abridged the entire record from Mosiah to 4 Nephi. To what degree the language was altered, we are not told, but after 1000 years of use, their Hebrew language was still in tact (though it was also altered), and the Egyptian characters had been altered, according to the Hebrew speech (Mormon 9:32). In fact, because Moroni tells us that “if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record (Mormon 9:33), which obviously tells us that the Nephites spoke, wrote and thought in Hebrew, and those who kept the record were far more familiar and comfortable with it than Egyptian--nor would those who followed Nephi have known anything other than what Nephi taught Jacob, and he Enos, etc. After all, tese following Nephi, including Jacob, did not grow up in Jerusalem.
(See the next post, “The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part III,” for more on the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part I

In December 1984, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), based in Provo, Utah, issued its first monthly Update. That one-page bulletin announced the discovery of domesticated barley in the Americas before Columbus, which was, of course, a significant find with barley first appearing along with corn and “our grain of every kind” (Mosiah 7:22) as Nephite crops being paid to the Lamanites. It appeared again when Limhi planted “corn, wheat, and barley” (Mosiah 9:9). The importance lay in the fact that before that discovery, no evidence existed of cultivated barley in ancient America. Following that first bulletin, FARMS researchers have written and circulated a steady stream of findings and insights, which were collected and placed in a book titled: Reexploring the Book of Mormon, by John W. Welch. The above is the introduction to this work, which also states: “Most updates shed new light on a particular passage or concept in the Book of Mormon.” One of those updates is found in Chapter 52, “Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Nephite Language,” and states:
“How would the Nephites, using the "learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:2) have written north, south, east, and west? The Hebrews, like most Semitic peoples, oriented themselves by facing east, toward the rising sun. Thus east in Hebrew was simply front (qedem), with south as right (yamín), north as left (semôl), and west as rear (achôr) or "sea" (yam). But the Nephites also knew the "language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:2; Mosiah 1:4; Mormon 9:32). The Egyptians oriented themselves by facing south, toward the source of the Nile. "One of the terms for 'south' [in Egyptian] is also a term for 'face'; the usual word for 'north' is probably related to a word which means the 'back of the head.' "The word for east is the same as for left, and west is the same word as right. Thus the Hebrew orientation is shifted 90 degrees from the Egyptian. The Hebrew word for west (rear) has the same basic meaning as Egyptian north (back of the head); Hebrew east (front) equals Egyptian south (face); Hebrew north (left) matches Egyptian east (left); with Hebrew south (right) being Egyptian west (right). Thus when Nephi or his descendants wrote in "the language of the Egyptians," they would conceptualize the land westward in terms of the Hebrew word back. But in writing the Hebrew land backward in Egyptian characters, they would actually be writing the Egyptian word for land northward. So when the Nephites wrote the Egyptian word for north, did they have the Hebrew meaning west in mind, or the Egyptian meaning north?”
One can only wonder at such statements. Let’s use a little responsible thinking here. Nephi, Sam and Zoram were the only ones who knew anything about the Hebrew language in the Land of Promise as it was understood in Israel. First of all, the language known in Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and around the time of the Babylonian exile, was Classical Hebrew in which the Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Bible) was written, and is referred to by Jews as Leshon HaKodesh, "The Holy Language", since ancient times. Hebrew itself is derived form the word ibri (plural Ibrim), one of several names for the Jewish people, and is believed to be based on Abraham’s ancestor, Eber (Ebr), which supposedly means “cross over,” in reference to the people who crossed over the river Euphrates. In the Bible, the Hebrew language is called Yәhudit because Judah (Yәhuda) was the surviving kingdom at the time of the quotation around the 8th century B.C. (Isaiah 36, 2 Kings 18). In Isaiah 19:18, it is also called the "Language of Canaan."
One of the first questions to be asked is, would Lehi think in terms of the language he knew “the learning of the Jews,” in these terms? That is, would he have thought of how a specific word in the Hebrew language got its name when he used it? Do we think of how English got its name when we refer to the English language, the English people, or England? Or do we think of the etymology of any word within the language when we use it?
The fact that the word East was originally “coined” by facing east to the Jews, and using the word for face or front as the directional name, may have been understood for a generation or two, however, it is unlikely that the meaning survived among the common Hebrew or Jew in Jerusalem in 600 B.C., several centuries later. It is also doubtful, though the word East originated from the word qedem, meaning “front,” that the origination of the word survived more than a generation or two, and certainly not for centuries.
In the vernacular of English today, when someone uses the word “awful,” such as “Isn’t that an awful tune?” it is very doubtful that the person knows, or even if he did, that he would think of it as a word that originally meant “full of awe,” and “inspiring,” which, in reality, based on the word’s etymology, the person is asking, “Isn’t that tune inspiring?” or “Isn’t that tune worthy of reverence?” which obviously is not what the person meant. Or when someone says: “That person is really awkward,” would he know that the word originally meant “turned around backward,” and not “clumsy.” When someone says “O.K.,” which happens millions of time a day in the U.S., does anyone know the word was popularized by Martin Van Buren’s run for President in 1840 when his nickname Old Kinderhook, after his birthplace in New York state, was shortened to OK in the OK Club. And the word “quiz,” another common word in constant use today, originally meant “an odd or eccentric person. And the word “snob,” which originally meant a shoemaker or his apprentice, but was adopted to mean students at Cambridge University, but they changed it to mean someone who lacked a title or were of humble origins, which later became used for anyone who was not a student. Later it was used to refer to anyone with no breeding, and finally used by those with breeding about those they looked down upon.
The point of all this is simply to show that word origins fall by the wayside, but the words involved remain and are used for what they currently mean. Does anyone seriously think that a word’s origin, after centuries, is going to convey the same understanding of the word it originally held? In the phrase “The wrong side of the tracks,” does anyone know today that it had to do with the way smoke blew when trains passed and only the poor lived on “the wrong side of the tracks.” Or the next time you tell one of your kids to “sleep tight,” you might want to know that the phrase originally meant “sleep properly” or “sleep effectively.” When you give someone your Zip Code, do you know you are referring to a number based on a “Zone Improvement Plan”? Have you ever been stumped? The word comes from the Old West when train tracks were laid down and they came across a tree stump—they were stumped. The next time you offer a “toast” keep in mind that in the 18th century, punch was often made with small pieces of burnt toast on top for decoration. A “big wig” came from when men wore powdered wigs—the richer the man, the larger the wig he wore.
In short, nobody uses words long after they were established in the way they were originally meant, let alone know how they came into being, or that they might mean something else entirely. East, after all, means the direction “East,” in any language. It does not mean back, front, facing, etc., and hasn’t for many centuries.
It might also be of interest to know that the word east first appeared in Sunskrit, EAS, meaning “dawn.” The T was added to mean “toward the firey dawn (in the east)” The word “Asia” is taken from the Hebrew ASH (AiSH), meaning “fire” as used in Deuteronomy 4:24. “Asu” from an ancient Assyrian marker means “land of the rising sun.” In Latin, the word “oriens” means “upcoming” (of the Sun) and is used for East (orio-rise), and from which we get the words Orient (east) and Oriental (eastern). The French word Levant, applied to the eastern Mediterranean littoral (sea and land), originally meant the East, or east of Italy (and northeast of Africa). Vostok in Russia is from this, and means “rising” and East; Mizrahi in Hebrew, “zriha” meaning sunrise; dogu in Turkish meaning “born,” “to rise.”
So if we were to take the Latin “oriens” and claim that a writer of that time meant rising and not east, we would be misstating the use of the word. And the same is true with the Hebrew “qedem,” to mean anything other than east when discussing directions.
(See the next post, “The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part II,” for more on the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Simplicity of the Translation

In the last few posts we have discussed the type of people who wrote and abridged the passages in the Book of Mormon that so many Theorists ignore or outright change their obvious meaning in order to make the scriptural record agree with and support their model, like Mesoamerica, etc. Probably the most egregious is that of directions. John L. Sorenson began the problem with his ignoring the north-south directions of Mormon’s description, namely Alma 22:27-34 (though there are many others), and provided a myriad of reasons why the Nephites did not use normal compass points.
One argument is put forth by William Hamblin (left) and quoted by John L. Sorenson (FARMS update May 1990; The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book), is that “the Nephites used Egyptian terms with Hebrew meanings, claiming that the Hebrew “land west ward (Hebrew behind)” would be written in Egypto-Nephite characters as “land northward” (eg Behind) while the conceptual Hebrew “land eastward” (Hebrew front) would have been written in Egypto-Nephite as ‘land southward’ (eg Front)…In other words, you find the conceptual geography of the Hebrew universe must be “distorted” in relation to the Egyptian vocabulary.”
Making this simple, Hamblin claims the Semitic minded Nephites tried to say land westward but it got translated “land northward” in the English Book of Mormon. They tried to say land eastward but it got translated “land southward”. They tried to say south sea but it got translated “west sea”, and they tried to say north sea but it got translated “east sea.”
There are two major issues with this type of thinking. First of all is the fact that Nephi wrote plainly that he knew the directions he was traveling along the Red Sea, when he wrote: “And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction” (1 Nephi 16:13). Consider these points:
1. Lehi traveled in an area that none in the colony had ever before been—that is, Nephi did not know the directions from past experience;
A camel caravan moving along the Frankincense Trail. Note that it is merely desert and not a trail at all. In fact, it is merely a very wide are of desert between water holes and nothing to set it apart from other desert
2. There were no markers and these trails were merely wide areas, in fact often several miles wide, over which camel caravans and other travelers occasionally moved—there were no markers of any kind, and except for water holes, no reason one might think it was a trail at all;
3. Nephi not only used a cardinal compass point that was accurate (south), but also an ordinal point that was accurate (southeast). Nephi knew they were traveling south-southeast, a compass direction that was totally accurate to his line of travel at the time;
4. Later, when they changed direction, Nephi wrote: “And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1)—which is another accurate direction, for going eastward from the Red Sea would lead them directly to the south coast and the Arabian Sea in the area of Oman (Salalah), from which they later sailed.
Two points should be noted here:
1) Nephi did not mention direction until after Lehi found the Liahona outside his tent the morning they planned to leave and continue their journey (1 Nephi 16:10)--which may suggest that Nephi gained his directions from the Liahona, and that being the case, he would have had the Liahona giving him directions until at least arriving at the Land of Promise, in which case he would have known the correct directions of the promised land which, in turn, would have been known to Lehi, Sam and Zoram as well, and handed down to others through the years.
Before mentioning the second point, let’s pursue these two scriptures and compare them with Hamblin and Sorenson’s rationale about the Egypto-Nephite language. Taking the first direction Nephi listed, that of south-southeast, a verse translated from the reformed Egyptian which, using Hamblin’s reasoning, we should interpret that Nephi was saying that they had traveled “nearly an east – eastnorth direction”.   Not only does this not make sense, there is no such direction, unless we transpose the second direction to read northeast, thus saying east-northeast. And if this was the direction, they would not be traveling along the Red Sea, but to the northeast from the area of Aqaba, heading across the desert in the direction of Baghdad. This, of course, is not only inconsistent with Lehi’s travels along the Red Sea, but would have been an impossible trek where no known waterholes existed in 600 B.C. As for the second scripture, which mentioned turning eastward from that point, would actually be saying “we did travel nearly northward from that time forth.” Again, this would place their course, when combined with the direction of east-northeast, back toward Jordan—a very circuitous route that would have accomplished nothing, and certainly not bring them to any ocean.
2) In the second point, we need to keep in mind how the scriptural record was translated by Joseph Smith, and how the Spirit was involved in that translation. According to Martin Harris, one of the witnesses and scribes to the Book of Mormon translation, said, “By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say "Written," and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used" (originally Deseret News, Nov. 30, 1881, later in the Millennial Star, Feb. 6, 1882, pp. 86-87—emphasis mine). In this way, Joseph’s translation and the scribe’s transcription was verified by the Spirit, and if either were wrong, the writing remained until corrected by Joseph Smith or the Scribe. Joseph Knight, Sr., an early Church member and close friend of Joseph Smith agreed that the writing would remain if not correct (Dan Vogel’s Early Mormon Documents, Vol 4, pp 17-18)
Now, the problem seems to settle into two points of view:
1) The Nephites used a totally different means of determining their directions, a fact that would be different from just about everyone who ever read the Book of Mormon;
2) The Spirit was involved in making sure the plates were interpreted correctly, and the writing would remain and translation could not proceed until any errors or inconsistencies were corrected, either by Joseph Smith in his translation, or by the scribe in his transcription.
One other main factor is simply that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), and since Sorenson, Hamblin, and other Mesoamerican theorists create confusion by changing and redirecting understanding of the scriptural record, we need to know that it is not the Lord’s way. For they are basically saying that the Nephite directions as used in the record are confusion unless you understand that the Nephite directions were actually different than what they said—and the only way we can truly understand those directions is to understand a most confusing transliteration of Nephite, Hebrew and Egyptian language.
Personally, I find it hard to accept that the Spirit, whose sole job regarding the Book of Mormon translation was to make sure no errors were made from the meaning of the ancient writing, would allow a totally inaccurate use of the cardinal directions so frequently used in the scriptural record, and allow a confusing meaning to be transcribed. Certainly, Joseph could have been inspired to use the correct direction, for whatever the reformed Egyptian word or symbol was for north, south, east or west, Joseph would not have known it unless the spirit brought that to his mind. So why would the spirit bring the wrong word to his mind? If it was supposed to be west, then why bring north to mind? If it was actually east, why bring south to mind, etc.?
There is an interesting scripture found in Proverbs, which states: “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease” (Proverbs 22:10). I wonder if that might not be read: “Cast out the confuser, and confusion shall go out; yea, disagreements over the directions in the Book of Mormon shall cease."

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Importance of Knowledge

If we are going to understand what Nephi told us, as well as all the others who wrote in the scriptural record, and what Mormon abridged, and Joseph Smith translated, we need to be less inclined to think we know more than those who wrote that record, and more inclined to take their words at face value and try to understand how that fits into the world then and now.
As an example, when Nephi tells us he was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8), we need to understand:
1. Nephi’s ship had sails in which to catch the wind;
2. The wind blew his ship forward with the wind aft (or behind);
3. His direction of travel would be in the direction the wind blew;
4. That the wind was blowing in the direction he describes when they entered the ship and continued to do so;
5. The wind was blowing toward the land of promise, i.e., blowing the ship in that direction—or in a direction that would take them to the Land of Promise;
6. Those winds that blew him toward the Land of Promise when first setting sail, would continue to blow the vessel toward the promised land;
7. As winds blow, they are affected by the Coriolis effect, land mass, changes in temperature, pressure differences, and obstacles (mountains, etc.), on the other hand, when the temperature and pressure remain the same, when there are no obstacles, the winds tend to blow straight and constant—one of the few places in the world where this happens is along the Southern Ocean as the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift circle the globe where there are no temperature changes, no land or obstacles block the wind or cause changes;
8. Before the Age of Discovery (1300-1900 A.D.), sails were fixed on large ships and were dependent on the wind for movement; in some areas, especially in the Mediterranean Sea, vessels were augmented with oars to compensate for times when the wind did not blow in the desired direction;
9. Sails In the ancient world were square and were employed universally in the Mediterranean on the seagoing ships of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.
10. Europe only knew of the square rig until late in the Middle Ages, and in India, square sails were used into at least the seventh century A.D.;
11. While square rigged sails had the advantage of providing stability on large ships and in heavy seas, they lacked the maneuverability of triangular (lateen) sails; however, square sails remained the main type of sail on European vessels until the last days of sail;
12. Not until the lateen sail was introduced into the Age of Discovery, could square-rigged sailing ships tack on rivers and in narrow waters. The fore-and-aft sail had an advantage in that it can keep much closer to the wind;
13. Prior to the Age of Discovery, ships were mostly light in weight and had flat bottomed hulls, so they could sail close to land, this is especially true of trade ships around Indonesia because of the numerous islands, shoals, and conflicting winds and currents;
14. Initially, up to the 15th century, Europeans were limited to coastal cabotage navigation using the barge (barca) or the balinger (barinel), ancient cargo vessels used in the Mediterranean of around 50 to 200 tons. These boats were fragile, with only one mast, with fixed square sails that could not overcome the navigational difficulties of Southward oceanic exploration, as the strong winds, shoals and strong ocean currents easily overwhelmed their abilities;
Top: light coastal vessels, capable of easy maneuvering in shallow seas, not strong enough for deep sea sailing; Bottom: Strong, deep sea vessels with fixed sails incapable of much maneuvering in coastal waters, but capable of deep sea sailing
15. Rudders on most ships allowed the vessel to be steered during winds only within a few degrees. Even during the Age of Discovery, rudders had minimal use other than altering a straight course until tacking came into use;
16. Large, deep ocean ships did not exist in 600 B.C. that were capable of withstanding the pounding of high seas. Even if they did exist, they could not have been used around land because of their deeper draft; thus during the Age of Discovery, before docks and piers were more common, most ships dropped anchor off shore in deep water and took small boats to shore. They certainly would not have been able to sail through Indonesia;
17. Trading vessels in the Arabian Sea, Andaman Sea, and Indonesian waters were small, coastal vessels—they were small for maneuverability among the many islands, shoals, and shallows where they sailed and set in. They were light weight for easy handling and quick passage. Any ship large enough to go into deep water would not have been involved along these trade routes;
18. The famous Polynesian sailors used outrigger canoes—some fairly large and capable of carrying as many as 20 people, though usually they carried ten or less; and were not involved in lengthy voyages and invariably sailed across currents (neither with nor against winds), and used tall, narrow sails on movable rope tie-downs, allowing movement of sails to catch cross winds, somewhat like the system Arabian sailors on dhows used for maneuverability in coastal and shallow waters;
The point of all this is that sailing in Lehi’s day was dependent upon the wind filling a fixed square sail (some were very large), and pushing the boat forward, propelling it across the seas—meaning the ship went where the wind blew. Thus, when Nephi wrote that his ship was “driven forth before the wind,” he is telling us that his ship went where the winds took him. So did Nephi know and understand that his ship was being propelled by winds, and that his vessel was dependent upon the winds for his direction? The only answer can be yes, since he tells us that he understood that the winds were driving his ship toward the Land of Promise.
And did Nephi know his directions? The only two times he states any direction at all in terms of compass points is during their several year trek along the Red Sea and across the desert to the Arabian Sea, and both times he was absolutely accurate, though he was in an area in which he had never before been (1 Nephi 16:13; 17:1). So if he knew his directions that well, why would he not have known the cardinal and ordinal directions when he landed in the Land of Promise? It seems likely that Nephi knew what he was talking about, and he made it crystal clear in his plain and simple language that he was moving toward the promised land, away from the Arabian coastline into the Arabian Sea (Irreantum Sea) under power of the wind in his sails. We should take his word for it and not try to find some other explanation.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Greatness of Nephi – Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding the first Nephite prophet, and how he was beloved by the Lord and one of the great examples in the scriptural record for each of us to pattern our lives after.
As for the other reason why Nephi’s ship would not have gone through Indonesia, nor island-hopped across the Pacific, is that of secrecy.
It was made very clear that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard” (1 Nephi 1:18), and “When the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away” (1 Nephi 1:20). Soon, the “Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life” (1 Nephi 2:1).
Now in a dream the Lord commanded Lehi to “take his family and depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2), which he did, leaving behind “his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4). Evidently no one knew where Lehi went, for later, when Nephi and his brothers went back to obtain the brass plates and encountered Zoram, Laban’s servant who had the keys to the treasury (1 Nephi 4:20), Nephi states: “we were desirous that he should tarry with us for this cause, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us” (1 Nephi 4:36).
It was the habit of the time for Jews to pursue fleeing prophets who spoke out against them even into Egypt to capture and bring them back for trial. On some occasions they outright killed them. This would have been known to Lehi and it was important to him and his family that no one know of their journey into the wilderness for fear of being pursued and killed. Obviously, Lehi wished to travel quickly, and took a route in order to escape the priests and  Zedekiah’s sphere of influence as quickly as possible. It is likely he knew of this route from his dealings toward the south and with Egypt, or it is possible the Lord simply instructed him where to go. In any event, Lehi was traveling swiftly and secretly, as much as possible, and would not have had time nor the desire to go into Jerusalem to purchase tents, supplies, or “seeds of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1).
Thus, when the colony entered Nephi’s ship and set sail, they would not have taken any course that would have led them through populated areas, nor would they have even gone anywhere on their trek to Bountiful where they might have been recognized and word carried back to Jerusalem, where priests were always ready to send men  after a heretic guilty of blasphemy. Lehi would have been very careful to remain isolated from other people because of such a concern. Obviously, Nephi well understood the fear and need for secrecy and when he encountered Zoram, he could not let the man go free and return to Jerusalem to tell of the family’s journey into the wilderness. This was such a concern that Nephi states “And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him” (1 Nephi 4:37).
Obviously, this was not a minor issue. Fearing the Jews trailing them into the wilderness and killing them was evidently a grave concern for Lehi as well as he sons. This should also suggest that for those who think Lehi had a home inside Jerusalem, the city was so crowded for space, that the leaving of an entire family with supplies for a trip, tents and donkeys (1 Nephi 2:4), would have obviously attracted people’s attention—and Lehi would have been well known at the time for he had been preaching in the city (1 Nephi 1:18-19).
All of this should show us two very important facts: 1) Nephi’s route to the Western Hemisphere would have been along a course where there were no lands to tempt the trouble-making sons; and 2) a route where the major winds and currents flowed away from the Arabian coast. And that route has been shown here numerous times in this blog, and is one of the main issues covered in the first part of the book Lehi Nevere Saw Mesoamerica.
Nephi’s course (red line) from Arabian coast (left) to the Western Hemisphere (right), traveling with the only currents and winds that move in that direction all year long and without encountering any contrary currents, winds, or obstructions
Lehi’s course followed the winds and currents away from the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, picked up the winds and currents of the Indian Ocean gyre, and flowed into the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift of the Southern Ocean across the Pacific, flowed northward into the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current and stopped where the winds and currents died down along the 30º South Latitude in Chile. Along this course, which would be the shortest route from Arabia to the Western Hemisphere, and the fastest, there would be no chance for any mutinous attitudes. The waves and currents are so strong, and so direct, that all those on board needed to do was hold on and watch the sun cross the sky and the moon and stars in their places throughout the journey. No food or water replacement would be necessary as Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki voyage showed. It would have been an easy, though somewhat frightening voyage, and given the rebellious sons no opportunity to make any trouble. Thus, Nephi wrote in two verses that he got the ship into the wind once again and sailed to the promised land, landing without incident or comment.
The greatness of this initial Nephite prophet should be well understood. What he wrote he wrote in simplicity, for that was what he loved--as he said, “I shall prophesy according to the plainness which hath been with me from the time that I came out from Jerusalem with my father; for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn.” Now if we are to learn, we need to recognize that Nephi’s words were plain and simple, geared to our understanding. When he says they ” were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8), he meant exactly what he said, i.e., his ship was propelled by the winds (and thus the currents), toward the promised land. That is, from the time he set sail, he tells us the winds were driving his vessel toward the Land of Promise.
So where does the wind blow from the Arabian coast toward the Western Hemisphere without contrary winds and currents? Only along the Southern Ocean (see image showing Lehi’s course above).
The Monsoon winds and currents blow inland (left) for six months of the year and blow out to sea (right) six months of the year. The large arrows indicate winds, the small arrows indicate currents. Any attempt to sail in a sailing ship “driven forth before the winds” when the SW monsoon is blowing (left) would send a ship into the area of Karachi  to Mumbai along the northwest India coast (winds are stronger than currents)
Now that is plain and simple. No questions needed. We can follow Nephi’s course across the ocean to where he landed, for the winds and currents move swiftly in that direction, but stop blowing and die down at the 30º South Latitude along the Chilean coast at the Bay of Coquimbo. It is as simple as that.
Yet, there is more to understand—see the next post, “The Importance of Knowledge."

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Greatness of Nephi – Part I

Nephi comes on the scene in the Book of Mormon as an obedient son, a strong believer in God, and with a most positive outlook on just about everything. When his father asked him to do something difficult, he replied, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7); and when the Lord said build a ship and he said whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship” (1 Nephi 17:9). In a day when many people feel to busy to serve, we should appreciate the greatness of this man who did everything he was ever asked.
Nephi was “born of goodly parents” (1 Nephi 1:1), his father had been given a great vision (1 Nephi 1:8) and called to prophesy to the disobedient and wicked Jews of his day (1 Nephi 1:18). Nephi learned from his father obedience to the Lord, for though he had a comfortable life and acquired great wealth, Lehi obeyed the Lord and left everything behind and went into the wilderness as commanded (1 Nephi 2:4). While his older brothers murmured against their father (1 Nephi 2:11-12), Nephi was willing to do whatever his father asked (1 Nephi 3:2, 7), and when he brothers wanted to give up, he pressed on to obtain the brass plates by himself, trusting in the Lord (1 Nephi 3:15; 4:1, 6). Despite all the problems, difficulties, threats, and attempts at his life by his older brothers, Nephi said of Laman and Lemuel, “For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry” (2 Nephi 33:3).
When the Lord showed Nephi how to build his ship, and despite the negative attitudes of his older brothers and not wanting to help (1 Nephi 17:18), he built the ship, laboring intensely to accomplish something he had never tried before, nor do we know he had built anything before this time. We only know that he trusted in the Lord and set about to accomplish what he was commanded (1 Nephi 17:50-51) with the kind of faith few men have ever possessed (1 Nephi 17:50). He was so close to the Spirit that the Lord could imbue him with such power that his brothers could not even touch him, but he could stretch “forth my hand unto my brethren, and they did not wither before me; but the Lord did shake them, even according to the word which he had spoken” (1 Nephi 17:48, 54).
Nephi built his ship in the manner in which the Lord instructed him so that it would withstand the pounding of deep ocean winds and waves and strong currents to reach the Land of Promise
He built his ship in a special way, after the manner the Lord had instructed him (1 Nephi 18:1, 3), working timbers unlike how men worked wood in his day (1 Nephi 18:2), and it was such a fine job that it impressed even his reluctant and unbelieving brothers (1 Nephi 18:4). Once on board, they put forth into the Sea (1 Nephi 18:8). Now, at this point, this exceptional man of God, who walked and talked with God, who was instructed in the ways of building his ship, tells us that his ship, once into the Sea, “was driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8). He says that again, stating: “And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days” (1 Nephi 18:9), evidently to make certain we understood that his vessel was propelled by the winds and was carried along on the currents of the sea that the winds created.
To the “land lubber” that might not mean much, but to anyone who sailed from the beginning of sail up to around the Age of Discovery, they knew that once in the water, you sailed where the winds took you. To compensate for going against the winds, the ships of the Mediterranean could furl their sail and use men at oars to propel their ship when the winds did not take them where they wanted. However, long distance sailing was only by wind and waves, by the sea currents that followed known patterns throughout the entire globe. It should also be pointed out that when the storm came up, “a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea” (1 Nephi 18:13). Now they did not want to be driven back upon the waters, but the winds of the storm took them where the winds blew, whether they wanted to go in that direction or not. Then, when the storm blew itself out, the storm did cease, and there was a great calm. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land (1 Nephi 18:21-22).
Currents and winds move in known and constant directions, and those of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean preclude any movement eastward toward India and the Indonesian islands
As has often been said in this blog, that if one wants to know the path Nephi’s ship took, and where it landed, all one has to do is 1) accept Nephi’s words that his ship was driven forth before the wind, and 2) know where the winds blew and currents moved from the point Nephi embarked to where he would have reached the Western Hemisphere. It is not rocket science, nor does one need to learn it from an academician. All one has to do is look in any atlas or look up waves and currents on the internet to find out where the winds blew from the Arabian sea coast, and where they would have taken a weather sailing ship that was “driven forth before the wind.”
Now Nephi’s wordage at this point is also very important. In one verse he says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22), and the very next verse, he says, “And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:23). The very next verse they landed! Yet, so many Theorists, from Sorenson and the Mesoamericanists to most other theorists, they want us to believe:
1) That after Nephi got control of his ship again, he headed toward Indonesia against the winds and currents;
2) They passed thousands of islands, mostly traveling against winds and currents;
3) They stopped at numerous islands for supplies without a single noteworthy comment or incident;
4) That Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael caused no more trouble as they wound their way around and between the South Seas island paradises that led to numerous mutinies of seamen during the Age of Discovery.
Clear water, beautiful lagoons, white beaches, warm weather—all of which would have been very attractive and tempting to Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael. It is hard to imagine that if they went this way, that they would not have wanted to stop here as opposed to some distant, unknown land
All one has to do is read the first 18 chapters of 1st Nephi and see where Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael caused numerous problems, from wanting to go back to Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:6-7) to threatening to kill their father (1 Nephi 16:37). In all of this, they continued to be rebellious, resenting Lehi and Nephi’s obedience to the Lord, wanting to kill them both, tying Nephi up in the desert and on his ship, wanting to throw Nephi into the Ocean from a high cliff, and numerous other evil intrigues. And all of this Nephi dutifully recorded through eighteen chapters. Yet, when Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael would have had ample opportunity to jump ship for the safety and serenity of paradisiacal south seas islands, and most certainly would have made some attempts at that, or taken over the ship and setting in and not continuing along what they thought was a foolish journey based on the “the foolish imaginations of [Lehi’s] heart (1 Nephi 17:20).
There is another, most important point to suggest why Nephi’s ship did not island-hop or weave its way through Indonesia—a point that Nephi makes very clear.
(See the next post, “The Greatness of Nephi – Part II,” for even more on the greatness of this first Nephite prophet, and especially why their ship would not have gone where any islands were located, and especially not stopped off on islands along the way)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Greatness of Alma

We first meet Alma, one of the greatest figures in the Book of Mormon, as one of evil King Noah’s priests (Mosiah 17:2), at the conclusion of the prophet Abinadi’s “trial.” These priests, Alma among them, who were described as being “lifted up in the pride of their hearts” (Mosiah 11:5), These priests are also described as being lazy, idolatrous, committing whoredoms, forcing the people to work exceedingly to support their iniquity (Mosiah 11:6), which people become idolatrous as a result of the king and his priests (Mosiah 11:7). However, when Alma heard Abinadi testify before king Noah and his priests, he believed the prophet’s words, he believed him “therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace” (Mosiah 17:2).
But king Noah became angry with Alma and had him cast out from among he and his priests, then sent his servants after Alma to kill him (Mosiah 17:3). Alma, touched by the message of Abinadi, had a change of heart and repented of his sins and iniquities (Mosiah 18:1)
Born about 173 B.C., Alma was a young man when he became one of the several corrupt priests who served King Noah in the City of Nephi, which was in the Land of Nephi. When Alma was about 25, a prophet Abinadi was arrested and brought before the king, where he proclaimed the wickedness of the king and his priests. Of all who heard him, Alma was the only one touched by the spirit as he heard Abinadi’s words (Mosiah 18:1), and when he fled from the king, Alma went into hiding and wrote down all that Abinadi had said. Boldly, Alma began teaching people in secret what Abinadi had preached (Mosiah 18:3), which emphasized the need for repentance and faith in Christ.
Fearful of being caught by the king’s servants who still sought his life, and drawing attention to himself and his many followers within the city, Alma hid himself outside the city in the borders of the land in an area called the place or land of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30), a name given the area by the king (Mosiah 18:4). And in this land was a forest and a body of water that Alma used to baptize his converts (Mosiah 18:16).
Now Alma received his authority from God (Mosiah 18:18), and ordained priests and teachers, and was commanded by God (Mosiah 18:29) to teach everyone the commandments, rules and life style the Lord required. At one point, the king’s army discovered Alma and his people, but Alma was warned and he led his new converts, about 450 in number, into the wilderness (Mosiah 18:34).
Some years later, in an area Alma called Helam after the first man Alma baptized, in which he and his people had settled and founded a city they also called Helam, an army of Lamanites appeared (Mosiah 23:25). The people were frightened, but Alma stood among them and exhorted them to have faith in the Lord for he would deliver them (Mosiah 25:27). As the Lamanites took over the land, Alma and his brethren surrendered and were put under the control of a Nephite named Amulon (Mosiah 23:39), the former chief priest of king Noah, who had joined the Lamanites along with the other surviving priests, and who was angry with Alma (Mosiah 24:9).
The Lord told Alma that he would lead him and his people into the wilderness and would deliver the people out of bondage (Mosiah 24:16-17), and warned Alma to hasten his people once away from the Lamanites, who had awakened and were after them (Mosiah 24:23). Their arrival in the city of Zarahemla twelve days later was heralded with much joy by Mosiah and the Nephites, with Limhi and his people desiring to be baptized after hearing Alma’s stirring testimony and the account of his experiences (Alma 26:17).
King Mosiah gave Alma, the high priest (Mosiah 26:7) and referred to as Alma the Elder in the scriptural record, authority over the church (Mosiah 26:8), and the right to judge the people (Mosiah 26:12), and the Lord blessed Alma (Mosiah 26:14-17) for all his work and efforts. The Lord told Alma exactly how to judge his people, and he wrote down the words the Lord spoke to him. And Alma walked “in all diligence, teaching the word of God in all things, suffering all manner of afflictions, being persecuted by all those who did not belong to the church of God” (Mosiah 26:38).
Alma’s faith in the Lord, and his willingness to accept what the Lord required of him is a great testimony of this man who walks so prominently through the pages of the scriptural record in this last century B.C., and who the Lord talked to and personally dealt with throughout his life. Because of his conversion, Alma stands at the head of a large posterity, including at least six prophets down to Amos, the last of his line of which we know before the time of Mormon, which included Alma the Younger, Helaman and his son Helaman, Nephi and his son, the disciple Nephi. Mormon wrote of Alma that he “lived to fulfill the commandments of God” (Mosiah 29:45)
This is the man that walked the land, who knew where and in which direction the many cities of the Land Southward were located. He lived in an agrarian society and knew where the sun came up and went down throughout the year, who spoke with the Lord and was guided by the Spirit. He tells us that he entered Ammonihah through a south entrance (Alma 8:18); inquired of the Lord for Zoram to know where to go to intercept the Lamanite army and was told by the Lord that “the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. And behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon, and there the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren who have been taken captive by the Lamanites” (Alma 16:6), thus giving Alma two relevant directions; Alma tells us that he journeyed southward away from the land of Gideon to the land of Manti (Alma 17:1); and also tells us that the people said, “we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful; and this land Jershon is the land which we will give unto our brethren for an inheritance” (Alma 27:22-emphasis mine); and that the seashore was south of the land of Jershon, which bordered on the south wilderness” (Alma 31:3); and that Moroni’s army was on the east and south of the hill Riplah (Alma 43:31); and that Capt. Moroni named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, and all the land on the north and on the south (Alma 46:17); and that Moroni drove the Lamanties in the east wilderness into their lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla (Alma 50:7), and that he also placed armies on the south in the borders of their possessions (Alma 50:10); named the East Sea and was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites (Alma 50:13); and that he had established armies to protect the south and the west borders (Alma 52:15); described a Lamanite army on the West Sea, south (Alma 53:8 22); described the wilderness on the south and in the borders by the wilderness on the east (Alma 62:34); etc., etc., etc.
The point is, this erstwhile prophet and his son, whose miraculous conversion that was no less extraordinary than his father’s, both walked the land, new where places were and wrote about them using directions that, again, according to John L. Sorenson and all the Mesoamerianist Theorists, claim are inaccurate because the Nephites used a different system of directions than we do today—and that the Spirit who testified to Joseph Smith of the accuracy of every single translation sentence, must also have been wrong, in order for their east-west Mesoamerica Land of Promise can fit in a north-south descriptive land given us in the scriptural record.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Greatness of Mormon – Part II

Continuing from the last post about Mormon, and the greatness of this last Mormon prophet and how what he has written has been both maligned and attacked by friend and foe alike.
During the final years of the Nephite nation, Mormon, at age 50, is told by the Lord to cry unto the Nephites, while he is directing them to prepare themselves and fortify their lands against a planned Lamanite attack, to repent and come unto God (Mormon 3:2), but they would not listen and vowed in their boastfulness that they would go up to the Lamanites and attack them (Mormon 3:10).
Mormon refused to lead them in any attack, and refused to be their commander because of their wickedness and abomination (Mormon 3:11), and lamented: “thrice have I delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and they have repented not of their sins” (Mormon 3:13), and stood as “an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which [he] saw and heard, according to the manifestations of the Spirit which had testified of things to come” (Mormon 3:16).
The Nephites were defeated, and were driven back and the battles went back and forth until the Lamanites suffered a big defeat, withdrawing for eight years before coming back down to battle once again. By this time, Mormon is 65 years old, and he foresees the Lamanites overthrowing the land and went to the hill Shim and took up all the other records, which Ammaron had hidden there (Mormon 4:23). He also repented of his oath to not assist the army and was again placed in charge, believing he could deliver them from their afflictions (Mormon 5:1). Over the next five years Mormon leads the army in defeating, defending, and retreating from the Lamanite forces, and at age 70, spends a little time in bringing the records up to date and laments about the failure of the Nephites to accept Christ and repent of their sins, and writes: “The Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land for the Gentiles who shall posses the land” and that the Lamanites would be “driven and scattered by the Gentiles” (Mormon 5:19-20).
Mormon was 74 years old at the time of the Nephites’ final battle in 384 A.D. in the land of Cumorah (Mormon 6:5)—a battle in which he and 230,000 Nephite soldiers were killed, with their wives and children (Mormon 6:11-15). As he viewed the final carnage, his “soul was rent with anguish because of the slain of his people. In his final writing, he laments: “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss. O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return” (Mormon 6:17-20).
This is the character and stature of the last Nephite prophet over the Nephite nation. A man of great bearing, faith, spirituality and resolve; a man who never deviated from the faith, who was led by the Lord and guided by the Spirit in all things, despite the many hardships, failures, and sufferings he endured.
And this is the man whose statements regarding his description of the Land of Promise are generally ignored by so many Theorists, including all of those pushing Mesoamerica. How is it that those promoting Mesoamerica, including John L. Sorenson, professor emeritus of BYU, and hundreds of other people involved in this area of interest, and thousands who have been duped into thinking he is Mesoamerica is the site of the Land of  Promise, when at every turn, Sorenson points in support of his model and that of other Mesoamericanists, all ignore the basic directions Mormon gives us in Alma 22 and elsewhere.
To support this ignoring of Mormon’s directions and overall description of the land, Sorenson came up with the opinion that the Nephites, which includes Mormon, did not know the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, that we know today and basically the entire world uses. What this boils down to, though Mesoamericanists all claim it is not what is being done, is that Mormon’s directions are skewed somewhere between 70º and 90º in order to allow the east-west direction of Mesoamerica to fit into the north-south direction of the Land of Promise as Mormon and others in the Book of Mormon claim to be.
There can be no doubt that Mesoamerica runs east and west from western Honduras to about Mexico City, which is the area claimed by Mesoamericanists as the Land of Promise. This, despite Mormon’s description of his land running north and south
Mormon, who never knew anything about the Hebrew people, how they arrived at the meaning of their words, or how they determined directions, along with all the other writers from Mosiah down to Amos (4 Nephi), none of which knew anything about the Hebrews and their ancient language meaning, all used Reformed Egyptian to write in the record. They all knew Hebrew, as it had been altered by the Nephites over time (Mormon 9:33), but none would have been privy to how individual Hebrew words came about, and certainly none would have known that the Hebrew they used originated with back when they said west, or face or front, when they said east, etc. This concept that Sorenson presented in his book, An American Setting for the Book of Mormon, is fallacious in the extreme. English speakers today do not know the etymology of the words they use, or how they came to be used as they are, unless they look it up in a dictionary or some other reference material—a type of thing the Nephites did not possess regarding the language they used.
To even suggest such a concept as Sorenson has championed to explain his model that is about 90º off kilter is both unscholarly and disingenuous. For people to be hood-winked into believing such a thing is a sad commentary on the knowledge people use in accepting something written and espoused by academicians.
Mormon told us the directions and Mormon was a man of such exceptional stature, accomplishment, and spirituality, that all the rest of us today who try to write about the Book of Mormon Land of Promise fall far short of the man. Sorenson can believe what he chooses, and all those who want can believe as he does—however, for those who truly want to know where the Land of Promise was located, who truly want to know how that land was described, need only read Mormon’s words, for he tells us in plain and simple language, beginning with Alma 22:27-34.
Mormon said it so clearly, that it is all that needs to be said to understand the Land of Promise and how it was laid out and where the major lands were in relation to one another. Clearly, the Land of Promise, moving from south to north, starts with the area of First Landing, the Land of Nephi, the narrow strip of wilderness, the Land of Zarahemla, a land between Zarahemla and Bountiful, the Land of Bountiful, the narrow neck of land and narrow pass through it, the Land of Desolation, the Land of Many Waters, which also contained the Land of Cumorah, etc. They did not run east to west, they were not aligned by a devious manner requiring a special understanding of a different directional alignment, since the Spirit was involved in their translation so we could understand what Mormon wrote in his abridgement.
It could not be any simpler or clearer. It is a sad commentary on people when they feel the need to try and tell us, and convince us, that Mormon’s directions need to be clarified by understanding the Nephites had a different directional system than we use—for if that were true, the Spirit would never have accepted Joseph Smith’s translation of words that were incorrect and did not accurately translate the true meaning of Mormon’s words.