Saturday, August 30, 2014

More on Sorenson--The Duplicitous Sales Job-Part II

We are continuing with John L. Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which is so extensively hyped by Mesoamericanists and Land of Promise Theorists, especially because of Sorenson’s reputation as the one-time Dean of Anthropology at BYU, and current status as Professor Emeritus, and referred to as the “Guru of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” that it needs a reality check every so often to remind us of its inaccuracies. 
One of the things you are taught in sales is if your product or idea lacks certain points or questions are raised that you cannot answer, divert the attention of the buyer to the positive points of your product or idea. And one of the ways to do this is to confuse the issue, cloud it with statistics or other difficult data, then move the person along toward where you want the discussion to go. When done by an expert, it is a very subtle transition for the buyer, and most of the time he is not even aware it has been done.
    Take, for instance Sorenson’s approach to the biggest problem he faces in his Theory—that of the directions of his Land of Promise, which are skewed some 90º off the line Mormon describes. In his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Sorenson spends 35 pages outlining four maps and showing how the scriptural record is oriented northward and southward. In between these maps, Sorenson weaves a tale of distances, quoting about every source possible to show that distances among ancients was confusing and difficult to measure, with the final vertical map shown on page 24.
Sorenson uses four vertical maps like the one on the left to show how the vertical map matches the writing and descriptions in the scriptural record. Then, suddenly, he flips the vertical map over on its side and points north to the left and claims this matches what he had previously shown and what Mormon describes
    Following this map, he spends 12 pages writing about other problems before he actually introduces his Mesoamerican map on page 36, which contrary to his other maps, is both horizontal and oriented east and west. Yet, it is craftily placed so that the map, when first turning the page, looks vertical (you have to turn the book width-wise in order for the map to be situated accurately and read).
    It is a masterful use of trickery to move the reader’s mind along a comfortable and familiar path and then without warning insert a brand new, unfamiliar path without any prior warning, and done so subtly, it seems at first, to go right along with what has been read. And while the mind is reeling with this change in direction, after being led for 35 pages into thinking Sorenson agrees with Mormon’s descriptions, Sorenson starts on his five page explanation of the direction change by making an ancient understanding among Jews seem to fit right in with the thinking of the Nephites who, except for Nephi, Sam and Zoram were never in Jerusalem among the Jews, or could possibly have known about the placement of seas in the use of compass directions.
    This deception once again is based on confusing the person with information that is both unimportant and, where possible, even misleading. Sorenson is very good at taking his reader along a meaningless, meandering path, and then using that unimportant information as the basis for a later important point. In this way, the reader is lulled into thinking he understands and may even agree with the unimportant prattle and when the hammer falls on an important point, simply accept it as he had the earlier meandering.
    This is quite obvious in his dealing with an issue that is not only unimportant, but answered clearly in the scriptural record that Sorenson ignores, when he writes (p21-22), “Besides, the immediately adjacent west coastal strip was counted part of the land of Nephi, although to the north strip was conceived as "on the west of the land of" Zarahemla.  Nothing definitely to the east of Nephi is discussed.  The entire area east from the land of Nephi is left undefined, except that it was part of the whole and southward "nearly surrounded by water.”
The scriptural record clearly states that the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi stretched from the Sea East to the Sea West, as did the narrow strip of wilderness
    The point here is why even bring this up? There is no unknown land to the east of the land of Nephi suggested anywhere in the scriptural record. In fact, Mormon makes it quite clear that the Land of Nephi extended to the east coast:  "And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west" (Alma 50:8). Despite the need to have an unknown land to the east so the Yucatan peninsula can be inserted into the land of promise, the scriptures leave no room for such an interpretation.  In fact, the land of Nephi ran from the east sea to the west sea, and this is the land controlled by the king who was sending out a proclamation about Aaron and his brethren (Alma 22:27), and the Land of Nephi extended to the West Sea, from the area of their First Landing (First Inheritance) to the north (Alma 22:28).
    Sorenson also states (p210): “The width of the land of Nephi, the highland portion of the land southward, is never clarified.” 
    After all, like all Mesoamericanists, he has to find a way to justify the Yucatan Peninsula that juts out in the east of his Land of Nephi but there is no suggestion of such an elongated coastline in the scriptural record.
    Yet, though his rationale and comments are wrong and inconsistent with the scriptural record, he concludes, as he typically does, with a result based on his erroneous thinking when he says (p22), “This long excursion through the dimensions of the Book of Mormon scene has allowed us to nail down vital requirements. We can now be certain that the Book of Mormon story took place in a limited portion of the western hemisphere shaped roughly like an hourglass.”
    It is arrogant indeed, and certainly not scholarly, to ignore the scriptural record which tells you there is an answer, then state there is no answer, and that his statement then allows a final understanding of these distances. After all, the Land of Nephi spread from the sea east to the sea west, was separated from the Land of Zarahemla to the north by a narrow neck of land, which also ran from sea to sea (Alma 22:27).
    It is also interesting how Sorenson takes a very well known fact, the Sidon river is the only river mentioned in the entire scriptural record by name, and the only river mentioned at all except for rivers being to the far north in the “land of many waters, fountains and rivers” (Helaman 3:4; Mormon 6:4), and makes it sound like it is only one of many when he writes (p23): “A dominant feature is the major river the Sidon, which flowed down out of the mountains that separated the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla.” The Major river makes it sound like there are others, and if there were, they are not mentioned in the scriptural record, thus the statement at best is misleading, and at worst reminds one of trying to sell his model, Mesoamerica, where two major rivers, the Grijalva and the Usumacinta, are continually debated among Mesoamericanists as to which is the Sidon River. Again, it is not difficult to see Sorenson’s mindset, a mindset that completely eliminates any and all other possibilities beyond what he thinks.
    In addition, take Sorenson’s comment (p248) “The subject of directions discussed in the first chapter is especially relevant now. At points in the account like Alma 50:13-15 reference to the map in terms of our modern meaning of the terms “north” and “south” could lead to confusion.” 
    The only confusion about directions stems from trying to fit Mormon’s descriptions and directions onto a Mesoamerica map which is skewed about  90º off kilter with the compass.
    Sorenson also adds (p248) “One added note; this account was written by Mormon, long after the events took place” and goes on to talk about Mormon’s viewpoint. However, one might suggest that though Mormon wrote about this event 300 years or so later, Mormon walked that land, fought over it, planned strategies in it, knew and understood the layout, directions, topography, and no doubt, everything there was to know about it from the many books and writings he had in his possession written by the Nephites which he tells us were “many.” Sorenson, on the other hand, writing 2000 years later, never having seen or been in the land of the Nephites at the time they lived, nor even knowing for certain he was in such a land ever, tells us Mormon’s view was skewed but his own is not.
Another interesting point is Sorenson’s claim the Nephites used Jewish understanding of Hebrew words. However, toward the end of his life, when Nephi writes about wanting to preach to his people about “the words of Isaiah," he prefaces it with this caveat for the reader: “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). Now, we don’t know what Nephi did or did not teach his people about the Jews, but we do know that before Mosiah created a monetary standard for wages, the Nephites used their own different systems “according to the minds and the circumstances of the people, in every generation” (Alma 11:4), a period of about 400 years, but we do know the Nephites did not reckon their finances after the manner of the Jews who were at Jerusalem (Alma 11:3).
    Consequently, we do not know if the Nephites even knew about the original Jewish custom of how north, south, east and west came about—a point that Sorenson uses as the entire basis for his differing directional compass he claims the Nephites used the same skewed orientation.
(See the next post, “Sorenson’s Fallacy of Basing Nephite Directions,” for an understanding of how this single claim of Sorenson shows his Mesoamerican model to be completely invalid)

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