Sunday, May 31, 2015

Theories—The problem with Speculation – Part I

When members of the Church begin speculating with their pet ideas and theories, they do a great injustice to the Book of Mormon and to the Church overall. As an example, Vernal Holley, published two maps in his Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look, in the early 1980s.
Top: Holley’s map based upon his opinion or “pet theory” of the Land of Promise location; Bottom: Holley’s map of the same area as it existed around the time of Joseph Smith, showing the same or similar names
    Basically, the two maps compare a "proposed map" constructed by Holley from the internal descriptions of the Book of Mormon and comments, over the years by Latter-day Saint scholars, with a map showing actual place names on maps of the area around Palmyra, New York, where the Book of Mormon originally was published.
    The first map is the "proposed map," constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon, of such features as "The Narrow Neck of Land" which was a day-and-a-half-journey (which Holley considered to be roughly 30 miles) separating two great seas. There is also much about the Hill Onidah, the Hill Ramah, and the City of Angola—all place names in the land of Joseph Smith's youth.
    As an example, in the Book of Mormon there is a chief captain under Moroni’s command named Teancum. At the time of Joseph Smith, there was a Shawnee Indian Chief named Tecumseh, who fought and Holley claimed he died along Holley’s narrow neck of land helping the British in the War of 1812. Today the Canadian city Techumseh, south of Lake St. Clair, is named after him.
Blue Arrow: Where Holley and Spencer claim Techumseh died; Red Arrow: Where Techumseh died during the Battle of the Thames, 142 miles distant; the modern town of Techumseh is located along the southern shore of Lake St.Clair (just north of the point of the red arrow); Yellow Arrow: Where Joseph Smith grew up
    However, these “facts” stated by Holley and used by James R. Spencer to try and make a parallel between names in the scriptural record and names in upstate western New York region when Joseph Smith was growing up, are simply not accurate. The Indian Chief Techumseh was killed in the Battle of the Thames between Moraviantown and Thamesville on October 5, 1813, at the opposite end of Lake Erie and 142 miles from Holley’s narrow neck of land, and 300 miles from where Joseph Smith grew up on the opposite side of Lake Erie.
    In fact, Techumseh was born in western Ohio, grew up in northern Alabama, and settled in east-central Indiana, later moving to Michigan to fight with the British in the War of 1812. It can hardly be said that his name is associated with upstate New York where Joseph Smith grew up. Besides, Joseph would have been only 7 or 8 when Tecumseh became well known some 300 miles from Palmyra, and not likely known by Joseph at any time.
    In addition, drawing a parallel between Teancum and Techumseh (which means “panther passing across” in Shawnee) can hardly be supported. A closer name would be that of Tecun Uman of Guatemala who was killed by the Spanish in 1524 in the Battle of El Pinal, and was named Guatemala’s national hero in 1960. The problem is, some type of match to names is not difficult to make, given enough time, territory and knowledge.
Forest scene on the Lehigh (Pennsylvania) River (1832), an Anglicization of the Lenape Indian name for the small river, Lechewuekink, meaning “where there are forks” name given the river
    Another comparison Holley tried to make is between the names Lehigh and Lehi. However, and not widely known among Latter-day Saints, is that the name Lehigh dates back to 1812, before the Book of Mormon, is the name of a county in eastern Pennsylvania, a little north of Philadelphia, and was derived from the Lehigh River, which in turn got its name from the Delaware Indian term Lechauweki or Lechauwekink, meaning “where there are forks.” (Charles R. Roberts, "Place Names of Lehigh County and Their Origin," Proceedings: Lehigh County Historical Society, 1936). However, it is almost 300 miles from Palmyra in New York where Joseph Smith grew up.
    Another name is Angola, a small community north of Palmyra, near Buffalo, that received its name “Angola” in 1854 when a post office was established there, and “Evans Station” was changed to Angola. This is hardly a Book of Mormon connection. Another is Hellam and Helam. Hellam is a small township in southern Pennsylvania near the Maryland border dating to 1736, 250 miles from Palmyra. The chances that Joseph Smith would have known of this tiny township is most unlikely since there would have been no connection between these two regions.
    Another is the name Boaz, however, the only U.S. town by this name is in West Kentucky, and was named for a plantation owner in 1854. It is also the name of a community (post office) in West Virginia dating to 1878. The hamlet of Alma, New York, was named after a Latin word for “nourishing,” and a city in Germany, given the New York hamlet in 1854, though this area along the Pennsylvania border was first settled in 1833 as “Honeoye Corners,” a name that continued until around 1843.
    The tiny unincorporated community in central eastern Ohio called Jacobsburg was laid out in 1815 and named for its founder, Jacob Calvert (A. T. McKelvey, Centennial History of Belmont County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens, 1903), and by 1833 contained one tavern, two stores, a physician, sundry mechanics and about 120 inhabitants. At 372 miles from Palmyra, it is hardly a place Joseph Smith would have heard about prior to the printing of the Book of Mormon in 1830.
    Zarahemla, New York, does not exist, though Holley placed it on his map. The location he shows is Palmyra, which was never called or referred to as Zarahemla except in more modern times, usually by ill-informed non-member critics. There was a town so named in Iowa, across from Nauvoo, so named by Joseph Smith and its reference can be found in D&C 125, in 1841; however, this was never intended to be the same Zarahemla mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
    Oneida and Onidah. Oneida, in central New York, just east of the Finger Lakes, was part of the Oneida Indian tribe during the colonial era. The Oneida were one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois League. The village of Oneida was formed in 1848 as part of the larger town of Lenox, though it formed separately in 1896. It seems reasonable that Joseph Smith would have known of the Oneida Indian tribe.
Agathe and Agathe. Agathe is in Canada, and more properly called Sainte-Agathe-des-Monte, a township in Quebec, was not settled until 1849, when French Catholics moved into the area. Another combination of names is Moron and Morin. The latter was founded in Quebec, Canada, when the first European settlers arrived from Ireland around 1850, followed by French Canadians from Lachute in 1855. The township was named after its founder, Augustin-Norbert Morin who had a huge farm on the banks of the River du Nord. Again, these names have nothing to do with the Book of Mormon and almost all were not even so named until long after the Book of Mormon was first published in 1830.
(See the next post, “Theories—The problem with Speculation – PtII,” for more of the so-called city and people names between what we find in the Book of Mormon and what existed in the area of Joseph Smith when he translated the plates to see how speculation leaves the wrong impression about the past)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Giving Up Pet Theories

It was written recently that a “pet theory,” is any theory whose creator (or anyone who has heard it) likes more than other theories, and this person usually wants the theory to be true, whether it is or it isn't. Scientists who have a pet theory (or pet theories) may be subject to loss of objectivity because of this "affection" towards their pet theory. A theory, of course, is just a theory. It is not a fact. And since there are often many theories about things, you can say that this particular one is my favorite, so that is often designated my pet theory on this particular subject. 
It is, in fact on a larger scale, just a theory that a scientist or a group of scientists, scholars, historians, etc., has/have a particular fondness for, regardless of validity. In many cases, such a theory has little foundation, but is still believed devoutly by a certain scientist, group, person, or historian, despite lack of proof.
    Not long ago I was sitting in my car in a parking lot when a deputy sheriff chanced by and glanced into the car at me. I was, at the time, working on one of my books about the location of the Land of Promise while waiting for my wife—he saw the title and immediately blurted out, “Oh, yeah, I know all about that. It’s in the eastern states, where the Nephites built all those mounds.”
    Now, that is a theory. There is nothing in the scriptural record, history, or mainstream discussions that can connect the Nephite nation to mounds, let alone such burial mounds as found in the eastern U.S. in the Mississippi Valley and northward.
While there are ancient mounds in numerous countries around the world, there are none in Israel, Mesopotamia or Egypt, and absolutely nothing to connect such mounds to the Nephite nation or its scriptural record
    It is not unlike the theory of dark matter, an idea of a substance thought to make up 85% of the Universe’s missing matter, though nothing has ever been found to verify such an idea, even after decades of searching at the cost of 6.4 billion dollars expenditure. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, is scheduled to restart in this month after a major upgrade. It is widely seen as the last chance in a generation to create—and thus confirm—theoretical particles known as WIMPs, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.
A super-sensitive ‘direct-detection’ experiment, which is designed to catch naturally occurring WIMPs streaming from the heavens, is also due to start this year. At least in this case, the failure so far to glimpse WIMPs at either the LHC or through direct-detection experiments, combined with surprise signals from others, is fueling suggestions that dark matter is made of something else. A range of alternatives that were previously considered underdog candidates now look “less exotic”, says Kevork Abazajian, a theorist who studies particle cosmology at the University of California, Irvine.
    The point being, while it may take some time, occasionally scientists recognize that failure to find what they thoroughly believed existed is leading them to perhaps look elsewhere for something else. We do not find that type of open-mindedness in Land of Promise theorists. No matter that their pet beliefs have been shown time and time again to not match the scriptural record, most doggedly and stubbornly hold on to that belief, though it cannot be shown to be correct without changing the scriptural record or its meaning.
As an example:
1. The Land of Promise was not a peninsula, it was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), yet Baja California and Malay theorists hold to their Land of Promise being a peninsula despite a scriptural description to the opposite;
2. No mountains in upstate western New York where theorists place their Land of Promise despite the fact that the scriptures talk about both the Land Southward and the Land Northward having mountains “whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
3. The narrow neck of land was narrow the distance in width that a Nephite could walk across in a day and a half, yet Mesoamerican theorists claim this narrow neck was the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 140 miles across.
4. Jacob tells us that their Land of Promise was an island in the midst of the sea over which they traveled (2 Nephi 10:20), Mormon tell us that Lehi’s landing site, the place of their father’s first inheritance, was along that West Sea to the south (Alma 22:28), yet Heartland theorists place the landing site at the delta of the Mississippi River which only has the Gulf of Mexico as a connected sea, which is definitely in the south, not the west.
5.  Despite Mormon describing the Sea East to the east and the Sea West to the west, some Great Lake Theorists place the East Sea as Lake Ontario in the north and the West Sea as Lake Erie in the South
As one theorist shows it, (Red Arrow) Lake Ontario in the north as the East Sea, and (Blue Arrow) Lake Erie in the south as the West Sea, with the narrow neck of land in between running east and west, not north and south
6. Both Hugh Nibley and John L. Sorenson contend that the Jaredites survived the final battle illustrated in the scriptural record, saying “{Nibley} argued and the evidence is persuasive, that significant Jaredite elements persisted into Mulekite ande Nephite times, yet there is not a single indication in the scriptural record of any Jaredite survival. Ether made it clear, saying that “when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz” (Ether 15:29), Coriantumr “smote off the head of Shiz” (Ether 15:30), and that the Lord told Ether to “Go forth, and he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled” (Ether 33:33). What word? Earlier, the Lord told Ether to prophesy to Coriantumr, that unless he repented, and all his household, “his kingdom and the people should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself” (Ether 13:20-21).
7. Even though there were no glaciated areas along the path Nibley chooses for the Jaredite course when he states: “Now it is a fact that in ancient times the plains of Asia were covered with "many waters,” which have now disappeared but are recorded as existing well down into historic times” (p 177); however, he does not mention that those waters and receding glaciers were far to the north of the path he picks for the Jaredites to cross Asia.
Yellow Line: Nibley’s Jaredite travel course. Note it is through the green belt far below the glacial area of the Ice Age and north of the Snow covered mountains ranges of the Himalayas—there would have been no “many waters” along this path
    8. Another pet theory of Sorenson is that “the various descendants of the former kings Mosiah, Benjamin, and the younger Mosiah likely felt that their noble ancestry gave them the right to special privileges,” yet Benjamin’s character suggests just the opposite: “And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne -- and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day. Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day” (Mosiah 2:14-15).
   Thus, it should be obvious that these and numerous other pet theories that people have, when compared to the facts of the scriptural record, show they are in error. This does not, however, cause them to discard those erroneous theories.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thoughts from General Conference

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in a recent conference, “Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.” Answers, we were told by another speaker come in quiet awareness, and that “The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
We also learned that “The scriptures are a fountain of knowledge that never runs dry, there is always something new to learn.” This seems to be especially true when reading the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, and in learning more and more from the many insights Mormon provided us as he abridged the record of numerous other writers and clarified their writing for us, his future reader. Without doubt, Mormon has shown us that we can always learn something from the scriptural record, particularly when he approach it without pre-conceived thinking, but with an open mind, studying his words and making every attempt to understand what he meant in his writing.
    In fact, the message of conference, among others, seemed to be that we should never reach a point when we feel we know everything about any subject. Progress through our second estate is one of continual learning and continually ever-increasing understanding.
    While this is true in all aspects of study, learning and life, it seems particularly important in our researching and investigating of the Land of Promise and the prophet Mormon’s numerous descriptions inserted to help us better understand the region where the Nephite nation flourished.
    As an example, when we decide a certain place is the Land of Promise, we should never reach a point where we feel we know everything involved—we should keep learning and seek for more and more information regarding that location and most importantly, compare all scripture to it because if it is the correct location, all additional reading and scriptural interpretation will match the location. If it is not the correct location to start with, then we will find things that do not match as they are written, and we should discard our thoughts and look for a more accurate matching location.
    Unfortunately, when we have stopped trying to learn and verify, we have a tendency to try and make adjustments in the scriptural record thinking we know something that was not known or understood by the original writers, inserting our own thoughts into our interpretations, and making adjustments in scriptural meaning. We read what Mormon has written, and try to fudge its simple meaning into some deeper, more convoluted thoughts.
    Once we believe we have the final word on such a location, say where the hill Cumorah is located, then read that from the top Mormon and 23 of his men were so well hidden from view of the blood-thirsty Lamanties bent on their death, that they could look out onto the surrounding land and see the bodies of 230,000 Nephite dead (Mormon 6:11-15)—we should be able to say that, yes, that could happen from this hill. On the other hand, when we find that the hill we thought is only 130 feet tall, basically shaped like a cigar buried its length halfway in the ground, with a gently, easily traversable rounded (drumlin) shape that provided no covering for hiding, or hindrance from the enemy forces overrunning it, we need to readjust our thinking. 
The Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. Red Arrow shows the view point from the highest point of the drumlin hill; Yellow Arrow shows the 130-feet high hill running lengthwise. In neither case would there have been any way to keep from being spotted from a vantage point where sight of 230,000 dead could be seen 
    Or when we read that the land runs north and south (Alma 22:27-34) and our model runs east and west, such as Mesoamerica, we need to discard our model and seek a location that matches the scripture, not write lengthy articles to justify why Mormon didn’t use our cardinal directions, though he was writing to us, his future reader, for our enlightenment and understanding. Or when the Sidon River is clearly shown to flow northward as Mormon describes it, but our model has it running southward, that we back up and recognize that our model is wrong and look elsewhere for the correct location.
    Another example is that when Jacob, speaking as a prophet during a special two-day conference on the Atonement, tells the Nephites that they are on an island (2 Nephi 10:20), we need to discard any location, no matter how much we have been committed to it, that is not now or was not at the time of the Nephite occupation, at least prior to the drastic changes made in 3 Nephi, an island. This is also true when Jacob tells us that their island was in the midst of the very sea over which they had sailed (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Or when Samuel the Lamanite tells us that at the time of the crucifixion “and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23), we need to verify our belief in a location by making sure there are numerous mountains, “whose height is great.” And if not, such as New York state at the Land of Promise where no “high” mountains of any kind exist, then we need to discard that location and look for a location that does match.
The flat land of upstate western New York where no mountains exist, let alone ones “whose height is great” 
    Another step is to compare other scripture on the same subject, location, or image to see if they agree. As an example, Jacob writes of the Nephites being on an island in the midst of the sea, Helaman describes the Nephites within the Land of Promise “did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8). And Mormon also writes of this in “and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
    When different scriptural references agree with the same overall viewpoint, it would seem sufficient to make a claim that this description of the Land of Promise is without question.
    Another example is the narrow neck of land where Mormon describes it as connecting the Land Southward to the Land Northward (Alma 22:32), and that this narrow neck led into the Land Northward (Alma 63:5), and Moroni tells us that the Jaredites “built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). All of these and numerous others, consistently describe a narrow neck of land that provides egress from the south into the north lands, and each agrees with the other.
There is no conceivable way that anyone even today, let alone in 600 B.C. without aid of satellite images or aerial photography to even recognize that the land narrowed as seen in this map of Mesoamerica. Nor does it fit the defensive descriptions of Mormon with its 140 mile width 
    We can constantly learn form the scriptural record if we don’t stop trying to learn. In addition, when one has a theory about a land location, that theory should continually be challenged with everything that is written to make sure everything agrees with that point. However, when we close our mind to continual learning, we often ignore and bypass statements or descriptions Mormon gives that are not consistent with our pet “theory.” At such a time, we simply stop learning.
    As an example, when someone develops a theory about Mesoamerica being the Land of promise (perhaps because of the ruins there), one should then read 2 Nephi 10:20 where Jacob tells us they were on an island. When reading such, the theory of Mesoamerica should have immediately been discarded, or at least looked at with a critical eye and come under severe scrutiny as to how Mesoamerica could have been considered an island in 600 B.C. Nor should one simply chalk it up to the belief that Jacob didn’t know what he was talking about, or didn’t understand his land, or whatever. 
    Jacob, speaking at a conference on very sacred subjects, i.e., the atonement, resurrection from the dead, and forgiveness of sins, would not also be talking about something of which he did not know. We need to give credit to these early prophets and their inspirations rather than think we are the seat of all such knowledge and look for reasons why, such as in this case, Jacob didn’t know what he was talking about.
    And when the brethren today talk about how we need to keep learning, we should discard their pet-beliefs, theories and attitudes and search with an open mind the true meaning of the scriptural record and what Mormon wrote and its very clear meaning, even if it means forming new beliefs and theories about locations and models.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Looking Through a Keyhole – Part IV

Continuing from the last three posts about looking through a keyhole at a particular spot for placement of the Land of Promise, such as citing the hill Cumorah in the Great Lakes area and saying this must be the Nephite lands, etc., rather than starting with the scriptures and following through with what they tell us about this Land of Promise.
    In addition to those several steps outlined in the previous post, there is the changeable things you can look for that match the scriptural record, such as areas where significant highways and roads went “from place to place and land to land.”
    Continuing with the list from the last post:
14) Fortified walls of stone [Alma 48:8; 50:5; 62:23]
The Nephites built of stone as the record shows, consequently, stone walls and buildings should be found in the Land of Promise, for they do not deteriorate like wood. Only two places show such construction in the Western Hemsiphere
15) Narrow neck of land [Alma 22:32; 63:5; Ether 10:20]
    This narrow or small neck connected two lands, would have been visible to those on foot of the time as a “narrow neck,” which simply does not fit Mesoamerica; also, this narrow neck served as a defensive “choke point” which would be easily defended and not able to circumvent, which eliminates any place in eastern U.S.
16) Defendable narrow pass [Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 2:29; 3:5]
    This was the only access between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, again eliminating Mesoamerica and the eastern U.S.
17) Sea that divides the land [Ether 10:20]
    The Land of Promise was divided into two parts, the Land Northward and the Land Southward, with a narrow neck of land in between connecting the two land masses. Any sea that divides the land would have to be part of this narrow neck area
18) All manner of buildings [Mosiah 8:8]
    When Limhi’s 43-man expedition returned from the Jaredite lands in the Land Northward they reported on finding the land ”covered with ruins of buildings of every kind.” These buildings had been built sometime after 2100 B.C. and would have stood for more than a thousand years by the time they were seen by the Nephites, suggesting they were made of stone like the towers built in Mesopotamia, the Jaredite homeland, which means they would have stood for quite some time afterward
19) Great temple tower [Mosiah 8:8; 19:5]
    This tower was built by king Noah (an example of a temple tower is shown to the left), and was used as a lookout point to keep track of the Lamanite movements in and around the area of the city of Nephi, where the Nephites had returned to occupy though the lands were then in Lamanite hands. This would not have been some simple wood tower of a couple stories in height, but one that would allow a great height vantage point to see throughout the surrounding land as evidence by king Noah looking out and seeing the lamanites approaching from the land of Shemlon (Mosiah 19:6)
20) North-South directions of the Land of Promise [Alma 22:27-34]
    It seems only logical that if Mormon wrote about north-south directions of the layout of the Land of Promise that the land would be so shaped. In addition, since Mormon was writing to a future readership, and inserted this information into the record in a 568-word addendum strictly for our benefit to better understand where the Lamanite lands and the Nephite lands were located in relation to one another, that the directions he used, Joseph Smith translated, and the Spirit ratified, would be correct. For modern man, such as John L. Sorenson, Joseph L. Allen, and other Mesoamericanist writers to change those directions so they would fit their pre-determined model seems outright fallacious, and meant to mislead.
21) All manner of ore [1 Nephi 18:25; Ether 10:23]
    While ore is found everywhere, not all ore is found everywhere—some ores are very isolated. As an example, gold is not found in the Great Lakes area and for theorists of that area to say it must have been mined out since Nephite times is an evasion of facts. This is especially seen in the light that gold in Mexico and Andean Peru, which was mined as early as anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere is still being mined, and Peru and Chile, as an example, are world leaders as well as Mexico on these ores today.
22) Land of many waters, rivers and fountains [Mormon 6:4]
    Not only do there need to be lakes and rivers, in this area of many waters, but also Mormon mentions “fountains,” meaning an area of water sources bubbling up out of the subterranean aquifer. Such sources are typically found in the mountains, where water sources originate—which is not the case in eastern U.S.  It should be noted that gold was never discovered in New York, north or western Pennsylvania, or in the area of the Great Lakes; and found only on placer gold deposits (not hard rock gold) in Illinois, Indian, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. While the U.S. is a leading producer of gold, it is found in the west, mostly in Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, plus Alaska.
23) Abundant crop growth [1 Nephi 18:24; 2 Nephi 5:11; Mosiah 9:9,14; 11:15];
    For seeds from Jerusalem to have grown well in 600 B.C., as mentioned here many times, they would have had to be planted in similar climate as Jerusalem, i.e., a Mediterranean Climate. Only California and central Chile (plus certain elevations of central and eastern Peru) match that climate in all of the Western Hemisphere.
24) No other people in Land of Promise
    The scriptural record leaves no room for, suggestion of, or indications regarding any other peoples during Book of Mormon times in the Land of Promise other than the Jaredites, Nephites/Lamanites, and the Mulekites. This eliminates Mesoamerica, and the Great Lakes area.
25) Use of silks and fine-twined linen [Alma 1:29; 4:6 26; Ether 10:24]
    No such silks or fine-twined linen has been found in the Americas dating to Nephite times other than in Andean Peru.
26) Metallurgy [Helaman 6:9; Ether 10:23]
    No such metallurgy has been found in the Americas dating to Jaredite/Nephite times other than in Andean Peru, and there they date to early Jaredite times.
    27) Volcanoes and earthquakes [3 Nephi 8, 9].
These exist along the so-called “ring-of-fire” along the coastal areas of Andean South America, Central America, U.S. and Alaska. There has never been any significant volcano or earthquake activity in the eastern U.S., heartland, etc., of the U.S.
28) Use of circumcision (Law of Moses – 2 Nephi 5:10)
    Lastly, you need to look for a land in the Western Hemsiphere where circumcision was practiced during Nephite times, and there is only one place in all that area which such has been found in mummies.
A keyhole view is not much better than sticking one's head in the sand. Both limit one to a predetermined view that does not allow for an expansion of their view, thinking, or understanding 
    Thus, to find the location of the Land of Promise, we have to find an area that now and/or during the time of the Jaredites/Nephites, matched the entire list of descriptions found in the Book of Mormon. And we have to do it without changing the meaning, twisting the words around, inserting words that are not in the scriptural record, or deleting words or ideas that do not agree with one’s personal point of view, or claiming that these erstwhile prophets did not know what they were writing about, such as not knowing directions or what their land was like, or how it was laid out from north to south, or whether or not they meant sea when they said sea, etc. Such an area would never be found, however, by those who look through the keyhole of their pre-determined view of the location of the Land of Promise. One needs to broaden their view beyond a singular area of pursuit—and the easiest way to do that is to start with the scriptures, not some other singular viewpoint.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Looking Through a Keyhole – Part III

Continuing from the last two posts about looking through a keyhole at a particular spot for placement of the Land of Promise, such as citing the ruins in Central America and saying this must be the Nephite lands, etc., rather than starting with the scriptures and following through with what they tell us about this Land of Promise. 
    When we look beyond the keyhole and see the much larger picture, we are in a better position to identify the Land of Promise as described by Nephi, Mormon and Moroni (Ether), as well as the others who lived upon it and wrote about it.
    As an example, in addition to those several steps outlined in the previous post, there is the changeable things you can look for that match the scriptural record, such as areas where significant mountains in both the Land Southward and the Land Northward rose to levels “whose height is great.”
    And for such things as signs of an ancient people that accomplished great things, built great cities, and worked with their hands, which Nephi tells us he caused his people to do.
By this time, if you have really done your homework, been open-minded, followed exactly the wordage of the scriptural record without reading into it other than it means, you likely will be in the right area. Then, and only then, will you have a chance at finding certain described places, like the City of Nephi, the City of Zarahemla, the hill Cumorah, etc.
    Perhaps the best thing, though, is to consider all the points the scriptural record has given us to locate the Land of Promise. It is not that you can fine one, two, or even ten of these individual placers or things and say, “This is the place.” For the Land of Promise, you must find all of these.
1) Mountains, “whose height is great” [Helaman 14:23]
    There are mountains in most areas, though those in the eastern United States are so low in height, they hardly qualify for “whose height is great.” So in looking for matches, one should look to the meaning behind Samuel’s comment, i.e., to the Nephites, at the time of the crucifixion and the rising of these mountains, their height would be abnormal for the area and obviously noticeable to the Nephites in seeing the fulfillment of this prophecy.
2) Two unknown animals [Ether 9:19]
    In this case, Joseph Smith, growing up on a farm, and knowing the names of almost all animals that would have been known in that time and location, could not place the animals the vision gave him and, therefore, had to rely on the name that was on the plates—cureloms and cumoms. Consequently, any animals chosen as these two would have to be those unknown to Joseph Smith, yet still fill the requirement of being more useful than horses and asses, and on a par in usefulness as the elephant at the time of the Jaredites.
3) Two unknown grains [Mosiah 9:9]
    Same as the animals. Joseph Smith was a farmer and knew the basic grains of his day. These two were unknown to him, yet were as valuable as corn, wheat and barley, thus we would look for grains of such value then and now.
4) Land of promise as an island [2 Nephi 10:20]
    At the time the Nephites landed and for at least the next six hundred years, the Land of Promise was an island in the midst of the sea over which Lehi traveled. If it is not an island today, then we look to the destruction and changes wrought about in 3 Nephi, and compare that with geologic history.
5) The four seas surrounding the Land of Promise [Helaman 3:8]
    Because four seas existed as late as 46 B.C., it would appear that the change occurred around the time of Christ, making the destruction described in 3 Nephi the realistic changing period from an island to a larger land mass.
6) Plants that cure fever [Alma 46:40]
    We call this deadly fever “malaria” today, and there is only one natural cure for malaria and that plant is found in only one place (prior to the 18th century when it was transplanted) in the entire world.
7) the Climate where Lehi’s seeds grew that he brought to the Land of Promise [1 Nephi 18:24]
    Jerusalem is a Mediterranean Climate. There are only five such climates in the world, and only two in the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, one of these two areas has to be the Land of Promise.
8) Roads and Highways [3 Nephi 6:8]
    There are only two places in the Western Hemisphere where ancient roads dating to the period of the Nephites and went “from place to place and land to land” as described; only one of these places also has the Mediterranean Climate (and other matches mentioned above)
9) Driven before the wind to the promised land [1 Nephi 18:8-9]
    Upon leaving the southern Arabian Peninsula, winds and currents only blew in one direction out to sea—take that course and you find where Nephi’s ship was driven and would have landed
10) Lehi’s Course to the Land of Promise [1 Nephi 18:8-9]
    The winds and currents are steady and constant and have always blown in the same directions. Follow those winds and currents and you arrive at the Land of Promise as Nephi did
11) Both Gold and Silver and Copper [1 Nephi 18:25]
    Wherever you place the Land of Promise, there must be the ores mentioned; gold, silver and copper are three of the main ones—the eastern U.S. does not have gold to speak of and none ever recorded in single units with silver and copper like described
12) Hagoth’s ships went northward [Alma 63:4,6]
    Winds and currents need to take sailing ships northward from the narrow neck area; also there needs to be evidence of another similarly developed culture to the north of the Land of Promise
13) Forts, fortifications and resorts [Alma 48:5,8; 49:13,18; 52:6]
    Nephi taught his people to build (2 Nephi 5:15); Nephi knew of the stone work of Jerusalem, and built a temple like Solomon’s (2 Nephi 5:16), consequently one should find buildings of stone like those of Jerusalem and such are only found in two places in the Western Hemisphere. The forts of wood talked about in the eastern U.S. simply does not match the Nephite capabilities, nor that of the Jews in 600 B.C. to which Nephi, Sam and Zoram would have been familiar. 
(See the next post, Looking Through a Keyhole – Part IV,” for the continuation of these first items to look for in the Land of Promise to verify any model or location)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Looking Through a Keyhole – Part II

Continuing from the last post about looking through a keyhole at a particular spot for placement of the Land of Promise, such as citing the ruins in Central America and saying this must be the Nephitee lands, then trying to find other matches. Instead, we need to approach the scriptural record with a much broader view. Once again, the point is, and always will be, when one starts looking for one specific issue, it may be found or at least identified with one specific area. But where do you go from there? Do you just say, then this must be the Land of Promise. Or do you look further and if something fits, add to your claim, but if it does not fit—like the north-south arrangement of Mormon’s Land of Promise and east-west Mesoamerica? You are left with two choices: 1) Discard your first belief, or 2) Change, fudge, reinterpret, etc., the scriptural record so it does fit. 
    Actually, what you should do is quite simple, and we have mentioned it in these posts before. You go to the scriptural record and follow verbatim exactly what Nephi and Mormon say, and you first start with Nephi:
1. He built a sailing ship (1 Nephi 17:8);
2. It was driven forward by the wind (1 Nephi 18:8);
3. Winds blow currents and they work in tandem, therefore, follow the currents from where he set forth and they will take you to where he would have landed.
    It really is as simple as that, though not very adventuresome—in fact, it is usually difficult work, time consuming, and not always rewarding.
    If you are one of those many people who believe the Land of Promise is in a particular spot, like mentioned in the previous post, then you are approaching the Book of Mormon geography backward. Nephi tells you basically where he landed, Jacob describes that landing area in general terms, Helaman verifies that information. Thus, following those winds and currents can lead you only to one basic area.
    Then, you can verify that one specific area by looking at what Nephi tells you he found exactly where he landed—not some distance away, not where he later founded the City of Nephi (and Land of Nephi), but where he landed. And that info is clearly set forth at the end of Chapter 18:23-25):
1. A climate (which would include temperature, soil, precipitation, etc.), where "seeds from Jerusalem" would grow exceedingly and provide an abundant crop” (1 Nephi 18:24). Now Jerusalem is a Mediterranean Climate as any climate index, chart or map will show you. So where, along that path that the winds and currents would have taken his ship "driven forth before the wind" would you find a Mediterranean climate where his seeds would grow (in 600 B.C. seeds did not grow just anywhere--even today, seeds have a growth area, climate requirement, etc.);
2. A forest (which included all types of animals(1 Nephi 18:25); however, the animals are movable and are only secondary to this). A forest within walking distance of the landing site where they landed and pitched their tents.
3. A location where gold, silver and copper (1 Nephi 18:25) are so plentiful that Nephi remarked about finding it where he landed (within walking distance, such as a distance you would walk in a hunting or exploring journey around your base of operations—the tents you pitched and where you have your base camp). We are not talking about this ore being deep in the ground, or not visible sufficiently that it would not immediately be seen as you walked around. In addition, these ores are mentioned in a single occurrence, so the gold, silver and copper needs to be in single ore (one rock formation—not found just anywhere, but not that rare, either)
4. A location where both domesticated type animals (though running wild at the time) as well as wild beasts (carnivores), would have been found (1 Nephi 18:25). What is found today is immaterial, since animal habitats can change with seasons and over centuries.
    So now you have these three types of things to look for in the area where Nephi’s ship would have sailed.
1) A location where winds and currents would have taken a sailing ship "driven forth before the wind" which means fixed sails—not tacking and maneuvering all over the place—much like everyone sailed before the later Age of Sail before mariners learned to use more than winds and currents to reach destinations;
2) Climate (Mediterranean);
3) Permanent location items (ore, forest, etc.)
    As for me, after more than 30 years of doing this, reading thousands of books (long before the internet), journals of travelers, ancient histories, etc., etc., etc., as well as naval journals, wind and current studies, reading about the men who discovered these winds and currents etc., etc., etc., and studying plants, seeds, climate, etc., etc., etc., only one place stood out, no matter how closely I looked elsewhere—only one!
    This was a single location in all the Western Hemisphere that matches what Nephi describes. And once you have arrived at this point, the next step is to find a place where Nephi would have moved to in order to escape his brother's, and the sons of Ishmael's death threats, that was far enough away so no immediate discovery would be likely, where a defensive city and civilization could be built, and where all the things described in the scriptural record could be found—including gold, silver, copper, other precious metals, including iron, and wood for serious construction efforts (like Solomon's Temple comparison), where buildings of every kind were built north of there (Jaredites), where at least two cities, and likely several more, had been built by Nephi and his descendants over the next 350 years before Mosiah left that area, etc.
Then you look within that area for:
1. Signs of an ancient civilization that more or less begins with the type of construction and technology of 600 B.C. Jerusalem that Nephi, Sam and Zoram would have known;
2. For stone construction where masons cut and dressed stones somewhat like Israel’s building of Jerusalem;
3. For ancient signs of advanced metallurgy, with masons capable of making both decorative and construction type metal products, including weapons;
4. For ancient signs of advanced textiles, such as fine-twined linen, silk, etc.
5. For roads and highways that went from place to place and connected the ancient kingdom where the Nephites are thought to have occupied;
6. For similarities in Egyptian (Lehi) and Mesopotamia (Jaredite and Lehi) cultures;
    After this, you can start looking for perishable but solid evidence of items that at least existed in the Nephite era (including Jaredites), such as:
1. Two interesting animals that would have been unknown in the U.S. in 1830s, but more valuable to man than horses and asses, and on a par with elephants, that are indigenous to the area;
2. Two valuable grains that would not have been known to Joseph Smith, a farmer, in 1830 U.S., but nutritious on a par with wheat and barley;
3. You look for an herb or plant that is a cure for killing fevers, like malaria, and keep people from dying from it (Alma 46:40);
(See the next post and final post in this series, “Looking Through a Keyhole – Part III,” to follow the final steps in location the Land of Promise)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Looking Through a Keyhole – Part I

In a recent Saturday session of General Conference, Dallin H. Oaks spoke on having a “Keyhole View” of the gospel. His point of looking through a keyhole seems quite appropriate to the events surrounding many theorists’ views of the geography of the Book of Mormon and their placement of the location of the Land of Promise. 
   In the more than fifty years I have been involved with the Book of Mormon and the more than thirty years I have been researching the geographical setting of the Jaredite and Nephite nations, and reading all that has been written about this by various individuals and groups, I have found that nearly every person with an opinion on this subject falls prey to Elder Oaks’ example of looking through a keyhole.
When looking through a keyhole, all that can be seen is that very limited view that the keyhole opening allows
The problem arises in thinking the keyhole view is everything on the subject. However, the keyhole view may show what appears to be a very tranquil scene.
The size and shape of the keyhole determines your field of view beyond it
    Again the problem arises when one thinks that what one is seeing is the entire picture, and is unaware that the actual view can be much larger, and provide a total different image than what the limited view through the keyhole provides.
    But what if there is more beyond what can be seen that is important to the scene being viewed.
    As an example, through the keyhole (the singular view) a person can become quite convinced one thing is the case; however, when seeing beyond that (more than the keyhole allows), the view might be very different and change the entire meaning of the first (limited) view.
In reality, the view through the keyhole may show a very inaccurate view of what may be the Big Picture, as these two shots suggest 
    This can be seen in such views as certain approaches show. Take, as an example, those in the early days of the Book of Mormon who heard about the ruins in Central America and immediately decided those were ruins of the Nephites and centered their attention in that area, believing that was the site of the Land of Promise.
    Or take those who decided that the hill Cumorah in upstate western New York was the same as the hill Cumorah mentioned in the scriptural record, and centered their belief and drew up their model that the Great Lakes area was the site of the Nephite nation.
    In both of these instances, the “keyhole view” centered on what could be seen in 1) Mesoamerica, and nothing beyond that area; or 2) on the Hill Cumorah in New York and its surrounding area, with anything beyond that view being ignored.
    In these cases, the architect of the theory builds an entire model of the Land of Promise based on a single idea, looking then for anything that would match that idea and, unfortunately, ignoring anything that did not fit into that pre-conceived idea or model.
    As a result, such people (the theorist) finds themselves having to squeeze something into the model that does not fit, usually by fudging with the scriptural record so it looks like it fits. A good example of this is John L. Sorenson’s model of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise. In order to make Mesoamerica fit, Sorenson had to change the meaning of “north,” “east,” “south,” and “west,” in the scriptural record to what he called “Nephite North.”
Blue Arrow: Land Northward; Green Arrow: Land Southward; Red Arrow East Sea; Yellow Arrow: West Sea; White Line: Narrow Neck of Land 
    This change of directions allowed him to take Mormon's very clear compass directions stated in the scriptural record and alter them to a different meaning that was clearly stated in the scriptural record. Thus, “north” became “west,” and “south” became “east,” resulting in the north-lying Gulf of Mexico becoming the “Sea East,” and the south-lying Pacific Ocean becoming the “Sea West,” and the narrow neck of land being to the west of the Land of Bountiful, and the Land of Desolation being to the west of the narrow neck of land, instead of to the north as Mormon so clearly states it. To support this, he creates his "Nephite North" with a very distinct "clouding the issue" explanation of how the ancient Israelites knew "east" and their cardinal directions.
Joseph Allen’s map of the Land of Promise: Brown Arrow: Land Northward; Green Arrow: Hill Cumorah; Blue Arrow: Land of Many Waters; Red Arrow: Bountiful 
    Or, other theorists like Joseph L. Allen, who positions Bountiful far north in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is about 600 miles away from the Land Northward, the hill Cumorah and his narrow neck of land, as well as placing the Land of Many Waters about 300 miles to the east of the hill Cumorah, though Mormon places this hill within the many waters area, and Bountiful along the border of the Land Northward and Land of Desolation. In addition, others create two Bountifuls in order to squeeze the scriptural record statements into their models.
    Like Phyllis Carol Olive and her “keyhole view” of the hill Cumorah in New York (see the previous 10-part Series: “What is in a Description”); or Rod Meldrum’s “keyhole view” that places the Land of Promise in the heartland of the United States.
Meldrum’s heartland model showing the (Red Arrow) Land of Zarahemla to the west of the (White Arrow) Land of Bountiful, and the (Yellow Arrow) Land of Nephi south of Bountiful, not Zarahemla, all completely out of the alignment in which Mormon describes the land he lived upon, walked upon, and fought across all his life 
    There are several other “keyhole view” approaches that have been written about and persevere despite their not matching the scriptural record in most of the matching descriptions Mormon left us or Nephi wrote about. As an example:
1. Trying to identify the Narrow Neck of Land since it was the most notable feature of the Land of Promise, therefore, looking for a place with a narrow isthmus or neck;
2. Belief in Moroni’s comment about “this continent,” limiting the Land of Promise to North America;
3. Parochial view of the United States, eliminating other areas, such as Canada, Latin America, etc.
4. Belief in U.S. Mound Builders mounds being built by the Nephites;
5. Belief that the Land of Promise of the Western Hemisphere was limited to the land promised in the Book of Mormon;
6. Trying to match Book of Mormon geography to existing geography;
7. Belief that any one scripture (such as Helaman 3:8) is the only determining factor;
8. Looking for identifiable sites of cities and events, such as locating the Waters of Mormon;
9. Looking for a people in the Western Hemisphere with a written history;
10. Looking for a location of the final Lamanite-Nephite battle area, with buried bones, weapons, etc.;
11. Looking for a Peninsular area, such as Malay or Baja California, since the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water;
12. Articles in the Times & Seasons suggesting where Lehi landed, written by Joseph Smith or other early-day leaders;
13. Prophetic comments about America being the Land of Promise, and centering within the United States.
   The point is, and always will be, when one starts looking for one specific issue, it may be found or at least identified with one specific area. But where do you go from there? Do you just say, well this must be the Land of Promise. Or do you look further and if something fits, add to your claim, but if it does not fit—like the north-south arrangement of Mormon’s Land of Promise and east-west Mesoamerica? You are left with two choices: 1) Discard your first belief, or 2) Change, fudge, reinterpret, etc., the scriptural record so it does fit.
(See the next post, “Looking Through a Keyhole – Part II,” to see what others have done and what one should do)