Friday, September 20, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part V

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of John L. Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, along with our responses.
Gardner: “I propose that if Mesoamerica is a good fit for the Book of Mormon’s real world geography…”
Response: And if it is not, as we have pointed out in these articles for the past several years and showing without question the lack of matching Mormon’s description or almost anything else relating to the scriptural record, what then? And since it is not a good fit, then why continue to beat a dead horse? Why continue to believe in and support a geographical location that does not match the Mormon’s descriptions? Why, indeed?
The Mayan ruins of Tulum along the Yucatan east coast overlooking the Caribbean

The only thing in Mesoamerica that can draw a Nephite conclusion is the ancient ruins that date from the last century B.C. onward into early A.D. times, and cover today’s southern Mexico, the Yucatan, and much of Guatemala and Belize. The Nephite presence there is easily understood when reading the description of Nephite emigration that is easily explained through Hagoth’s ships taking many people to a “land which was northward” (Alma 63:4).
    Continuing with Gardner: “…then information about Mesoamerica may be used to reexamine and refine the nature of that fit.”
    Also, in footnote #5, Gardner states: “John L. Sorenson, “Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe!,” FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 6 no. 1 (1994), 305 notes: “This supposed “standard scheme” [cardinal directions] is actually a mental artifact of Western European culture developed largely since the rise of the compass and of science not many centuries ago.” Sorenson’s defense of his understanding of directions is based on appropriate anthropology. The refinement suggested here is the result of a more specific application of the Mesoamerican data. However, an important point of difference is that Sorenson believes (p. 308) that: “Aside from whatever these translated words for directions denoted in relation to the natural world, their use in the language of the Nephites does not seem to show that they paid prime attention to the sun’s rising or setting.” I will examine the evidence that there is evidence that the Nephite terms are based on a prime attention to the path of the sun.”
Adam’s Garden home was eastward in Eden

Response: Herein lies the problem. Directions were never a western artifact. The directions were extremely important to the ancient Hebrews, and one or another is mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis 2:8: “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden.” Numerous other translations render it “planted a garden in Eden in the east” or “planted a garden toward the east in Eden.” In another instance, “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). And “As they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar” (Genesis 11:2). In addition, Cherubim were stationed on the east side of the garden of Eden and Adam and Eve were exiled to the east (Genesis 3:24); Jewish parts of the burnt offering of the fowl Ascension ritual, with the rear of the bird thrown to the east of the altar, while the head and body move westward, into the fiery presence of God; the tabernacle’s entrance faces east; Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glory comes from the east and enters the temple from the east; when Lot departed from Abraham, he went east (Genesis 13:11); the children of Abraham’s concubines are sent east (Genesis 25:6); Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh chose to dwell outside and to the east of the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:8); the molten sea I stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east” (1 Kings 7:25); and he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward over against the south” (1 Kings 7:39).
    Not to belabor the point, but directions are stated throughout the Old Testament. In addition, according to M.G. Easton, (Illustrated Eastern Bible Dictionary, 3rd Edition), the “orient,” (mizrah) means the rising of the sun, and the “east country” is the country lying to the east of Syria, the Elmais (Zechariah 8:7). “Kadem” (qedem) is used for “east” only when the four quarters of the world are described (Genesis 13:14; 28:14); and mizrah when only the east is distinguished from the west (Joshua 11:3; Psalms 50:1; 103:12). Literally, “eastward” is into the land of kadem (Genesis 25:6), i.e., the lands lying east of Palestine, namely Arabia, Mesopotamia, etc.
Hebrew words and directions of the cardinal points. Note—in a language without vowels (which are decided upon by the reader), several Hebraic words look alike and can have different meetings

In addition, The Hebrew term kedem properly means that which is before or in front of a person, and was applied to the east from the custom of turning in that direction when describing the points of the compass, before, behind, the right and the left representing respectively east, west, south and north. (Job 23:8, 9)—this is the same method westerners use to teach children directions, only we were taught to face north when saying the directions: north, east (right hand), south (behind us) and west (left hand).
    The term east to the Hebrews was  generally used to refer to the lands lying immediately eastward of Palestine; on the other hand mizrach is used of the far east with a less definite signification (Isaiah 42:2, 25; 43:5; 46:11).
    One important thing about cardinal directions and their use dating far into antiquity, i.e., north, south, east and west, is that while different cultures think different spatially, i.e., westerners think left to right; Chinese top to bottom, and easterners right to left, that all use the same directions.
Red Arrows show that while one moves forward in a dingy, the rower faces to the rear, or where he has been

Westerners write from left to right, think lineally from left to right, and see time moving forward, left to right; Easterners (including Hebrews/Jews) write from right to left, think lineally from right to left, and see time moving forward right to left (from the past to the future), like the man above rowing a boat. However, both think, write, and describe cardinal directions in the same manner.
    Interestingly enough, a Psychological Science (November 2010) article by Lera Boroditsky, from MIT and now a highly distinguished cognitive scientist at Stanford University, stated that the first culture known to tie time’s march to the cardinal directions was the Pompuraawan, a remote aboriginal tribe in Australia, who do not have terms for spatial relationships such as “left” or “in front of,” but use cardinal directions, east to west, as in “my south arm,” and usually gesturing to the sun to indicate the time of day (Lera Boroditsky, “Remembrances of times East: absolute spatial representations of time in an Australian aboriginal community,” Psychology Science (11), Nov 21, 2010, pp1635-1639).
    The point is, while cultures may differ in many ways, the cardinal directions have always been known and understood by the vast majority of western and eastern cultures—and these directions are situated in the same compass directions.
Gardner: “In short, an understanding of the Mesoamerican directional system offers an explanation for the way that Book of Mormon directions correspond to that geography, without recourse to an artificial shift in the directions. While Mesoamerica’s kilter of Mormon’s descriptions in the scriptural record and John L. Sorenson’s explanation of a shift in cardinal directions is no longer acceptable—we are going to come up with another answer to this direction problem that is more acceptable.”
Response: Perhaps we would all be better served if we recognize that Mesoamerica simply does not fit the descriptions in any way that Mormon has given us—both in directions and in numerous descriptions listed by Mormon. However, since that is not likely to happen, let us take a look at Gardner’s “new” Mesoamerican Directional System:
Gardner: “Scholars have found a very similar directional system among the various Mesoamerican cultures. Much of the data come from the Maya cultures because the ability to translate the carved and painted texts provides a unique view of pre-contact culture currently unavailable for any other Mesoamerican people. Nevertheless, what may be more carefully worked out in the Maya data has sufficient corroboration in data from other cultures to allow an essentially pan-Mesoamerican orientation system.”
Response: This is not accurate. See the first Gardner comment and Response in the next post.
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part VI,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, along with our responses)

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, the refusal to let go of a theory that doesn't match is common in the scientific community as well. Rather that take contradictory observational evidence as a reason to discard the theory, it is instead used as motivation to double-down on the defense of the theory. New formulas, explanations, and propositions are brought forward which make the original theory more convoluted and complicated to a level that "only an expert" could possibly understand it.

    I believe that is a mortal practice of imperfect man to use our own supposed intelligence to complicate things in defense of our own philosophies, rather than to trust God and the simple truth that is right in front of us.

    There is much that will one day be revealed...and not all will be "secrets" that were kept from our eyes by God. But rather, they were kept from our understanding because we preferred chasing our own philosophies at all costs, until we were no longer able to see the truth. Because we choose to believe the narratives of imperfect men, we become blind to the wondrous truth of a perfect God.

    I'm not saying that Mesoamericanists are bad people or that they have ill intent. But it appears to be a case where incorrect assumptions were made from the start, and no evidence pointing that out can undo the intellectual investment that has been sunk into the theory for so long. It has become easier to ignore and explain away mismatches than to clean the slate and start over.