Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Elevation of Letter VII to “Sainthood” – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII and how it is being elevated by Jonathan Neville far beyond its level of importance.
    Before moving on with the Cowdery Letter VII, we need to draw attention to two more aspects of the hill Cumorah in New York. Since Mormon tells us that the Nephites pitched their tents all around the hill Cumorah, that would place his troops with their backs to the hill and facing outward to receive the soon to be approaching Lamamites.
    Now, if you are going to put your back to a hill, chances are that hill is going to be a protection to your rear, i.e., making it impossible for the enemy to creep up on your back. So, keeping in mind that this hill served as the rear protection, allowing Lamanites only to attack from the front, the idea of the hill should be one that would deter an attacking force from overrunning, and provide the defenders (Nephites) on the ground in front a feeling of support behind them. Now, if we look at the hill in New York, it provides neither of these two protections.
This low-lying hill provides no protection from the rear, once any part of the Lamanite force broke through the other side, it could run over the hill in short order and sweep down on the rear of the opposite fighting force. This hill would defeat the purpose of having any protection to the rear of your fighting force

The other part is that the hill would need to be of such height or topography as to discourage an attacking force from running up and over it to attack the opposing ranks from the rear. However, the hill in New York is low and narrow without any topography configuration.
This is the height difference of the hill Cumorah in New York. As can be seen, an attacking military force could run up this gentle slope in a minute or two and be down on an unsuspecting force beyond the ridge before they even knew they were under attack. Again, defeating the purpose of having a hill or mountain at your back

In addition, the hill in New York has no width, i.e., an attacking force could run across this hill from side to side in a hand full of minutes and attack the Nephites from their unprotected rear because of its limited height.
    If Mormon’s idea of gaining an advantage of having a mountain or difficult to scale hill at the back of his entire force around Cumorah, this hill in New York would serve absolutely no purpose whatever. And since Mormon gives us no clue as to the advantage to which he was referring other than circling the hill Cumorah with the Nephite encampment of 230,000 men under the command of 24 separate leaders (Mormon and Moroni being two of them), then this concept seems to be the only military-value suggestion, and if so, the hill in New York would simply be out of the question. In fact, anyone even suggesting that the final battle took place here simply has no understanding of military tactics, fighting deathly hand-to-hand combat or what men are capable of doing when the chips are down and life hangs in the balance.
The hill is so low that any attacking force breaking through at one side could easily (yellow arrow) race over the hill and attack (white line and arrows) from the rear of the defenders

To think that 230,000 men came to this inconsequential hill to fight a last-ditch battle without at least a chance at survival is simply not looking at reality. People, especially fighting men with experience, simply do not give up their lives without a murmur like in some novel. They fight to the bitter end, always looking for some way out of a difficult situation. After all, there were alternatives to that last battle, even Mormon thought he might be able to find some advantage over the Lamanites, fully understanding their superior numbers.
    The surrounding area of this hill has no military value whatsoever. It is flat and fully accessible to an attacking force. For 360º around the entire hill, there are no obstructions to stop constant fusillades of arrows, rushing spearmen, sling-throwing stones, etc.
    Now, understanding the lack of value of the hill Cumorah in New York, let’s take a further look at Letter VII. It should be noted that, despite Neville’s claim to the opposite, it was not written with the help of Joseph Smith, and thought it appeared in the Messenger and Advocate in 1835 as part a series of exchanges between Oliver Cowdery and Phelps, it was not specifically about the hill Cumorah, but about numerous visions and events surrounding the organization of the Church.
    After it was published, Joseph Smith instructed his scribes to copy Oliver's letters into his journal as part of his history. Then Orson Pratt copied parts of Letter VII into his widely read pamphlet, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (1840). Then Benjamin Winchester copied it into his Gospel Reflector (March 15, 1841). Then Don Carlos Smith copied it into the Times and Seasons (Vol. 2, No. 12, April 15, 1841). Then the letters were compiled into a pamphlet in England.
The reasons all this copying and repetition took place was because Oliver’s letters continued the fundamental scope of the founding of the Church, from the First Vision to the conclusion. It was intended for publication through W.W. Phelps—who was as an early leader of the Latter Day Saint movement. He published the Evening and Morning Star and later, printed the first edition of the Book of Commandments that became a standard work of the church and wrote numerous hymns, some of which are included in the current version of the Church’s hymnal.
    It is far more likely that Phelps, Pratt, Winchester and Don Carlos used this information because of the visions and outline of events that led to the organization of the Church and founding its various aspects such as baptism and the priesthood, rather than outlining something about the hill Cumorah. Certainly Joseph Smith’s interests in this was his own story which, for the first time, was put down on paper including the First Vision and other important events that he wanted included in his history. To make it sound like Joseph wanted this Letter VII in his history because it named the hill Cumorah in New York as the last battle ground of the Nephites would not have been the deciding factor for the letter to be included in his history, or even in the other publications Neville cites.
    Here's the introduction to the British pamphlet: “We have frequently been solicited to publish, in pamphlet form, the following letters of Oliver Cowdery, addressed to W.W. Phelps. We at last avail ourselves of the opportunity to do so, being fully assured that they will be read with great interest by the Saints generally; while from the peculiar work on which they treat, together with the spirit of truthfulness in which they are written, not forgetting their style as compositions, we have no doubt but that many of the honest-hearted may, by their perusal, be led to a further examination of those principles, the origin of which is therein set forth.
    It should be understood that Phelps wrote answers to these letters, which generally contained some questions upon the subject of Cowdery’s letters to him, accounting for the style in which they are written.
Here is Winchester's introduction: “The following Letters of Oliver Cowdery were first published in the "Messenger and Advocate," in Kirtland, Ohio, 1834-5. Believing they will be read with great interest, and satisfactorily received by all our patrons; therefore, we cheerfully insert them in the "Gospel Reflector.” Indeed, the particularities, and important incidents, connected with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, have ever been, and are now, a subject of inquiry. He added, “The following Letters contain all the information necessary upon that subject. They were written to W. W. Phelps, who wrote answers to them ; but we shall not publish them: for he was also a member of the society; and his letters were generally brief — questions upon the above subject. This will account for the style in which the following are written.”
    The letters were about the formation of the Church—a history so to speak. However, in Letter VII, Cowdery departs from his earlier style of stating the events in factual manner and launches into a romanticized story of the battle of Cumorah, including a lengthy opinion of the battle in which there is almost no inclusion in the scriptural record. It is part of this expansion that Neville and other “one hill Cumorah” advocates base their claims—not on the actual scriptural record.
(See the next post, The Elevation of Letter VII to “Sainthood” – Part III,” for more information about Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII and how it is being elevated by Neville far beyond its level of importance)

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Elevation of Letter VII to “Sainthood” – Part I

Jonathan Neville has been promoting Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII for some time and we have written about it on occasion. He handed out some copies of this at a conference he held promoting his theory of North America so people could put it on Instagram and Twitter. His letter VII is the crowning point of his entire Heartland model theory and should be carefully looked at and discussed.
Neville’s map of the locations of the three major land areas of the Land Southward, Zarahemla, Bountiful and Nephi; however, he has them in the wrong locations, showing (white circle) Zarahemla to the west of (red circle) Bountiful and (green circle) Nephi to the South of Bountiful—not the way Mormon describes them at all (Alma 22:27-34). He also has (blue square) Zarahemla next to Bountiful, however, they were separated by an unknown land, and the three areas would not have been that close to the Land of Desolation, which was beyond a narrow neck of land (shown here way out of position). Also his (orange arrow) Sea West does not border the Land of Nephi, and (purple arrow) his Sea East does not border the Land of Nephi, to just name a few problems

As shown, his map of the Land of Promise is contrary to almost everything Mormon wrote about the location of the lands in Alma 22:27-34. We have also pointed out that Oliver Cowdery, who was convinced the Hill Cumorah in New York was the same hill mentioned in the Book of Mormon, first by the Jaredites as the hill Ramah, and by the Nephites as Cumorah. We have pointed out numerous times how that hill does not meet the specifics about the area that Mormon writes about.
    It should be kept in mind that Oliver Cowdery was a rather excitable individual when it came to the gospel. He at one time left the Church over his disagreements with Joseph Smith. He would get carried away talking about the Hill Cumorah, and as shown in Letter VII describing the last battle, he attempts to describe events as though he was there, but of course he was not—some of which is not according to the scriptural record.
Oliver Cowdery claims the battle took place only in the West Valley, though the hill is rather small and the land is flat all around the hill for many miles. The white curve shows the narrowness of the hill

One important note is that in his description he singles out the valley to the west of Cumorah, which is about a mile wide and a little over a mile long, as the area where the entire battle takes place, which is both ridiculous an inexcusable—a battle of some half a million combatants in a square mile. Besides, Mormon makes it very clear that when the Nephites arrived at Cumorah to prepare for this final battle, they pitched their tents in a particular manner, which is quite important, for he chose Cumorah (Mormon 6:2) hoping it would give him some advantage over the Lamanites (Mormon 6:4).
The Hill Cumorah, showing the Nephite (yellow circle) tent line of as it circles the hill per Mormon’s description. The West Valley where Cowdery claims the fighting took place is to the right (west) but note the total flatness all around the hill where the battle would have actually taken place—nothing would have kept the Lamanites from coming at all the area of tent occupation, up over the hill and to the Nephites on the other side if they were not deterred

Response: Of this Mormon says: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4, emphasis added).
    First of all, the many waters, rivers and fountains mentioned by Mormon are far away from the hill Cumorah in New York. As an example the nearest body of water to Cumorah is Canandaigua Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, which is 17 miles away, It is 19 miles to Lake Ontario; 40 miles to Conesus Lake; 45 miles to Owasco Lake; 50 miles to Skaneateles Lake; 62 miles to Onondaga Lake; 76 miles to Oneida Lake; 95 miles to Lake Erie. There are no rivers closer to Cumorah than the Genesee River, which is 25 miles away. There are very small brooks and creeks running through the area feeding into Lake Ontario, with the closest being Hathaway Brook, which runs past the Smith farm on the west and can be stepped over; then there is Red Creek/Ganargua Creek, 22 miles away.
    The point is, this area does not fit the statement of Mormon that Cumorah was in a land of many waters, rivers and fountains, since we are talking about a hill (or mountain) from which no water can be seen, let alone used to feed and water 230,000 troops, plus wives and children.
    Secondly, in Mormon’s conjunctive sentence, he discusses pitching tents and hoping to have an advantage over the Lamanites. For those who have not been to the hill Cumorah in New York, it is a drumlin (resulting from glaciers) that is low and rolling, like half a barrel split end to end and resting on the ground (or half an egg), its length running north and south. It is about 100 feet high and about a mile long, and is very easily climbed because of its gentle slope to the east and west.
An aerial view of the Hill Cumorah with totally flat land all around for miles, showing the tent line and (orange arrows) approaches to the battle site from any direction by the Lamanites. There is no way that this battle of some half million warriors took place in only the west valley as Cowdery so adamantly describes, showing he had no idea what actually took place and was simply carried away within his own imagination

A comment from Jonathan Neville regarding his Letter VII promotion, states: “I keep hearing reports that more and more people are reading and discussing Letter VII. We're still a long way from having every member of the Church read it during 2016, but we're getting closer all the time. Sharing these memes is one way to help.”
    For those unfamiliar with the word “meme,” it literally means “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.
    Evidently, Neville does not care if Oliver Cowdery’s words are altered, since he uses the term that allows for that, nor that “memes” are rarely, if ever, used to refer to a serious matter, such as his goal of trying to change the thinking of the entire Church to the hill Cumorah being in New York. But all that aside, it should be a curiosity why Neville rarely, if ever, points out Land of Promise scripture references and descriptions in the same manner he does Cowdery’s Letter VII. It is as though to Neville, the only thing that really matters in all the Book of Mormon geographical arrangement in determining the location of the Land of Promise is an obscure writing by Oliver Cowdery in a letter written 7 May, 1831 addressed to W. W. Phelps.
    At the time, Phelps and Cowdery were exchanging information, i.e., generally, Phelps would ask questions regarding the First Vision, early organization of the Church and some of Joseph’s first visions and revelations. Despite Neville’s making every effort to convince everyone otherwise, this letter VII was not written in any part by Joseph Smith other than the fact that Cowdery lifted some of Joseph’s remarks about the First Vision and other early events to include in his letters to Phelps.
    Oliver Cowdery did, in fact, assure his reader (Phelps) that his comments to him “shall be founded upon facts,” but Phelp’s responses contained speculation and rhetorical flourishes that far overstepped the bounds of fact, such as: "the Commissioners stated that "thirty tribes, containing a population of 156,310, have held treaties with the United States, and that there is an Indian population east of the Mississippi, of 92,676,"-making a total of 405,286. Now allowing the same number west of the Mountains, and suppose 800,000, in the northern regions of the Canadas, and 500,000 in South America, there will be 2,110,562 of the sons of Joseph, and of the remnants of the Jews."
When Benjamin Winchester copied Cowdery’s letter into his Gospel Reflector (March 15, 1841), he added, his speculation about the geography question: "At length they [the Nephites] commenced settlements in the region of country, not far from the Isthmus of Darien." Orson Pratt, quoting from Cowdedr’s letters in his pamphlet, speculated that "The Lamanites, at that time, dwelt in South America, and the Nephites in North  America... This war commenced at the Isthmus of Darien, and was very destructive to both nations for many years."
    It is interesting that both writers, Winchester and Pratt, felt completely free to add their own views within Cowdery’s information—might this have been because in their view, Oliver Cowdery’s comments were in themselves speculative regarding the Nephites and the Lamanites?
    After all, Orson Pratt, was called into the original Quorum of the Twelve on April 26,1835, by Joseph Smith and remained a member of the Twelve through October 3, 1881, when, at the age of 70, he died. During this time he was considered the leading Church theologian and writer until his death. Pratt producing an early missionary tract, "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions," which contained the earliest known public printing of an account of Joseph Smith's First Vision and also contains material similar to that later published as the 1842 Articles of Faith. But Pratt’s insertion was speculation, and when Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter based on Pratt's pamphlet, he edited out all of Pratt's speculation and explained, simply, that "The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."
(See the next post, The Elevation of Letter VII to “Sainthood” – Part II,” for more information about Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII and how it is being elevated by Neville far beyond its level of importance)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part IV

Continuing from the previous post with more information on how Sorenson, the guru of Mesoamerican geography, has skewed the understanding of the scriptural descriptions of the Land of Promise in order to match them to his Mesoamerican model. Still setting distances, Sorenson continues with his limited geographic model by limiting the distances involved.
• Sorenson: (p15) “As to the land northward itself, our key data about distances come in the Jaredite account of the last years of warfare among them. As the Jaredites neared their final destruction, the prophet Ether fled for his life from the king’s headquarters in Moron, “hid himself in the cavity of a rock by day, and by night he went forth viewing the things which should come upon the people (Ether 13:13).”
Ether had only his viewpoint from his cave, where he hid during the day, and wandering short distances at night

Response: There is a tendency to read into this passage more than is there, i.e., that there was a singular cavity of a rock, or cave, and Ether went forth from there and back again, never moving beyond the area of this one cave or cavity; however, the scriptural record does not say that, nor does it say anything to cause one to not consider that as he went out at night to view the happenings, that he found another cave some distance away in which to spend a night, and go forth into the battlefield for the next day, etc.
    Thus, Ether could have covered a large area over several days and nights of travel, finding a place to hide out during the day that was in the vicinity of where he had traveled that night. He may have returned to one specific cave on occasion where he spent some time recording what he has seen in the excursions of the previous night. We simply do not know for this is not stated in the record.
    Another thought to consider, that the Lord had Ether go forth at night into a battle area where his mind was on the battles of the day, and he was shown what they were like through a vision so he could write about it. The point is, we simple do not know and any guess is good as the next one.
• Sorenson: (p15) “After eight years of intermittent combat, battles were still going on in the land of Moron, still within Ether’s observation range. And he was still in his cave after a population of more than two million, which had covered “all the face of the land,” had been killed (Ether 14:11,22-23; 15:2).
Response: First, it is doubtful that these two  million were killed in just one area, and wherever it was, the stench of the smell would drive people out of the area for quite some time, including Ether in a local cave.
    Second, in Ether 14:22, how would Ether from his own limited observation of events that bodies were strewn upon the face of the land; or how would he know the stench was upon “all the face of the land (14:23). This would not have been possible from one small area covered in a night. However, all of this and much more could be known through vision or instruction from the Lord.
Wandering around at night, Ether’s view would have been limited, and in no way could he have covered an entire battleground where he saw that millions had died

Nor could Ether have known from the vantage of his cave and wandering at night “that there had been slain by the sword nearly two million people—two million of mighty men, and also their wives and their children” (Ether 15:2).
    Third, obviously there was more to it than that, for Ether writes of acts Coriantumr performs, such as writing an epistle to Shiz, etc., that Ether could not have observed at night by wandering about. How would he know of secret combinations fighting against Coriantumr by wandering about at night after the activities were completed and people retired so Ether could wander about safely.
    The only way he could have known such things is that he was given a vision of these events occurring.
• Sorenson: (p15) “The conclusion seems clear. The final Jaredite wars all took place in the land northward within a territory small enough that Ether could observe most of the action while moving about only short distances from his cave base.”
Response: Reason alone suggests that two million people in running battles could not be killed in such a small area as Sorenson claims. Two million bodies is going to cover quite a large area, especially resulting from running battles as the scriptural record describes. We are not talking about weapons of mass destruction here—there were no rockets, bombs, hand grenades, machine guns, etc. These two million were killed with hand held weapons such as spears and swords, or with slings and rocks. After all, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed only about 70,000 in the first day, i.e., from the actual bomb itself (many died from after effects), and about 40,000 at Nagasaki in the first day.
The Atomic Bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, killing an estimated 70,000 people from the blast

Two million people would be 35 times the number killed at Hiroshima and about 70 times the number killed at Nagasaki. That is not going to happen in a small area that could be observed from a single location, or walking around the distance of a night from a central location.
    The idea of using Sorenson’s measurement device here of the space being limited to what Ether could cover walking around from one central location during the night is obviously out of the question and serves no real purpose other than to show us how far the area must have covered and the distances Ether would have had to cover if he personally observed what had taken place. Another answer would be the Lord simply told him all the details, while Ether went out at night to verify the local events in his area.
• Sorenson: (p16) “A hundred miles from Moron to the hill Ramah would probably accommodate all these facts.”
Response: Hardly. As show above, we are talking about a great distance, which included running battles from the west sea to the east seashore, from the far northern limits of the Land Northward and the Waters of Ripliancum to the Land of Moron, which was just a little north of the narrow neck.
    Sorenson’s restrictive comments of this battleground are self-serving for the purpose of showing that his limited Mesoamerica distances are valid.
• Sorenson (p16) “Confirmation of the close proximity of Ramah to Moron lies in the account about King Omer. He ruled early in Jaredite history, when the immigrant population could have been only tiny.”
Response: Perhaps we should set the record straight again on such a matter. First of all, exploding populations are not an uncommon thing given the right set of circumstances. And we certainly cannot judge the Jaredites by modern family sizes. After all, there were 24 families to begin with (Ether 6:16), and the Brother of Jared had 22 children (Ether 6:2) and the number of Jared’s children were 12 (6:20). If we add those two families together (34 children) and divide by two we get an average of 17 children per couple. We have no way of knowing if that is a fair example or not, but it is the only example we have. We also find they probably lived a long time—the only example of that we have is Coriantum who lived to be 142, and his wife lived to be 102 years old, which gives us an average age of about 121 years. 
    Again, we do not know this since we have no other factors involved. But based on what we have, if each of the original 24 couples averaged 17 children they would have started out with a total group of 408 children and 48 adults (456 people), in one generation, that number would be multiplied to 204 additional couples, at 17 children each for 3468 children, plus 408 adults 3876 people; in the third generation (about 60 to 70 years after landing), the community would have grown to 1734 couples times 17 children each for 29,478 children, plus 3468 adults, or 32,946 people, plus whatever number of the 456 people of the earlier generation that were still alive, or a possible community of 33,402 population.
    If Jared and his brother were about 50 when they left Mesopotamia and sailed to the promised land, and figuring 70 years after landing, that would make them 120 years, or about the average age mentioned above, so it is possible that when the events in choosing a king for the Jaredites took place (Ether 6:22-27), this could have been the population of their community in the days of Kib, Orihah’s son, or Jared’s grandson.
    So in the days Sorenson mentions of Omer, who was Jared’s 2nd great grandson, or two more generations, we are looking at as much as 2.2 million people or so. It hardly seems like we can call this a “tiny” number. Of course this is all speculation, but using the only numbers the scriptural record provides us, and averaging them over five generations to Omer, we are talking about very close to two million people-even half that number would be a large population.
• Sorenson: (p16) “Many Latter-day Saints will have to change their thinking markedly to adjust to the dimensions we have discussed.”
Response: It seems like John L. Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists should change their thinking markedly to adjust to the scriptural record as it is written and as Mormon described what took place and what the lands and people were like. Certainly this exercise in how Mesoamericanists think, especially the guru of the model, John L. Sorenson, and how they get from what Mormon wrote, which is rather simple and clear, to what they think, which is convoluted and indefensible. However, it is not likely they will change their thinking anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part III

Continuing from the previous post with more information on how Sorenson, the guru of Mesoamerican geography, has skewed the understanding of the scriptural descriptions of the Land of Promise in order to match them to his Mesoamerican model—the following is a continuation from the last post where Sorenson continues with his not-so-narrow neck of land:
• Sorenson: (p13-14) “Of course, additional clues in the Book of Mormon help confirm these dimensions. One vital check in the length of the combined lands occurs in the story of King Limhi’s exploring party. Ruling over a people in bondage in the land of Nephi, Limhi sent explorers to relocate the Zarahemla from which their grandfathers had come nearly 50 years earlier (Mosiah 8:7-8)…unfortunately, their route somehow bypassed Zarahemla, to then through the “narrow neck of land” without their even realizing it, and brought them to the final battle ground of the earlier people, the Jaredites.”
Response: This sounds reasonable until we really look at it seriously. After all, this narrow neck as we have said would have to be at least 25 to 35 miles wide to take a Nephite a day and a half to cross. As an example, the distance from Provo, Utah, to Sandy, Utah, is 28 miles. If you were crossing the freeway area from east to west at Thanksgiving Point, just south of the Point of the Mountain, just about in the middle of that distance, about 14 miles south of Sandy and about 14 miles north of Provo, you would have no idea you were passing by Provo or BYU or the “Y” on the mountain, or by Sandy, Draper, or the Four-Corners Temple. They simply would not be visible, though only a few short miles away.
    In fact, Sorenson’s claim that Limhi’s expedition could have known they were passing through a narrow neck of land that Mormon describes is ludicrous unless they were high enough up on a mountain to see at least in one direction or the other far enough to see the ocean and understand it was narrow like that on both sides of them.
Immigration Canyon, outside of Salt Lake City in the area between Pioneer Gulch and Badger Hollow. The hills running through the middle of the area are less than a mile away. How far could you see if there was an ocean beyond them or behind you on the other side of similar hills?

• Sorenson: (p14) “Surely diligent men such as the king would have sent on this mission would not have pressed on much farther.”
    These men knew they were on a do-or-die mission that would save them and their families from the Lamanites and continuing to live under servitude. Why would they not have pressed on? They knew Zarahemla was out there somewhere—but where? Surely, over the next hill, past the next forest, across the next canyon. Diligent men don’t give up and neither did these until they reached the destroyed cities and battlefield, which they thought was a destroyed city of Zarahemla. Then and only then, they turned back.
• Sorenson: (p14) “So it is unreasonable that the battleground of the Jaredites where Limhi’s explorers ended up would have been more than 100 miles into the land northward from the “line at the neck.”
Response: Again, there is no reason to believe as much as or as little as 100 miles distance was covered—there simply is nothing in the scriptural record for one to judge this distance covered. We don’t even know if they moved in a straight line northward, or weaved back and forth, or doubled back at times. We only know they were “lost in the wilderness for the space of many days,” but even so, “yet, they were diligent.” They did not return back to the city of Lehi-Nephi until they had found the remains of a destroyed people and assumed their mission was finished.
    It might be difficult for modern man to understand, but being in unknown country with hills, mountains, forests, canyons, etc., without a compass or topographical map, is quite difficult unless one had been there before. But having been in such a situation on more than one occasion, it is easily understandable and self-explanatory.
(Image B – Mountainous territory could have existed along the narrow neck of land. What sits to either side of a canyon or pass simply is beyond site and impossible to know in territory where someone has never before been or had maps to make such judgments
How Sorenson decides that was 100 miles covered is simply picking a number he wants to claim.
• Sorenson: (p14) “The hill Ramah, where the Jaredites destroyed themselves, was the same hill as Nephite Cumorah (Ether 15:11). This whole affair tells us, then, that the total distance from the city of Neph to the last battlefield at Ramah or Cumorah is unlikely to have been more than 450 or perhaps 500 miles.”
Red Line: Distance Alma and his people covered in 21 days (probably between 315 and 420 miles); Blue Dotted Line: Distance from city of Nephi to the city of Zarahemla is unknown (it may be the same as above or more)—it is simply impossible to assign distances to these areas with such limited information

Response: Again, as stated earlier, the 21-day trip from the Waters of Mormon (near the city of Nephi) to the “land of Zarahemla” (how far from the city is unknown) would be a distance of somewhere between 315 to 420 miles, covering between 15 to 20 miles a day by a frightened group of people fleeing for their lives, having been warned by the Lord on more than one occasion that the kings guards and the Lamanite army were after them. Nor was this a continuous 21-days, but scattered over weeks, months or even years so there would have been limited fatigue factors.
    It should be noted here that the reason for the Limited Geography Model was to show that the original idea of a continent-large Book of Mormon Land of Promise model was simply out of the question based on reading the geographical content of the scriptural record. However, Sorenson’s and other Mesoamericanists’ limited geography model is extremely small to compensate for their small model in Mesoamerica. Yet, the scriptural record does not justify either the large continent-sized model, nor the Mesoamerican Limited Geography sized model. Obviously, the actual Land of Promise was larger than Mesoamerica, but much smaller than a continent.
• Sorenson: (p15) “Keep in mind that these figures are reasonable estimates in line with statements in the scriptures; more exact distances cannot be determined.”
Response: Certainly exact figures cannot be determined, but more exact than those Sorenson uses can be, as we have pointed out. Still, to try and determine distances is usually going to be little more than guesswork that actually serves little or no purpose, other than to support one model or another, and confuse the issue of e event.
• Sorenson: (p15) “The hill Ramah/Cumorah seems, then, to have been within 100 miles of the narrow neck of land, and this is consistent with the Nephites’ naming the southernmost portion of the land northward “Desolation,” which included the last battlefield, strewn with bones and rusting weapons (Alma 22:30-31).”
The Land of Desolation was north of the narrow neck of land, and the Land of Bountiful was south of the narrow neck (Alma 22:31), there being a line or border in between (Alma 22:32)

Response: First of all, contrary to popular belief, the Land of Desolation was not called such because wars, death and battles that had been fought there, let alone the “last battle.” It was called such because there were no trees growing in it. As Mormon states: “Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land” (Helaman 3:5, emphasis added). To make sure we understood the meaning of “desolate,” Mormon adds: “And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber,” and then in addition, Mormon adds, “but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate” (Helaman 3:6).
    That is, the word desolate is used in two ways or for two meanings: “Destitute or deprived of inhabitants; desert; uninhabited; denoting either stripped of inhabitants, or never having been inhabited; as a desolate isle; a desolate wilderness” and also: “Laid waste; in a ruinous condition; neglected; destroyed” (Noah Webster, 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language).
    It can also mean “deserted of God, or deprived of comfort,” as well as: “I will make the cities of Judah desolate without an inhabitant” (Jeremiah 9:11). Today, the word means: “deserted of people and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness.” While all of this shows meaning to Mormon’s description, there is no mention of wars, battles, or any final battle.
    Actually, the Land Northward was first called, and forever referred to by the Nephites, as the Land of Desolation, just as Mormon from time to time uses the term the Land of Zarahemla when meaning an area much larger than the actual land called Zarahemla. This is because when Limhi’s 43-man expedition ran across the destroyed Jaredite kingdom, they had no idea they were in an area later known among the Nephites as the “Land Northward.” But later, when the Nephites identified the narrow neck and pass, and referred to the Land Northward, it was called the “Land of Desolation.” This is why Mormon, when describing the lands and their placements in Alma 22:27-34, it basically did not refer to anything other in the land beyond the narrow neck the “Land of Desolation” (Alma 22:27-32.” In this verse, he uses just the differences of “Land of Bountiful” and “Land of Desolation,” and the “Land Southward” and the “Land Northward.”
In the area of the Land of Many Waters in Ecuador are over 237 lakes, ponds, springs, rivers, waterfalls, and other bodies of water
When Mormon writes about the Land of Many Waters later, he does not do so as if it is a title of land, but that it is a descriptive area, such as: “we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4, emphasis added). So where was Cumorah? It was in the Land of Cumorah, which was located in an area (or land) filled with many waters, rivers and fountains. And where was this area of many waters? It was beyond the area that was “so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed” (Alma 22:30).  
    Mormon also describes it when abridging king Limhi’s comments, who said, “having traveled in a land among many waters” (Mosiah 8:8).
    The Land Northward is described as having other lands, evidently associated with cities and their lands, like the “Land of Corihor,” “Land of Moron,” or “Land of Heth,”as well as locations like “the plains of Agosh,” “the Valley of Shurr,” or “the place called Ogath,” but the overall land was simply referred to as “The Land of Desolation.”
(See the next post, “An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part III,” for more information on how Sorenson, the guru of Mesoamerican geography, has skewed the understanding of the scriptural descriptions of the Land of Promise in order to match them to his Mesoamerican model)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part II

Continuing from the previous post with more information on how Sorenson, the guru of Mesoamerican geography, has skewed the understanding of the scriptural descriptions of the Land of Promise in order to match them to his Mesoamerican model:
• Sorenson: (p12) How far apart were Zarahemla and Bountiful?
Response: We not only do not know this, we do not have sufficient information to even hazard a guess, though that never stops Sorenson. Since he has already picked out a land for the Land of Promise (Mesoameria), he also has picked out the cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful, and therefore he knows the distance there—now he tries to overlay those distances on the scriptures and tell us that the scriptural record verifies his findings.
    He states further: “the land of Bountiful as a whole seems to have been quite narrow, since Alma 22:31-33 describes it mostly as a zone that ran across the narrow neck of land. Little more is said about it.”
    Perhaps we should get one thing straight right here. We do not know that much about the entire area of the narrow neck of land. We know there is a “line” or boundary between the Land Southward and the Land Northward (Alma 22:32), and that line is also described as the border between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation (Alma 22:32). But where that line is, we are not told, nor are we told how long the narrow neck is from the Land Southward to the Land Northward, though we are told that its width is that of the distance a Nephite could journey in a day and a half, making it somewhere between 25 and 35 miles in wide.
    We also do not know how far the city of Bountiful is from the “line” between the two lands. Since we don’t walk many places in our day and age, with horses, wagons, cars, and bikes, the idea of determining distances that people walked, would walk, or thought was a long or short walking distance s simply not part of our lives or understanding.
    We are also limited because very seldom in the scriptural record are we taken on a trip from the city of Zarahemla to the city of Bountiful, thus providing us no specific way to evaluate that. The same is true with moving through or across the narrow neck of land, and is the case from moving from the city of Bountiful to the city of Desolation. Despite these important and very restrictive limitations, Sorenson goes ahead to make a determination about that distance.
• Sorenson: (pg13) “If the city [Bountiful] lies slightly south of geographical center, as argued above…”
Response: How on earth can anyone make that determination, or even suggestion? With no information in the scriptural record whatsoever to even intimate such an idea, Sorenson makes it anyway. Yet, Sorenson later goes on to say: “it seems reasonable to divide our tentative mileage figures this way.” Really? Reasonable? Based on what criteria?

• Sorenson: (p13) “It might have been around 100 miles from there to the north border of the greater land to which the name Zarahemla was applied in Alma’s day (Alma 5:1; 6:7; 8:1-3,6,11-12; 16:1-15; 28:1).”
Response: The first three references merely tell us that Alma went from the Church in the city of Zarahemla where he had been preaching, baptizing and organizing new converts, over to the east of the River Sidon and beyond to the city of Gideon, and then returned home again to Zarahemla. How much of that time was spent in travel and how much in preaching in Gideon is not known nor implied.
    Thus, we do not know how far it is to the River Sidon from Zarahemla, nor do we know how far beyond that border of Sidon to the city of Gideon, so do not know how far he traveled. We do know he was gone about a year, since he started at the commencement of a year and returned at the end of that year; however, since we do not know how long was his travel, we cannot even hazard a guess as to the distance.
    In Alma 4:11,20 we learn it was during the beginning of the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi that Alma left the judgement seat to preach unto the people, first in Zarahemla (Alma 5:1-2), and then to Gideon (Alma 6:7,8), and at the end of that 9th year, Alma returned to Zarahemla (Alma 8:1,2)—evidently, Alma was gone for the better part of a  year during this trip to Gideon, but we can only guess at that.
    The other references include Alma’s trip to Melek after returning to Zarahemla from Gideon. After completing his work in Melek he traveled three days journey on the north of the land of Melek to the city of Ammonhah.
    The next reference, Alma 16:1-15, deals with war among the Lamanites and Nephites with no distancres or number of days mentioned; finally, the last reference refers to the people of Ammon in the land of Jershon, which was “round about the lan dof Zarahemla.” Howevver, again, no mention of travel, of number of days or length of travel is involved.
• Sorenson: (p13) “If we add the unnamed “land between” and also the narrow land of Bountiful, 80 miles more should be an ample distance to the northern limit of the land southward.”
The unnamed land between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful which is not described in any manner other than its existence

Response: First of all Sorenson’s “narrow land of Bountiful,” is nothing more than an assumption on his part, with nothing to suggest that. It comes from Sorenson, without evidence, deciding that Bountiful was in the narrow neck of land, thus it must have been narrow.
    Second, for those unfamiliar with the fact that there was an “unnamed” land in between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful (3 Nephi 3:23, see 1979, 1980 editions, missing in earlier editions because of a typesetting error). The size of this “unnamed land” is unknown to us and never mentioned, described or anything about it discussed, yet despite this completely unknown land, Sorenson hazards a guess, based on what is unknown and unknowable, stating it’s length as well as that of Bountiful, being 80 miles. How can anyone come up with such a figure with no supportive information to lead one there? There is no mention or even suggestion how long it took to cross that land, nor how far the land ran from north to south or what other lands might have been in the area as well.
    Obviously, Sorenson is looking at and measuring the distances of his Mesoamerican model!
• Sorenson: (p13) “Let’s review these distances. The land of first inheritance would be at the extreme southward limit, but we cannot be certain of its relation to Nephi or its environs, except that the former was coastal and the latter upland territory.”
Response: Actually, there is more written about that, i.e., that Nephi and those who went with him were fleeing from death threats from his older brothers, and that he traveled “many days.” While this is not much in content, much, it is more than we know about the distance from Zarahemla to Bountiful, yet of the latter Sorenson ventures a guess.
• Sorenson: “Our first clear point of reference, then, is the city of Nephi.”
Response: Actually, this area has less to do with pinpointing a location than does the area of first inheritance, where Nephi outlines the several things they found there, including the climate for growing seeds from Jerusalem, a large forest, animals of all kinds, and all manner of ore, including gold, silver and copper. But he fails to use any of that to locate Lehi’s landing place, so then how can he know in what direction Nephi traveled to get away from his brothers and, therefore, know where the city of Nephi is located?
    Obviously, he cannot!
• Sorenson: (p13) “Next comes a 100-mile stretch to the point where Nephite influence begins. An additional 80 miles takes us to Zarahemla city itself. Around 100 miles northward from Zarahemla was the limit of the land which the city directly controlled when the last king ruled (Alma chapters 5:15) and which continued long afterward as an effective geographical unit (3 Nephi 3:23). Eighty more miles covers the combined extent of the “land in between” and Bountiful. Thus, the total length of the land southward, where most of the Book of Mormon story took place, ought not to be much greater or much less than 360 miles.”
Response: First of all, the reference of Alma 5:15 or anywhere around there has anything to do with what Sorenson writes—the entire chapter is about preaching content with the exception of Alms 5:3-4 being king Noah and the land of Mormon, which was “in the borders of the Nephi.”
    Second, it would be impossible for anyone to come up with a set of mileage distances with the non-existent mileage comments in the scriptural record as Sorenson does and claim that is the size of the Land of Promise and in so doing, justifies the size of his model. So, according to Sorenson, almost picking numbers out of a hat for they can neither be verified nor even checked against any criteria other than Sorenson’s guesswork, is 360 miles from the city of Zarahemla to the city of Bountiful. However, though it cannot be done, Sorenson forges ahead and suggests a way in which to compare his figures with that of ancient Palestine (present day Israel).
• Sorenson: (p13) “It may be helpful, conditioned as we are to the great distances we can cover by air and automobile, to remember that Palestine from Dan to Beersheba was only 150 miles long and less than half that wide, yet 90 percent of Old Testament events took place within that tiny space. In that perspective, the estimated scale we have arrived at for the Nephite scene seems reasonable.
As can be seen, Palestine, is a tiny area of the overall lands fought over and covered extensively in the Bible, opposite of Sorenson’s meaning

Response: Let’s see how helpful comparing Palestine would be. First of all, while Palestine or present Israel is about the distance Sorenson states, the Bible was involved in the battles and wars that included Babylon, Syria, Assyria, Egypt, etc., and from Egypt to Syria, which is about 425 miles, and from Syria to Babylon and Ur (Abraham), about 800 miles. So not much help there, making Sorenson’s dimensions for the Nephite Land of Promise considerably smaller than that of ancient Israel and the Bible activities.
    In addition, Sorenson conveniently leaves out measuring any distance from the city of Bountiful to the Land of Many Waters and Cumorah, where the last part of the scriptural record takes place. Nor does he discuss that at least 90% of the Book of Mormon takes place in a small area within the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi. About 10% takes place in the Land Northward (not counting the Jaredites).
    Therefore, this area is not such a “tiny space” as Sorenson claims, or a very large space as many earlier theorists claim, including today’s Heartland Theory advocates. In addition, it obviously cannot be concluded, as Sorenson so conveniently does that is it correct simply because of the distances of his Mesoamerican model. Yet, he states that: “the estimated scale we have arrived at for the Nephite scene seems reasonable.”
(See the next post, “An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part III,” for more information on how Sorenson, the guru of Mesoamerican geography, has skewed the understanding of the scriptural descriptions of the Land of Promise in order to match them to his Mesoamerican model)

Monday, November 25, 2019

An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part I

As long as Mesoamerica is so highly touted and frequently mentioned, any other site for the Land of Promise is problematic. Also as a result of this, we are bombarded from time to time with inquiries regarding our opinion of Mesoamerica being the Land of Promise despite all the comments we have made here regarding the fact that Mesoamerica simply does not match the scriptural record and specifically comments made by Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni.
    Following is another so discussion about Mesoamerica, and this time centering on the location and directions of placea mentioned in the scriptural record and the fallacy of Mesomericanists interpretation of those facts.
    First of all, no matter what Mesoamericanist writers, historians, scholars, or members you deal with, they all fall into a group under the “guru of Mesoamerican geography and scholarship,” John L. Sorenson, former head of Anthropology and Archaeology at BYU, now emeritus. That is to say, as long as Sorenson’s tenets hold fast, which are on shaky ground to being with that he outlined in his 1985 seminal book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, hold fast, then all is well in Mesoamericanland—however, knock out one underpinning and they all fall, for they are just a house of cards.
Knock out the underpinning of that work and all his tenets outlined within it, and the Mesoamerican setting as the Land of Promise of the Book of Mormon, like a House of Cards, falls. That is one of the reasons we spend so much time in this blog writing about Sorenson’s work, his erroneous ideas, his misplaced beliefs, and his inaccurate thesis of Mesoamerican geography that do not agree with scriptural descriptions, to show how inconsistent it is with the actual words of Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni, those four prophets who have given us the wealth of knowledge and understanding of the Land of Promise.
    We have written about Sorenson’s work many times in this blog, in our books, and in a landmark work entitled Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and other Theorists, but as many times as we have compared Sorenson’s claims with the scriptural record to show how far afield he constantly goes from what simple and precise descriptions the prophets have left us.
    In this article, we are going to take a look at the inaccuracies of Mesoamerican thinking in the area of distances, numbers of people, locations and interactions of the Jaredites in their homeland in the Land Northward. We will do this by comparing what Sorenson has written with the actual knowledge of the scriptural record and the facts of the area under discussion.
    As an example, beginning on page 12 of his book cited above (1985, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1985) it is stated:
• Sorenson: “No mention is ever made of travel southward from the city of Nephi, so it must have been near the southern limit of what the Nephites recognized as the greater land of Nephi (Alma22:28).”
White Dotted Circle: The Land of Nephi; Red Dotted Arrow: Where Lehi Landed; Blue Dotted Arrow: Travel south of the City of Nephi never mentioned. The Nephites were always to the north of the Lamanites and nothing of Nephite activity south of the City of Nephi is ever recorded of their activity other than the Sons of Helaman and Alma the Younger’s missionary efforts there, especially among King Lamoni and the area of the Sons of Ishmael

Response: This is not at all accurate. Nephi makes it quite clear that they landed far from where he finally settled, having traveled ”many days” (2 Nephi 5:7) to reach the area known as “the Land of Nephi,” and built the “City of Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:8). At the same time, the Land south of this area was referred to as the Land of Lehi (Helaman 6:10).
    Couple that with the fact that numerous passages make it clear that the Nephites were also to the north of the Lamanites, we can only conclude that Nephi, and those who would go with him, traveled in a northerly direction from the area of first landing. This area referred to as “the place of their fathers’ first inheritance,” was on the West…bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28).
    Thus, somewhere to the south, and probably a considerable distance from the city of Nephi, along the seashore of the Sea West, Lehi landed and came ashore, which comprised of the area 1) Lehi and his party came ashore; 2) pitched their tents; 3) tilled the ground; 4) planted and harvested at least one crop; 5) discovered a large forest nearby; 6) found beasts in the forest of every kind; 7) both domesticated types, such as cow, ox, ass and horse, 8) all manner of wild animals; 9) discovered all manner of ore, including both of gold, and of silver, and of copper; and 10) Nephi and those who would go with him eventually left to travel northward to where they settled in the land the city they called Nephi.
    The distance from this first landing and settlement spot and where the city of Nephi was later founded was the distance that Nephi and those who would go with him to flee from his older brothers who sought to kill him, would have traveled to feel they were at a safe distance. The scriptural record calls this a journey of “many days” (2 Nephi 5:7).
Sorenson, for some reason limits this distance to about a hundred miles. Personally, it seems they would have traveled quite far to get away from someone trying to kill them—a lot further than most people think. How far would you travel before feeling safe and too far away for others to follow?
    It should also be considered that the reason there was no travel mentioned going south from the city of Nephi is, once Nephi separated and settled in the Land called Nephi, there was nothing of importance to the Nephites in the south other than the Land of First Inheritance, which was no longer available to them. Its actual distance could have been hundreds of miles based on that singular idea—a fact that Mesoamericanists, with their “Limited Geography) theory. In fact, Sorenson claims the events of the Book of Mormon occurred in a rather limited geographical scope, on the order of a few hundred miles or so.
    What mattered to the Nephites was to the north, and how far that was depended upon 1) how far Nephi would have traveled before he felt safe from his brothers; 2) the terrain to be covered; 3) the location the Lord wanted Nephi to settle; and 4) the instructions on the Liahona that Nephi had in his possession and would have followed.
At this point, it is important to keep in mind some locations and directions. As an example, in Alma 22:27-34, we learn that the land of First Inheritance is far to the south in the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:28); that the Land of Nephi is south of the narrow strip of wilderness, which separated the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27); that the Land of Zarahemla was to the north of the narrow strip of wilderness and the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:27); Bountiful was northward of Zarahemla (Alma 22:29); the land of Desolation was to the north of Bountiful (Alma 22:30); with Bountiful to the south of Desolation (Alma 22:31); with a small neck of land between them (Alma 22:32), causing the Land Southward, i.e., the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla to be nearly surrounded by water except for the small neck (Alma 22:32), and beyond the narrow neck was the Land Northward, and south of the small neck was the Land Southward (Alma 22:32); with the small neck narrow enough to be crossed in a day and a half (Alma 22:32).
• Sorenson: If we take all of these considerations into account, it seems reasonable to divide our tentative mileage figures this way: on the order of 180 airline miles overall separated the city of Nephi from the city of Zarahemla; about 100 of this distance was from Nephi to the midpoint of the “narrow strip of wilderness” (Alma 22:27); then it was 80 miles from that point down to the city of Zarahemla itself. Though only estimates, these distances and relationships are as carefully derived and true to the Nephite record as present information allows.”
Distance and direction between City of Zarahemla and the City of Nephi

Response: In the only somewhat helpful measurement found in the entire scriptural record, we find, over a period of time, a total of 21 days is used for Alma and his people (a group of some 450 converts, assumedly including women and children, cover the distance of travel from the Waters of Mormon in the Land of Nephi (within a day or two distance of the city of Nephi) to the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 24:25). While numerous figures have been suggested as to how fast or slow that travel might have been (Sorenson uses a period of from 6 to 11 days (based on travels of other people elsewhere). The problem lies in how we decide people travel when 1) they are leisurely moving across the land, 2) what pressure they are under, such as fleeing for their lives, and 3) the terrain they are crossing. In the case of Alma and his converts, they were fleeing for their lives, first from the king’s palace guards (army) who sought their lives as Alma well knew having witnesses the death of Abinadi, and also we should recognize that these 21 days were not continuous. Sometimes months, even years separated the periods of flight, so in many cases, when the group started out, (in the middle of the 21 days) they were fresh and well rested.
    In any event, their travel, taken with fresh bodies and legs, and always under the fear of being caught as the Lord had warned them, would have been much faster than historians seem to consider. When fleeing for one’s life, the distance covered is eagerly sought, not regretfully covered. Thus, we might assign a high distance per day to such travel. Nor would they have been following a pre-determined trail, but taking the path of least resistance across valleys, hills or along rivers. Travel during 12 hours of daylight, stopping every couple of hours for a few minutes rest, would see a flight covering as much as 20 miles a day within the realm of probability.
Blue dotted line: City of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla; Red dotted line, from the City of Nephi to the Land of Zarahemla; Green dotted line, from the Land of Zarahemla to the City of Zarahemla

If that were the case, then the distance from the Waters of Mormon to the land of Zarahemla (note it does not say the city of Zarahemla) would be at least 420 miles, 15 miles per day would be 315 miles. Both are far different then Sorenson’s limiting, and Mesoamerica self-serving, 180 miles, which is less than 9 miles per day when one is running for their lives—hardly seems realistic.
    The point being, any map and distances can be determined if one has a particular distance in mind to begin with that they want their figures to fit. The issue of true scholarship is to try and prove your theory wrong and if you cannot, then it stands as is. However, in the process, you cannot just create your own distances as Sorenson does—and say “it seems reasonable to divide our tentative mileage figures [in] this way...” then say, “Though only estimates, these distances and relationships are as carefully derived and true to the Nephite record as present information allows.” Then conclude with “Many Latter-day Saints will have to change their thinking markedly to adjust to the dimensions we have discussed.”
(See the next post, “An Exercise in Mesoamerican Thinking-Part II,” for more information on how Sorenson, the guru of Mesoamerican geography, has skewed the understanding of the scriptural descriptions of the Land of Promise in order to match them to his Mesoamerican model)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Tempest, Whirlwinds, Lightnings and Exceedingly Great Quaking

In the Book of Mormon, we find mention of hail and whirlwinds, specifically that the Lord would “send forth hail among them” (Mosiah 12:6) referring to king Noah and the unrighteous Nephites. He also describes that the Nephites will “reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind” (Mosiah 7:30), describing another type of calamity. In seeking the location of the Land of Promise through the scriptural record, we might want to pay attention to these statements, since hail and whirlwinds do not occur just anywhere.
    First of all, to describe hail and where it is found and upon what type of landform is hail likely to fall, large or destructive hail forms inside thunderstorms and warm air in updrafts pulled up into the thunderstorm can exceed 100 mph, which allows the hail to stay in the thunderstorm clouds and grow to very large size.
Large hail recovered after a hailstorm

While it is true that hail stones begin as very small ice droplets 0.01” in size, this growth can be enormous and reasonably quick as the updraft contains the hail as it freezes and grows from the moisture in the clouds to over three inches in diameter—over twice the size of a golf ball. The largest recorded hailstones in the U.S. have been eight inches. In fact, during thunderstorms, hail is the predominant reason for losses to cars, homes, and crops—according to meteorologists, of the estimated $10 billion in losses annually from severe thunderstorms during the past decade, hail accounted for at least half the cost to both property and agricultural insurance entities.
    The costliest hailstorm in U.S. history hit the Phoenix metro area on Oct. 5, 2010 with an estimated $2.8 billion in damages according to NOAA’s storm data. Hailstones up to three inches in diameter were measured in the West Chandler area adjacent to Phoenix.
    In April of 2001, a single supercell thunderstorm with hail up to three inches in diameter tracked across Missouri to St. Louis. The storm began in west-central Missouri and produced five tornadoes, damaging winds and then the hailstorm in St. Louis. Total insured losses alone were estimated to be $2.2 billion. Two more of the costliest hailstorms on record were in Minneapolis in May, 1998, and another hit Fort Worth, Texas, causing $2 billion in damage.
    Secondly, when in his "fierce anger" the Lord warned the people living in the land of Nephi, that if they did not repent, he would "send forth hail...and it would smite them..." there is every reason to believe that the threat was understood by the people. They understood the threat of hail, just as they understood the threat of being "smitten with the east wind" and of having "insects...pester their land...and devour their grain" (Mosiah 12:1-6).
In the middle part of a cumulonimbus cloud, where the air temperature is between 0 and -40º C, there is a mixture of supercooled liquid water droplets and ice

It should also be noted that hail forms in thunderstorms and thunderstorms are caused by air that is forced up by a mountain or hillside. Air mass thunderstorms are the result of localized convection in an unstable air mass and frontal thunderstorms occur along the boundaries of weather fronts (cold fronts). All of this means that hail does not form in the tropics, like Mesoamerica, nor do they have whirlwinds—the tropics have hurricanes and violent storms which do not create hail for they form out over warm ocean waters near the equator.
    Third, the Semitic word translated "hail" in the King James Bible is "barad" (בָּרָד), which means “cold” or “become cold.” In this event, the Lord no doubt intended the people of Nephi to recall the extraordinary destructive hail brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 9:18, 24-25; Psalms 78:46-48; 105:32-34). However, it is apparent that severe hail was an occasional weather condition impacting the lives of Book of Mormon peoples as well.
    Severe hail forms in thunderstorms with powerful updrafts (66 to 131 feet per second or more). Tropical oceanic storms tend to have weak updrafts. A good portion of the upper cloud layer needs to be below freezing (0 C, 32 F). But the formation of hail is not a simple matter of temperature and latitude. The highlands of Kenya receive hail capable of damaging tea crops, even though the hailstones are quite small, while many tropical highlands, including those in Central America have hardly any hail—none of these events occur around or the tropic area of Mesoamerica.
Hail is one of the biggest hazards with severe thunderstorms while it is usually small, and relatively harmless, it may grow to tennis ball sized or even larger. It may cause severe damage, injuries and in extreme cases even death

For hail pellets to accrete, and become threatening to man and beast, the ice needs to be kept aloft. In Guatemala, rain tends to fall on top of the updraft. This weakens the mechanism needed for hail to accrete. On the other hand, the low level jet streams in the U.S. and east of the Andes in South America play an important role in the formation of severe hail storms in temperate zones
    The atmospheric and topological conditions of northern America favor the creation of tornadoes more than anywhere else, however, tornadoes hit every continent in the world except Antarctica, though none are related to Mesoamerica, Guatemala, etc.
    Another factor would be whirlwinds. They are not only mentioned in Mosiah, but also in the period of destruction associated with the Lord’s crucifixion, as well as in 2 Nephi 15:28, Alma 2:6, Helaman 5:12 and 3 Nephi 8:16.
    The Hebrew words translated "whirlwind" (s'arah = סְעָרָה, sufah = סוּפָה) in the King James Bible, can be translated "storm-wind" or "tempest"). The word מערבולת, translated as “whirlwind” also means tornado, twister, hurricane.
    A biblical "whirlwind" is not necessarily a tornado. This should be kept in mind when interpreting "whirlwind" in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, the destructive effect of "whirlwinds" (plural) described in 3 Nephi 10:13-14) and also in 2 Nephi 26:5), sounds a lot like the work of what we call twisters, which is simply another name for tornadoes.
A whirlwind from a tornado passing through a rural city, scattering debris along its path, including a ripped up building on the lower right, a semi-truck and trailer and various large-scale structures. This is the major type whirlwind that picked up people, animals and buildings in the 3 Nephi 8
The winds of some tornadoes have been estimated to exceed 300mph, with layers of air swirling about the funnel with contrasting characteristics, temperature, moisture, density, and wind flow—with the complicated energy transformations producing the tornado vortex.
    Whirlwinds occur all over the world and in all seasons, and are categorized as major or minor whirlwinds. The former are associated with tornadoes, waterspouts and landspouts, which are formed from supercell thunderstorms (the most powerful type of thunderstorm) or other powerful storms. When the storms start to spin, they react with other high altitude winds, causing a funnel to form and spin with a cloud forming over the funnel, making it visible—which last longer because they are formed from very powerful winds, and it is hard, though not impossible, to interrupt them.
    Minor whirlwinds are gustnado and fire whirls, down to dust devils, steam devils and snow devils, shear eddies like mountainado and eddy whirlwinds, and occur when local winds start to spin on the ground, causing a funnel to form—they are not as long-lived because the winds that form them do not last long, and when a minor whirlwind encounters an obstruction, like a building, house, tree, etc., its rotation is interrupted, as is the windflow into it, causing it to dissipate.
    Supercell thunderstorms, other powerful storms, and strong winds are seen with major whirlwinds, whereas wind storms are commonly seen with minor whirlwinds, or small, semi-powerful "wind blasts" may be seen before some minor whirlwinds, which can come from a wind storm.
    These wind blasts can start to rotate and form minor whirlwinds. Winds from other small storms such as rainstorms and local thunderstorms can cause minor whirlwinds to form, and can be dangerous at times. However, the whirlwinds suggested in 3 Nephi 8 were not only major whirlwinds, but most likely devastating and powerful tornadoes
The winds of some tornadoes have been estimated to exceed 300mph, with layers of air swirling about the funnel with contrasting characteristics, temperature, moisture, density, and wind flow—with the complicated energy transformations producing the tornado vortex

The whirlwind/tornado descriptions in 3 Nephi 8 suggest what modern science records as numerous observations of lightning strokes and a variety of luminous features in and around tornado funnels which lead them to speculate about the relationship between tornado formation and thunderstorm electrification. This hypothesis explores the alternative possibilities that atmospheric electricity accelerates rotary winds to tornado velocities, or that those high-speed rotary winds generate large electrical charges. Here, as in most attempts to understand complex atmospheric relationships, the reach of theory exceeds the grasp of proof.
    However, Nephi describes the “great storm, such as one as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:5), where the “terrible tempest, and the terrible thunder, that shook the whole earth as if it was  about to divide asunder” (3 Nephi 8:6), in which “there were exceedingly sharp lightnings such as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:7), in about the same way we see the highest degree of tornadoes described, even though the word “tornado” is not used in the scriptural record.