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)

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