Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Fallacious Use of Scripture – Part V

Continuing with how Sorenson uses terms, thoughts and ideas that are not found or even implied in the scriptural record, and once using them, creates a relationship with them that suggests their actual existence and then at times compares other factors against them as though they are factual.
Land of Promise as an hourglass shape

We are continuing here with Soren’s point 5, i.e., The geographic configuration of the area must resemble an hourglass as a reflection of two land masses and a narrow neck of land (an isthmus) dividing the two. The hourglass must be on its side in a horizontal position to justify the Nephite cardinal directions of “northward” and “southward” for the two land masses.
    In describing one of his points, i.e., the width of the narrow neck, Sorenson then states a ridiculous figure for a normal man to walk in a 24-hour-period—that of six miles an hour for 24 hours. We have covered this subject numerous times and shown various examples of walking distances, and walking half that distance, 3 miles an hour for any extended period, say for six hours, is more than the average man can handle—even one at the top of his game. If you doubt that, just go outside and start walking and see how far you can go without stopping.
    Then, in trying to extend the width of the narrow neck, Sorenson states: “It had to be wide enough that Limhi’s explorers could pass through it without even realizing that it was an isthmus (Remember that upon their return they supposed they had been in the land southward all the time)” (p16-17).
    Third, there is no implication that the expedition thought they had been in the Land Southward the entire time. Around 200 B.C., we have no reference to the Nephites even knowing about a Land Northward or a narrow neck of land. When Mosiah left the city of Nephi, he traveled northward under the direction of the Lord, led by many teachings and propheseyings and by the power of the Lord’s arm through the wilderness (Omni 1:13) until they reached Zarahemla—this might suggest that no Nephites had been north of this area since landing and certainly nothing is recorded of the Nephites knowing about the land to the north. In addition, if this narrow neck was only 25 miles across, there is no possibility that anyone walking through it would have known what was on either side of that 25 miles providing they were walking through a valley or lowland with hills on at least one side of them. An area does not have to be 75 miles wide in order to block out what is to the side—everything depends upon the topography of the location.
    Now, when it comes to the shape of the land, Sorenson claims: “An attempt to discern the general “shape” of the overall land of the Book of Mormon confirms that an hourglass image results from content about the land northward, narrow neck of land, and land southward.”
Left: Land of Promise as an hourglass shape; Right: Land of Promise as a non-hourglass shape—both meet the content of Mormon’s description

However, to merely have a connection to the content of the scriptural record, it only requires a land to the north, a land to the south, and a narrow neck of land connecting the two. An example of a non-hourglass shape that also meets the content of Mormon’s description. This non-hourglass shape could also be reversed so that the narrow neck was on the east side, rather than the west side shown.
    Thus, Sorenson’s statement “the general “shape” of the overall land of the Book of Mormon confirms that an hourglass image results from content,” is inaccurate. However, he takes his inaccurate statement and claims it is a fact, and bases other factors on that basis. In computer language there is a phrase GIGO, which means “Garbage In Garbage Out;” i.e., if one prgrams a computer with inaccurate information, it will always state that a result is accurate based on the wrong data input, no matter how many times and in what manner the question is asked.
    Now another statement Sorenson makes is his follow-up to the above statement: “The hourglass must be on its side in a horizontal position to justify the Nephite cardinal directions of “northward” and “southward” for the two land masses.”
Merely placing the hourglass on its side, does not change the top of the hourglass or the bottom, or the sides. The cardinal directions do not change, thus the top (or north) of the hourglass is now pointing in a different direction as would any map other than Sorenson’s map

However, placing the hourglass on its side does not change the overall directions, or in this case, the cardinal directions, as Sorenson claims. The top of the hourglass in a vertical position is facing up (or north), but when it is laid on its side, the top part of the glass now faces to the left (or west).
    Thus, what Sorenson claims with directions is not only inaccurate, it violates the entire concept of cardinal directions. So he can state: “The mental image that comes from these three components is first, that of an hourglass, and second, that of the corresponding “shape” of Mesoamerica, although the hourglass image reflected in Mesoamerica is of an hourglass lying on its side—or in a horizontal rather than a vertical position—to justify the Nephite directions of “northward” and “southward,” but he would be wrong.  The fact that he bases his entire Land of Promise on such a flimsy concept suggests how desperate Mesoamerican theorists, indeed all theorists, are in trying to sell their viewpoint. Sorenson’s hourglass shape laying on its side, is simply not the way directions are changed and no amount of tampering, alteration or tweaking is going to change that from vertical to horizontal, with the top of the hourglass in the direction of north, from on its side and the direction of north now to the left.
    Sorenson goes on to state: “Under the assumption that Mesoamerica is, indeed, the New World setting for the Book of Mormon, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the only isthmus that matches the content of the Book of Mormon and that reflects findings from the archaeological and historical records of Mesoamerica.
Response: Again, Sorenson, as theorists often do, creates a strawman out of erroneous data and claims it is accurate. Under the assumption it is correct. From there he launches into a detailed explanation to try and prove his point—all based on an inaccurate statement. Take the isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. Does it match the scripture? Whether one wants to claim it is the narrow neck, we need to consider Mormon’s description before any agreement can be met.
Map from Mexico News Daily, showing the proposed “Big Isthmus Project” to be built across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec

According to the Mexico News Daily, “The Big Isthmus Project set to start next year that will cost the Mexican government 4.34 billion pesos ($279 million U.S. dollars)” (Mexico Daily News, Friday, June 26, 2015). The article states: “The isthmus has some key advantages, such as the short 302-kilometer distance between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans”—that is 187.654 miles across the Isthmus of Thuantepec; however, when eliminating the longer distance from Union Hidalgo to Salina Cruz, it would be shorter. In fact, a few years ago we contacted the Mexican government requesting the shortest distance between the two oceans across the isthmus and were told it was 144 miles, a figure we have since used though Sorenson prefers to use the figure of 125 miles. 
    In regard to the Mesoamerican “narrow strip of wilderness,” it does not run from the East Sea to the West Sea, unless you label the East Sea to the North (Gulf of Mexico), and the West Sea to the South (Pacific Ocean). Only then can there be a strip of wilderness from sea to sea. In fact, on this map, his wilderness strip lies between the Usumacinta River and the Grijalva River but is much closer to the Usumacinta than the Grijalva. The strip angles in the same general direction as the flow of the Usumacinta. His “wilderness strip” touches neither the ocean at the top of the map nor the ocean at the bottom of the map (his east and west seas). Sorenson claims that “The mountainous band of wilderness separating highland Guatemala from central Chiapas is in the right place to be the ‘narrow strip of wilderness’ of the Nephites, yet on the map this really runs north and south, opposite of what Mormon tells us (Alma 2;27). In short, the Mesoamerican map does not match the scriptural record. Thus, response to Sorenson’s claim, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is far too wide for the narrow neck of land, and does not match in any way the small, narrow neck Mormon describes, nor the direction in which it runs.
    In addition, when we take Mesoamerica as simply a model of the Land of Promise, there is nothing to recommend it as the Book of Mormon location, unless you close your eyes and accept Sorenson’s every comment without question and without fact-checking, in order to accept that Mesoamerica is the Book of Mormon lands.
    Clear and simple, the problem is that while Mesoamerica runs east and west, the Land of Promise Mormon describes runs north and south (Alma 22:27-34). If we cannot accurately determine the meaning of the scriptural record, how can anyone claim to know where that land is located?


  1. The other thing about Limhi's search party is that they are 3rd generation from those who moved from Zarahemla to the Land of Nephi (2nd generation at best). Nobody living in Nephi at the time had ever been to Zarahemla or anywhere northward. They had no clue where they were going-- only that they were searching for the land to the north that their grandparents had known.

    Considering that they had no idea what would indicate that they were in the right general area, and no idea how to conclude they had gone too far, even visual confirmation that they were crossing a narrow neck would mean nothing to them. They might have seen the sea on both sides and not understood that to mean that they were on the wrong path. They only stopped when they found the ruins and bones of a destroyed population and assumed it was the ruins of Zarahemla. They had no landform or geographical knowledge that they were using to orient themselves toward their hoped destination except "North". They could easily have gone hundreds of miles too far, walked along the wrong seashore, been on the wrong side of a mountain range and known no better.

    So why would it be required for them to cross an ithmus wide enough to not know it was a narrow neck? They could have passed over any number of narrow necks and not taken it as an indication that they'd passed Zarahemla. -shrug-

    Sorenson's requirement is a mute point.

    1. Sorenson and other Meso theorists are classic "gatekeepers". They claim the matter is settled with their theory. For example, if one mentions the Andes theory will mention one point like "there is no evidence of written language there and cannot be the place", and then claim that settles it and there is nothing more to talk about.