Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Death Knell for Mesoamerica – Part I

This article takes a look at John L. Sorenson’s philosophy when he writes: “The Book of Mormon is the authority on the Book of Mormon. Our problem is to discover what it is saying to us.” (Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, FARMS, 1992, p415).
    If Sorenson truly believes in that, then this is the striking of the death knell of the Mesoamerican Land of Promise model. For nowhere in the scriptural record Sorenson wants to use as the criteria of the Land of Promise model does it fit the Mesoamerican model without the changing of the meaning of words, phrases, and descriptions Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni left us.
    So what does the Book of Mormon itself, and these four ancient prophets, three of which lived their entire adult lives in the Land of Promise say about the location (Nephi), description of the Land of Promise (Jacob), and the fine details, map locations, and other important details of the Land of Promise (Mormon and Moroni).
We can start at the very beginning. The ship Nephi built. First of all, just about every historian agrees from the first 17 chapters of 1 Nephi, that Lehi’s Bountiful was along the south Arabian coast of Oman/Yemen along the Arabian Peninsula, near or within the cove of Salalah, and that they set sail into the Sea of Arabia. So taking it from there, we can easily diagram the voyage of Nephi’s ship by first, understanding Nephi’s description of how it was propelled. As an example, once in the water, Nephi tells us his ship was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8,9). Now this term has specific meaning naturally as it does nautically:
driven = “urged forward by force,” operated, moved, or controlled; propelled, impel, propel, push, urge forward; carried along by force in a specified direction as in “the wind drives the vessel.” It is a force that pushes something forward, as a sailing ship. Propelled or motivated by something, i.e., the wind, current, engine;
forth = “forward, onward.” Thus, “driven forth” literally means without question or additional meaning, “to push or propel forward.” Thus, it can be said that Nephi’s ship was pushed or propelled forward.
before = “in front of,” preceding, prior to, “before the wind, is to move in the direction of the wind by its impulse.”
• the wind = the air in motion with any degree of velocity, a current of air, constant or perennial wind that blows constantly from one point of the compass toward another.
    Thus, “before the wind” literally means in front of the wind, or having the wind behind blowing something forward.
Consequently, this verse “driven forth before the wind,” both in conjunction with the individual meaning of words, as well as their collective meaning, tells us that the wind (with velocity) is pushing or propelling forward a ship or vessel.”
    To make sure non-maritime readers fully understand, this means the wind is pushing the ship forward, not pulling the ship forward as happens when a sailing ship is tacking (moving into the wind). Thus, Nephi, as plainly as can be said, had built a ship that was using a fixed sail that required and wind to be behind it pushing it forward. In maritime understanding, this means the ship was “a slave to the wind,” i.e., where the wind blew is where the ship went, with no exceptions, no changes of meaning, no re-writing of the verse.
    Thus, we can understand that when Nephi’s ship left the shore and entered the sea, it was subject to the wind and where the wind blew, and was not propelled by any other means, or in any other direction!
    So whether this was Nephi’s intent or not, he is telling us where he went—in what direction he went—when he left the southern coast of Arabia from the shore of the sea they called Irreantum.
    Now, if he had tried to leave the shore of Oman-Yemen anytime between April and September, his ship would not make headway, i.e., the wind would be before or in front of the ship blowing into his sails from the bow or front of the ship and he would not be able to move forward under any circumstances!
“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father, that we should arise and go down into the ship” (1 Nephi 18:5). Thus, it is obvious that Lehi was told to enter the ship at a time of the Lord’s choosing, which had to have been sometime between October and March, which is referred to as the Winter Monsoon, when the winds blow from the northeast to the southwest. Otherwise, they would not have gotten anywhere for the wind would have been blowing against the ship. Thus, there is no way Lehi could have sailed to the east as all Mesoamerican theorists claim, or as Sorenson put it in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, “sailing east like the traders had for centuries.”
    However, these traders and fishing vessels were small, coastal vessels, almost flat-bottomed, frail craft meant for coastal currents and certainly not meant for or able to withstand deep ocean pounding of high-velocity waves, cross currents, slamming into troughs from high crests, or withstanding combers, etc.
    Thus, in following the course of winds and currents off the southern Arabian coast during the months of October through March, we find a path heading to the southwest down toward Madagascar, riding through the Somali Current (only possible in January through March), picking up the western swing of the Indian Ocean Gyre that swings south, then southeast, then east that would driver a ship into the Southern Ocean and the high velocity winds and currents of the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift.
    The Prevailing Westerlies or “Westerlies,” are the anti-trades, that is prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes between 35º and 60º latitude. They originate from the high-pressure areas in the horse latitudes and tend towards the poles and steer extratropical cyclones in this general manner.
They are driven by high velocities referred to by ancient mariners as the “roaring forties,” “furious fifties,” and “shrieking (screaming) sixties.” While modern boat events use these winds for their regatta races around the world, and require expert hands on lines, sails, and boat angles for races, the ancient mariners who used these winds and currents for speed in trade voyages, such as the later fast-sailing clippers that came into being during the middle-third of the 19th century and set world records for shortening the sailing time between the Orient and Britain and the U.S.
    In those ships there was little to do when running the “roaring forties,” or “furious fifties,” but batten down and hanging on. In fact, these Westerlies are particularly strong in areas where land is absent, because land amplifies the flow pattern, making the current more north-south oriented, slowing the Westerlies. The strongest westerly winds in the middle latitudes can come in the “Roaring Forties,” the swiftness between 40 and 50 degrees latitude.
    The Westerlies play an important role in carrying the warm, equatorial waters and winds to the western coasts of continents, especially in the southern hemisphere because of its vast oceanic expanse. And this area of the absence of land is found particularly between New Zealand and Drake’s Passage along the tip of South America. In addition, this route is the shortest distance around the globe and, along with the fast-currents and winds, was the reason the Clippers chose this far southern route to sail their long distances.
    Throughout the year, the so-called “Ugly Westerlies” vary in strength with the polar cyclone. As the cyclone reaches its maximum intensity in winter, the Westerlies increase in strength from west to east and move vessels at high speeds through the empty ocean.
    Due to persistent winds from west to east on the poleward sides of the subtropical ridges located in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, ocean currents are driven in a similar manner in both hemispheres. The currents in the Northern Hemisphere are weaker than those in the Southern Hemisphere due to the differences in strength between the Westerlies of each hemisphere.
The Southern Ocean: Shortcut from Arabia to the Western Hemisphere. Narrow yellow circle is the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift; Thick yellow line is Lehi’s Course

Within this Southern Ocean, driven by the Prevailing Westerlies, is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or what is more often called the West Wind Drift, an ocean current that flows clockwise from west to east around Antarctica. It is not only the fastest current, but also the largest ocean current.
    Associated with the Circumpolar Current is the Antarctic Convergence, where the cold Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the subantarctic creating a zone of upwelling nutrients. These nurture high levels of phytoplankton with associated copepods and krill, and resultant food chains supporting fish, whales, seals, penguins, albatrosses and a wealth of other species. For those who always want Lehi to island-hop across the Pacific for replenishment of supplies, foods, etc., this Southern Ocean is a most amazing fishing ground where the upwelling fish and nutrients that feed them can and do swim right up onto the decks of low-level passing ships and helped keep ancient mariners fed on their long sailing voyages.
(See the next post, “The Death Knell for Mesoamerica – Part II,” for more on how Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni disqualify Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise)

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