Saturday, January 18, 2020

How Can Anyone Defend Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise? – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the inroads into complete dominance of the Mesoamerican scene for the location of the Book of Mormon.
Elder B.H. Roberts (left), who questioned the assumption of a hemispheric geography [meaning Western Hemisphere] and population model for the Book of Mormon. In his critical examination of the Book of Mormon, eventually published in 1985 under the title Studies of the Book of Mormon, Roberts states:
    “Could the people of Mulek and of Lehi...part of the time numbering and occupying the land at least from Yucatan to and move and have their being in the land of America and not come in contact with other races and tribes of men, if such existed in the New World within Book of Mormon times? To make this seem possible the area occupied by the Nephites and Lamanites would have to be extremely limited, much more limited, I fear, than the Book of Mormon would admit our assuming” Brigham H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, 1985).
    This was also a view supported by Hugh Nibley, who stated: “The overall picture reflects before all a limited geographical and cultural point of view—small localized operations, with only occasional flights and expeditions into the wilderness (“The Book of Mormon: A Minimal Statement,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, Maxwell Institute, Vol 19 (1), 2010, pp78–80).
    As can be seen, the idea of Mesoamerica by 1920 had pretty much settled in the minds of most LDS Scholars. What is surprising that B.H. Roberts, himself a scholar, talks about his “crucial examination of the Book of Mormon.” After all, any truly critical examination would have to uncover all the inconsistencies of the scholar’s view and that of Mormon describing the Land of Promise within the scriptural record.
    In addition, the proposal of a limited geography is coupled with the proposal that the American continents were already populated at the time of the arrival of Lehi's group. It is claimed that the presence of inhabitants on the American continents long before the arrival of Lehi's party is well supported by existing archaeological data. The exact date of arrival of these early inhabitants is still debated among archaeologists, with a common theory being an arrival via a land bridge in the Bering Strait approximately 14,000 years ago—a fallacious idea began by scientists back in the days of developing the evolutionary process and beginning of man.
    In addition, consider the fallacy that Mesoamerican scholars rely upon the idea that 1) there are only two places in the Western Hemisphere where evidence of a civilization existed that matches the writing of the Book of Mormon, and 2) only one of those had a written language.
The three languages, obviously showing there is no connection or comparison between them. Hebrew is 600 BC, what Lehi would have known—which is called Paleo-Hebrew; Aramaic Hebrew was not adopted until 458 BC, and Masoretic Hebrew was invented in 600 AD

The problem with this is the simple knowledge that the written language of the Maya is not Nephite—nor any surviving language that can be placed within the Book of Mormon languages of the inhabitants. It is neither Egyptian nor Hebrew based, its characters have no resemblance to either, and there is no effort of scholars to suggest that they were once correlated in any way.
    Their point is simply: “Unrelated to the geography but important to some modelers is current evidence of ancient writing. They surmise, there are only two regions in the New World showing the high degree of ancient civilization required by the text of the Book of Mormon. One of these locations is centered in South America in the region once occupied by the Inca civilization. The other is centered in Mesoamerica in the region once occupied by the Maya and the Olmec civilizations.”
    While it is true that these two areas are the only place in the Americas where an advanced civilization existed in late BC times, the additional connection of a written language equates to the presence of the Nephite Nation, is erroneous, since the languages known have no connection to the languages of the Nephites.
    If simply having a language were all that mattered, then simply having animals different from those of the Book of Mormon, like the fauna of the Malay Peninsula, Australia, or the Tasmanian Devil would qualify these areas for the Land of Promise.
    Thus the Mesoamerican claim that because that area had a written language in antiquity, does not qualify it as related to the Book of Mormon people. After all, people with a history of language around the world is shown to be connected from present to pre-historical, but Mesoamerica does not and there is no connection between the Mayan characters, method of writing, style, etc., and either the Nephite Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian.
Nephite records being burned

In addition, as has already been pointed out in numerous articles, the scriptural record clearly suggests that the Lamanites, if they could find any Nephite writing after annihilating the people, would simply have destroyed it. Thus, the Nephite records, “of which there were many” (Helaman 3:13), were not to survive the Nephites, except for those hidden up to the Lord. As Mormon put it, “when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Mormon 6:6, emphasis added).
    The question no Mesoamerican theorist cares to answer is, “if the Lord told Moroni that the Lamanties would destroy all their records they found, why would we expect to find any Nephite records at all, unless revealed by the Lord to those hidden in the ground?” In fact, wouldn’t it make more sense that all those records of the Nephites were either hidden up to the Lord or destroyed by the Lamanites?
    Joseph Smith’s experience in the cave at Cumorah (or the vision of a cave encountered at Cumorah), as told by Brigham Young, and verified by several other brethren, should dispel any question on this matter, since we can see from the descriptions what happened to the sacred records of the Nephites—they were hidden up to the Lord and contained in this “vault” by Mormon (Mormon 6:6), as some of the early brethren saw and recorded.
    Of this, Brigham Young said that “when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before…It was about fifteen feet high and round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure. In the center was a large stone table empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which lay scattered on the floor beneath. Formerly the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of Righteousness upon the earth.” These records and other treasures in the room were “more than a mule team could draw.”
The room in which scores of Nephite records were seen

Oliver reported that when Joseph and he went there, “the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.” I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting…Don Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader” (Journal of Discourses, 17 June 1877).
    So why are we so enamored about a written language in Mesoamerica that in no way connects to the Book of Mormon nor Nephite writing of Egyptian and Hebrew? Why is that such an issue? We know that the Spanish destroyed almost all of the Maya records. We know that by the time the Spanish reached the Inca, there were no written languages anywhere in their territory?
(See the next post, “How Can Anyone Defend Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise? – Part III,” for more insights into how far afield this research went in trying to establish Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, and why it simply is not tenable today)

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