Perfect vs. Close-Enough
Solving Mormon's Puzzle
Rebuttal to Brandt A. Gardner and Allen J. Christenson
How could an engineer solve Mormon's Puzzle while the "trained professionals" could not?
Not finding it cost effective to take summers off during school, I went straight through with year-round classes. I went to school for one reason, and that was to get out. Nineteen hours per Quarter worked best -- all three degrees and the Valedictory in six years. Going year-round created problems finding enough classes. The Math Department was always good for some technical electives. Interest, need, and availability of classes stacked the transcript heavy on Numerical Methods. The computer is dumb, but very fast. Large physical problems are often solved by trial-and-error methods. That sounds very Edisonian – a derogatory title applied by those "illegitimate souls" who could not hold a candle (light bulb) to him. A more enlightened name is Predictor-Corrector. In each case a prediction is made, the error is determined, a smart correction is applied, the next prediction is made, and the iteration continues to convergence if the problem was well posed and the solution technique was stable. Such techniques usually require a "Normed-Linear-Vector Space".
Applying these "Normed-Linear-Vector Space" concepts to Mormon's Puzzle is helpful in defining the roles of many separate and very distinct academic disciplines. "Normed", implies a method for determining and quantifying error. In Mormon's Puzzle case, the figure of merit is the closeness of the fit to the Book of Mormon data. Closeness of the fit is much more dimensional than three-dimensional dirt. There is history, travel, human accomplishments, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, behavioral patterns, human nature, DNA, and even residual place names, etc. "Linear", in a more fundamental sense means "well behaved" – does the process being studied follow basic rules that can be identified, understood, quantified, interpolated, and extrapolated? Real physics poses real problems that are usually well behaved and have real solutions. Likewise, real people live and make real history which is consistent with the real human processes. It would be nice to say that the Vector Space is the world in which we live, but it is not. The Vector Space is a reduced dimensional approximation to the real world based on our limited knowledge and our limited ability to describe it.
The whole system needs to be brought into the solution. The best solution is the one that minimizes the total error. Perfection in one discipline cannot render a total solution, just a dimensionally reduced approximation. The error must be minimized in all disciplines, not just your favorite one. The correct solution satisfies all disciplines. There may be loose ends but there should be no conflicts.
The Book of Mormon itself provides many of the clues for solving Mormon's Puzzle. But even this should not be taken to the exclusion of all the other evidence the Lord has made available. The book does not include the hundredth part. Because something is not mentioned is no justification for exclusion from the investigation process. The biggest mistake, other than not studying the Book of Mormon enough, has been trying to understand the evidential details from our perspective rather than from their perspective. Clearly the Book of Mormon is the standard, but it is not the only measure. The evidence must obey the rules of physical human-existence on this earth. A technique is lacking if it is not sufficiently self-consistent and robust to fill in some of the missing 99-percent.
What are the roles of the various disciplines? Ruins (garbage dumps) tell us where the action occurred and most anyone can recognize ruins. Archaeologists have studied sufficient garbage dumps (ruins) to be able to tell with remarkable accuracy when the events occurred. The High-Tech tools available today are truly admirable and will only get better. Anthropologists can perform a very useful function of mapping all available data into the human experience. The extrapolation into the paranormal is left to the "pot smoking" branch of the anthropologists. Historical linguists and etymologists serve a very useful function in tracking language evolution and in place-name verification. The linguists and etymologists lack a handbook that explains all the machinations of language diffusion and evolution. In the physical sciences one first addresses and understands the bulk "macro" dynamics before addressing the "micro" subtleties. The migrations induced such trauma to the languages in the macro scale that the underlying micro rules cannot even be formulated properly without first incorporating the travels documented in the Book of Mormon. This one is too difficult to "dry lab". Many yet appear to be in denial of the extent of communication around the globe between Sumerian, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Egyptian, and Chinese languages. Mayan is a mix – there is not much original about it other than local entropy changes resulting from periods of isolation. Until those global transport processes are understood, the linguists have no legitimate basis for formulating rules on the entropy of languages. It will never happen – the opportunity has been missed. When the Book of Mormon is no longer a "stumbling block", the adversarial need for such subterfuge goes away.
"There is a class of very unscientific writers on many subjects, but especially on Ethnology, who affect a negative method in everything, and ridicule every new thing as belonging rather to the realm of fairy tales than to science. With these writers nothing was ever derived from a strange source, or could have come from anything of which they were ignorant. This tendency is not inspired by truth, but by that timidity rather than prudence which dreads failure or ridicule, and contents itself with theorizing and arranging in the track of bolder minds and true discoverers" (Leland 1875, 83).
Leland showed great wisdom and astute observation back in 1875 – the situation has not changed. It hurts to have "brothers" play the adversarial role as self-appointed academic gods to tear up people in the national media. But then, there is nothing new about that approach. Education is very good, but too much "education" can narrow one's focus to the point that the obvious is no longer obvious. While the "scholars" are busy pontificating on why something cannot be done, some uninhibited soul will prove them wrong. That has been the modus operandi since the beginning.
Each discipline appears to have taken exclusive ownership of the right to solve Mormon's Puzzle. Each hides behind his area of expertise as if it were a shield – too afraid to "think outside the box" – and no discovery results. The solution requires broader thinking than academia will allow – not by their talk, but by their walk. How could an engineer (rocket scientist) solve Mormon's Puzzle while the trained professionals could not? They could not because they would not. The "lobster bucket" environment is too strong – as one attempts to climb out, the others pull him back in. The incestuous quoting circles keep them on top of their game. Their only figure of merit is the number of ideas they can suppress as not being worthy or sufficiently rigorous to meet their lofty standards. And puny man was put on the moon by non- perfect ideas that were just "good enough".
Rebuttal to Brant A. Gardner
I gave a copy of my first book, Mapping the Book of Mormon: A Comprehensive Geography of Nephite America, published in 2002, to Daniel C. Peterson who was then the head of FARMS. He did not read the book, but chose to send it to Brant A. Gardner for review. Next, Gardner's review showed up on the FARMS. web site (now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship).
Friends encouraged me to prepare a rebuttal but I chose not to waste my time at it. Ten years later, much more research has followed with three new publications. The time has come to address Brant's comments. Daniel C. Peterson, now the editor of book reviews, was questioned about any mechanism within the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship for rebuttals – he did not respond. This response is not for Brant, but for those who stumble into his "review" and are foolish enough to capitulate their thinking to him.
My first book was a "work in progress" and was presented as such and as a plea for skilled help in relevant areas. It was not received as such by some at BYU. I pointed out my lack of certain information and requested others to come forward with any additional knowledge they had. In his review, Brant provided none. His pointing out to me a lack that I had already acknowledged fails to advance the discussion or anyone's knowledge.
After reading Brant's Internet coverage of himself, he is more easily understood. After returning from his mission to Spain, Brant decided and stated:
"I should take my new fluency in Spanish to the chronicles that surely supported everything in the Book of Mormon. I wanted to be able to say that I knew that they were true because I had read the sources and they said just that. I did: They didn't. … I resigned myself to the role of gadfly, poking at the obvious problems with the armchair archaeologists and their misuse of information relative to the Book of Mormon."
Oh, what one can't do with a B.A. in University Studies and an M.A. in Anthropology? Personally, I am a horseman and have no use for "gadflies" (horse-flies and bot-flies). With two failures under his belt – the failure to understand the native "chronicles" and the Ph.D. degree that got away from him – he decided to set himself up as a "scholar" to insure that no one else could see what he failed to see. Initially I expected more integrity from him – I no longer have that misconception. He is on the attack without sufficient understanding of the subject matter to qualify himself to be a judge.
Brant is critical of my lack of linguistic skills? So am I, and I am doing something about it -- they are getting better and the impressive collection of dictionaries continues to grow. I will take a "lucky" guess that can then be proven correct any time over a rigorous, well couched, vacuous supposition that has academic support, but yields no results. Frankly, my Ph.D. is in Mechanical Engineering and I did not go to the other side of campus any more than was absolutely necessary to fill humanities groups and get graduated. Other than Spanish and some Ph.D. required French (and most recently a bit of exposure to Chinese), any language skills have been learned on my own. I failed to learn all the things I could not do, so I blindly went ahead and did them – with immeasurable success. I am aware of the struggles with orthographic representations over the years. I also know that it is something to be looked past rather than permitting it to be a hang-up. The comparative Mayan dictionaries now available show that, across the Mayan spectrum, the spelling, orthography, and even pronunciation, with impunity, can be thrown out the window as having any inviolate constraints. The Mayan languages and dialects were all much closer in the distant past and it is the distant past that I care about. I, therefore, refuse to accept some of the modern constraints that create differences (orthographic, spelling, and phonetic) which were not present when Lehi and the boys got off the boat -- they all spoke the same language.
Brant seizes the podium to do some pedagogical pontificating. He quotes Sorenson on how it should have been done. All of which I had done. I have no problem with Sorenson and the academic wealth of information he shares in his books. But, Sorenson does not have any places nailed down.
Brant claims expertise in the Nahuatl language and states that the language is unrelated to Mayan. I have observed extensive word correlation going both directions. The languages are extremely far from "mutually intelligible", but they share some roots. Both languages are Ergative Absolute, as is Sumerian (Jaredite). Hebrew, English, Spanish, Sanskrit, Egyptian, and Chinese are not. When the Spaniards arrived, all of the major Nephite city centers mentioned in the Book of Mormon were still bilingual, all speaking Nahuatl and either Quiché, Kakchiquel, Tz'utujil, or Lenca. And, all experienced continuous occupation – uninterrupted by Mormon's battles. Initially, I expected it would be necessary to re-form the place-name linkages because of discontinuous occupation. Ten years of additional research and I now know that that was a false assumption. As the research concluded, it was recognized that continuity in occupation and continuity in place-name was the rule, not the exception. Only some dusting off of the written records was required. In the first pages of the Title of the Lords of Totonicapán they give five generations of their genealogy from Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Manasseh – as well as their wives Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Asenath, and Meshullemeth in a very scrambled sort of way. The name recognized as Sarah was Saka. Name and pattern recognition were the tools used to discover "what" happened – it is left to the linguists to explain "why". Nearer the end of said book they mentioned a return trip to Zakmalá ( Zarahemla or Zarah-mala or Zakamala). They triangulate its location by a distance, direction, and three location names. That is good enough for an engineer. That gets the name Zarahemla (Zakmalá) into the time of the Spanish Conquest in the natives' literature – the "chronicles" that Brant could not understand. The name came out of the Catholic baptismal process as, Santa Luicía Cotzumalguapa.
And, all major lands experienced continuous occupation – uninterrupted by Mormon's battles. They fought very differently. What were the Lamanite women and daughters doing hanging around the Nephite battles in Nephite lands as Mormon describes in the letter to his son (Moroni 9:9)? You can't fight on an empty stomach – someone had to fry the tortillas. When the battles were over, the occupation continued. The Nephite lands were the "best". As Fuentes y Guzman stated, "This part of Guatemala is the best of the land in fertility, pleasure, and climate; for these reasons it is so coveted" (Zaragosa 1882, Vol. 1, 19). The most coveted lands never remain uninhabited.
Brant comments on the "tenuous methodology" to base a "geography" on place names rather than on topographical interrelationships that do not change over time This convinces me that Brant did not understand what he read (or did not read it) – nothing was proposed without complete correlation with the topographical interrelationships clearly spelled out in the Book of Mormon! And in Guatemala, it is the volcanos that do the talking as to where the rivers go and where cities can be built. Brant does not remember the time that Rome about fell off the map during the dark ages. Fortunately, there was a drunk asleep on the park bench. He was the only one who remembered the name. Thanks to him we still know the name and location of Rome. How absurd – continuity is the rule. The only cities that tend to disappear without a trace are those so wicked that the Lord wants no reminders left.
Continuity of occupation leads to continuity of name, with few exceptions. My investigations were not linguistic but only pattern recognition. Likewise, it is the volcanos about which Mormon's civilizations were collocated. The population density of ruins, coupled with the archaeologists' computed dates of occupation, and Mormon's excellent descriptions, that again reduced the solution method to pattern recognition. I topped the school in Spatial Relations on the national battery of aptitude tests. That makes pattern recognition a very useful tool to me. Looking for patterns and relationships does not require one to be schooled in a particular discipline. The only linguistic difficulty was mapping the transition from native tongue place-names into Catholic saint place-names. Fortunately, they used three simple options: 1) keep the original name and add a saint's name, 2) translate the native name and then add a saint's name, or 3) pick a saints name that sounds most like the native name.
Now let's address what Brant does best. He finds a flaw that is small enough for him to wrap his mind around and then shouts it from the housetops. Brant states, "Pate has armed himself with an impressive number of dictionaries of linguistically unrelated languages." This is where Brant makes himself out the fool – the languages are related – they only differ in how much. Every place a Nephite, Lamanite, Zoramite, Ishmaelite, Mulekite, Jaredite, Phoenician, Jew, or Chinese set his foot is related. Back then the Chinese and Phoenicians sailed all the seas of the world with majesty. Coca Cola is found in virtually every nation and language on this earth. So it is with the many technical terms. We made the inventions and have the "basis" words the rest of the world copies. So it was with silk, indigo, frankincense, gold, copper, tin, and spices etc. There is no justification to exclude any of the great languages of the past or present from cross-examination. As for his restrictive modifier "linguistically" related – he uses it as a "put-down", while I refuse to let it be an overpowering constraint. I refuse to be blinded by his blinders. Recognizing patterns and relationships does not require a linguist's degree. I'll take my linguist beating from the linguists, not Brant A. Gardner.
As for the name Kaminal Juyú (hill of death) having any linguistic connection with Ammonihah, there is none. Gardner and Christenson both correctly identified this flaw. There could be some connection with the "Desolation of Nehors" because of the many skulls found in the area which may have prompted the modern archaeologist to apply the present name "hill of death". Gardner throws out the entire proposed geography because he said it was "anchored" on a single incorrect assumption. That is completely incorrect. It is not the "keystone" as he calls it for the "linguistically" based geographical house of cards he describes. It did capture my interest and got the discovery process started, but absolutely nothing associated with the name is tied to justifying the proposed geography. As Christenson agrees, the time of occupation of Kaminal Juyú coincides exactly with the Book of Mormon. It was one of only three most significant cities in the whole area – Cotzumalguapa (Zarahemla) and Takalik Abaj (Moron) were the other two. The initial thoughts were fortuitous –but, fortuitous does not make it wrong, it just makes it right for the wrong reasons. The intervening ten years of investigation leave me absolutely convinced that the Guatemala City area (Kaminal Juyú) was the Ammonihah area. The ancient name has yet to be discovered. The closest name of interest found for Guatemala City is Xeeq'a' in Akateko and Xek'a' in Jakalteko (Poptí). Phonetically this is somewhat comparable to Xinca. The Xinca are the people of Ammon, the people of the "oath". But that is another book and another time.
Brant did not appreciate the Nephi character "in drag" as portrayed in the Aubin Codex and the Bouterini Codex. He was correct that it was clearly a woman in the native writing form. The stature, however, is consistent with that of a man, not a Mesoamerican woman. She is the tallest figure in the Aubin Codex and of equal height with the men in the Bouterini Codex. As one walks the villages of Mesoamerica, the disparate height of men and women is very clear. The woman figure in the codices does, however, represent the Nephite bloodline. The name glyph is the "sieve or winnowing device" which is naphah in Hebrew. The name is Nephi or Nahua – why he is in drag is certainly open to speculation. Can you name one of Nephi's sons? Maybe he had only daughters. Alma, Aminadi, and Mormon are listed as descendants of Nephi. The absence of sons of Nephi is very obvious. Several legends state that the land was first settled by four brothers – not, three brothers and a sister.
Brant states that the Nahuatl speakers migrated south into Mesoamerica after the end of the Book of Mormon period. That has been the "company line" for a number of years but it is now being changed by Ruud Van Akkeren and Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos. They are finding that the Cotzumalhuapa Culture (Zarahemla) was home grown on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, not imported from Mexico. Van Akkeren is tracking lineage names from the old archives and shows how the Pipil (Nahua) names were translated into Mayan as the coastal inhabitants (Pipils) moved from the piedmont into the Altiplano and merged with the Maya.
When first starting the editing with Richard Hopkins, he stated that we needed to "dumb this down". This will go over their heads. The "dumbing it down" was done by Richard. The resulting sentences were correct, but they did not always exactly capture my thought processes, logic, and manner of speech. He was much nicer than I am and some of the "edge" was removed. Brant's criticism about Sahagún not being able to separate the words is legitimate. It was an error that was not caught. Sahagún understood the language and was doing the writing – it was Charles E. Dibble who was tasked with providing the English translation who had the difficulty. Even with my very limited knowledge of Nahuatl, I can identify many deficiencies in the translation. The six Nahuatl dictionaries I have do not cover all the words and structure used by Sahagún. It is usually those parts that appear to have connections to additional information from the Book of Mormon that are lacking translational clarity or integrity.
In doing the research for the past many years, I have waded through book after book searching for a single nugget of gold. That is the price one pays when doing research. I searched for facts that were useful. Anything that lacked holding power was dropped, gleaning only the useful material. I lack patience with those who look through a book and seek only the perceived flaws. In fairness, the only two negative reviews received from anyone in the last ten years were from Brant Gardner and Allen Christenson. Unfortunately, they represent the "clearinghouse for Mormon thought".
No one is challenging K'umarkáh as Cumorah, Moloni as Moroni, tlayacana as Liahona, Teyocuman or Tecum Umam as Teancum, Nihay and Nahua as Nephi, Tam or Tzam as Sam, Ilocab as Jacob, Zactecauh as Zedekiah, Atiquipaque as Antiparah, Cana as Bountiful, Mati (Amatitlán) as Manti, Agah as Ogath, or Cuajini as Cumeni. They don't like my approach which is pattern recognition, but don't even know enough about the places found to formulate a challenge. The disclosure of the findings was too premature to satisfy their need for "rigorous scholarship". This is not "manned space flight" and does not require that level of "rocket science". I am an investigator and a discoverer and pattern recognition was the major tool. I loathe the mundane requirements to fill in the volumes of dumb data and kiss the required posteriors. I recognize that, "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well". But, I also live by the adage that, "If it is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well". Discovery goes to the quickest, not the most thorough. Years ago I learned in the workplace that you don't put race horses in draft harnesses. Likewise you don't flog a work mule and expect the speed of a thoroughbred. By observation it was also learned that anything other than a donkey (MBA with no technical clue) would feel out of place in management. I certainly am not qualified to satisfy the technical needs that can be required by the many relevant disciplines. I am an investigator and I can read the evidence and see the obvious (pattern recognition) where many are too over-constrained to even see the obvious.
Ten years of continuous research after publishing the first book, all of the important cities remain exactly as previously identified. However, the Temple Bountiful, the Temple Shilom, the Waters of Mormon, and the city of Jerusalem also have now been found and correctly placed on the map.
The Book of Mormon cities of the Late Preclassic era (virtually all still occupied) are not as spectacular as the Late Classic Maya magnificent ruins. The cut stone from the ruins in the "most capitol parts of the land" were removed to build bridges and Catholic churches. The Tour Guide businesses visit many beautiful and more exciting ruins -- they just are not relevant. They are not where the Book of Mormon happened. Many of the spectacular ruins the tours visit were indeed inhabited by Nephites – the Yaqui or "those who left" Mormon's lands. I attended one of Joseph Allen's BMAF conferences and had many interesting conversations. First thing in the morning of the second day, one of his sons cornered me and said, "This is our conference and we would appreciate it if you would keep your ideas to yourself." I was of the mistaken understanding that it was an open investigative forum. Fortunately, I was set straight before I could do more damage to his "business". I have now been told that the Allens are no longer in leadership roles in the BMAF and that it is indeed a true open investigative forum – we shall see. In the quest for Mormon lands there is too much academic turf protection, too much incorrect tour business, too many want-to-be critics, too many unsubstantiated and misleading quotes attributed to Joseph Smith, and too little study and understanding of the Book of Mormon.
It does not upset me that Brant found some flaws. Everything I write will have flaws in it. I do, however, try to limit my writing to that which is worth reading. I read only to learn, not for entertainment. Everything I have read has deficiencies – I look past them to see if there is something I can learn. That is beyond the scope of Brant A. Gardner and his "gadfly" role. Reading to poke holes, rather than reading to learn, confines Brant to that group of the "hopelessly and forever ignorant".
Brant does give some condescending remarks that Pate adds a new perspective to the task and brings some important insights to his work. Of course none of them were worth mentioning in the review – that would be outside his "job description". Brant derogatorily refers to the book as a 466 page testimony interspersed with phonetic legerdemain. I had to look that one up – deception, trickery, skillful use of ones hands when performing tricks. Frankly, I would be embarrassed to even know what that word means – I don't walk in those circles.
Rebuttal to Allen J. Christenson
Years ago I approached Allen Christenson with a question. In the conversation he mentioned that he had prepared a digital copy of his Quiché dictionary. He most graciously volunteered to send it to me. I greatly appreciate that and it has been of immeasurable value to my efforts. I quoted him extensively in my first book, Mapping the Book of Mormon: A Comprehensive Geography of Nephite America, published in 2002. Apparently he took offense, having an engineer tromp rough-shod through his sacred K'iche' linguistic world. I do not blame him -- his is an absolutely essential response for those in the academic world who must defend their sacred turf at all costs.
My approach was to examine all data I could get my hands on. Any use of his sacred K'iche', Kaqchiquel, and Tz'utujil dictionaries was limited to seeking definitions and looking for comparative patterns among all the languages. I fully expected the "you are not qualified" beating from the BYU linguists. I was ready to take it, but then, searching Christenson's training, I found an "art history" degree. It would appear that his extensive K'iche', Kaqchiquel, and Tz'utujil linguistic training came on his own as he walked the mountains of Guatemala. I would concede that Allen J. Christenson is possibly the most knowledgeable person on his subject from this side of the border. However, I have not found evidence of his vast background in historical linguistics or etymology that would justify him setting himself up as a judge of all the linguistic evidence – to say nothing of all the archaeological, anthropological, historical, and Book of Mormon evidence required to solve Mormon's puzzle.
Christenson's most severe criticism was that such a line of research was too "dauntingly difficult to master by any one person" and that I had "set for myself an impossible task". I have never been accused of being a "wimp". The job is done – the rest is just polish. I am past the geography parts of the puzzle and now following the bloodlines. The K'iche' are Nephites (Nephi-Nihayib, Sam-Tamub, Jacob-Ilocab, and Joseph-Cavekib). The Kaqchiquel are Zoramites, Mulekites, Ishmaelites, and residual Jaredites. The Xahilá branch of the Kaqchiquel, "the dancers", are the Mulekites. They descended from Zactecauh (Zedekiah). How many linguistic degrees, which Christenson does not have, does it take to recognize that Zactecauh is Zedekiah? The Tz'utujils are the "eagles" and the "weasels" – the Gadianton and Kishkumen bloodlines, respectively. If the task is too "dauntingly difficult" or "impossible", get out of the way.
Allen was affiliated with F.A.R.M.S. at the time of the book review. Now his review is the first response I greet when I Google my own name -- now it is the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship that harbors such reviews. I would like Allen's help and have since solicited his help, but he is very busy in his studies of choice.
Many consider F.A.R.M.S and now the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship as the "clearing house" for all "religious thought". I do not. I would encourage Allen J. Christenson to re-read Michael D. Coe's great book Breaking the Maya Code and to pick which role he is playing. Is he Athanasius Kircher, the Jesuit who held up decipherment of the Rosetta stone for more than a century? Is he Champollion, the boy too poor for schooling and therefore self-taught who actually translated the Rosetta stone? Is he Sir Eric Thompson, who single handedly used his strong personality to hold up breaking the Maya code for forty long years? Is he the eccentric Yuri Knorosovo, the bright student with an inquisitive temperament who was almost expelled from school for poor behavior? Is he the timid refined lady, Linda Schele, with her extensive formal linguistic training in Breaking Maya Codes 101, 499, 599, 699, and 799 etc. – or was it her heart, soul, and eye, with the Tennessee/Texas drawl and all, that made her Art Education major so invaluable to y'all? Or, is he that long haired twelve year old kid David Stuart? Well, Jesuit Athanasius Thompson, for the moment you are in the way -- get on board or get out of the way. You are standing at the fork in the road pointing the troops in the wrong direction.
Allen J. Christenson's review is entitled, Linguistic Puzzles Still Unresolved. I could not agree with you more – that is your job. I owe you an apology – I am sorry, but you mistake me for someone who gives a darn about linguistics. My goal was to find Mormon's foot prints in space and time as a rebuttal to all those pastors who, for lack of any substantiating physical evidence, deceive their congregations about the credibility of Mormon's story. When my Lutheran friend challenged, "We know where Jerusalem is; we know where Nineveh is; but you Mormons don't know where anything in the Book of Mormon is," I took it very personally. I have met my objective – the places, names, and people are found.
Allen J. Christenson, why pick on me? I am not even in your same sandbox. We are not even in the same sport, let alone the same league. I was using pattern recognition and you don't have a corner on that. I have a better opinion of linguistics than to call what I did, linguistics – it was more forensics. What I did was more like tracking a wounded deer through the forest. Was that a splash of blood on that leaf, or was it just some fall color? Follow it and if it is a true clue it will lead to more – if it is not, the way will be hedged up. Retrace your steps to the last positive evidence and start again. Don't spend too much time going backward or you will appear academic, or worse than that, governmental. Deer don't read "No Trespassing" signs. Fortunately there is no "private property" on this hunt and the only "No Trespassing" signs are in the minds of a few academic squatters. The closest I came to linguistics was reviewing a multitude of dictionaries. I read them at basketball games. I am not too proud to use any tools available. I do admit that I probably "violated the warranty" on your linguistic tools.
I hate to break it to you, but Joseph Smith, Jr. did not follow your linguistic rules. He was translating by the "gift and power of God" into English with its limited alphabet. When sounds were encountered that were not in the English language, he, with his "limited erudition" and "limited help" included only what his puny English of the day would support. Tzam was Sam, tlayacana was Liahona, Cana was Bountiful, and K'umarkáh (Q'umarkaj, Gumarcaah, Q'uma'aka'aaj, or whatever) was Cumorah. If that is a problem, take it up with Joseph or Mormon. There was no way Lucifer was going to let Cumorah show up as Cumorah – or was it the Lord who wanted first to try the people's faith?
As for the K'iche' arriving at Cumorah too late to be relevant for the Book of Mormon account, that is now being called the Robert Carmack "diversion" in the literature (see Ruud Van Akkeren and Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos). As for the smallness of the hill Cumorah (K'umarkáh) and the existence of "a dozen other similar small hills and plateaus surrounding it", they are where Moroni, Gidgiddonah, Lamah, Gilgal, Limhah, Jeneum, Cumenihah, Moronihah, Antionum, Shiblom, Shem, and Josh, each with their ten thousand, were located – thank you.
As an engineer I am very skilled at verbal mayhem. I have had a lifetime as an engunear misxpelling wurdz. My entire career has been with aero-space companies which do it well – Aerojet, EG & G Idaho Inc., GE, Lockheed-Martin, and ATK. Each of these large companies was milking the "government cow" – a "cow" stolen from the "people". The government could not function without acronyms – were it not so, the common man might be able to discover how his tax dollars are being wasted. Their acronyms would challenge Mormon's "reformed Egyptian" for brevity. Word recognition or pattern recognition skills have been a significant help in this investigation – sometimes the word victim was decayed beyond recognition.
When I see such academic critics (stuffed shirts) hiding behind their shields while spewing out such subterfuge in the name of "rigorous scholarship", my stomach turns. I recall many acquaintances who were planning to be engineers and then the first class of "The Calculus" changed their minds and they had to go across campus to find their degrees. I find no virtue in the political fighting among yourselves, against other humble members, and against the world that characterized F.A.R.M.S. and appears to have transitioned into the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. If you cannot contribute to "value added", why are you on the payroll?
A license is not required, no Board Certification, to use a dictionary. It is not a sin. Therefore, by extrapolating, using many dictionaries does not constitute many sins. Christenson chooses to beat me with the "scholarship" stick. Scholarly and scholarship are actually very weak words having to do with a school, a teacher, and students – and not much else – there are no built in quality standards. Let's check another definition – anal: a personality trait characterized as meticulous attention to detail. It may be "scholarship" to you but it is "anal" to me. That is the difference between an engineer and the softer sciences. What do grammar, morphology, syntax, phonology, and phonetics have to do with depriving someone the privilege of putting together a puzzle or reading a dusty old treasure map? Pattern recognition was the name of the game.
Engineers know you can't cheat the physics – they must be dealt with appropriately. The rest is cosmetic. The structural integrity of a building is not determined by the color of the paint. Do not mistake "shinola" for "scholarship".
If you feel offended, you have been exposed -- rabies shots are recommended. If there is anyone whom I have not offended, please do not feel left out.