Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part III

Continuing from the previous two posts regarding the website article of Richard G. Grant (Come to Zarahemla) and the article written in it called “Lehi in the Promised Land: What did he Find?” And with a sub-heading “When they arrived, what did they Find? Cows and horses? Were there others there?” In the previous posts Grant is quoted as suggesting that Nephi gave names to the animals he found in the Land of Promise that were not indicative of the actual animals, but similar to what he had known back in the Old World; and also that early explorers named American bison by the name of Buffalo in error, which was shown to be inaccurate, since bison and buffalo translate into English as the same meaning. 
It was also introduced in the last post that Grant writes about other people in the Land of Promise when Lehi arrived. Following is another of Grant's assertions that is in error:
    Grant writes: “Dr. Sorenson points out that a careful reading of the text does not support the general view that "Nephite" and "Lamanite" refer to lineage. Rather, these are political designations. Jacob makes this very plain in Jacob 1:14. He there says that "Lamanites" is a name he is giving to all who seek to destroy the Nephite. He further states that all who are friendly to the Nephite king will be called "Nephites."
    Response: The problem is, Sorenson, as he always seems to do, doesn’t bother to tell you what he doesn’t want you to know in his writing and scriptural references, and evidently Grant didn’t bother to check it out. In this first chapter of Jacob, the prophet tells us Nephi died (Jacob 1:12) after describing a little about the continuation of Nephi’s name earlier. Then he begins his writing by telling us who he is writing about, i.e., the Nephites and Lamanites.
    He says, “Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites,” that is, the Nephites were made up of the tribes of Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and Zoram—and the Lamanites were made up of the tribes of Laman, Lemuel and Ishmael, i.e., the sons of Ishmael who are never named. Thus, we are told that the people that were not Lamanites were Nephites, i.e., there were just two divisions that Jacob would name in his future writing—Nephites and Lamanites. They can be called a political division if one wants, however, they were made up of lineage tribes of Lehi and Ishmael, plus that of Zoram.
This is also borne out in Mormon’s own explanation of who the people were in the Land of Promise as late as 322 A.D. (Mormon 1:8), and Mormon, it should be remembered in about 385 A.D., wrote: “And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi” (Words of Mormon 1:3). At this time Mormon knew of Jacob’s explanation of these tribal lines and wrote of them himself, so it should be understood that from first landing down to the final battle, the Nephites and Lamanites were divided along tribal lines—not just political lines as Sorenson maintains and Grant repeats.
    Grant Writes: “Population, cultural differences, and the story of Sherem all suggest that there must have been others.”
    Response: The story of Sherem merely states that evidently in the latter part of Jacob’s life, “there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem” (Jacob 7:1), and Grant asks: “Where did Sherem come from? If there were only Nephites and Lamanites, Sherem could only come among the Nephites by coming from the Lamanites.” However, that is not true at all. Jacob lived at the time in the city of Nephi; however, there were other villages, towns or cities nearby at the time.
    Many years earlier, upon first arriving in the area, Nephi said he “did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15). There is simply no reason to believe that some of these Nephites wouldn’t have built a little ways off from where Nephi dwelt, such as in the land of Shilom (Mosiah 7:21; 9:6, 8), which was very close by, or the land of Shemlon (Mosiah 10:7), which also was within view of the city of Nephi.
    “Came among the Nephites,” might just be the same as saying someone from another Ward came over to your Ward, and where I live that is five or six blocks away, and in Provo or Salt Lake City would be half that distance. It could have meant form another town, or it might have even meant that Sherem had been living some distance away as a recluse or private-type person. Nothing is known and nothing can be speculated about the incident. He was a Nephite, he knew about Jacob and what he taught the people, and he spoke the language—was so fluent in it that he was both a flatterer and very persuasive (Jacob 7:2).
Sherem did not seek out Jacob initially, not until after he had been preaching for some time among the people and converting many to his way of thinking (Jacob 1:3). After a while, he obviously thought he could persuade Jacob himself to change his mind and sway him to his own way of thinking (Jacob 7:5). Jacob evidently sought to avoid the man for a time, but eventually agreed to see him, for when Sherem got an audience, he said, “I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you” (Jacob 7:6).
    While Sorenson, and Grant in following this line of thinking, try to make out that Sherem must have had a hard time getting an audience because there being so many people (other than Nephites) in the city and area, all this merely shows is that while Sherem wanted a chance to argue with Jacob, obviously Jacob was not interested in such a confrontation any more than Church leaders are today--even missionaries are warned not to get into confrontations with contacts or leaders of other churches.
    However, it finally became necessary for such a confrontation (Jacob 7:9) and the Lord helped Jacob to confound (dumbfound, bewilder, baffle) Sherem in all his words (arguments).
    Grant Writes: Dr. Sorenson states an even stronger case for the evidence from linguistics. Both the internal and external evidence is relevant and consistent. For example, the Book of Mormon tells us about the Mulekites found by Mosiah in Zarahemla. The record says that due to the corruption of the Mulekite language, the Nephites and Mulekites were unable to understand each other. Dr. Sorenson indicates that linguistic studies have shown that such language changes will only occur if there has been an infusion of another language into the culture.”
    Response: This is pure hogwash. While other languages can and do have an effect through additional words (English has an infusion of numerous languages over the past 300 years or more), but more changes over time occur simply because, in part, 1) Not all people who speak a language speak it the same way, 2) people living in isolation from one another develop varying pronunciations and even dialects, 3) developing accents effect pronunciation, 4) idolect (manner of speaking of an individual person) also has an effect over time as it is adopted by others, 5) differences between industrialization (fast paced living) and agricultural life (slow paced living) have a distinct effect of speaking and pronunciation over time, 6) jargon (specialized vocabulary used within disciplines) has a pronounced effect on pronunciation, and 7) the younger generation making up words (slang) and using it for so long, it becomes a natural part of the vocabulary—this change is noticeable in our own language (nuisance, passenger, last, facetious, diaper, doom, awful, nervous, pristine, matrix, egregious, protest, brave, hilarity, garble, sad, bully, evil, dapper, angel, pretty, buxom, sophisticated, guy, manufacture, nice, stupid, pedant, inmate, success, villain, etc. (the list goes on and on—none of these words were changed because of other languages, but simply that over time, their meanings were changed within English to mean something else—in my lifetime I have seen scores of words be changed to mean other things, such as grass, pot, radical, airhead, bad, can, busted, fix, hot, whack, ice, hood, blast, hoops, hustler, job, jock, joint, ill, kickback, fan, mug, knock off, threads, pig, rap, redneck, ripped, jack, zip, john, etc.)
So-called “Correct English” is spoken in 25 varying areas of the U.S. that have different forms of pronunciation from each other
    Languages change because people invent new words (selfie; bitcoin; binge-watch), alter existing words, called clipping or truncation (gymnasium to gym; examination to exam; and fore-clipping: phone from telephone; flu from influenza); change pronunciation (gay-rawg to ga-rawg; ask to ax; vall-e to val-lee; poor to pour; sure to shore); lose knowledge of a word (ruricolous 1730 living in the country; exlineal 1716 out of direct line of descent; sinapistic 1879 mustard; foppotee 1663 simpleton; mowburnt 1900 crops spoiled by overheating; scelidate 1877 having legs); alter its meaning (awful once meant inspiring wonder; gay meant lighthearted, joyous, happy; mouse from rodent to computer device), etc. In addition, language changes because people get lazy in their pronunciation, from southern drawls (pin for pen; fill for feel; fell for fail; or y'all for you all; gonna for going to; a hootin' n' a-hollerin') to New England clipping of words (meen for man; hoarse for horse; planeat for planet), which is especially seen in various dialectic areas of a single country (just look at the numerous dialectic pronunciations in the various regions of the U.S.)
(See the next post, “Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part IV, “ for the continuation of Grant’s comments and the misinterpretation of the words he describes and how that affects our understanding of Nephi’s descriptions of the Land of Promise)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the website article of Richard G. Grant (Come to Zarahemla) and the article written in it called “Lehi in the Promised Land: What did he Find?” And with a sub-heading “When they arrived, what did they Find? Cows and horses? Were there others there?” In the previous post Grant is quoted as suggesting that Nephi gave names to the animals he found in the Land of Promise that were not indicative of the actual animals, but similar to what he had known back in the Old World. 
While Grant suggests explorers gave different animals familiar names, it is far more likely that they might have said “Looks like a horse,” or “Is similar to a cow,” rather than it was a horse or cow if it wasn't the same animal
    Grant continues: “What was Nephi to call them [the animals]. The only names he had were those for similar animals in the old country. He did what travelers throughout history have always done, he named these new animals according to their resemblance to that which was familiar.
    Response: This is the man who talked with God, who was instructed how to build a ship with no prior experience, took leadership of the colony, built a city and temple rivaling Solomon’s, who wrote extensively of all he saw—one could only wonder that he would have been so unwise as to flippantly give familiar names to animals when he didn’t know what they were. Such thinking is both demeaning to Nephi and not within the character of the prophet.
Joseph translated the writing on the plates and a scribe wrote down what he dictated—according to Emma Smith, Joseph translated for hours straight without looking at any book, notes, or other material
    However, what few people seem to understand is the role of an interpreter in the matters of the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith himself told us this process, the Lord told us about this process, and those who worked with Joseph in scribing the translation have written clearly about this process. Why writers choose to ignore the process, which involved the Spirit, is hard to understand. Grant, and others who want to talk about such matters, ought to read D&C 9:7-8, and what was been said by the scribes and others who observed the translation process.
    A second area Grant discusses is that of naming corn, in which he refers to Reynolds and Sjodahl, from their Commentary on the Book of Mormon. However, no matter who originated the idea, promoting it without doing any individual research on the matter is merely continuing a falsehood.
    Grant writes: “When the Spanish arrived in the Americas they were introduced to a new food crop for which they had no name. They called it corn. This was the old world name of the food which they found to bare the closest relationship wheat.”
    Response: Have you ever looked at corn and wheat growing in a field and had any difference in telling them apart?
Wheat and corn growing in a field. They look nothing alike, and could not possibly be mistaken for the same plant…
Nor do they look anything alike at time of harvest: Top: Corn on the stalk ready for harvest; Bottom: Wheat on the stalk ripe for harvest. Does anyone really think the Spanish conquistadores could not tell these apart?
    Again, the problem arises in not knowing what words meant at the time they were used. As an example, our meaning of “corn” today began in 1492 when Columbus’ men discovered this new grain in Cuba. An American native crop, it was exported to Spain rather than being imported, as were other major grains the colonizers brought with them during Columbus’ four voyages. At first, corn was only a garden curiosity in Spain, but it soon began to be recognized as a valuable food crop. Within a few years, it spread throughout France, Italy, and all of southeastern Europe and northern Africa. By 1575, it was making its way into western China, and had become important in the Philippines and the East Indies.
Maize (the British term for corn) and Indian Corn (which principally means maize, but is also a colorful variegated kernel corn, dried and used for decoration). Maize is taken from the Taino language of the Arawak people living in Cuba and the Caribbean at the time of Columbus, who called it “maiz”
    On the other hand, The word "corn" has many different meanings depending on what country you are in. Corn in the United States is also called maize or Indian corn. In some countries, corn means the leading crop grown in a certain district. Corn in England means wheat; in Scotland and Ireland, it refers to oats. Corn mentioned in the Bible probably refers to wheat or barley. Corn is indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, and anciently, grew from southern North Dakota and both sides of the lower St. Lawrence Valley southward to northern Argentina and Chile. It extended west­ward to the middle of Kansas and Nebraska, and an important lobe of the Mexican area extended northward to Arizona, New Mexico and southern Colorado. It was also an important crop in the high valleys of the Andes in South America, as well as Mexico.
    Grant, like Sorenson and other Theorists, love to try and explain away scriptural references they do not understand or cannot answer as written. The problem is, their explanations make less sense than what they are trying to explain away, and typically demean the stature of the prophet Nephi as well as Latter-day Saints generally.
    A third area Grant mentions is Sorenson’s belief that others lived in the Land of Promise when Lehi arrived. Again, parroting what others have written without individual research on the matter is merely perpetuating myths as truth.
    Grant writes: “When Lehi's party arrived in the land, did they find others there? John Sorenson cites population growth, cultural adaptation, and subtle hints given throughout the text as his evidence for a resounding answer of yes! It seems unavoidable that others were in the land, somewhere, when Nephi's boat landed on the shore of the "west sea," and quite certainly some of them were survivors from the Jaredite peoples.”
    Response: There is no “certainly” involved. Ether writes that all were wiped out, Moroni repeats that after reading the entire Jaredite record. Sorenson picks up the book and says, “a careful reading of the text does not support the general view,” and introduces numerous peoples populating the Land of Promise of which not one suggestion in the entire 522 pages Nephi, Mormon and Moroni left us. No, not one!
    So what careful reading?
(See the next post, “Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part III, “ for the continuation of Grant’s comments and the misinterpretation of the words he describes and how that affects our understanding of Nephi’s descriptions of the Land of Promise)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part I

It is interesting how far afield people can go in trying to find a way to explain away what they do not understand but think are contrary comments in the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. Over the past several months we have received numerous comments about an apologetic’s comments (Richard G. Grant on his website Come to Zarahemla) regarding some of these misunderstandings and the unwise approach taken in what the author must have felt was a way to explain away what he thought was damaging or misleading wordage in the scriptural record. 
    The problem is, as it often turns out, authors of such writing have a limited knowledge or understanding of the true meaning of the words that concern them. Consequently, a little research on their part could often help them better understand Nephi or Mormon’s meanings, and the words Joseph Smith used and what they meant in his translation. Often, with such additional knowledge, we find that what was written is accurate.
It originates in a lengthy article written by Grant, entitled “Lehi in the Promised Land: What did he Find?” As a sub-heading he writes: “When they arrived, what did they Find? Cows and horses? Were there others there?” Two specific areas have been singled out that we’ll take the time to respond to in a full article, since the concept involved is important to many another question or comment regarding the idea that Latter-day Saints need to “apologize” for what was written by Nephi, Mormon and the others or translated by Joseph Smith.
    Grant writes: “Another familiar example is the buffalo. When early explorers encountered a strange new animal on the North American plains, they didn't make up a new name. They called it a buffalo — the name of the animal back home, which this creature most resembled. The bison is, of course, not a buffalo and to my knowledge no one has ever charged that the early explores claim of buffalo was a lie, nor that the records of their explorations contain an anachronism. Even today, for most Americas, a buffalo is that strange animal that roamed the plains and fed the Indians. The name, bison, has just never caught on. "Bison Bill"? No! It just doesn't have the right ring to it. Of course, translators must do this same thing. Yet, the translator is even more restricted. The explorer may learn from the natives their word for an unfamiliar plant or animal and use that word. This information is generally not available to the translator of an ancient record. The translator must either leave the name untranslated or use some familiar name that seems appropriate. Looking at these specific animals named by Nephi, there has been found little evidence to suggest that the old world animals named were present on this continent prior to their introduction by the Europeans.”
Response: The American bison (Bison bison), also commonly known as the American buffalo, is a North American species of bison. The European bison (Bison bonasus) also called the Wisent or the European wood bison, is an Eurasian species of bison and one of two extant species of bison alongside the American bison. The name “bison” was borrowed in 1611 from the Latin bisōn, which referred to the animal’s musk (odor or smell). On the other hand, the word “buffalo” comes from 16th century Spanish or Portuguese búfalo. You might be surprised what both these words really mean translated into English.
    As for early explorers in the Americas, they were either Spanish, English or French. Back home to them would have been the bison of Europe. However, the word buffalo is known in Asia (water buffalo) and Africa (buffalo), neither of which would probably have been known to the early explorers mentioned who called the American plains animal a “buffalo”—and as mentioned above, the name came from early French fur trappers in America who called these massive beasts bœufs, meaning ox or bullock, which is basically the meaning of the word “bison,” which is from the Greek word boubalos meaning wild ox, or ox-like animal—so both names, “bison” and “buffalo” have the same basic meaning.
    In fact, upon seeing both animals, it is no wonder they were called Buffalo by the French fur traders, since they are so close in appearance as to seem the same animal.
Left: American Buffalo; Right: European Bison
    The point is, the early explorers mentioned by Grant named the Buffalo exactly what it was, a bison, meaning ox-like animal, just as the ones they had known in Europe looked like and were called. Obviously, Grant’s “apologist” approach falls far short and makes the Latter-day Saints look pretty stupid, which they are not—the jury is still out on Grant, though.
    What I really find far more interesting, however, is that people like Grant, Sorenson, and others get concerned over the animals Nephi found, but neglect to recognize that he identified five things in the immediate area of their first landing far more important in identifying where he landed than the animals, which was: 1) a place (bay, inlet, etc.) where they could land (an act without wharfs, docks, etc., in a ship capable of sailing across the oceans would have been an extremely difficult and important matter); 2) an immediate place to pitch tents and settle down; 3) a climate where seeds from Jerusalem could grow exceedingly and provide an abundant crop; 4) a forest big enough where both domestic type and wild animals were found; and 5) all manner of ore, including gold, silver and copper. Naming the animals pales in insignificance as to finding an area where all five of these things existed in this immediate area.
The Landing of the Pilgrims, by Henry A. Bacon (1877) shows that the early pilgrims came ashore in rowboats manned by the Plymouth’s crew. Even assuming Nephi’s ship had rowboats, they would have needed a “sheltered inlet” or bay. As Bill Bryson in “Made in America,” wrote: “The one thing the Pilgrims certainly did not do was step ashore on Plymouth Rock…no prudent mariner would try to bring  a ship alongside a boulder on a heaving sea when a sheltered inlet beckoned from near by”
    Grant goes on to write: “when Nephi and his family arrived in this new world, wherever they landed, they were greeted by animals that they had never seen before…”
    Response: We have no reason to believe that these animals were not the same animals they knew before, especially since they gave them all names so readily “both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals” (1 Nephi 18:25). Since Lehi lived outside Jerusalem all his days (1 Nephi 1:4), it is most likely that he and his family had farm animals and were well acquainted with the type of animals they discovered. And, too, Lehi and at least Nephi, spoke and wrote two languages (Hebrew and Egyptian), and as a wealthy man, Lehi would have been knowledgeable and was obviously well known in his community. After all, we are not talking about the conquistadores, who were uneducated soldiers, explorers, mercenaries, and even slaves, the vast majority could not read or write, that did not know the difference between obvious things they saw in the New World--Lehi and Nephi were quite the opposite and did not need to make up names or would they likely have used names incorrectly.
(See the next post, “Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part II, “ for the continuation of Grant’s comments and the misinterpretation of the words he describes and how that affects our understanding of Nephi’s descriptions of the Land of Promise)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Following Normal Sailing Patterns—The Fallacy of Eastward Sailing

What about the winds and currents then facing Lehi in 600 B.C.? Could he have reached the Philippines and sailed northward as did Urdaneta? (See last post) And if not, why not? 
    Much has been written about winds and currents on this blog, but their importance, which is often ignored entirely by the many Theorists who want to place the Land of Promise in different locations the winds and currents don't go, has been well documented; however, being able to sail in 600 B.C. in a ship “driven forth before the wind” is a crucial point Nephi mentions, and should not be ignored, but considered in its fullest understanding.
    The last post discussed the problems even the most experienced mariners and sea captains of the day faced for some 2100 years after Lehi sailed, in trying to broach an eastward course across the middle and southern Pacific Ocean, a serious problem that has been well documented down through history. Yet, Theorists continue to trace a line across the map and say this is where they sailed. However, the Monsoon winds, sea currents, and Trade Winds of the Indian Ocean, which have also been very well documented regarding where a sailing vessel in 600 B.C., motivated only by the wind, could have sailed from the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula (see the previous posts Mormon’s Abridgement--Driven Forth Before the Wind, Part VI and VII,  October 25 and 26 of this year).
    One of the important issues to understand in comparing ancient trade routes with Lehi’s voyage, as Sorenson and other Theorists do, is in understanding those early trading vessels and how they differed in design, function, and abilities from later deep ocean vessels—like the one Nephi would have built.
Top: First Minoan vessel around 1500 B.C.; Phoenician trading ship, 1000-900 B.C.; Greek ship around 500 B.C. These ships did not sail deep oceans, but were coastal vessels used for trading in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea prior to, and around, Lehi’s time
    As an example, the dhow was a ship that sailed the Red and Arabian Seas in antiquity. Whether they pre-dated Lehi’s time is doubtful, since most experts claim they originated between 600 B.C. and 600 A.D.
These were the trading vessels that made port along the Arabian and Indian coasts, and sailed anciently into the Bay of Bengal beyond India. The dhow, which is a generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts and lateen sails, while thought to be invented by the Arabs or Indians was, according to Briggs, Casson, Manguim, et al, a Chinese invention.
Dhow trading vessels around Lehi’s time. If Nephi was familiar with any ship “built by men,” it would have been one like this, the most predominant vessel in the Red Sea at the time Lehi passed down the coast
    These vessels typically sported long, thin hulls, and were used to carry fruit, fresh water or merchandise along the coast of the Eastern Arabia and Persian Gulf, East Africa, Yemen, Oman, south Asia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Larger dhows have carried crews of 30 while smaller ones carried around twelve. On the other hand, the Chinese Junks, much larger trading vessels, were not built until between 960 to 1270 A.D., during the Song dynasty.
    Once again, these early trading vessels were poorly made by comparison with deep ocean ships, were shallow bottomed, and would not have survived the constant pounding of the open sea. This understanding gives added meaning to “I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2). This is more clearly understood in knowing that the ships built by man in 600 B.C. were not designed for, and would simply not have survived, in the deep ocean.
Consequently, not until the ships of the 12th century onward did man come to know how to built vessels that would survive somewhat in deep oceans. While few sailed out that far in those early ships, it was beginning to become more and more a likelihood, and after decades of sailors trying to reach the Indies with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks, Vasco da Gama (left) landed in Kozhikode (Calicut), western India, on May 20, 1498 (6 years after Columbus’ first voyage), reaching the legendary Indian spice routes, though losing two of his four ships in the effort, and with only 55 men surviving.

Da Gama was able to reach India, after losing ships and men in previous efforts, because he found he had to swing far out to sea (black arrow) to swing around Africa (yellow arrow)
    Despite this knowledge, Theorists keep parroting the idea first suggested by Sorenson, that Lehi followed “the normal sailing patterns from the Persian Gulf eastward, it is assumed that Lehi's party would have sailed either past Singapore to the Philippines, or south of Sumatra to New Guinea.” The problem is, as any oceanographer would quickly grasp, either of these routes are in opposition to both the monsoons that flow off the coast to sea, blocking any path sailing across the Indian Ocean, as well as the constant winds that blow from east to west through Indonesia.
The winds through Indonesia. Note that they are all blowing against any approach Lehi could have possibly made through these islands. Red Arrows: winds coming off the Pacific Ocean along the northern arm of the South Pacific Gyre and southern arm of the North Pacific Gyre; Green Arrows: Movement of those winds through Indonesia; Blue Arrows: Monsoon winds coming off the continent; Green Arrows: Winds off Pacific hitting winds off continent and bending southwest; Orange Arrows: Winds blowing into the Indian Ocean from Indonesia, against any approaching vessel to the entrances through Malay and Sumatra or Java. While later, experienced crews with large numbers of seamen could broach these winds, Lehi’s family neither had the ship, rigging, nor experience to even make the attempt
    As can be seen, to claim Lehi sailed eastward across the Indian Ocean in 600 B.C., with a sailing ship that was “driven forth before the wind” is as silly and impossible as to claim he took a rocket ship to the land of Promise. These winds are one of the major reasons why China never sailed into the Pacific, but hugged the coasts into the East China Sea, or sailed south into the South China Sea and to Indonesia.
    In addition to all this, the seamanship that would have been required to sail through these islands, and especially down the 500-mile Malacca Strait, negotiating the conflicting winds and gusts (force 5 or 6, with 7 and 8 possible), and the through currents, tidal currents, counter-currents and constant spouts in the narrow waters, would have been beyond any inexperienced crew. Thunderstorms and torrential rain, along with squalls are common in the Strait, especially between April and November and are called Sumatras, with southwesterly squalls occurring either day or night and lasting longer than the Sumatras. There are also some islands and numerous islets in the channel, and dangerous sand banks that become exposed with the tides and varying strength of tidal currents that lower flood tides considerably and without warning. From the area of Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in the lower half of the Strait is about 20 miles wide, and continually narrows to less than nine miles in width, and ends up in the Straits of Singapore—a channel 65 miles long and 10 miles wide that narrows to only three miles in width, filled with many small islands, islets, reefs, and shoals, where no mariner would think of sailing without charts of this dangerous area that have been available for centuries.
    In 600 B.C., in a deep-ocean vessel propelled only by wind pushing it forward (and not pulled into the wind through tacking and modern rigging), it would have been near impossible—the guidance of the Liahona, nor the minimal type steering available to Nephi, would not have solved the navigational problem of inexperienced men handling a large ship through what is considered today, even with modern technology, radar, GPS, etc., the most dangerous seaway in the world.
Top: Aerial view of the Strait of Singapore; Bottom: A 3-D map of the Strait of Singapore. Obviously, for an inexperienced crew in a fixed-sail, deep-ocean vessel “driven forth before the wind,” this would have been an impossible navigational route in 600 B.C.
    This is the route Lehi’s ship would have had to take through Indonesia in order to reach the South China Sea and the Kuroshio Current to sail eastward across the Pacific. First, the winds and currents would have prohibited such a course, and second, the lack of seamanship would have made the route impossible to negotiate. Consequently, there is no way Nephi’s ship, “driven forth before the wind,” could have gone eastward across the Indian Ocean and through Indonesia to the Pacific Ocean.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Following Normal Sailing Patterns—The story of Andrés de Urdaneta

We have talked much about winds and currents, but it seems readers and Theorists alike seem not to grasp the full import of this, any more than they do the import of Jacob telling the Nephites they were on an island. Yet, this type of descriptive information Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni have left us is vital in understanding the geographic setting of the Book of Mormon and where the Land of Promise was located. 
    In fact, on such information hangs the truth or falsehood of Land of Promise locations and one’s entire theory and life’s work—not to mention the credibility such claims have on the general public and the scientific community as a whole.
    In this regard, we have mentioned on numerous occasions the winds and seas which, by the way, are the only accurate method to learn where Nephi’s ship sailed and where it could have and would have landed. This includes the sea currents and deep ocean winds that play a most important role—as they have throughout history from the beginning of sail down to and including the Age of Sail through the 19th century.
Left: The first sail boat, an Egyptian river boat on the Nile; Right: the last sailing ship, the Yankee Clipper, primarily bringing tea from China, and then gold from California and Australia
    The problem often lies in the fact that modern man loves to look at a map and say “This is where they must have gone” without a single understanding of the winds and currents that blow along that path across the deep oceans. In fact, ancient mariners did not fully understand such matters as winds and currents much before the square-rigged sailing ships 12th and 13th centuries, which eventually led to an understanding of the easterly winds that blew westward from the Canary Island Columbus discovered and allowed him to cross the Atlantic.
Since modern man has had technology for so long, he has a tendency to forget the problems facing ancient mariners who did not have modern ship-building technology, modern machines such as diesel engines (back-up or not), modern GPS, radios, SOS-calling, etc. Today, it seems a simple thing to point a finger and trace a path along a map and say, “This was the route!”
    In that way, of course, anyone can trace any course from the coast of southern Arabia to any place in the Western Hemisphere—however, they will not be correct. Yet, this same modern man would not consider taking early pioneers across the country through swamps, over tall mountains, up or down sheer steep cliffs on horseback, foot, or covered wagon. He understands there were trails these early pioneers took: the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, etc. But at the same time, he will point to an ocean and see no difficulty in having an ancient vessel sail across it where he deems necessary.
As late as 1527, the Conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortés, thought the same way. He commissioned his cousin, Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón to sail from New Spain (Mexico) to the South Seas (South Pacific Ocean) to find new lands and open up trade routes with Mexico. Saavedra took three ships (La Florida, Espiritu Santo and Santiago) and sailed easily westward across the Pacific and arrived along the northern coast of Isla del Oro (The Golden Island, now known as New Guinea, and then to the Moluccas (Spice Islands) in Indonesia in 1528, becoming the first navigator to cross the Pacific Ocean from the Americas. But when he tried to sail back to Mexico, he was diverted by the northeast trade winds that threw him back to the Moluccas. A few days later, he tried a second time by navigating back down South. His ship shored in New Guinea, where they received food and water from the natives and then sailed again northeast where they discovered the Marshall and Admiralty Islands, but when they tried to continue northeast, they were driven back to the Moluccas for the third time. The following year, he tried again. In this fourth attempt, his ship was damaged and was killed in the attempt. 
    In fact, during the first half of the 16th century, Spanish galleons and ships could navigate from America to the Philippines, generally following the trans-Pacific course set by Ferdinand Magellan, but the return voyage proved nearly impossible because ships would face the prevailing easterly winds. Every expedition sent from New Spain (Mexico) during this period was either lost or forced to detour to the Moluccas, where they were taken as prisoners by the Portuguese. 
Even Magellan’s flagship Trinidad (left), loaded with 50 tons of cloves, tried to get back, and set sail from Tidore in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia on April, 1522, bound for Spain. After 10 days she set into one of the Marianas, then headed northeast, trying to reach the Westerlies along 42º or 43º north latitude, but did not find them. Thirty of the crew died, 3 jumped ship, leaving only 20 as she headed back for the Moluccas (an archipelago made up of 1000 islands in the Banda Sea just west of New Guinea, called the Spice Islands, but officially known as Maluku), reaching them after five months at sea in a limping, barely floating ship—only four survivors eventually got back to Europe.
Left: Andres de Urdaneta, Spanish circumnavigator; Center: A Manila (Spanish) Galleon that carried Chinese goods to Mexico; Right: The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Memorial at Plaza Mexico in Intramuros, Manila
    Which brings us to the story of Andrés de Urdaneta, a Spanish circumnavigator, explorer and Augustinian friar. His reputation of achieving the second circumnavigation of the globe (after Magellan and Elcano in 1522) brought him some distinction that eventually led to his appointment when the Spanish King Philip II directed the Viceroy of Mexico to prepare another expedition to establish direct Asian-American trade. Urdaneta was asked to help organize the initiative and guide the voyage as senior pilot-navigator. As such, his experience and knowledge were felt indispensable in finding the Tornaviaje (return sea route) and the Spanish Crown accepted his conditions. It took several months and several single voyages dispatched from Guam—a base with ample land, perennial streams, good leeward anchorages, abundant food staples and strategically located to reach Japan, the China coast, the Philippines and the Moluccas—to sail northward in looking for a change in winds and currents.
    Whatever Urdaneta might have lacked in formal training on the subject, he clearly had a good seaman's intuition, as shown by his justified disagreement with the pilots. While they insisted in going east, out into the Pacific, he stressed the importance of timing in relation to seasonal winds. After five months of arduous and dangerous effort, the San Pedro, with Urdaneta aboard, sailed north in 1565 from Cebu leaving at the most opportune time—nearly June—with a westerly monsoon and took the shortest track through the Trades and then along the Kuroshio Current past Japan (Honshu) where he was able to pick up the Westerlies at forty-two degrees north latitude. There he took the winds and currents of the North Pacific Gyre eastward to the North American coast and downward on the Gyre’s circular current past the Oregon coast and into the California Current.
The Manila Route of the Spanish Galleons after 1565. A ship “driven forth before the wind” could not have achieved a southern route from the California Current of the North Pacific Gyre until the Age of Sail and the type of rigging that allowed sailing (tacking) into the wind—it might be noted that this long and risky route was so dangerous, that more than 100 of the treasure-laden galleons were wrecked and sank in the currents and winds from 1570 to 1815.
    Along this northern route, the ship steered out of the North Pacific Gyre toward shore around southern Oregon and made landfall on the black beaches of Cape Mendocino, located on the Lost Coast entirely within today’s Humboldt County, which is the westernmost point on the coast of California. After replenishing and refitting, the ships sailed on down the California current to Acapulco. At least five of the galleons sunk off the coast, mostly around the 8-mile wide Drake’s Bay just past Point Reyes.
Cape Mendocino on the northern California coast
    This route became known as “Urdaneta’s Route” and opened up and established the trans-Pacific galleon trade and the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. The route was used by Manila galleons (called La Nao de la China because they carried Chinese goods from the Philippines to Mexico)—a route which lasted for nearly 250 years and is the only way across the Pacific eastward in the northern latitudes (along with the Southern Ocean in the southern latitudes).
    This, then, brings us to Lehi. In 600 B.C., before the sailing rigging and tacking knowledge known during the Age of Sale, and not developed for another nearly 2000 years, Nephi’s ship was completely dependent upon the winds and currents. While he had steering capability on his ship, it was not likely able to sail outside the direction the winds blew, for he tells us his ship was “driven forth before the winds” (1 Nephi 18:8). In fact, Nephi says he was “driven forth before the wind for the space of many days” (1 Nephi 18:9) and that after so sailing “for the space of many days, they did arrive at the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22). No other form of momentum for his ship is ever described.
    However, the problem for Lehi would have been getting from the southern Arabian coast to the Philippines, an issue not to have been solved in 600 B.C.
(See the next post, “Following Normal Sailing Patterns—The Fallacy of Eastward Sailing,” to see why Urdaneta’s route would not have occurred in 600 B.C.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

What Did the Liahona Do?

In the valley Lehi called Lemuel, and by the river he called Laman, Lehi spent at least a year, probably two. At that point, near the Red Sea, after traveling several days south of Jerusalem, he had camped while his sons went back for the Brass Plates held by Laban, then went back again to get Ishmael and his family to join them in the wilderness. 
Nephi “took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife” (1 Nephi 16:7)
    At this camp they also had five weddings, and rested for some time. Then, one day, “The voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:9). It must have been a busy evening as the nine families prepared their belongings for the next day's travel. These families included Lehi and Sariah, Ishmael and his wife, the two sons of Ishmael and their wives; Lehi’s four sons and their new brides, and Zoram and his new bride—if there were others in either household, we can not be certain for no mention of servants, or others, is given.
That next day, “As my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:10).
    This round ball has been called by several names in the scriptural record: ball (Mosiah 1:16; Alma 37:38), compass (1 Nephi 18:12, 21; Alma 37:44), director (Mosiah 1:16; Alma 37:38, 45), and Liahona (Alma 37:38). In fact, Alma tells us that their fathers not only called it the Liahona, he also told us that word meant “compass” (Alma 37:38).
In addition, this compass also provided other functions: it gave general directions for travel (1 Nephi 16:10) as well as a compass heading (1 Nephi 16:13; 1 Nephi 17:1), also an exact route (1 Nephi 16:16), and where good hunting would be found (1 Nephi 16:30-31). It also pointed Lehi a straight course to the promised land (Alma 37:44), and in some way would point a person to eternal bliss (Alma 37:45). And not just on land, but it also pointed the way across the sea during the entire ocean voyage (Alma 37:44).
    Like the Urim and Thummim, the Liahona was a physical device that aided in the coming forth of revelation. It was made of fine brass, and within the ball were two spindles (1 Nephi 16:10) or pointers (1 Nephi 16:28; Alma 37:40) that mechanically gave directions. However, these spindles or arrows worked only by faith (1 Nephi 16:20). In addition, writing appeared on the ball (1 Nephi 16:26) that evidently contained sharp language, for Lehi “did fear and tremble exceedingly” upon reading it, as did Nephi’s “brethren and the sons of Ishmael” (1 Nephi 16:27) because of their earlier murmurings against the Lord (1 Nephi 16:25). But it also gave continued spiritual instructions (1 Nephi 16:29), that were “plain to read” and provided “understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.”
    Now from the time the Liahona, or compass, was discovered by Lehi, Nephi gives us compass coordinates of their continued travel, a fact he had not earlier included. After the discovery, he says “we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction” (1 Nephi 16:13), and after resting for a time at a place they called Shazer, they “did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction” (1 Nephi 16:14) and the ball “led them in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16).
    We cannot be certain the Liahona told Nephi the three cardinal directions he used, but it seems more than coincidence that after finding the ball and naming it a compass, that Nephi writes specific compass directions for their line of travel. This is especially seen, since at no time before this event, did Nephi give even a general compass direction, but on the two occasions of their different lines of travel, he mentioned them both (1 Nephi 16:13; 17:1).
    In addition, we need to understand that this Liahona or compass was not only made of fine brass (the best material of the day to make such things, since gold would have been too soft, and iron or steel not suitable for intricate work), but that it was very unusual in design and appearance. Nephi says it was “of curious workmanship” (1 Nephi 16:10). In this sense, the word “curious” in Joseph Smith’s time meant: “wrought with care and art; elegant; beautiful; curious work,” the latter is found in this same use in Exodus 28:8. It also meant, careful, exact, made with care, as in “curious arts,” the latter also in this use in Acts 19:19.
    We need to keep in mind that this compass was, once discovered, in Lehi’s possession throughout their trek in the wilderness, at Bountiful, and during the ocean voyage. This means that once into their ship and setting out into the Irreantum Sea (Sea of Arabia), they had the Liahona to guide their course within the limits of their ability to steer (1 Nephi 18:13) among the ocean currents while being “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8)--blown forward by a trailing wind.
The importance of this is understood by the incident when the Liahona stopped working (1 Nephi 18:12), and not knowing “whither they should steer the ship,” they became embroiled in a storm and such high seas that they thought “they must perish” unless they could get the Liahona working again. Once the mutineers repented and released Nephi, he got the Liahona working again because of his faith—and the compass pointed the way and Nephi “did guide the ship, that [they] sailed once again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22).
    The fact that the Liahona was needed is better understood when knowing that sailing with the currents and winds (1 Nephi 18:9) was a general factor, but minor adjustments that might be needed in their course would be achieved through such steerage—an important need to stay on the exact track the Lord had in mind in guiding the ship to the Land of Promise, which Nephi was able to do with the aid of the Liahona (1 Nephi 18:22).
    Many Theorists write about Lehi following the same route the early traders used to sail to Indonesia, and then across the Pacific Ocean, however, two very specific factors show the fallacy of that. First and foremost are the winds. As an example, the trade winds (trades)—which are the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics near the Equator—of the Indian Ocean do not move from Arabia eastward toward Indonesia, but northwestward (6 months of the year) from Australia and Indonesia toward India, Persian Gulf and Arabia and then southeastward (the other six months of the year) back toward Java, the Sawu and Timor Seas, and Australia.
The Trade Winds (not named for opening up trade, but for bringing warmer or colder temperatures) in the Indian Ocean, blowing (red arrows) northwesterly for six months and (blue arrows) southeasterly for the other six months, and are strongest between 10º and 30º south latitude (below the dotted horizontal line to the bottom of the maps)
    In addition, the coastal waters off Arabia, India and Indonesia have the monsoon winds that take precedence, blowing northeast into land six months of the year, creating damaging floods and great destruction, and then reversing themselves and blowing southwest out to sea from the land the other six months. When combining knowledge of the trade winds and the monsoon winds of the Sea of Arabia and the Indian Ocean, it becomes quite flippant when we see Theorists like Sorenson, Allen, et al make claims that Lehi just sailed through Indonesia and across the Pacific Ocean.
The Monsoon Winds (blue arrows) blow inland six months of the year, and (red arrows) blow out to sea six months of the year. The green arrows show the winds that blow through Indonesia from the Pacific all year round; (red curved arrow) is the westerly curve of the counter-clockwise Indian Ocean Gyre; (purple arrows) show the Prevailing Westerlies along the West Wind Drift of the Southern Ocean all year round
    While it is true that the trade winds were used by captains of sailing ships to cross the world’s oceans for centuries, and enabled the European expansion into the Americas, it was never a matter of going where one wanted. Along with the knowledge of all winds and currents patterns, this knowledge also enabled the exploring accomplished throughout the Age of Sail. The actual term “trade winds” is derived from the early 14th century word that meant “path” or “track,” first recognized by the Portuguese for their importance in navigation because of the consistency of these “wind tracks” throughout the year.
    While Europeans recognized such winds and currents in the Atlantic as early as the 13th century, they were unknown in the Pacific until 1565, when discovered by Andrés de Urdaneta, who was the first to plot an easterly course across the Pacific Ocean, called Tornaviaje (the return sea route from the Philippines to Acapulco).
    Consequently, when extremely experienced sea captains needed to learn how to fine-tune a voyage two thousand years after Lehi sailed, we might consider that the Lord would need to “point the way” across the “many waters” in a very specific means. And the Liahona was that means.
    Upon Lehi’s death, of course, the compass passed on to Nephi, who took it with him when he left his brothers (2 Nephi 5:12). No doubt the Liahona showed him where to go and when to stop and “pitch his tents.” In addition, the compass must have been with Mosiah when he left the city of Nephi and discovered Zarahemla, and no doubt was instrumental in showing the Nephites the way for “they were admonished continually by the word of God” no doubt as found on the writings on the ball, and “they were led by the power of his arm” no doubt by the pointers within the ball, “through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13).
Mosiah appointed his son, Benjamin, to be the next Nephite King who, in turn, conferred the kingdom on his son, Mosiah II—all three possessed the Liahona
    Mosiah, in turn, passed the compass on to his son, king Benjamin, for Benjamin passed it on to his son, Mosiah II (Mosiah 1:16). No doubt it passed from prophet to prophet along with the records, since it was buried in the hill Cumorah along with the plates Joseph Smith found, and was, along with the Urim and Thummim, brestplate and the sword of Laban, shown to the three Witnesses by Moroni (D&C 17:1).
    Thus, it can be seen that each of the prophets of the Nephite period had in his possession the Liahona, or compass, first given to Lehi. And that compass, both pointed the way of travel with one spindle, and no doubt pointed to a compass direction with the other spindle, for both direction and compass points were evidently shown by it. No doubt, the compass showed cardinal directions as well as pointed the direction of travel, as Nephi’s statements infer. And as such, it is improbable that Mormon was using a different compass than the one we know in general function, and well understood the cardinal directions as do we—and wrote about those directions (see Alma 22:27-34).
    To suggest otherwise—like having a so-called “Nephite North” different from our north in order to change the directional terms to fit maps of places like Mesoamerica and thus fit the scriptural record to preconceived ideas of Book of Mormon locations—seems beyond the point of reason and in opposition to the purpose and recorded function of the Liahona.