Thursday, November 27, 2014

Was Lehi’s Journey a Non-Stop Voyage?

The consensus among Theorists seems to be that Lehi’s voyage across the Irreantum Sea was an “island-hopping” event. As Sorenson has written: “Our record doesn't say but reason and similar experiences quickly fill that gap. If for nothing else, stops would be necessary to replenish their water supply. Repairs, other provisions, and the scraping of barnacles are other conditions which have forced all ancient seamen to make frequent stops as they have pursued similar voyages. Lehi's journey would have taken them more than half way around the world. For comparison, Lehi's voyage would have traversed at least 200° compared to about 55° for Columbus's voyage to America. Of course, Lehi did not travel in a straight line. Sorenson estimates that Lehi's journey would have been about seventeen thousand miles as compared to about three thousand for Columbus. No, this was not a non-stop voyage” (John L. Sorenson, Nephite Culture and Society, 1997, Sage Books, pp54-57). 
    The problem with this type of thinking is two-fold. First, to get to Mesoamerica, Sorenson has to get Lehi across the Pacific Ocean, which violates all the winds and currents along his route, and 2) The very nature of the rebellious sons of Lehi and Ishmael would have either precluded such an island-hopping voyage, or obviously caused Nephi to mention the actions of these wayward sons once given the opportunity to rebel again and take over as they had earlier.
Can you imagine Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael ignoring the beauty and beckoning of these islands as they stopped from time to time on Sorenson’s course across the Pacific? Hard to imagine they would have obediently gotten back on board the ship and sailed off into the open sea after such exposure. They were not, after all, a willing crew
    We have spent much time in these posts talking about the ocean currents and winds that would have kept Lehi from going eastward from the southern Arabian coast in the Indian Ocean and he never could have reached the Pacific in his ship, which was “driven forth before the wind.” But just to satisfy the idea of “island-hopping,” let’s take a look at some of the rest of these “reasons” why Lehi is said to have made numerous stops along his journey.
    Sorenson suggests that “we can get some feel for this time from the voyage of a Polynesian canoe named Hokule'a. This vessel, sailing about eight thousand miles in comparable waters, averaged about ninety-eight miles per day. While this represented eighty-two days at sea, stops for repairs, rest, and supplies, extended their voyage over more than a year.”
The Hokulea was a performance-accurate full-scale replica of a wa’a kaulua, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe that set sail in 1976
    Response: The Hokulea was built and launched in 1975, for the purpose of sailing from Hawaii to Tahiti, a voyage which took place the following year for the purpose of “reviving the legacy of exploration, courage, and ingenuity that brought the first Polynesians to the archipelago of Hawaii.” Borrowing a navigator from Micronesia since there were no Polynesians capable of doing so, the journey was completed. Unfortunately, on the second attempt two years later, the canoe capsized in stormy seas off of Moloka’i and the crew would have all died had there not been a fortuitous rescue “hours away from losing people.”
    In addition, at most, these canoes carried about 20 people, usually closer to a dozen, while Lehi’s ship would have had at least 60-65 crossing the ocean. In addition, outrigger canoes can lower the sail and proceed with oars, while Nephi’s ship would not have had that ability based on its size and Nephi’s descriptions of it. However, the main point here is that these were not “comparable waters.”
    Sorenson also wrote: “Unlike Lehi's experience, the Hokule'a encountered nothing but good winds for their entire journey. If all other factors were comparable, this would suggest a time of two to three years for Lehi's voyage.”
The early Polynesians sailed north across currents in small outrigger canoes
    Response: One of the reasons for this is that these waters, despite Sorenson’s claim to the contrary, were not comparable waters. Sailing from Polynesia to Hawaii and back, is a course sailing cross-currents from north to south, which is obviously not the same as trying to buck opposing currents throughout an entire voyage. In fact, these voyages were within the two Pacific Gyres where the currents and winds are far calmer, somewhat like being inside the eye of a hurricane. This is not to say it is not dangerous, arduous and a lot of hard work, requiring experienced or well trained seamen, but the waters being sailed are not comparable in any way.
    It should be remembered that when sailing into the wind, a sail does not push the ship ahead, as Nephi said his ship was propelled (1 Nephi 18:8-9). Rather it acts as an airfoil, creating an area of low pressure in front of the sail, pulling the ship forward. As one Captain of a three-masted schooner was quoted as saying, when asked just how his vessel could sail headlong into the winds blowing against them: “When a sailboat is sailing against a strong wind, the vessel can’t make progress, and, in fact, endangers itself. What the ship has to do is to tack back and forth–sail at an angle, creating a vacuum on the back side of the sail that actually pulls the ship forward—this in effect creates a “wind pull.”
Tacking into strong, opposing winds also includes angling your path through the waves, allowing the bow to cut through the wave and not be bounced back by it, requiring an angle of attack and knowledge of spilling air (from the sail) while maintaining control
    Sailing on the course Sorenson suggests, through islands, channels, narrow passes on an irregular course with achieving landfall every so often—a fete far more difficult and dangerous than it sounds, would hardly have been achievable by Lehi’s inexperienced family. The type of sailing into winds Sorenson’s course required would have been even more difficult, for this type of sailing requires experience, not just knowledge. It is doubtful that Lehi’s family could have gained sufficient experience while building and sailing their ship to be able to handle opposing winds and currents, let alone learning all the intricacies of sailing back and forth, cutting the waves, spilling air, and keeping their ship from being pounded into bits coming off waves and slamming into troughs.
    The much simpler sailing effort would have been to take Nephi’s ship where the winds and currents flowed, where experience is required far less and the dangers much reduced—which takes us to the Southern Ocean—the shortest, simplest, and fastest course between Arabia and the Western Hemisphere on the face of the earth.
The circumpolar Southern Current (black circular arrows) is the fastest and shortest route from Arabia to the Western Hemisphere—instead of 17,000 miles across at the Equator like Sorenson projects, it is less than 10,000 miles where Lehi enters this route and exists it (black arrows)
    In addition, this course would not have allowed Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael any opportunity to take over the ship, for the entire voyage would have been a rough ride, requiring constant activity, including bailing water and, if nothing else, hanging on for dear life. The fast moving waters and gale force winds driving the ship forward, surfing over and down waves, for such an inexperienced crew would have caused near panic with no way to express it.
    The sheer fear of such a voyage in those fast and heavy conditions would have kept the wayward and mutinous sons from laying a further hand on Nephi, for experience had taught them that to do so would mean a watery grave from relentless waves crashing over the bow and bouncing off rails and masts, and thick foam spraying across the deck.
    In fact, such a voyage would have humbled even the most belligerent attitudes for little else than wind, waves, and relentless water exist—there was no land to beckon to them, nothing but unremitting ocean, constant birds, and steady breezes. When Nephi wrote: “And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts” (1 Nephi 18:20), it would be apparent that the fury of this ocean would have kept the belligerents at bay, believing it was the wrath of the Lord that threatened them.
Top: Where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, a distinct line is visible; Bottom: The Southern Ocean is more empty of sights and without land obstruction than any ocean on earth
    In addition, the emptiness of this ocean would have caused them all to know they were the only ones in the world out there—a feeling that would have drawn them out of necessity toward reliance on the Lord and the Liahona Nephi held as he steered his ship across the sea. The voyage across this ocean would have been fast, fearful and quick. It would have been so uneventful, that all Nephi would have had to write about was “I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land. And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22-23).
    Was Lehi’s Journey a Non-Stop Voyage? Out of necessity, it would have had to be a non-stop voyage.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Were Lehi’s Family Mariners?

While records show that Jewish seamen cropped  up as early as the first century A.D., beginning with navicularii (shipowners) in Alexandria in 39 A.D., when cargoes of Jewish ships during the anti-Jewish riots were carried off and burned; and Augustine and Jerome both recorded encounters with Jewish mariners; and an intact lower hull of a boat dated to the first century A.D. was excavated on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, much of the record and writing of Jewish mariners is found from about the third century onward. When Solomon had his ships built in 900 B.C., he imported seamen from Lebanon to man them. In fact, there seems to be no evidence showing Israelites as mariners in B.C. times at all.
    Nor do we have any evidence that any member of Lehi's company had any experience at sea, nor in the building of ships. Both Ishmael and Lehi lived outside the city walls, in an area where agriculture fed Jerusalem, and merchants traded with Arab caravans along the Frankincense Trail (King’s Highway) and sold these goods to Jerusalem vendors who, in turn, sold them within the city where the caravans never traveled. Yet, when Lehi reached the area along the southern Arabian coast, which he called Bountiful, Nephi was told by the Lord, “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” (1 Nephi 17:8).
Looking down on the area that Lehi called Bountiful from a 2500-foot mountain top where Nephi may have received instruction from the Lord
    Nephi’s immediately response sets him apart from his brothers and the sons of Ishmael at an early point when he merely responded, “And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?”
    We also learn from that comment that the Lord, in telling Nephi he was to build a ship, showed him in a vision of some sort the ship he was to build—“after the manner which thou has shown unto me"—tells us Nephi, before he ever began, knew what the ship was to look like, its size, and overall appearance.
    Obviously, when Nephi told his father much earlier, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7), he knew to trust the Lord. Now, in the command to build a ship, Nephi trusts completely in the Lord, and in his word, and only needed to know how to go about it—first, he needed tools and asked where there would be ore that her could fashion them. Whether Nephi already knew how to make tools from metal ore is not told us, but either he did, or the Lord showed him how during that vision of the ship, or he trusted that the Lord would show him once he had the ore to use.
That Nephi had no experience in building, or knowledge of ships, also seems borne out by the reaction of Nephi’s brothers, who scoffed: “And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Nephi 17:17). Obviously, the idea was so foreign to them and the entire family that it elicited this scorn—not only in the building of a ship, but in the idea of them all sailing across the huge ocean before them. Nephi adds that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael “did not believe that I could build a ship” (1 Nephi 17:18), nor that the Lord had instructed him to do so—which would have meant the design, fashioning of timber, and actual construction.
    Many have thought it was simply because the brothers were lazy and “were desirous that they might not labor,” but their incredulity in Nephi thinking he could not only build a ship but would know how to sail it was obviously beyond their comprehension.
    It seems accurate in understanding that neither Lehi nor any of his family had been around ships or been to sea in any way. Despite this, some Theorists point out Nephi’s comment when he said, “Now 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” (1 Nephi 18:2), as proof that Nephi knew how ships of his day were built.
    However, Nephi also said, “we did work timbers of curious workmanship and the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1), and also “I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi18:2). It seems obvious that Nephi understood the difference because the Lord told or showed him how other ships were built in his day and how he would be building his ship differently. After all, when instructing someone how to do something they know nothing about, it is far easier to show them why building it like other ships would not work and why building it differently would work—otherwise, there are unanswered questions that can get in the way of doing it the right way during the construction.
On the other hand, it would not be realistic to think Nephi had never seen another ship. After all, he traveled within close proximity to Ezion-Geber, a ship-building and shipping port at the head of the Aqaba Sea (a finger of the Red Sea), and later, traveled along the Red Sea where he would have seen numerous Arabian fishing dhows sailing up and down the waters there, yet it would not be realistic to think Nephi knew how the ships were built merely from seeing them, even if he had a very close look.
    As an example, ships of antiquity (1000 A.D.) were built with plank on frame construction rather than the earlier method that had lasted for at least three thousand years. The old method consisted of first building the skin and then inserting framing pieces for added strength; plank on frame first built the framework and attached the planks to it, which allowed for stronger and larger ships to be built--for a novice, merely looking at a ship would not tell him that.
Dhows sailing along the Red Sea during the time of Lehi. Such ships could sail the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and along the coast of the Abrabian Peninsula, but were built to sail in blue-water, deep-sea conditons and would not last under the pounding of the deep seas, nor the gale-like force of winds in the Indian and Southern Oceans
    The point is, in 600 B.C., despite all the rhetoric to the contrary on the internet written by individuals who simply lack knowledge on the subject, man had not yet learned how to build a ship that could sail the deep waters and take the constant pounding against the hull, and the gale force winds that drove the sails of later ships—especially during the Age of Sail. And, too, Nephi tells us that his vessel, though steerable, was “driven forth before the wind,” meaning that the wind was the vessel’s propulsion and the ship was driven before the wind in the direction the wind blew.
    If one has never been in the deep ocean, or been involved in ship design, one may not know that in the high seas, the wave action and winds pound the hull of any ship from astern, the sides, and the bow—what is called a pounding “from every quarter.” Such pounding, especially in wooden vessels of antiquity, caused considerable damage and the reason why a ship would need to be repaired and refitted before each voyage, and a major refit was conducted every few years. By the time the Carrack (early 15th century) was designed for ocean-going sailing (improving the Naos, which had replaced the coastal Cog vessels), using both northern and Mediterranean building arts, an extensive refitting was not needed as frequently, and the even later Caravel (1450) design was smaller and far more maneuverable with its lateen rigging.
    The point is, ships had to be built to withstand the heavier seas in the deep oceans with their constant pounding. As an example, the RSS Discovery, a later three-masted wooden British research vessel, was “nearly pounded to smithereens” by a massive storm in the North Atlantic. Instruments on board measured the "significant wave height" (an average of the largest one-third of the waves) at 61 feet—“the largest ever scientifically recorded in the open ocean" (some spiked as high as 100 feet). The episode added to growing evidence about the prevalence of so-called rogue waves, which can rise up unexpectedly from much smaller seas.
Top: Pounding waves in the Southern Ocean, some have reached heights of nearly 100 feet; Middle: A trawler being pounded in high seas, its bulbous bow keeping it stable; Bottom: A wave crashing onto the flight deck of a U.S. Carrier with a deck 70’ foot above the water line
    The important issue here is that the Lord did not leave these inexperienced “land-lubbers” alone to the dangers of the deep ocean, to cope with the unfamiliar process of sailing a ship and maneuvering among the high seas. Nephi tells us that the Lord was involved not just in the overall design of building of the ship (1 Nephi 18:2), but in such minor details as “working the timbers” (1 Nephi 18:1), and whatever else was needed through the completion of the project (1 Nephi 18:4). We also know that Nephi “did go into the mount oft, and did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed him great things” (1 Nephi 18:3), which would have had to include how to outfit, sail and steer the ship.
    This obviously would have been done through the Liahona after they set sail and while at sea (1 Nephi 18:12, 21). However, no amount of instruction can give someone experience. Even during their rebellion, Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael "knew not where to steer the ship." It seems obvious, the course set for Nephi's ship would have been the more simple one, not involved in intricate maneuvers, landings, and steerage.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part V

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?” 
     The last post continued with Grant’s writing, mostly a repeat of Sorenson’s issues about population and the need for additional groups of people other than Lehi’s posterity.
Grant Writes: “Sherem is not family. The story gives no hint that Jacob recognizes Sherem as the descendent of one of his brothers.
    Response: Another specious comment. First of all, we don’t know who Sherem was, or what his lineage might have been. Sherem does use the term “Brother Jacob,” which is a title and has no specific reference to blood line, nor is one implied here or elsewhere. Today, we use it in the Church regularly, and there is no reason to believe it was not used in the same way with the Nephites. If Sherem was of some direct relation, such as a descendant of one of Jacob’s brothers, he might have been listed as such in the first verse (chapter 7) when he is first introduced, however, Jacob merely says, “there came a man among the people of Nephi,” which could mean he was of the Nephite lineage (Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Jacob or Joseph), or one of those Nephi took with him, who are not specifically identified other than Zoram, Sam, Jacob, Joseph and his two sisters, “and all those who would go with [him]" (2 Nephi 5:6).
Grant spends a lot of time and effort speculating about things that are simply not suggested or inferred in the scriptural record. Such writing has little value and certainly not beneficial to any further or deeper understanding.
    Grant Writes: “Population, cultural differences, and the story of Sherem all suggest that there must have been others.”
    Response: None of this suggests anything of the kind. All these factors can and are explained by the facts listed. Speculating on issues not suggested only clouds the scriptural record with valueless ideas that are unsupported by anything other than the writer’s (Grant’s) mind.
    Grant Writes: “A look at the language diversity in Mesoamerica at the time of Columbus again leads linguists to conclude that the cultural history is complex.”
    Response: Before one can begin writing about such matters regarding Mesoamerica, as Sorenson, Allen, et al, and now Grant, choose to do, one should first make a legitimate case for Mesoamerica from the facts and descriptions found within the scriptural record—a fact Sorenson and others have never done (see the book Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists).
Grant Writes: “Recent studies have demonstrated that about 200 languages were spoken in Mesoamerica alone at the time of the arrival of the Spanish.”
    Response: From the time of Lehi’s landing and the Spanish arrival was approximately 2100 years. How anyone got the number 200 is an interesting issue, since the early Priests, the only ones who would have understood different languages, were not out counting languages, but were heavily involved in trying to convert those few indigenous peoples they encountered. The U.S. has been populated for only about 400 years and there are more than a hundred different languages and dialects stemming from the original settlers. What does any of that suggest? In addition, what exactly are the “recent studies”? Anything done today or recently regarding what existed in the Americas before or at the time of the Spanish conquest is hardly going to be accurate in any way and would be used only for “wishful thinking.”
    Grant Writes: “Br Sorenson concludes that this evidence "cannot accommodate the picture that the book of Mormon gives us of its peoples without supposing that 'others' were on the scene when Lehi's group came ashore,” then adds: “With careful reading, we can see that the Book of Mormon give rather explicit hints of other peoples. For example, Alma, praying about the dissenting Zoramites, says, "O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren" (Alma 31:35). In other verses, Lamanite, Mulekites, and even Jaredites, are referred to as brethren. Who, then, are these people that Alma alludes to who are apparently not Lamanite, Mulekite, or even Jaredite?”
    Response: “Our brethren” in this case refers to Alma talking about those that are members of the Church. Those that are not “our brethren” would be those who are not members of the Church. If one would read before and after this quoted passage, they would see that Alma is on a missionary journey, converting people to the gospel, and talking about those who he was trying to convert.
    Grant Writes: “Following several such examples, Dr. Sorenson concludes: Hereafter, readers will not be justified in saying that the record fails to mention "other" but only that we readers have hitherto failed to observe what is said and implied about such people in the Book of Mormon.”
    Response: Such is the thinking of Sorenson. He makes up things, then uses them as fact, and finally tells us that we have no right to disagree with him and his findings. The first thing anyone needs to do to find other people in the scriptural record is to point out that they are referred to as such. Nowhere is any other people mentioned in the entire scriptural record of 14 books and nearly 20 writers.
    Simply put, no other group of people are mentioned, suggested, or inferred!
    Sorenson can make people up, Grant can mimic Sorenson’s words, but that does not change the scriptural record. Not one single writer in the entire Book of Mormon, not Mormon or Moroni who abridged those records. Not Joseph Smith who translated them, nor the Spirit who verified that translation, ever suggests in any way there were any other people.
    In fact, the writers seem to go out of their way to describe, or at least mention in some detail, all those people, places, and events, which interacted with the main Nephite story. Not one mentions or suggests another people anywhere in the record.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part IV

Continuing from the previous 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?”  
    Several of Grant’s comments, many quoting other theorists, like Sorenson, have been listed and responses given in the previous three posts. In this post, which covers Grant’s comments about Nephite “population” is from a statement made and listed earlier under “population growth,” and answered here in detail.
How many people are needed to have a war? Early on, no figures of combatants is listed in the scriptural record; not until the time of Alma do we find staggering numbers of thousands upon thousands being killed in a battle
    Grant Writes: “By the time of the passing of Nephi there were significant Nephite and Lamanite populations in the land. Even as early as forty years following their arrival in the land Nephi reported that there had been wars between his people and the Lamanites. How could there have been sufficient population just from the descendants of Lehi to justify this terminology?”
    Response: There was only one war between the Nephites and Lamanites and it lasted for some 700 years or more. Every so often the war would break out again over their entire history except during the two hundred-plus years of peach after the Savior visited the Nephites. These different “wars” would be called battles or fights today, but in the Nephite era, all such battles were wars.
    This is borne out by the meaning of the term “war,” which in 1828 meant: “to perplex, embroil, disturb. The primary sense of the root is to strive, struggle, urge, drive, or to turn, to twist.” It also meant: “Hostility; state of opposition or contest; act of opposition” as well as “Enmity; disposition to contention,” and “To contend; to strive violently; to be in a state of opposition.” The Psalmist wrote not long before Lehi left Jerusalem: “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart,” and Peter wrote six hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem “Lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
There are all types of wars fought. Most today are big wars, culminating in WWII, however, since then, we have fought many small wars, guerilla wars. Between 1898 and 1934, the U.S. fought in numerous small or little wars in eight countries involving more than 20 different “wars”
    When a modern man asks “how could there have been sufficient population just from the descendants of Lehi to justify this terminology,” we can easily understand that modern man has no knowledge of the meaning of the word prior to his own existence. While “war” today is a major contention between nations, it was not always so. Indian tribes warred against each other, scouting parties made war with small groups of settlers, the U.S. Marines in the 1930s and 1940s conducted guerilla “wars” and even had a Small Wars Manual (1940), first written in 1921.
The Moddersfontein War involved 130 Lancers and 250 Africans in 1901, and Indian wars in the U.S. rarely involved more than a couple of dozen hostiles
The hit-and-run, guerilla warfare the Colonials waged against the British in 1775 was a war like none other the redcoats had ever faced. Only 77 Colonials were at Lexington, 90-95 British at Concord. These small, isolated wars eventually led to the formation of the Continental Army under Washington
Top: The numerous Indian raids that took place in the early West rarely involved Indians of more than a couple of dozen in number—only in some rare instances were there upwards of a hundred; Bottom: 150 soldiers manned Fort Defiance, Arizona, in 1860, when the Navajo attacked and nearly overran the fort during the Navajo Wars (photo is in 1905)
    Holliday, Utah, is named after a descendant of a family that lived along the Scots-English border in the 1200s, with the leader of the village every so often rounding up an “army” of friends to cross the border and make “war” on the English—each incursion was called a “holy day” which led to the leader being called “Holyday” or “Holiday” and later “Holladay.”
    The point is, the term “war” would fit any Nephite-Lamanite confrontation, and since Nephi was “a great protector for them,” the Nephites, and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defence” (Jacob 1:10), these were called “wars.”
    Grant Writes: “Further, the practice of plural marriage that so disturbed Jacob would mandate a surplus of women. That the descendants of five families (those who followed Nephi) should produce such a surplus in sixty to seventy years seems unlikely.”
    Response: In back-dating the lives of Lehi and Ishmael, we can suggest that Lehi was probably around 55 to 60 when they left Jerusalem, making his birth around 665-660 B.C. Ishmael was likely older, maybe 70-75, making his birth around 675-670 B.C. Jacob was born in the wilderness (2 Nephi 2:1), and was probably about 30 years younger than Nephi (literally, another generation). By the time he was appointed a priest and teacher (2 Nephi 5:26), he would have been about 30 (the time for such appointments in the Jewish culture), and probably 50 when Nephi died, and likely as much as 60-65 when Sherem approached him. This would make it around 535-530 B.C. (about 65-70 years after Lehi left Jerusalem).
The confrontation between Sherem and Jacob would have taken place toward the end of Jacob’s life
    This means that Lehi’s birth to the Sherem-Jacob meeting would have been about 130-135 years, or based on modern terminology, about seven generations (20 years per generation) or 5 generations (25 years per generation) or 4 generations (30 years per generation of Hebrew culture). Thus, Jacob and Joseph would have been about the same age as the children of Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi.
    In looking at the people involved, we find that there were the families of Lehi (at most 10 children—2 daughters married sons of Ishamel, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi, and then Jacob and Joseph and Nephi’s 2 sisters) and Ishmael (at least seven children—2 sons and 5 daughters). If each of these ten families (intermarried) had eight children, that would be 80 people. Add Jacob and Joseph and Nephi’s two sisters to this group now, that is 84 people, and intermarried would 42 families having 8 children each would be 336. Say half went with Nephi, that would be 168 people, intermarrying would be 84, times 8 children each 1344 Nephites by the time Jacob’s children were adults—which is about the time Sherem would have shown up to meet with Jacob.
    Now 1344 Nephites (which would make about 3 full Wards by today’s standards) would have allowed for some unmarried women to be chosen as plural wives or concubines under Hebrew cultural laws.
    This would also allow for a few hundred Nephites and a few hundred Lamanites to make war with one another. The American frontier of Indian wars were accomplished with far less than this.
    Grant Writes: “Sherem is very well educated, with a "perfect knowledge of the language of the people;" yet, his education does not seem to be that of either Nephite or Lamanite.”
    Response: A totally inaccurate and specious comment. All we know is that “he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people” (Jacob 7:4). How he was learned is unstated and uninferred, and his perfect knowledge merely means that he could “use much flattery, and much power of speech,” and that his words were “according to the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:4).
    Grant Write: “Further, he appears to be a stranger to Jacob. Sherem had heard of Jacob and had "sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you."
    Response: This was answered in the last post.
(See the next and final post, “Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part V, “ for the continuation and final responses to 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)

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)