Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mormon’s Abridgement Part II – Seeds from Jerusalem

Continuing from the last post regarding the many descriptions Mormon wrote about his land that are vital for us to consider when claiming a current location of the Land of Promise. 
    As an example, Nephi tells us that his father lived at Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4), where he  had his house (1 Nephi 1:7), and when the Lord told him to “take his family and depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2), he “left his house, and the land of his inheritance,” and all his wealth (1 Nephi 2:4), but took “all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1), and did take “seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:11), and eventually onto the ship Nephi built (18:6).
Nephi’s crops grew exceedingly and provided an abundant harvest in the Land of Promise
    When they reached the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 18:23), Nephi tells us “that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24). Obviously, Lehi was a farmer, at least growing sufficient foods for his family who lived outside the city of Jerusalem, for not only did he had abundant seeds of every kind on hand when the Lord told him to flee into the wilderness (there was no corner store to go and buy them), but when they reached the Land of Promise, he and his sons knew how to plant and harvest crops.
    Modern man, however, when reading this account of Nephi, tends to pass over this event as a matter of no importance. Yet, as every gardener knows, you need to provide the right conditions for good germination and healthy growth of seeds, especially those that have delicate root systems. As an example, according to the ACGA and the Gardener’s Supply Company, planting seeds successfully requires the right soil and temperature, length of sunlight, consistent moisture, correct humidity levels (distance from oceans, etc.), air circulation, and correct amount of fertilizing. As an example, some seeds germinate best at a soil temperature of 60ºF while others at 85ºF, but still others require a temperature of about 78ºF. To make sure seeds being sold today are placed in the correct environment, seeds packets list on the back conditions for optimum germination, as well as showing a map of the zones in which the seeds can be planted.
Every kind of seed requires a specific soil type, temperature, precipitation and climate, and this information is listed on the back of every packet of seeds sold
    In addition, soils are very different from one another, since they are made up of ground rock particles, grouped according to size, based on sand and silt in addition to clay, and organic material such as decomposed plant matter. Each component, and their size, play an important role. For example, the largest particles, sand, determine aeration and drainage characteristics, while the tiniest, sub-microscopic clay particles, are chemically active, binding with water and plant nutrients. The ratio of these sizes determines soil type: such as clay, loam, clay-loam, silt-loam, sandy, sand-loam, as well as temperature and water retention (how much drains steadily through the soil via gravity and end up in the aquifer, and how much of it is retained, away from the influence of gravity, for use of plants and other organisms that determines soil health).
    In addition to the mineral composition of soil, humus (organic material) also plays an important role in soil characteristics and fertility for plant life. Soil may be mixed with larger aggregate, such as pebbles or gravel. Not all types of soil are permeable, such as pure clay.
This hydrologic soil group knowledge shows planters how some soils hold water because they impede downward movement, others drain slowly to quickly so that the right soil is chosen for the type of seed planted. 
    Thus, the kind of soil and soil groups are extremely important in the planting of seeds for crop growth since seeds grown in one local rarely do well in another local, even with modern techniques and knowledge. This is why seed packets have zone maps and recommendations listed for where the seeds contained will grow. It is not like every seed will grow in every location—there are Plant Hardiness Zone Maps, temperature considerations, soil conditions, fertilizers—all leading to a better understanding of soil surfaces and deeper profiles.
Top: Soil characteristics map for planting various types of crops; Bottom: A soil grouping map showing the soils and soil groups for planting
    Even today, with all the advances of seed planting, including modern fertilizers, knowledge and techniques, the back of every seed packet you buy has not only instructions on when and how to plant, but lists where the seeds should be planted. Generally, every farmer purchases seeds grown in his local, but sometimes that is not possible, such as in the case of Lehi--so farmers (or planter) need to compare their planting area climates with the climate where a plant is known to grow well. This is simply because seeds developed in one climatic zone do not do well, or grow at all, in another climatic zone.
    As an example, zone maps in the U.S. are more easily drawn for the eastern half of North America since that area is comparatively flat, so mapping is mostly a matter of drawing lines approximately parallel to the Gulf Coast every 120 miles or so as you move north. The lines tilt northeast as they approach the Eastern Seaboard. They also demarcate the special climates formed by the Great Lakes and by the Appalachian mountain ranges.
Color Chart Reference of the climatic zones of the U.S. Note the numerous different zones and sub-zones, even in the flat lands of the eastern half of the country
    In the west, these various zones are far more difficult to determine because the elevation changes the climate and the soils, temperature, and precipitation. In the east, however, these various zones are more stable, yet do change because north and south movement alters the climate and thus the climatic zone—which determines where seeds will and will not grow. The pilgrims found this out when they tried to plant seeds from a more northern climate of England and the Netherlands in the soils of New England, even though both were in what is called a Temperate Climate (as opposed to a Mediterranean Climate).
    Early pioneers (those who come into a country or land with which they are not familiar), such as the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth early in the 17th century, or Lehi and his colony that came to the Land of Promise in 600 B.C., all faced the very same problem with feeding themselves—either hunting, fishing or planting. And since hunting and fishing becomes scarce over any length of time, and certainly does not provide long-term healthful development or encourage large colony growth, planting is how all new emigrants existed in areas where others did not provide previous crops and available food. Every pioneer, among other things, brought seeds with them for planting. Many struggled, some failed to make it, because their seeds grown one place did not do well or grow at all in another place.
    Many factors like weather, winter highs and lows, as well as elevation and precipitation, determine western growing climates in the Western U.S. Weather comes in from the Pacific Ocean and gradually becomes less marine (humid) and more continental (drier) as it moves over and around mountain range after mountain range. While cities in similar zones in the East can have similar climates and grow similar plants, in the West it varies greatly. For example, the weather and plants in low elevation, coastal Seattle are much different than in high elevation, inland Tucson, Arizona, even though they're in the same climatic zone, but not the same weather zone.
    Again, the point is, since seeds grow best in the same climate in which they were developed as well as the same elevation, soils, temperature, and precipitation they were developed, it is important to understand the climate factors in which Lehi’s seeds were developed—Jerusalem. As has been mentioned here many times, Jerusalem is a Mediterranean Climate (not a zone). And outside the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, there are only five such climates in the entire world, and only two in the Western Hemisphere—southern California and coastal central Chile.
The four areas outside of the Mediterranean where a Mediterranean Climate exists. Note only two are in the Western Hemisphere 
    This area of Chile, which is around the 30º south latitude, is also the exact same area where the winds and currents coming from the Indian Ocean end up before turning back from the Peruvian Bulge into the Pacific and westward across toward Australia in the circular South Pacific Gyre (for a complete explanation of this, see the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica).
    So if one is going to believe Nephi, that his seeds brought from Jerusalem grew exceedingly and provided an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:24), then we need to look for an area in which the same climate, soil, temperature, precipitation and growing conditions exist in the Western Hemisphere—either southern California (not Baja) or La Serena, Chile, and only the latter has the matching soil (Red Mediterranean), soil group, rain fall, temperature, plants, and overall climate as well as the numerous other conditions mentioned by Nephi and Mormon (for more on this, see the post in this blog of April 24, 2014, “Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth?—Part IV”).
Top: 30º south latitude Coquimbo Bay where winds and currents drop to almost nothing, where a landing could be effected in 600 B.C.; Bottom: La Serena, adjacent to the coast, where Mediterranean Climate agriculture has always flourished
(See the next post for another of these Land of Promise factors described by Mormon that should help one to understand where the Land of Promise was located)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mormon’s Abridgement Part I – The Cure for Fever

Continuing from the last post regarding the many descriptions Mormon wrote about his land that are vital for us to consider when claiming a current location of that land, we should consider in detail his clear and obvious meaning and not just skip over them. Nor can we ignore them or claim they are unimportant merely because they do not support a personal view or opinion or agree with one’s model of the Land of Promise location. 
    Many of Mormon’s descriptions may seem unimportant and of little value in searching for a land until we consider the full effect and meaning of the statements Mormon made—specifically how they impact a land and what that would mean in our looking for a geographical match.
    As an example, Mormon tells us the Lamanites “came down” from the Land of Nephi into the Land of Zarahemla, such as stated in “Now, if king Amalickiah had come down out of the land of Nephi, at the head of his army, perhaps he would have caused the Lamanites to have attacked the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah; for behold, he did care not for the blood of his people. But behold, Amalickiah did not come down himself to battle. And behold, his chief captains durst not attack the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah, for Moroni had altered the management of affairs among the Nephites, insomuch that the Lamanites were disappointed in their places of retreat and they could not come upon them” (Alma 49:10-11).
    In fact, Mormon uses this “came down” from the Land of Nephi into the Land of Zarahemla 24 times in the book of Alma alone. Obviously, then, we need to recognize that the Land of Nephi was at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla, and any place we claim to be these two lands, the one must be higher over a large area from the other—significantly higher for Mormon to continually mention it.
Top: The Upper Mississippi, and (Bottom) Lower Mississippi and all along its course is a flat land without a single hill worthy of mentioning. There is no way the Mississippi could have been the location of a significantly elevated land as Mormon describes of the river Sidon
    Thus, when Meldrum in his
Heartland model claims the Mississippi River was the Sidon River, and that his Land of Nephi was to the South of his Land of Zarahemla, it is not at a greater elevation to match Mormon’s description; nor is the area in southern Iowa at a higher elevation than upriver where others claim the city of Zarahemla was located across from Nauvoo. Because of this one fact, these two areas immediately become suspect when one claims they are the Land of Promise. What about Mormon’s description of a higher Land of Promise and coming down from it to do battle in the Land of Zarahemla? Are Meldrum and others simply ignoring these several comments by Mormon?
    So let’s take a look at some of Mormon’s other and sometimes minor descriptions, but ones that give us a clearer understanding of the topography and therefore the geography of the Land of Promise. And in so doing, see whether or not a claimed location could match the area Mormon describes.
As discussed in a recent post, the roads and highways (3 Nephi 6:8) that should be noticeable today in any claimed location of the Land of Promise. Not just roads, but a complete system of ancient "roads" and "highways" that went "from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place"  in the Land of Promise. That one item alone would eliminate anything in North America and Malay, leaving only Peru, and to a lesser degree, Mesoamerica, and an even lesser degree Central America, the latter two having some roads, but hardly the amount Mormon describes as does Andean Peru.
    So what else did Mormon mention? A rather interesting one is mentioned in Alma. In fact, when Mormon abridged the Book of Alma, he apparently condensed some interesting information regarding the problem the Nephites had with “fevers” during certain times of the year. Writing about “there were many who died,” he goes on to state, “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land -- but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40).
    So in the last centuries B.C., what fever might we be talking about? In the ancient middle east, two fevers were common, typhoid and malaria, and elsewhere, a third fever was known, which was yellow fever. However, typhoid, which is caused by a bacteria, does not have a plant or herb cure, and is treated with modern antibiotics which kill the Salmonella bacteria. Prior to the use of antibiotics, the fatality rate was 20%. Death occurred from overwhelming infection, pneumonia, intestinal bleeding, or intestinal perforation. Yellow Fever is a virus and even currently, there is no cure for it—once a person has become infected, the only thing to do is wait for the body to kill the virus.
On the other hand, malaria, which is a parasitic infection spread by Anopheles mosquitoes, is neither a virus nor a bacterium—it is a single-celled Plasmodium parasite that multiplies in red blood cells. Like yellow fever, the prevention of malaria is in eliminating the mosqitoes that cause it. However, once infected, the cure or treatment is only found in the cinchona plant or tree.
    Anciently referred to variously as “Marsh Fever,” “tertian ague,” “acute fever,” and “Roman fever,” the latter was a particularly deadly strain of malaria that affected the Roman Campaigna, and the city of Rome throughout various epochs in history, especially during the sultry summers, where 30,000 died each year. William Shakespeare knew enough about it to mention it in eight of his plays. And for thousands of years, traditional and herbal remedies were used to treat malaria. During the Middle Ages, traditional treatments included blood-letting, inducing vomiting, limb amputations and trepanning: drilling or scraping a hole in the skull). Some turned to witchcraft and astrology. As for herbal remedies, physicians and surgeons as well as folk-healers administered ineffective and often deadly herbs, such as the toxic plant Belladona (deadly nightshade).
    It might be of interest to know that malaria, or “fevers that kill” were not referenced in the “medical books” of the Mayans or Aztecs, while the origin of Plasmodium falciparum in South America shows an old beginning according to archaeological and genetic evidence (Erhan Yalcindag, et al, Multiple independent introductions of Plasmodium falciparum in South America)
Perhaps the most famous case of malaria was that of Alexander the Great who, according to some experts, died of fever in 323 B.C., two weeks after sailing in the marshes to inspect flood defenses (Jonathan Thompson, Disease, not conflict, ended the reign of Alexander the Great). And while the plague of Athens in 430 B.C. is blamed on typhoid fever, this is an epidemic disease and is spread from person to person, while malaria is not, for it can only be transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes.
    It was malaria that was described in 2700 B.C. in ancient Chinese medical writings. Malaria was commonly recognized in Greece as early as the 4th century B.C., and it was the Romans who attributed malarial diseases to the marshlands and set in place a system of draining their swamps.
    Malaria is among the oldest of maladies, a widespread and potentially lethal human infectious disease. At its peak malaria infested every continent, except Antarctica, and even by the close of the 20th century, malaria remained endemic in more than 100 countries throughout the tropical and subtropical zones, including large areas of Central and South America, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. The latest statistics show that 207 million cases of malaria were reported in 2012, which killed as many as 789,000 people.
    The seriousness of malarial fever has always been well understood. It was the most important health hazard encountered by U.S. troops in the South Pacific during World War II, where about 500,000 men were infected. According to Joseph Patrick Byrne (Encyclopedia of Pestilence, Pandemics, and Plagues), "Sixty thousand American soldiers died of malaria during the African and South Pacific campaigns." Before that, malaria decimated the armies of both the North and South during the American Civil War.
    After the link to mosquitoes and their parasites were identified in the early twentieth century, mosquito control prevention measures such as widespread use of pesticide, swamp drainage, covering or oiling the surface of open water sources, indoor residual spraying and use of insecticide treated nets was initiated.
However, the treatment and cure was found only in Prophylactic quinine—the only natural cure in the entire world until the 20th century. Quinine, of course, comes only from the natural ground up bark of the cinchona tree—a tree found only in the area of Andean Peru and Bolivia. This quinine was the first and only effective treatment for malaria until it was synthesized in the middle of the 20th century.
    So one would think, that after Mormon tells us that the fever that killed many Nephites was not so deadly “because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases,” we need only look to where the quinine-producing cinchona tree grew during Nephite times to see where the Land of Promise would be located.
    This cinchona tree and its herbal produced quinine was known to the ancient Peruvians of the Andes dating back into B.C. times, where the cinchona tree grew only in Andean Peru until the Dutch pirated cuttings out of South America in the 19th century and planted them in Indonesia. Up until then, quinine was available only to the Peruvians, who used it for the cure and treatment of fever by grinding up its bark and producing the bitter crystalline compound.
    It would seem, then, if one is going to claim a place as the Land of Promise, one might want to consider the fact malaria is a deadly fever, and is the only fever that can be treated or cured by herbal (plant) means, and that herbal cure is quinine, which is the only cure for malarial fever (and numerous other ailments), and is indigenous only to Andean Peru. No other herb or plant contains quinine, and only quinine has been found to cure or effectively treat malarial fever.  Thus, Mormon’s description of an item in the Land of Promise can only be found in Andean Peru.
(See the next post for another of these Land of Promise factors described by Mormon that should help on to understand where the Land of Promise was located)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Amazing Prophet Mormon and His Abridgement

The Prophet Mormon was an absolutely amazing individual—a child prodigy, a skilled military commander, a great historian, a powerful prophet, a man among men, and a loving father and son. He was neither crafty nor devious and had no guile, but consistently expressed empathy and compassion for his fellow man. He was surrounded all his days by wickedness and abominations, but in his writings, Mormon expresses an eternal outlook that made him cheerful, resilient and optimistic in the gospel.
Even when knowing the Nephites had passed their day of grace, both temporarily and spiritually because of their wickedness (Mormon 2:15), he still thought in some way in their deadly struggle for survival that he could gain an advantage over the Lamanites (Mormon 6:4). Despite their wickedness, he had led the Nephites many times in battle and delivered them out of the hands of their enemies (Mormon 3:12-13). Yet, despite his great love for his people, he stood aside and refused to lead them when the Lord commanded (Mormon 3:13). It was his greatness that allowed him to be chosen by the Lord to edit the writings of the Nephite prophets—a work that made staggering demands on him.
The Nephites held a massive number of voluminous records (Helaman 3:13), including the small and large plates of the Nephites, and were so extensive that four times Mormon felt compelled to declare that he could not write "the hundredth part of the things of my people" (WofM 1:5; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 5:8; 26:6). Mormon had not only to choose what doctrines of the gospel to include in that hundredth part of history, but also to decide which historical episodes would best illustrate the Nephite’s relationship with God. The result is a dazzling spiritual treasure because its editor was a divinely inspired spiritual giant.
Mormon is amazing because of his production of The Book of Mormon, not only in his abridgement of thousands of records, but his insertion at times of further explanation, such as the legal system (Alma 11:1), monetary system (Alma 11:5-6), and Land of Promise geography (Alma 22:27-34). This work was the consecrated and successful mission of his life. While he labored all his days, from the age of 15 onward, to save the Nephites, both from Lamanite destruction and their own folly, his greatest labor of love was the editing of what he knew would be the scriptural record of the thousand years of the Nephite nation (3 Nephi 5:14-16) to be read by a far future people (3 Nephi 30:1-2).
    Any reader of the Book of Mormon today must be amazed by the choice of subject Mormon thought to include in his extensive abridgement. It also seems well worth our while to pay attention to those choices and try to fully comprehend what significance they had in Mormon’s time and for our time today. While the basis of the entire work is to be a second witness or testimony of Jesus Christ, it also contains doctrinal understandings and historical events that aid us in our understanding of our own age and problems--individually, collectively, as well as nationally (Helaman 5:2-3) and worldly.
    For those who have a desire to know of the geographical setting of the land in which Mormon lived, labored and fought, and the geographical setting of the entire Land of Promise, who better to glean information from than the one man that we know of who lived, walked and fought throughout the entire width and breadth of the land. After all, Mormon was born in the Land Northward, lived in the Land Southward (Mormon 1:6), knew of the land and how the Nephites had built numerous buildings all over the land (Mormon 1:7), and saw how the Nephites had spread over the land and “were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.”
When Mormon was 15 years of age, there began to be a war again between the Nephites and the Lamanites. “And notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature; therefore the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies”
    Mormon led Nephite armies in battle from the waters of Sidon in the far south (Mormon 1:10) to the Land of Many Waters (Mormon 6:4) in the far north. He knew of the small or narrow neck of land since he led the Nephite armies in their retreat to this area, negotiated a treaty with the Lamanites for this area (Mormon 2:28-29), declared it the boundary of the Nephite lands and fought several battles around it (Mormon 3:5-7).
    Mormon included many descriptions of small, but important facts about that land, many of which have been written about in this blog several times over the past four years. He also inserted his own thoughts regarding the topography and layout of the land, and it is toward this end that this blog is generally pointed. Where was the Land of Promise and what scriptural evidence did Mormon leave us to show us the way to knowing that land has been the major topic of over 1500 posts during these past four years. In fact, there are so many such evidences or descriptions that Mormon provided us that finding the location of the Land of Promise is not as difficult as so many Theorists, bent on their own personal view, try to make it seem.
    However, we need to glean from these small, and often seemingly insignificant descriptions to see them in the light Mormon intended. That is not to say Mormon was trying to describe his land to us (except for Alma 22:27-34), but to place the events of which he wrote in the setting of his land he knew so well. Some of these comments or descriptions are quite illuminating. However, Mormon had to pick and choose what he wrote from the enormous material at hand, and often condensed such descriptions to simple and seemingly insignificant statements or asides.
In fact, when Mormon first introduces himself, he writes: “And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people," and also stated "But behold there are records which do contain all the proceedings of this people; and a shorter but true account was given by Nephi. Therefore I have made my record of these things according to the record of Nephi, which was engraven on the plates which were called the plates of Nephi. And behold, I do make the record on plates which I have made with mine own hands. And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression” (3 Nephi 5:8-12).
    Consequently, since he could write “this book cannot contain even a hundredth part” of what was written, we might want to consider those things he did mention and what there significance might be to our understanding this land upon which Mormon lived.
    Toward this goal the next several posts are dedicated—for us to read what Mormon wrote and picture his points in the land upon which he lived. One of these descriptions was covered earlier, regarding the roads and highways he wrote about that ran extensively throughout the Land of Promise (3 Nephi 6:8). However, others are not quite so obvious, and one must read the description and consider its meaning, such as the one we will discuss in the next post.
(See the next post regarding “Mormon’s Abridgement,” for one of the descriptions Mormon wrote about that can help us understand the location of the Land of Promise)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Regarding the Location of the Land of Promise

In the last two posts we have discussed Mormon’s description of the Nephite roads, and in the post before that, Jacob’s comment that the Land of Promise was an island. In both these areas, the point is that in looking for the location of the Land of Promise, there are certain descriptions within the scriptural record that would aid in that effort. In fact, there are many others, and they are not arguable factors, for the scriptural record bears witness to the fact that the Land of Promise had these characteristics, structures, or facts associated with them to which any location suggested to be the Land of Promise must now, or in the past, contain.
As an example, the roads just mentioned. One cannot claim Mormon did not write about roads that ran from city to city, from land to land, and from place to place throughout the Nephite nation (3 Nephi 6:8). Nor can one claim there would be no vestige of these roads today since the existence of ancient roads is well documented and easily seen in the Old World dating before Lehi, therefore, any location claimed to be the Land of Promise should show signs of these ancient Nephite roads.
The same is true of the earlier post about Jacob saying, and Nephi writing, that the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20). So one claiming a location today is the site of the ancient Land of Promise must show that now or in the time of the Nephites, the area was once an island. Nor can one say, as a recent comment on that post was made by a reader that “I see no reason to believe that Jacob or Nephi knew whether or not their isle was isolated by water on the north. If Nephi and Jacob were speaking of their home in the cape region of the Baja peninsula, it makes sense that they would describe their land as an isle.”
If one is going to use the scriptural record as the criteria for the understanding and descriptions of the Land of Promise, one cannot pick and choose which parts they are going to agree with and which parts they are going to reject—if that were done, then almost any place in the Western Hemisphere could be claimed for most any place can be shown to fit at least some of the descriptions mentioned in the scriptural record.
    This rejection or pick-and-choose type of thinking goes along with the idea that one is going to accept those parts of the gospel they agree with and reject those parts they do not. “I agree that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but Thomas S. Monson is not.” Or, “I think the Book of Mormon is true, but I do not believe in the Joseph Smith story.” Or, “I like the Word of Wisdom, but don’t agree with paying tithing.”
Of course, people learn to crawl before they walk, to walk before they run, etc., and one can accept parts of the gospel at first and grow into the rest as their understanding matures. But to decide that this scripture is correct and this one is not correct is not a growing process, but one of arrogant rejection. It sets a person above the prophet who wrote it. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). It would seem that what prophets write in the scriptural record is going to be more accurate than what this person or that person agrees with or disagrees with—no matter their argument or rationale.
    While reasoning and intelligence, of course, are helpful at times in understanding a scripture, it is not reason or intelligence that causes a person to flat-out disagree with a scripture. That is like John L. Sorenson who decided in his study of the scriptural record when formulating his Mesoamerican Theory that Mormon writing about cardinal directions did not mean what he said, i.e., north was not north, east was not east, etc.
     We have to keep in mind that when the Lord speaks to us, he does so in our language. In fact, Nephi made this very clear when he wrote: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (32 Nephi 31:3, emphasis mine).
Thus, it would be inconsistent for the Lord to allow Joseph Smith, through the Spirit, to translate north, south, east, and west, when they did not mean the cardinal directions we know them to be. As an example, “north” has a specific meaning in English, as does “northward,” both words used by Mormon, or translated by Joseph Smith as Mormon’s meaning—these two words do not mean “east” or “west” as Sorenson would have us believe, since Mormon writes of a north-south running Land of Promise, and Sorenson tries to get us to understand it is really an “east-west” running Land of Promise.
    The translation would also not say “island” when something else, like “peninsula” was meant, etc. Jacob said an “isle,” a word in 1828 New England English is the same word used today as “island,” and is defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as “A tract of land surrounded by water” or “a detached portion of land embosomed in the ocean.” Neither of these definitions could apply in any way to an isthmus (Mesoamerica) or a peninsula (Baja California, or Malaysia).
    Somewhere along the line, one becomes a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ; somewhere along the line, one accepts what is written in the scriptural record as it is written; somewhere along the line, one becomes a defender of the word. Until then, a person for one reason or another feels he can pick and choose what is truth from the scriptures and reject those parts that do not agree with him. Recently, a friend of mine died who had been a doctor, a faithful member of the Church, and a faithful servant; however, he had this conviction that man evolved through evolution and disliked and rejected any officer, no matter how highly placed, any writing, scripture, sermon or talk that disagreed with him on this matter.
    However, truth is truth. What is written in the scriptural record, as Peter said, is not for private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20)—that is, when Jacob says it is an “island,” it is not up to someone to decide Jacob was wrong or that he meant something else. When Mormon writes about north and northward, it is not up to someone to decide that he really meant something else, like “west” or “westward.”
    As we wrote in our post three weeks ago, “an island, that is an island, is an island.” Jacob told the Nephites that they were on an “island,” Nephi wrote down that they were on an “island,” Joseph Smith translated that they were on an “island,” and the Spirit verified the correctness of “island.” In the mouth of two or three witness the truth will be established.
As one sage said, “For though I can move my finger to point out an object, it is out of my power to open men's eyes that they may see either the fact that I am pointing, or the object at which I point.” When the scriptural record states clearly “island,” what kind of arrogance allows one to say, “I see no reason to believe that Jacob or Nephi knew they were on an island.”
    Well, to each his own.
    The point of this blog is to take scripture and show how it relates to the Land of Promise so described in that scripture. If Jacob said an island, then the writer of this blog accepts that and uses it as a criteria to locate where that Land of Promise once might have existed. When Mormon writes about a north-south oriented Land of Promise, then the writer of this blog looks for a north-south Land of Promise. When Mormon also writes about an extensive Nephite road system that went from city to city, from land to land, and from place to place, then the writer of this blog looks for somewhere where the remains of such a road system might once have existed.
    If one is not going to do that, then what is the point in the scriptural record regarding using it to support a location for where it took place?
    In the ensuing posts on the subject of descriptions about the Land of Promise made by Mormon and others in the scriptural record, we will attempt to show those points often missed or ignored by Theorists who evidently would rather promote their model than make sure it is correct and in agreement with the writings of the prophets who lived there, walked the land, fought battles there, and described parts of it or wrote about it.
    Obviously, one might think his understanding of a scripture is more correct than what is written here—and that is any reader’s option. But the point we are trying to make here is that when the scriptural record says something that is quite clear, then that description needs to be considered and understood in light of the location one chooses to place their Land of Promise within.
    If the scriptural record says an “island,” then during the Nephite era that area had to have been an island. To make light of, to disagree with, or try and change the meaning of a word or statement is within anyone’s purview, but it is neither scholarly nor honest when trying to truthfully find answers to such inquiry. If Mormon writes about an extensive road system that evidently covered most of the Land of Promise, then one would be benefited in his search to look for such remains as might be expected and history shows does exist elsewhere (numerous ancient roads in many Old World countries show that roads last a long time and should be found today where they once existed). It benefits no one for a person to try and explain away these clearly stated descriptions because they do not agree with their own model.
(See the next post about “The Amazing Mormon and His Abridgement,” for a better understanding of Mormon’s efforts to abridge the record, and then the subsequent posts that discuss what existed in Nephite times in the Land of Promise that should be considered part of any current inquiry to such a location)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Remarkable Roads and Bridges of Peru—Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding the magnificent road system the Nephites built that went from city to city, from land to land and from place to place (3 Nephi 6:8). Again, it is obvious that any Land of Promise location today would show some remains of these roads that Mormon describes. And as pointed out in the last post, the areas of Mesoamerica and Andean Peru are the only two locations in the Western Hemisphere that have ancient paved roads dating to Nephite times, with those in Peru far more descriptive of the scriptural record. 
    These Andean roads were well made, like those the Romans built, with a multi-layered foundation of lower statumen, lined with stone fillers and filled with rubble of broken stones, a bedding of fine rock with a dorsum or agger of leveled rock for the surface. Miles and  miles of these roads are still visible today where they have not been incorporated into modern roads and highways or fallen prey to city expansion.
Despite the harsh climate in the Andes, or the flow of rivers, earthquakes, and other weather over the centuries, the ancient roads of Peru that date back to Nephite times are still in use today throughout Andean Peru and, in many cases, are still in excellent condition
Upper Left: Many roads incorporated aqueduct channels for the flow of irrigation water; Middle: Many roads were stepped to rise up hillsides or through mountains; Bottom: Some roads were raised on platforms through the hills, swamps or along the coasts
Remarkably, these ancient roads were meticulously made, with some lined on each side to preserve their integrity in the climate or weather conditions, and many were laid out in a straight course as much as the topography would allow
These roads went from place to place. Here showing a branch of one road (yellow arrow) which goes over the mountain, with another branch or road (red arrow) heading down the mountain in a different direction to another place
Many ancient roads were so expertly made that they have been turned into modern roads with asphalt laid over the ancient road bed. Even today, these roads are narrow and obviously were not meant for vehicles, but foot traffic. They are so dangerous for vehicles that accidents are common
    In Egypt at the time of Lehi and long before, paved roads were part of temple complexes, some overlaid with stone, such as the Dimai in the Fayum where the temple was reached over a stone paved road, and where the temple complex built in 2000 B.C. by Mentuhotep II at Deir el Bahri, was described by Herodotus as “The entrance to it is by a road paved with stone for a distance of about three furlongs, which passes straight through the market-place with an easterly direction, and is about four hundred feet in width” (Histories 2.138).
    It seems safe to assume, then, that Lehi, Sam and Nephi would have known of such things, especially Lehi who had dealings with the Egyptians and learned from them what is called Reformed Egyptian language in the scriptural record. Such knowledge, coupled with the advanced building of stone houses, temples and public buildings existing in Jerusalem long before their time, would have been the foundation of their development in the Land of Promise. While most Theorists think the Nephites built out of unstable and flimsy wood that did not last,it seems far more likel that Nephi, coming from a very old society with a history of stone work in private and public buildings as well as roads and streets, would have taught his people how to build the same while he was teaching them:
    “And I 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. And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (2 Nephi 5:15-17, emphasis mine).
This is the Jerusalem Nephi would have known before leaving in 600 B.C.
    To think that Nephi built houses, temples and other buildings out of wood, rather than out of stone to which he was far more knowledgeable, seems to place him in a backward state once he left Jerusalem and came to the Land of Promise. After all, when he says, “save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land,” he certainly would not have been referring to stone or rock since that is available almost anywhere except in a desert—and then wood is not available there, either. And when he says, “But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine,” one should consider that what Nephi would have thought was “exceedingly fine,” having seen Solomon’s Temple, and knowing how it was built of stone and well made to last many lifetimes and representative of a temple worthy of God, would doubtfully think a wood edifice would be “exceedingly fine.” It is also unlikely that Nephi would have built a temple worthy of God out of wood, since the Jews had sent for Phoenicians to show them how to build Solomon’s temple out of long-lasting stone and Nephi would have not only known this, but understood the reason for it.
Top: typical housing construction in Jerusalem at the time of Lehi. Homes were made of stone, as were most everything in Jerusalem; Bottom: Solomon’s temple was made out of dressed stone and meticulously detailed
    There seems little doubt that Nephi’s temple was not only out of stone, but quite intricately built for him to compare it with that of Solomon’s temple. In addition, Solomon had a royal palace built 400 years before Lehi’s time that was the envy of the period as well as in Lehi's time—it too, was made of stone and represented the opulence that surprised and pleased a myriad of visitors to Jerusalem from all over the region. It was built just south of the temple complex on a rise overlooking much of the city and would have been highly visible for all to see, including Nephi when he went into the city. The royal structure was quite large, being both the palace complex for the administration of Solomon's office and his own private residence.
Solomon’s palace was located near the Water Gate of Nehemiah’s time (3:29) and the royal gatehouse is now under the modern road. These photos are of the excavation that unearthed parts of the palace that became open to the public in 2011
    It seems reasonably certain that not only did Nephi build his temple out of stone, but taught his people how to build buildings out of stone and that much of his city was built of stone, including roads that led from place to place. It is what he would have known, what he would have understood, and what he would have considered the way to build, and what he would have taught his people. It also seems just as reasonable to think that remains of those buildings and roads would be seen today in whatever location one might search for the Land of Promise or claim it existed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Remarkable Roads and Bridges of Peru - Part I

Continuing with the previous post regarding the Nephite roads and Mormon’s statement that the roads went “from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place” (3 Nephi 6:8), we need to consider the importance of those words. From city to city suggests a rather extensive system, since at least 40 cities are mentioned in the scriptural record that would have been within the area the Nephites controlled at the time of this statement. 
    It might also be assumed that during the 550 years that the Nephites occupied the Land of Nephi and the city of Nephi, as well as other lands in the area (Shilom and Shemlon, etc) that they would have built roads among their occupied area, but there is nothing in the scriptural record to verify this. It would seem just as likely that no road existed between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, since Ammon and his group were lost trying to find the City of Nephi (Mosiah 7:4), and when the Nephites in that land were rescued, Ammon and his brethren did not return to Zarahemla on any road (Mosiah 22:12-13). Nor did Limhi’s 43-man expedition searching for Zarahemla evidently have any road or even path to follow in order to find it since they became lost (Mosiah 21:25), yet there was a highway that led into the city of Zarahemla and to the chief market (Helaman 7:10).
    This highway and road system of the Nephites, which led from land to land, obviously covered most, if not all of the area the Nephites occupied.  Consequently, today, we should see some remnant of the extensive Nephite road system in the area of the Land of Promise, since roads made at that time and two thousands years or more before Lehi, are still evidenced in the area from which Lehi came (see previous post for information and photos). So where do we find such a road system today?
Such a road system is found--the most extensive and formidable roads and highways of the entire Western Hemisphere--that date to Nephite times in the Andean area of Peru, Bolivia and Chile, that extends for 20,000 miles, including three north-south network highways with numerous eat-west branches. So fine were these roads when the Spanish arrived, that some were given the status of Camino Real (the King’s Highway). Extending "from Quito, Ecuador in the north, to Santiago, Chile in the south, and Mendoza, Argentina, in the east. The main highways were as wide as 66-feet, and were connected by populated areas, administrative centers, agricultural and mining zones, as well as ceremonial centers and sacred places." One main highway covered 3,700 miles along the spine of the Andes. A second main highway, which ran within the mountains at heights as great as 16,000 feet, covered 3,200 miles. The third highway, which ran along the coastal routes, covered 2,500 miles. These highways were connected like a spiderweb with numerous east-west roads covering more than 11,000 miles in length, that were from 3 ½ to 13 feet in width,.
    So it should be considered that in the time when mountains existed, prior to 34 A.D., for at that time “many mountains [were] laid low” (Helaman 14:23), showing the existence of a land of “many mountains,” these roads would have had to go over, around or through such topography. Typically, ancient roads followed the course of least resistance, somewhat like a river, however, in the Andean area of Peru, some of the roads were carved through mountains.
Where necessary, roads were cut through solid rock, some for great distances
    In addition, other exception engineering fetes of road construction was accomplished in negotiating the incisive topography of the landscape:
Roads were laid through dense forests and heavy jungle-like foliage
Roads were built in the high mountains, some along cliffs with steep drops
Roads were built in areas of sand and wind with curbings to keep the roads from being covered over
Roads were built over hills and up mountains by using steps
Where climbing up cliff sides was necessary, roads were connected with stairs of a unique design
    In all, these roads of some 20,000 miles or more covered the entire land, allowing both missionary travel by foot (Alma 4:19, 28-30-31; 5:1), as well as movement of troops from one location to another (as seen in Helaman 1:25). They also provided the quick movement of messages (Alma 15:4; 43:24; 47:11-12; 56:1; Mormon 3:4;  6:2).
    Again, only two places in the Western Hemisphere have evidence of paved roads dating to Nephite times, that of Mesoamerica and Andean Peru. However, we need to keep in mind that the roads in Andean Peru are dated older, are far more extensive, cover thousands of more miles, and were the ones the Spanish Conquistadors most admired.
(See the next post, “The Remarkable Roads and Bridges of Peru—Part II,” for more information on these Nephite roads and how they conquered the mountains “whose height is great” of which Samuel prophesied)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Amazing Nephite Roads

Another area that Theorists tend to ignore is that of the amazing Nephite roads since their models, other than Peru and Mesoamerica, do not have roads to comment about. But Mormon tells us about these roads: 
   “And there were many highways (public road; earth raided to form a dry path, from one city to another) cast up, and many roads (open way or public passage) made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place”
(3 Nephi 6:8).

The Babylonians built roads than ran from their temples (ziggurats) through their empire into Assyria. Note the identical mud-brick construction of both buildings and roads
    It is interesting that stone roads and bridges were well known in Mesopotamia and the Middle East long before Lehi left for the Land of Promise. In fact, the oldest constructed roads discovered to date are in the area of Mesopotamia, and date earlier than 2000 B.C. in Ur and Babylon. These paved roads were meticulous laid by artisans with brick-making skills that formed identical mud bricks for building. After drying they would set them in place with bitumen, which is the natural sticky black substance in asphalt. It would be many centuries later before asphalt was used in Europe and later America.
Left: Ancient Mespotamia road around 2000 B.C.; Right: Celtic bridge ; Boitom Left: 1700 B.C. Royal Road in Knossos Crete; Minoia road 1900 B.C.
    While both Ur and Uruk in Mesopotamia had stone-pave streets, as did the Indus Valley cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, it is even more surprising to find cobbled streets in the much earlier Halaf Culture village at Tell Arpachiyah in northern Mesopotamia, and at the village of Choirokoitia in Cyprus.
    On the other hand we are more familiar in history with the Roman roads from 500 B.C. onward, though a road in uncovered Pompeii is dated to 600 B.C. There were Greek roads, as well, and the earliest stone bridge was built in 1900 B.C. in Crete, and numerous stone bridges built by the Romans are still in use today.
Top Left: Roman road, 500 B.C.; Top Right: Pompeii road, 600 B.C.; Bottom Left: Greek road 400 B.C.; Bottom Right: Pre-Rom and Greek-Romanian road
    Roads were extremely important during the last millennia B.C. in the eastern Mediterranean since countries were involved in international trade. In addition, expanding military empires understood the value of a good road system which made it easier to control the empire as messages and orders could be sent quickly.
    Consequently, it might be understood that by the time Lehi left Jerusalem, stone roads and stone bridges were fairly well known. Even in Egypt, where roads existed though the physical evidence today is slim and pictorial testimony rare. There are some short stretches of streets and roads which have survived, having lain above the level of the Nile floods, or not reclaimed by the moving sands. Roads were either mud-brick or stone, such as at Dimai in the Fayum where the temple was reached over a stone paved road 
Left: Egyptian road to Megiddo; Top Right: Stone road in Egypt; Bottom: Stone roads crossing the desert, all but now reclaimed by the sand
    In the scriptural record, Mormon describes a rather intricate road system when he talks about “roads and highways leading form city to city (that is, from large town to large town) and from land to land (that is, from region or country to region or country) and from place to place (that is, from house, area, city, town or village to house, area, city, town or village)” (3 Nephi 6:8).
    Given the size of the Land of Promise, and the many cities and lands described, one might consider that this road system that Mormon describes as leading just about everywhere would be quite extensive—after all, more than 40 cities are mentioned and 25 lands in the scriptural record in the area the Nephites occupied. From Mormon’s writing, it would seem that roads and highways led to or by most, if not all of these cities, and through each of these lands.
    There are only two places in the entire Western Hemisphere where ancient stone or paved roads existed during the Nephite period, and that is in Andean Peru, stretching from Ecuador to Chile, and in Mesoamerica, scattered mostly in the Yucatan of Mexico and in Mayan Guatemala. Of Mesoamerica, John L. Sorenson, in his book Images of Ancient America, p 56, writes: “In recent years, hundreds of miles of roads have been found radiating outward from major population centers throughout much of Mesoamerica.  Built-up roads (the Mayan language term was sacbe, "white road") like the remnant at the site of Labna in Yucatan were not primarily for travelers but were routes for ceremonial processions although they were used for routine transport where they were available.  Mostly, however, well-worn trails served the surefooted human burden bearers.”
    Glenn A. Scott, in Voices from the Dust, p 191, states of the Coba-Yaxuna road in the Yucatan, “That sacbe is sixty-seven miles long, averaging thirty-two feet wide.  For most of its length it is two to three feet above terrain.  Where crossing bajos the roadbed is more than eight feet high with sides of roughly dressed stone.” The Spanish conquistadors commented that in their time of arrival in the area, there were to be seen “vestiges of calzadas which cross the whole kingdom." That is, traces of ancient roads were seen throughout the Yucatan.
    In the scriptural record, we find that these Nephite roads were paved, or made of some type of solid material, like rock or stone. Samuel the Lamanite not only confirmed that there were many highways in the Land of Promise (Helaman 14:24),  but Mormon confirms that they were indeed made of some type of solid material, like stone or a form of pavement, since he tells us that during the terrible destruction that “changed the face of the earth,” these highways were “broken up” (3 Nephi 8:13).
    Nowhere in all of the Western Hemisphere is there a road system as long, extensive, and expertly made as those in Andean Peru, according to the conquistadors who first saw these roads in Mesoamerica and Peru, and claimed that the Andean roads rivaled the highly acclaimed roads of the ancient Romans. This highway system stretches from Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south, and from the Pacific Coast in the west to and through the Andes to the east, even into Bolivia and present-day Argentina.
Ancient roads built in Peru during B.C. Nephite times, and made of stone, including intricate rises  over mountains, tunnels cut through solid rock, and raised causeways  across swamps, or ancient bridges across canyons and rivers. These photos are a few of those seen today, over 2000 years later
    Running 3,700 miles, from Chile to Ecuador, with an intertwining and interconnected network of 24,000 miles of roads and highways. Truly, this road system “led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place.”
    Called Qhapaq Ñan by the Inca (Great Inca Road or Route of the Inca), who later used these well-built Nephite roads to help them conquer from Ecuador to Chile, they never could have been built by the Inca, whose existence is figured to be about 120 years in which most of that time was taken up by fighting wars and expanding an empire. Without these roads already in place, the Inca never could have conquered most of their eventual territory.
    “And the highways were broken up (rent asunder—divided, parted, disunited), and the level roads were spoiled (rendered useless), and many smooth places became rough (scattered with stones, ridges)” (3 Nephi 8:13).
Several of the many ancient roads in Peru that were broken up and their smooth surfaces anciently became rough
    The point is, in order to find a location for the Land of Promise today, we should find within our choice of location ancient roads dating to B.C. times constructed of pavement, stone or rocks, and also find locations where these roads have not just deteriorated over time, as found in Mesoamerica, but show distinct signs of being broken up and the level roads spoiled from earthquake activity. The roads themselves in Mesoamerica and Andean Peru eliminate all other areas in the Western Hemisphere, and the signs of earthquake spoilage shows Andean Peru to more accurately match the scriptural record than any other place.
(See the next post, “The Remarkable Roads and Bridges of Peru,” for more information on these Nephite roads and how they conquered the mountains “whose height is great” of which Samuel prophesied)