Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lehi's not Ether's Land of Promise – Part I

The H38 Virus website, which promotes its site as the “True Book of Mormon Geography,” tries to limit the land of Promise in size and scope to only the Land Northward. So convinced is that author that he interprets everything in light of that one, single point. That is, the Land Northward is the only area of the Land of Promise that all the comments, promises, and prophesying is about.

For some reason, he completely eliminates the Land Southward from any value regarding the Land of Promise. Perhaps we can take a couple of extremely important points here to show the fallacy of such a claim.

First of all, Lehi was led into the Land South in the Land Southward. His landing site, or the area of First Inheritance, was along the West Sea south in the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:28). In fact, Mormon injects the following: “Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.”

Thus, Alma tells us 1) that Lehi landed in the Land Southward, 2) in the area later called the Land of Nephi, 3) “thus” or obviously, it was “along the seashore.” Now, just to make sure there is no mistake about where Lehi landed, we have “Now the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10).

Unquestionably, then, Lehi landed in the Land Southward. Now, of this land, Lehi said: “I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren. But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 5:4-5). Later, when blessing his children and grandchildren after landing, Lehi told them they had obtained the Land of Promise (2 Nephi 1:3,5), and told them how they should live in “this precious land of promise “ (2 Nephi 1:10), and that were it not for Nephi “who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise” (2 Nephi 1:24). Lehi also told them “Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever” (2 Nephi 1:9).

And to Nephi the Lord said: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands” (1 Nephi 2:19-20). Nephi was also shown a vision of the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 12:1,4,14,33) that they were to obtain, and calls the land toward which they were headed as the Land of Promise several times (1 Nephi 5:22; 7:11,13; 10:12). The Lord also told Nephi that He was leading them to the promised land (1 Nephi 17:13-14) and Nephi refers to the Land of Promise when they landed (1 Nephi 18:25). He also referred to it as the promised land on several occasions (1 Nephi 13:12; 14:2) and that they set sail for the promised land (1 Nephi 18:8,22) and that they landed on the promised land and that they called it the promised land (1 Nephi 18:22-23).

The problem is that the author of H38 claims that the Land Northward was all that mattered and was the land that held the promise. He quotes Moroni saying: “Ether truly told them of all things from the beginning of man and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord” (Ether 13:2), but ignores the numerous references to the Land Southward also being so identified as shown in the cases above.

(See the next post, “Lehi’s Land of Promise Part II,” to see how Lehi’s Land of Promise encompassed the entire area of the Land Southward and the Land Northward)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another False Claim on the H38 Virus Website

On the H38 Virus Website, which claims to have the True Book of Mormon Geography, the following statement is made:

3. The Land Northward was so small, they could see THREE of the FOUR SEAS standing on the Hill Ephraim, in the Land Desolation, by the Narrow Neck. (Ether 7:6-9)“

Actually, Ether 7:6-9 does not say that at all. What it says is: “Now the land of Moron, where the king dwelt, was near the land which is called Desolation by the Nephites. And it came to pass that Kib dwelt in captivity, and his people under Corihor his son, until he became exceedingly old; nevertheless Kib begat Shule in his old age, while he was yet in captivity. And it came to pass that Shule was angry with his brother; and Shule waxed strong, and became mighty as to the strength of a man; and he was also mighty in judgment. Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor and gave battle unto his brother Corihor, by which means he obtained the kingdom and restored it unto his father Kib.”

First of all, this is the only reference to the hill Ephraim in the entire account of Ether, as well as in the entire Book of Mormon. Secondly, as one can see, there is absolutely no mention of ANY sea visible from the hill Ephraim, let alone all three! Thirdly, there is absolutely no mention of a Sea North or a North Sea in all of the Book of Ether.

One can only conclude that the Land Northward was not so small as claimed, for there is nothing in the scriptural record to indicate such. In fact, Mormon tells us that Nephite emigrants from the Land Southward, when entering the Land Northward, “they did travel to an exceeding great distance…that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers” (Helaman 3:4), suggesting a rather large area. Much later, when the Nephites entered into a treaty with the Lamanites (Mormon 2:29), the Nephites obtained the entire Land Northward. This means the area was large enough for several million people to inhabit.

In addition, we do not know from the scriptural record that the Land of Moron was near the Narrow Neck of Land. All we know is that Moron was near the Land of Desolation, and this Land of Desolation ran from the north to the south where it bordered on the Narrow Neck and the Land of Bountiful beyond (Alma 22:31-32).

We also know that the Jaredites “built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land. (Ether 10:20), which tells us the Jaredites were as far south as the Land Northward ran, and as far north as the Land of Many Waters (Mosiah 8:8) and the Waters of Ripliancum (Ether 15:8), which may have been the Sea North, but it was never called such in the Ether record. In fact, the only mention of the Sea North is in Helaman 3:8, which is also where the only mention of the Sea South occurs.

Also, this website promotes the belief that the Land Northward was the focal point of the Land of Promise. They also suggest that the Land Northward alone had a Sea North and a Sea South by quoting Helaman 3:8: “And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.”

However, this scriptural statement does not say the Land Northward had a south sea. It says the people spread over all the land—that they “did go forth from the land southward to the land northward and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth from the sea south to the sea north” has reference to the entire Land of Promise—from the land southward to the land northward. The terminology “cover the face of the whole earth” refers to the entire Land of Promise, not just a portion of it.

Also, by the time this was written in Helaman’s time, the Land Southward was basically completely covered with humanity, from the Lamanites in the south to the Nephites in the Land of Zarahemla and northward to the narrow neck. At this point, Mormon injects the fact for his future readers that with the movement of Nephites into the Land Northward which multiplied and spread out over the land, that the entire Land of Promise was now covered with the children of Lehi and that “they covered the face of the whole earth.” That is, they covered the face of the entire Land of Promise.

As can easily be seen, Mormon injects the Land Southward and the Land Northward in his statement. This is the entire Land of Promise, not just one portion of it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Disingenuous H38 Virus Website

The following is taken from the website claiming to be the “True Book of Mormon Geography” in which is stated:

4. The Land Northward was crossed by the Mulekites, they having first landed in the northern border then traveled south later to found Zarahemla. A true model must have a LAND NORTHWARD bordered by the SEA NORTH connecting to the "GREAT DEEP." (1 Nephi 17:17; Omni 1:16; Ether 6:3, 2:25, 7:27, 8:9; Helaman 12:16; 2 Nephi 4:20)

First of all, the sea connected to the Great Deep is the West Sea, which is where Lehi landed, would be the Land of First Inheritance in the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:28). Since Jacob tells us they were upon an “isle of the sea,” we can understand that the entire Land of Promise was surrounded by the Great Deep.

Secondly, contrary to the above statement, Omni 1:16 says: “Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth.” This obviously does NOT say the Mulekites crossed any land in the Land of Promise, nor that they landed in the northern border, or that they traveled south later to found Zarahemla. The website uses a completely disingenuous reference.

Thus, according to Amaleki in Omni, the Mulekites 1) left Jerusalem, 2) journeyed in the wilderness to the sea, 3) were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, 4) landed in the land where Mosiah found them, and 5) had dwelt there from the time of their landing to when Mosiah found them.

It is arrogantly disingenuous to claim other than what the scriptural record states. The Mulekites were never in the Land Northward, did not land in the northern border, did not cross any land within the Land of Promise, and they did not travel south to found Zarahemla. In fact, no one in Zarahemla knew about the Land Northward other than from Limhi’s 43-man expedition, and knew nothing of the people who had inhabited that land until Mosiah translated Ether’s record.

Now, other of his references are just as bad. 1 Nephi 17:17 says: “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.” This has nothing to do with the Mulekites or where they landed, or about a North Sea. It only states that Nephi built a ship that crossed the many waters, which is not a contested point.

Ether 6:3 “And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.” Again, this is not a contested point, or has anything to do with the Mulekites or the Land Northward or the North Sea.

Ether 2:25, 7:27, and 8:9 are all about “crossing the great deep,” which is neither a contested point, nor has anything at all to do with the Land Northward or the North Sea.

Helaman 12:16 says, “And behold, also, if he say unto the waters of the great deep -- Be thou dried up -- it is done,” which has to do with the power of God and nothing whatever to do with either the Mulekites or the Land Northward or the North Sea.

2 Nephi 4:20, “My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep,” which is merely an acknowledgement by Nephi of the wonderful things the Lord has done for him. This, also, has nothing to do with the Mulekites or the Land Northward. And since the Lehi Colony landed along the West Sea in the Land Southward as stated in Alma, it cannot have anything to do with the North Sea.

What more can one say about someone who writes about a subject, in this case, the Mulekites landing in the Land Northward and crossing the land and going south to found Zarahemla, all points in opposition to the scriptural record, then references several scriptures that have nothing to do with the statement? Such scholarship is completely disingenuous and meant to completely mislead a reader. There is no place for such theorizing regarding the Book of Mormon or actually any other point of scholarship.

Such writing is inexcusable. The author of this should be ashamed of himself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Honey in Abundance

So often, Mesoamerican and Great Lakes theorists miss very important wordage in the scriptural record. Far too often theorists look for wordage that supports their views and models, and totally ignore other information that paints an entirely different picture.

In the case of where the Jaredites built their barges and set out to cross the great deep, where Nephi built his ship and set sail into the Irreantum Sea, and where Mulek was taken and from where they set sail for the Land of Promise, there are numerous clues left for us by first, Nephi, and later Mormon, that we ought to really search the scriptural record to learn all we can.

As an example, it is interesting that along the coast of southern Arabia, where the honey bee was introduced but never indigenous, Nephi wrote: “And it came to pass that on the morrow, after we had prepared all things, much fruits and meat from the wilderness, and honey in abundance, and provisions according to that which the Lord had commanded us, we did go down into the ship, with all our loading and our seeds, and whatsoever thing we had brought with us, every one according to his age; wherefore, we did all go down into the ship, with our wives and our children” (1 Nephi 18:6).

The question never asked, it seems, is where did the Nephites get “honey in abundance” in 600 B.C. where the honey bee was not indigenous and should never have been found. To answer this question, we have to back up some 1500 years to when the honey bee was introduced into the area of Nephi’s Bountiful. First of all, hollowed-out date-palm trunks, used historically as beehives in both Yemen and Oman have been found. But again, where did the bees come from originally?

The answer is quite simple. The honey bees came from the Jaredites. When Jared and his brother and their friends left Mesopotamia, they “did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind” (Ether 2:3).

Now historically, honey bees were indigenous in Mesopotamia and were kept in Sumer before 2000 B.C. Honey was used by the Babylonians for medicine and rituals, and honey for rituals was mentioned in the time of Hammurabi, around 1500 B.C. As late as 745 B.C., there are records of hive beekeeping along the middle Euphrates, and from Egypt there is a reference in 700 B.C. “the Lord will whistle for the bee from Assyria.”

It should become apparent that in the economy of the Lord, the Jaredites were led to the same place Lehi would arrive some 1500 years later. During the four years the Lord allowed the Jaredites to leisurely spend along the seashore, the bees and animals, plants and crops, the Jaredites brought and seeds they planted, had plenty of time to develop a permanent existence. The bees reproduced within the many caves, savannahs, valleys and mountains along the shore and inland in the area of present day Salalah. Plants had time to mature, drop seeds, and produce numerous trees and plants that produced “much fruit” by the time the Nephites arrived. Nephi understood this when he said, “and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish” (1 Nephi 17:5).

Thus we can see from where the Jaredites embarked, later the Nephites set sail, and no doubt, in this economy of the Lord, the Mulekites would be led and from where they sailed, the Lord had arranged for fruit, crops, honey and other resources needed by the later groups to arrive.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Did the Mulekites Land Among the Jaradites?

If the Land Northward, where the bones and ruins of buildings were found by Limhi’s 43-man expeditionary force, was the landing site of the Mulekites as Mesoamerican theorists so stubbornly claim, why is it that no one in the Limhi group, nor Limhi himself, nor anyone in Zarahemla even knew about this northern land or its people?

The 43 men King Limhi sent to find Zarahemla became “lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel” (Mosiah 8:8).

Limhi himself obviously had no idea who the people of the north were, saying “For I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language; for, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence these records came” (Mosiah 8:12). He also said, after finding out that Mosiah could translate the plates “Doubtless a great mystery is contained within these plates, and these interpreters were doubtless prepared for the purpose of unfolding all such mysteries to the children of men.”

Now, Ammon, to whom Limhi was speaking, was “a strong and mighty man, and a descendant of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 7:3), yet he gave no indication that he either knew about this Land Northward, or knew of any of those people who had been destroyed there.” Had the Mulekites landed in the Land Northward and mingled among the Jaradites as Mesoamerican theorists so adamantly claim, certainly the knowledge of the Jaredites would have been known to Ammon.

Now in the city or land of Zarahemla, there “were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness” (Mosiah 25:2). Obviously, then, during Mosiah’s reign, there were numerous Mulekites in Zarahemla, yet these very people had no idea about the Land Northward nor the people who had been destroyed there. Eventually, Mosiah translated the Jaredite plates: “And this he did because of the great anxiety of his people; for they were desirous beyond measure to know concerning those people who had been destroyed” (Mosiah 28:12). When the translation was completed and the people heard the “account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam. Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice” (Mosiah 28:17-18).

How is it possible that no one in Zarahemla, that was a descendant of Mulek and those who came with him, knew anything about the people of the Land Northward, nor of their history, battles, and wars if they landed among them? The idea that the Mulekites landed in the Land Northward, as Mesoamerican theorist contend is ludicruous. The Mulekites knew nothing of the land nor the people when Mosiah translated the plates of Ether.

Thus, Mesoamerican theorists from John L. Sorenson onward have all tried to foster a situation upon us that is simply not supported by the scriptural record. The Mulekites did not land in the Land Northward and did not know the Jaredites except for Coriantumr whom they did not understand his language nor his writing. Amaleki makes this perfectly clear that the Mulekites land in the area where Mosiah found them (Omni 1:16). To say differently is to change the scriptural record in a most disingenuous manner.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part IV

The last feature to be mentioned in Mormon’s writings that explain the Land of Promise and fill out the map, is an event that took place during Captain Moroni’s creation of his flag of liberty. This also has to do with a misunderstanding of Mesoamerica and Great Lakes theorists regarding the Land North and the Land South mentioned in Alma.

This unique feature, that is the Land North and the Land South is mentioned only three times in scripture, and all have to do with the Land Southward. As Mormon wrote:

“Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored” (Alma 46:16). And at this time, Moroni “poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south -- A chosen land, and the land of liberty” (Alma 46:17)

Thus, the Land North and the Land South are not the same as the Land Northward and the Land Southward, since Mormon tells us that the Land Southward “the land which was south of the land Desolation” had two divisions—the land north and the land south. That is, the Land Southward was divided into two divisions—the Land North and the Land South.

This is also the understanding of these terms in Helaman when it is written: “And behold, there was peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites. And it came to pass that the Lamanites did also go whithersoever they would, whether it were among the Lamanites or among the Nephites; and thus they did have free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire. And it came to pass that they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites; and they did have an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north. Now the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south. And behold, there was all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind; and there were also curious workmen, who did work all kinds of ore and did refine it; and thus they did become rich. They did raise grain in abundance, both in the north and in the south; and they did flourish exceedingly, both in the north and in the south. And they did multiply and wax exceedingly strong in the land. And they did raise many flocks and herds, yea, many fatlings” (Helaman 6:7-12).

Thus, Mormon tells us that within the Land Southward, that is, in “all the land which was south of the land Desolation,” there were two divisions, the Land North, called the Land of Mulek, and the Land South, called the Land of Lehi, for the Lord led Mulek into the Land North—where he landed and always dwelt and where Mosiah found the Mulekites—and Lehi into the Land South, which became known as the Land of First Inheritance in the Land of Nephi, west, along the seashore.

Thus, we see that the Land of Promise is configured with four divisions of land:
Land of Promise with Land Southward, Land South, Land North and Land Northward)

Such a map becomes crystal clear when we accept the words Mormon wrote, word for word, without trying to determine what Hebrew words meant, or why the Nephites did not know directions, or that seas meant lakes, etc. The Book of Mormon was written in “our own language to our understanding” and should be both read and accepted in that manner.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part III

Having gone through Alma’s description of the Land of Promise in the previous two posts, and developed a map completely consistent with his words without any changes, insertions or proposals. Thus, this is the map that Mormon left us:

Now the placement of the narrow neck of land could be either to the west or to the east or in the middle. Mormon does not provide enough information for us to know this. However, he does say that Hagoth built ships that were launched into the West Sea and from this, some inferences could be determined.

1. Obviously, Hagoth would have had to have a shipyard where he could build several ships (we know of at least four—one went north while another was built, returned and went north again, and one went where no one knew, and another sailed north with Corianton (Alma 63:5,7-8,10). Since 5,400 men, plus women and children went north (Alma 63:4), plus numerous others (Alma 63:9) and some ten years later, there were still many people going into the land northward (Helaman 3:3), it seems likely that Hagoth, or the shipyards, produced many more ships.

2. Such a shipyard would not be along a seashore or coast, but typically in some type of inlet, bay, or cove. Undoubtedly, this would have been of some size for both a shipyard where construction took place, a loading dock where the ships could be loaded with people and provisions, and an area where more than one ship could be docked or safely anchored off shore.

3. This inlet, cove, or bay would have to be sufficiently protected to provide room for testing a ship at both anchor and limited movement. It should be kept in mind that an unprotected bay, especially along the Pacific Ocean east coast, is subject to extreme weather, tsunamis, etc., that can wreck even very large ships today

4. This inlet, cove, or bay would have to open into the West Sea where a ship could be launched within and sail directly into the sea beyond. And from this point, be able to sail toward the north.

Thus, it might seem that the narrow neck of land would be toward the east of the two land masses, providing some type of opening from the sea on the West, such as a large bay, something like the San Francisco bay where a narrower opening opens into a wider bay, where Hagoth’s shipyards would be located.

Lastly, in Mormon’s map, the Land of Promise must be so configured as to allow a people to keep an enemy to the south. As he wrote: “And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward” (Alma 22:33). This feature of the Land of Promise is considerably important, for “the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites -- as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.”

This suggests a narrow landmass for the Land of Promise, at least north of the Land of Nephi, where an enemy could not circumvent any defense and get around it. This fact alone eliminates all consideration of Mesoamerica and of the Great Lakes.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part IV,” for the last feature of the Land of Promise that shows how far afield theorists often go in trying to understand Mormon’s writing)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part II

In the last post, we showed how Mormon’s map was laid out in the south, with a narrow strip of wilderness separating the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla. In this post, we will continue to build that map according to Mormon’s words in Alma 22:27-34.

As stated in the last post, “Nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful (see map last post).

Thus we see that the Land of Zarahemla ran to the north until it came to the Land of Bountiful. Now this Bountiful was the northern most part of the Land Southward. Beyond it was the Land of Desolation, which was part of the Land Northward. Between the two divisions of the land there was a “small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.” This small or narrow neck of land was all that kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water. As Mormon put it: “and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.”

Now this Land Bountiful “bordered upon the land which they called Desolation.” Now this Land of Desolation in the Land Northward continued to the north until it came into a land which “had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken.” Thus, the Land Northward was covered with bones that were discovered by Limhi’s 43-man expedition, including ruins of buildings of every kind” (Mosiah 8:7-8). Obviously, this was the area of the Jaredites in the Land Northward. Their last great battle took place “so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed”—and was “the place of their first landing.”

“Of whose bones we have spoken” relates to the several comments regarding the Jaredites (Mosiah 8:12; 25:2; 28:12). “It being the place of their first landing” (Alma 22:30) obviously also referred to the Jaredites (see the next post on this issue). And the Jaredites then “came from there up into the south wilderness.” This south wilderness they called Moron, which was near the land the Nephites called Desolation--“Now the land of Moron, where the king dwelt, was near the land which is called Desolation by the Nephites” (Ether 7:6). North of that was the Land of Many Waters (Mosiah 8:8) which was a land filled with “many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4). In addition, this land far to the north was where the hill Cumorah was located (Mormon 6:2).

“Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food” (Alma 22:31)

Mormon also tells us that this narrow neck of land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, was so narrow that “it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32). Since both seas are not mentioned in this passage, it is assumed by most theorists that this means it did not extend eastward to the sea. However, we know that the narrow neck of land had a sea to the east and to the west, thus, this entire narrow passage had to have run from sea to sea. After all, if someone today said the land ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, would we not translate that to mean from sea to sea? We do this because we know that the Atlantic is an Ocean and the Pacific is an Ocean. And, too, Mormon also knew his land that well. The wordage from the east to the west sea is simply a wordage indictor of both seas.

We see this again in the following verse which states: “And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea” (Alma 22:33), to indicate that the Nephites had the Lamanites hemmed in by occupying the land from sea to sea. If this was not the case, then the statement makes no sense, for the Lamanites could not have been “hemmed in” unless the Nephites occupied the entire land from sea to sea.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part III,” for the final layout of the Land of Promise that Mormon provided)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part I

Now, in developing Mormon’s map, we need to start with Alma 22:27-34. In this passage, Alma is explaining the proclamation that the Nephite King over all the land sent around to his people. At this point in the narrative, Mormon inserts his own understanding of the Land of Promise, beginning in the south and working his way north. In this 570 word insertion, Mormon felt it important to paint a picture of the Land of Promise, and especially how the Nephites and Lamanites were divided in the land at that time.

First of all, Mormon tells us the Lamanites were bottled up in the south, yet held a large area of the land south of Zarahemla. The Lamanites were “in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea on the east and on the west.” That is, the Lamanite land went from sea to sea, and “was divided from the Land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness” so that between the Land of Zarahemla on the north and the Land of Nephi on the south, a narrow strip of wilderness (an unoccupied tract of land) which “ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore.”

In addition, along the seashore, the northern part of this narrow strip of wilderness that bordered along the Land of Zarahemla, ran “through the borders of Manti by the head of the river Sidon,” meaning that this northern edge ran along the southern border of the Land of Manti, which covered the area from the head of the Sidon River all the way westward to the sea. So, the Land of Nephi was separated from the Land of Zarahemla by a strip of wilderness, which wilderness was the southern boundary of the Land of Manti from the river to the sea.

Thus, this narrow strip of wilderness between the two lands not only ran from sea to sea, but also curved upward along the seashore in the west and in the east. And on the west:

“The more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.”

This wilderness to the west ran from the southern portion of the Land of Zarahemla southward along the Land of Nephi all the way south to where Lehi landed, called their “Father’s First Inheritance.” That is, the land where the Lehi Colony first landed, and where the Lamanites remained after Nephi fled northward, became the Land of First Inheritance to the Lamanites, that is, Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael and those with them.

Note the wording of Mormon, “the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.” And thus bordering along the seashore tells us that the place of Lehi’s landing was obviously on the seashore and where they first dwelt—a point the Great Lakes theorists ignore for they claim the Lehi Colony landed somewhere and then traveled inland for hundreds of miles to settle along a lake they called the West Sea. This small statement, however, shows the fallacy of such a claim.

In addition to there being a wilderness on the west seashore, the same is true with the east seashore. “And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites.” That is, there were Lamanites to the south, and for a short distance, to the east and west, thus, the narrow strip of wilderness separating the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla must have curved upward along both seashores.

However, the Nephites controlled all the land to the north. “Nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon’s Map – Part II,” for the complete layout of Mormon’s map as he describes it in his writing)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part VIII

Regarding the area of the Land of Promise mentioned in the last post, there would have to be certain matches to find in any model. 16 such points have been shown in the last two posts. A further point is:

17. A narrow neck of land from which a ship could be launched into the West Sea and immediately take its course northward (Alma 63:6-7).

Mesoamerican theorists, beginning with John L. Sorenson, make light of this by claiming a ship sailing from their West Sea would take its course northward, however, any ship sailing from their Gulf of Tehuantepec would have to travel some 90 miles southwest before it could turn west by northwest and 100 miles more before it could turn northward.

Yellow lines shows southwest direction, red line shows west by northwest direction. Neither can be considered northward

The Great Lakes theorists simply ignore this passage since it does not fit their model.

However, it was important to Mormon to include this in the scriptural record: “And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward. And thus ended the thirty and seventh year. And in the thirty and eighth year, this man built other ships. And the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward” (Alma 63:6-7).

In this passage, and in Alma 22:32, Mormon tells us the Land of Promise was configured in a north-south direction, with a narrow neck of land running north and south, with an East Sea to the east, and a West Sea to the west. Thus, when Hagoth’s ships set sail out of this narrow neck area, they could immediately turn northward.

It is simply not appropriate for any theorist to discount Mormon’s clear directions as he tries to show the future reader how the Land of Promise was configured directionally and topographically.

It should also be kept in mind that this narrow neck of land (Alma 63:5), also called a small neck of land (Alma 22:32), and including a narrow passage (Mormon 2:29) also called a narrow pass (Alma 50:34), was a most important feature in the Land of Promise. Alma also shows us that this narrow neck was all that kept the Land Southward from being completely encircled by water (Alma 22:32), and that it was the only passage into the Land Northward (see the last post). Such a feature in a land with two different groups of people constantly at war with one another, and that it was the only thing that kept the enemy in the south (Lamanites) from over running the Land Northward of this narrow neck, we might want to place as much emphasis on this topographical feature as did the Nephites and as did Mormon in his writings (Alma 50:34; 51:30. 52:2).

After all, this Land Southward, was completely surrounded by water (Alma 22:32) with an East Sea, South Sea and a West Sea. This Land Southward had the Lamanites in the south and the Nephites in the north, divided from each other by a narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:27). Much to the Nephites’ credit, Mormon tells us that the Lamanites were contained in the Land Southward (Alma 22:34) for some 900 years before the last great war began.

At one time during this last war, the Lamanites and Nephites entered into a treaty in which the Nephites obtained all the land to the north of this narrow neck, and the Lamanites obtained all the land to the south of the narrow neck (Mormon 2:28-29), A treaty that did not last many years before the Lamannites took to invading the land north of the narrow neck (Mormon 3:7).

This vastly important feature of the land is the pivotal point of many of the wars between the two groups, and the dividing line between the old Jaredite lands and the Nephite lands. It is also the point where the people were bottled up in the north by poisonous serpents, leaving the Land Southward out of the hands of the Jaredites, a fact the Lord obviously wanted to maintain (Mormon 10:21)

Because of its extreme importance, it is unbelievable that theorists have placed so little emphasis on it, but understandable in the light that none of their models has such a narrow neck that matches the scriptural record and, more importantly, its overall purpose.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part IX,” to see how Mormon built his map and the simple language he used to describe it to us)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part VII

Regarding the area of the Land of Promise mentioned in the last post, there would have to be certain things to find in any model. As an example, the Land of Promise would have to have:

16. Match this landing area with a narrow neck of land separating the Land Northward from the Land Southward that would be narrow enough for it to be defended against an approaching enemy as the only egress into the Land Northward. There could be no other way around this area to gain access to the Land Northward such as marching around a lake, mountain, etc.

Nor could it be so wide that a long line of defenses would have to be set up to keep an enemy from breaking through to the land beyond (the Land Northward).

Obviously, for a narrow neck to be defensible it has to be narrow enough for a military unit to be able to successfully defend it. And, it must be a single entry into the Land Northward, so the line of defense cannot be circumvented,

Thus, when Mormon writes: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward. And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward. Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites -- as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires” (Alma 22:33-34). Obviously, the Nephites could defend their land and keep the Lamanites from gaining the Land Northward.

“And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34)

“And it came to pass that he headed Amalickiah also, as he was marching forth with his numerous army that he might take possession of the land Bountiful, and also the land northward” (Alma 51:30)

“And now, when the Lamanites saw this they were affrighted; and they abandoned their design in marching into the land northward, and retreated with all their army into the city of Mulek, and sought protection in their fortifications” (Alma 52:2).

“And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9).

The point of all this is simple—the narrow neck provided a small area of egress from the Land Southward into the Land Northward. It could not be circumvented—that is, an enemy could not find a way around this narrow neck to enter the Land Northward (Mormon 3:5-6). The Nephites were able to defend this narrow neck, and the narrow pass through it, with their military forces and as long as they could do this, they kept the Land Northward to themselves.

This is a very important feature of the Land of Promise since numerous battles took place here and much defense was provided to this narrow neck. The Nephites knew that as long as they could maintain it, they could keep their enemies from getting around and behind them. Such a topographical feature could not be what the Great Lakes theorists claim, nor could it be what the Mesoamerican theorists claim, nor what the Baja California theorists claim, nor what the Malay theorists claim--none of these have narrow, defensible routes from their lands southward to their lands northward. It had to be a very narrow feature that was completely defensible and provided the only way past and into the Land Northward.

Any Land of Promise model would have to have this feature as it is illustrated here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part VI

The last five posts have dealt with a recent posting on a websight sent to me that were five ideas expressed to help one understand Mormon and to determine “How might we proceed to discover the map in Mormon’s mind.”

While the last five posts have dealt with the inaccuracy of that author’s points, this post will show how we can truly understand Mormon’s writing and the map he had in his mind of the Land of Promise.

The first, and most important point, is to accept the scriptural text—word for word—as it is written, without adding, altering, or trying to read something in which is not written, knowing that Joseph Smith translated the plates through the gift of the Spirit which acknowledged the correctness phrase by phrase of Joseph’s translation.

Following are the other important points:

1. Know where the Lehi Colony left, i.e., the Land of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4).

2 Know where they traveled “in the wilderness,” i.e., along the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:4-5), then turned eastward to the sea (1 Nephi 17:1).

3. Know where they embarked in their ship that Nephi built, i.e, off the Arabian coast into the Arabian Sea.

4. Know where the winds and currents would have taken them “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8), which any Atlas will show.

5. Know where these winds and currents die down and a landing could have occurred, i.e., along the 30ยบ South Latitude in the Bay of Coquimbo, Chile, which any Atlas will show.

Now, having reached the area of the Land of Promise,

6. Match this area with the Mediterranean Climate of the Land of Jerusalem where their seeds “we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem” and which grew exceedingly and provided an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:26).

There are only 5 Mediterranean Climates in the world outside of the Mediterranean area

7. Match this area with where gold, silver and copper was found in a single ore (1 Nephi 18:25).

8. Match this area with two unknown grains (Mosiah 9:9).

9. Match this area with two unknown animals “which were useful unto man” and as useful as the elephant (Ether 9:19)

10. Match this area to where natural plants and herbs cured fevers (Alma 46:40).

11. Match this area to where a narrow neck of land could be crossed in a day and a half (Alma 22:32).

12. Match this area to where ruins of ancient buildings, temples, and palaces are found (2 Nephi 5:15-16; Mosiah 8:8; 11:9,12).

13. Match this area to where “there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place” (3 Nephi 6:8).

14. Match this area to where there is, or was, an island (2 Nephi 10:20), where the land was surrounded by water (Alma 22:32), and where there were four seas “the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.* (Helaman 3:8)

15. Match this area to where resorts (forts) and walls of stone to circle about the cities were built (Alma 48:5; 50:5; 52:6; 55:20), and fortified walls of stone built to contain an attacking force from the south (Helaman 4:7).

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part VII,” for more points one must match in order to validate any Land of Promise model)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part V

Continuing with the website comments mentioned in the last four posts, the list continues with the last of his items:

“5. Finally, when we are combining fragments of geographical information from the text into sensible wholes, we should avoid needlessly complicated synthesis. If two explanations occur to us for solving a geographical problem, the simpler solution—the one with the fewest arbitrary assumptions is probably better. For example, we should resist the temptation to suppose that there were two cities with the same name simply because we have not yet determined how the correct placement of a single city would resolve any apparent confusion.”

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. However, any arbitrary approach to understanding the scriptural record is bound to fail. As an example, while there is nothing to suggest there were two Bountifuls in the Land of Promise, we know that there were two Bountifuls—one in the Land of Promise, and one on the shore of Irreantum. We do not know if there were to Cumorahs, however, a simple reading and understanding of the scriptural record shows there had to be two different areas, since Joseph’s Hill Cumorah in upstate New York simply does not match any Book of Mormon geographic reference.

On the other hand, we cannot assume there were two different cities named the same within one land in the Land of Promise. As in all cases named, there was a city founded and named that also was the name of the land around it. Therefore, we can assume that a city was first founded and named, and the land around it acquired that name. As an example, the city of Nephi was founded by Nephi and those who went with him (2 Nephi 5:6) when fleeing from his brothers. As Nephi described it, “we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents. And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:7-8). Obviously, the “place” was where they pitched their tents, and later this area grew into a city—the City of Nephi” (Alma 23:11). The name extended to the land all about and it was called the Land of Nephi throughout the record beginning with Mosiah fleeing out of the land (Omni 1:12).

In the case of Zarahemla, there was a ruler called Zarahemla, who lived in a city called Zarahemla, which was in the Land of Zarahemla. While not all cities bore the name of its founder, this was the case for most cities: “Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages” (Alma 8:7).

In saying “If two explanations occur to us for solving a geographical problem, the simpler solution—the one with the fewest arbitrary assumptions is probably better,” one might want to consider the better course of action is to accept Mormon’s statements at face value as it compares to other statements, and not look for different explanations.

As an example, Omni 1:16 tells us that the Mulekites landed where Mosiah found them and had always lived there. In addition, Alma 22:30 does not counter that statement when correctly understood, for “the bones, of which we have spoken”, has reference to the Jaredites and where they landed. You can also compare (Alma 12:27) which uses the same language, “of which we have spoken,” that refers to a prior indication. There should be no problem with understanding where the Mulekites landed, though Mesoamerican theorists miss this point completely.

Thus we can see that when scholars and theorists try to explain the simple and precise language of the Book of Mormon as Joseph translated it, they confuse and complicate the process to suit their own needs—or completely misunderstand the document of which they speak and how it came about.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part IV

Continuing with the website comments mentioned in the last three posts, the list continues with the next of his items:

“4. Book of Mormon terminology will not necessarily be clear to us, even in translation, because language and cultural assumptions change. According to Moroni in Mormon 9:34, major changes in language occurred over the Nephite generations, for none other people knoweth our language. Furthermore, English has changed between 1829 and 2000. We must seek to overcome any problems this causes us by striving to think, feel, and see as if we were Mormon, rather than supposing that we can read the text literally (which actually turns out to mean according to unspoken assumptions of our current culture).”

First. It is unfortunate that scholars and theorists of the Book of Mormon insist that the scriptural record “will not necessarily be clear to us, even in translation.” If that is the case, then Nephi lied to us when he said, “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” (2 Nephi 31:3). It is more likely that the scriptural record is written directly to our understanding than Nephi having lied to us by saying this.

Second. When scholars and theorists write: “because language and cultural assumptions change,” they are discrediting the workings of the Spirit upon Joseph Smith as he translated the plates. It matters little how language and cultural assumptions change when the spirit is directing the translation. While such knowledge is helpful and sometimes necessary in understanding the Bible, it is not a factor in understanding the Book of Mormon—the translation was, in fact, directed to us in our day “for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.”

Third. The change of language is not important in reading and understanding the Book of Mormon since the spirit has already made the translation into our day and to our cultural understanding. This is not an academic textbook, an ancient parchment, nor a linguistic exercise that we are engaged in. It is reading the scriptural record as it was translated into our time for our understanding.

Fourth. “For none other people knoweth our language.” We can read the Book of Mormon a thousand times and still not know the Nephite language, the Hebrew used that was altered by them or their Reformed Egyptian. All this was accomplished in the translation. We are not reading an ancient text. We are reading a text written in 1829, translated through the accuracy of the Spirit, for us to understand today.

Fifth. “Furthermore, English has changed between 1829 and 2000.” This is the only legitimate issue under discussion here. The English of Joseph Smith’s day (1829) is different than the English we use today in the interpretation or “meaning” of several words. That is why the Lord directed Noah Webster to create, write and publish his “1828 American Dictionary of the English Language” to preserve for our day the English understanding of Joseph Smith in 1829 as he translated the plates.

Sixth. “We must seek to overcome any problems this causes us by striving to think, feel, and see as if we were Mormon, rather than supposing that we can read the text literally (which actually turns out to mean according to unspoken assumptions of our current culture).” Here again the scholar is thinking like a scholar. How Mormon thought, felt and saw his times is totally unimportant in our understanding the geography he discussed in the scriptural record. What we need to do is take every thought, idea, description and explanation of the topography at face value and then piece a map together using his own words according to their meaning in Joseph Smith’s time. While it may be true that certain items, such as social innuendos and political and evil actions may need to be evaluated in the time frames involved, the topography of the period is not based on social, cultural, or time-oriented factors as written in the Book of Mormon. To make such claims is only clouding the issue of the plain and simple language used by Mormon “for our understanding” today.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part V,” for the final comments on the website claiming what needs to be understood to understand Mormon’s writings)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part III

Continuing with the website comments mentioned in the last two posts, the list continues with these two items:

“2. Nature worked the same anciently as it does today. For example, we can be sure that the headwaters of rivers were at a higher elevation than their mouths, and a river implies the presence of a corresponding drainage basin. (This may seem too obvious to deserve mentioning; however, some students of Book of Mormon geography seem to have missed the point.)”

It may seem too obvious to the one stating it, but the second point involved is not accurate. That is, “a river implies the presence of a corresponding drainage basin.” While this is true in areas such as the Amazon River and its drainage basin, which is larger than the entire United States, or the Mississippi River and its drainage basin, which cover over 50% of the United States, it is not necessarily true of all rivers. A river that begins high in the mountains would not have a draining basin until it reached a much lower level, and that would not be true if the river passed through a canyon to where it emptied into a lake or the ocean. In the case of the former, the river drains over a very large area, but in the latter it drains only at its mouth. Therefore, we do not know if the Sidon River had a drainage basin anywhere along its course, or if it only emptied into the sea (Alma 44:22).

Obviously, from the scriptural record, we can see that the river Sidon ran downhill to the sea (Alma 44:22). It also appears that the headwaters were on the borders of Manti (Alma 22:27), and in the narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla “away up in the borders of the Land of Manti” (Alma 16:6), and that there was a south wilderness on the east side of the river (Alma 16:7). Thus we can seed that the narrow strip of wilderness was at a higher elevation than the Land of Nephi.

One might also conclude that since the bodies were cast into the River Sidon somewhere inland, perhaps not far from the headwaters, that the river flowed directly to the sea and had no drainage basin at all. The point is, we simply do not know. And we cannot conclude that “a river implies the presence of a corresponding drainage basin.”

“3. Ideas in the record will not necessarily be familiar or clear to us. There was some degree of continuity in Nephite thought and expression from the Hebrew/Israelite roots of Lehi’s time, but it was only partial. Mormon could read and compile from his peoples archive of traditional records, so his patterns of thought and terminology still followed with sufficient continuity from his predecessors that he was part of a continuous scribal tradition passed down through the preceding nine centuries. That tradition may have required special training to master the old script and records.”

There seems little question that those who kept the records were able to read and write in the Reformed Egyptian, and that they had to be taught this particular language. Beginning with Nephi, who “having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Nephi 1:1). And that language of Lehi was both Hebrew “having lived all his days at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:4) and Egyptian. “For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time” (Mosiah 1:4).

Nephi goes on to tell us that he made a “record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). Later, Mosiah taught his sons from “the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God”’ (Mosiah 1:3)

Thus, the Reformed Egyptian was taught among the Nephites, all the way down to Moroni who could read and write Reformed Egyptian, though he complained of its unwieldy language (Mormon 9:32), and who also knew how to read and write Hebrew (Mormon 9:33).

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part IV,” for the final comments on the website claiming what needs to be understood to understand Mormon’s writings)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part II

According to the information on the website mentioned in the last post, the first of the five points listed in understanding Mormon’s geographical writings is:

“1. The expressions up, down, and over, when used in a geographical context, refer to elevation. (It turns out that they are used consistently and make sense in terms of elevation.)”

There seems little doubt that the Land of Nephi was at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla. Alma 27:8 is an example of this description when speaking of being in the Land of Nephi, they went “down to the land of Zarahemla” (also see Alma 51:11; 57:15-16.28). Middoni was also at a lower elevation than the Land of Nephi (20:7). However, the city of Nephi was not at the highest elevation for when King Mosiah sent Ammon and others to learn what happened of those who went back to the Land of Nephi from Zarahemla, Ammon and his group “When they had wandered forty days they came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom, and there they pitched their tents. And Ammon took three of his brethren, and their names were Amaleki, Helem, and Hem, and they went down into the land of Nephi” (Mosiah 7:5-6).

Thus, we might conclude that the City of Nephi (later called the city of Lehi-Nephi) was in a mountain valley, high above the Land of Zarahemla. And in so doing, we might do well to interpret “up” and “down” as elevation meanings rather than “north and south” meanings; however, “over” does not necessarily relate to elevation. The word “over” in Joseph Smith’s time meant: ”to pass over, such as pass over a river, to pass beyond, to pass by, in short, to move, depart or go,” also means ‘to pass over against” and more specifically, “to go beyond.” Over also means “across, from side to side” and also a boat crosses “over a lake.”

In all of these definitions in Noah Webster’s 1828 “American Dictionary of the English Language,” none specifically illustrate elevation, though in general use can be used to “cross over a mountain,” “cross over a hill,” “cross over a valley,” “cross over a depression,” etc. At the same time, we “wander over the earth,” or “the person is safe over there.”

Crossing over can be used for a desert, river, or forest, or any number of other topographical features—not just elevation changes

In many cases, the use of the word “over” in the scriptural record has to do with “crossing over a river.” As an example, in the statement “when Alma had made these regulations he departed from them, yea, from the church which was in the city of Zarahemla, and went over upon the east of the river Sidon, into the valley of Gideon” (Alma 6:7), there is no indication of elevation, but of crossing over a river. In the case of “in the commencement of the tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness” (Alma 8:3), it again appears to mean “over the river Sidon. ”And it came to pass that Zoram and his sons crossed over the river Sidon, with their armies, and marched away beyond the borders of Manti into the south wilderness, which was on the east side of the river Sidon” (Alma 16:7).

However, in “Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house” (Alma 15:18) we do not know what exactly was meant by the use of “over.” Certainly, we cannot arbitrarily decide this was an elevation factor for it could be over a place, a river, a lake, a valley, a desert, etc., all of which would be at the same elevation. It may even be returning back over the River Sidon. Nor do we know in: “he departed out of their synagogue, and came over to a village which was called Ani-Anti, and there he found Muloki preaching the word unto them” (Alma 21:11-12). The same is true of: ”But they took their armies and went over into the borders of the land of Zarahemla, and fell upon the people who were in the land of Ammonihah, and destroyed them” (Alma 25:2) and “the Lamanites saw that they could not overpower the Nephites they returned again to their own land; and many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael and the land of Nephi (Alma 25:13).

Obviously, we cannot arbitrarily decide that “over” means an elevation change, such as in “and departed out of the land, and came into the wilderness which divided the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla, and came over near the borders of the land” (Alma 27:14), nor can we in “he and his brethren met Alma, over in the place of which has been spoken; and behold, this was a joyful meeting” (Alma 27:16), or “Now this man went over to the land of Jershon also” (Alma 30:19), or “And he came over into the land of Gideon” (Alma 30:21). Nor can we claim an elevation change in the many other verses in Alma (Alma 35:1-2, 6, 8-9, 13; 39:3; 43:24-25,31; 47:29; 50:31; 56:25; 59:6)

The point is, when one makes up his mind that a word means a certain thing, then he will interpret it that way, no matter how it is used. In this manner, we find scholars and theorists making claims that fit their models that are not accurate and do not represent a true interpretation of the scriptural record.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part III,” for more examples of how Mormon is misinterpreted)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part I

In a recent posting on a websight regarding the Land of Promise, there were five ideas expressed to help one understand Mormon and to determine “How might we proceed to discover the map in Mormon’s mind.”

While some of the ideas are useful, many are not for they simply miss the point in understanding the translation of the Book of Mormon. As an example, the preceding statement the author wrote prior to listing the five points was:

“We must intensively examine the text Mormon left us (of course, we have access to it only as it has been transmitted to us in English through Joseph Smith). We must discover as many of the geographical clues he included as we can.”

Regarding how it was “transmitted to us through Joseph Smith,” what is important is in knowing two things: 1) How the translation took place, and 2) the language known to Joseph Smith in 1829. Let’s take both these points:

1. How the translation took place. Of the actual translation, David Whitmer said that “in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God and not by any power of man.”

Martin Harris added, “By aid of the Seer Stone sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say “written,” and if correctly written, the sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”

Thus, all the rhetoric about language, early Hebrew, meanings of Hebrew words, is meaningless in this interpretation. For Joseph was guided through his translation of the plates by the spirit and, until it was correct, the spirit would not move forward.

2. The language known to Joseph Smith in 1829. The language, or more importantly, the meanings of words, as known in 1829 is not the same in all cases as those meanings are known to us today.

As an example, the word “wilderness” has been translated by Mesoamerican theorists, beginning with Hugh Nibley, as meaning a “mountainous region.” However, that is not the meaning in Joseph Smith’s day which is “an unoccupied tract of land.” This means it could be, as is shown in the Book of Mormon to be, almost any type of topography, from seacoast to mountains, from valleys to meadows, deserts to anywhere as long as it was not permanently occupied by man--that is, where cities were built and the land cultivated.

Also the word “isle” today means “any island” which could be interpreted as quite large, such as the British Isles. However, in 1829, the word “isle” meant “a small area or tract of land surrounded by water, such as a detached tract of land in the ocean.” In fact, the word “isle” was considered an absurd compound of “isle” and “land” which actually translated into “land-in-water land” or “ieland-land.” The word “isle” was only used by less educated people in 1829, and then generally only in writing.

And, too, in 1829, the word “sea” meant only an “ocean” or a part of an ocean. However, this has been argued considerably by Great Lakes people who want to make the word “sea” mean a lake or river to match their model.

When we understand the words known to Joseph Smith in 1829, we have a better chance of understanding the meaning of what Joseph wrote as he translated the plates into the Book of Mormon. In the early 1800s, Noah Webster felt inspired to compile, write and publish his “American Dictionary of the English Language,” which went into print in 1828. Noah Webster was from New England, as was Joseph Smith. Both grew up within a hundred miles of each other, and the language known to Joseph was the same language known to Webster. (See the February 27, 2010, post “Understanding Joseph smith’s Translation.”)

This “of course, we have access to it only as it has been transmitted to us in English through Joseph Smith,” is not a concern but one of the clues we need to keep in mind. Joseph translated accurately under the guidance of the Spirit, and used the language of his day to write down the translation.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part II,” for more information on how to understand Mormon’s writing)

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Became of the Narrow Neck of Land Part II

Mesoamerican and Great Lakes theorists try to play down the destruction that took place in the Land of Promise as described in 3 Nephi. One of the comments made regarding the sameness before and after this 3-hour earthquake is: “The Jaredite hill Ramah was called by the Nephites the hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11), but it was exactly the same hill.”

By way of an example, thirty years ago, on May 8, 1980, Mount St. Helens blew its top during the most catastrophic eruption in the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, caused an eruption, reducing the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 feet to 8,365 feet and replacing it with a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater. This caused a massive collapse of the north face of the mountain and triggered the largest known debris avalanche in recorded history.

The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles in volume. The largest of the dacite domes formed the previous summit, and off its northern flank sat the smaller Goat Rocks dome. Both were destroyed in the 1980 eruption. The magma inside of St. Helens burst forth into a large-scale pyroclastic flow that flattened vegetation and buildings over 230 square miles. More than 1.5 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide were released into the atmosphere. The collapse of the northern flank of St. Helens mixed with ice, snow, and water to created lahars. These volcanic mudflows covered many miles down the Toutle and Cowlitz rivers, destroying bridges and lumber camps. A total of 3,900,000 cubic yards of material was transported 17 miles south into the Columbia River by the mudflows. For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles above sea level. The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with ash reaching Idaho by noon. Ashes from the eruption were found collecting on top of cars and roofs next morning, as far as the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.

Mount St. Helens before and after the eruption. Despite this terrible destruction—and we are talking only about a single mountain—destruction was felt hundreds of miles and several states away. The ash from the fallout covered cities and turned day into night, breathing was extremely difficult and people were warned to stay in their homes until it cleared. Yet, as the before and after pictures show, despite the mountain being altered considerably, people familiar with the area can easily tell where the mountain is now located, even though it is almost unrecognizable by its earlier features.

A long distance shot before and after. While this looks like two different mountains, it is recognizable as the same in context with surroundings.

This theorist goes on to claim: “Even at Bountiful, a few months after the vast storm and earthquake, while survivors were wondering at “the great and marvelous change which had taken place” in their surroundings (3 Nephi 11:1), their city and temple were still in place, their homes remained (see 3 Nephi 19:1), they obviously had a continuing food supply, and their communication networks were still in place (see 3 Nephi 19:2–3).”

While the disciple Nephi tells us the destruction in the Land Northward was even worse, certain landmarks in the area northward remained, either intact (like the temple and homes) or recognizable (like the narrow neck of land), but “the whole face of the land was changed” (3 Nephi 8:12).

The point is, while tremendous changes took place all over the Land of Promise, it was still, as it would be today, for those at the time to identify changed landmarks. This information was then passed on, and 300 years later, Mormon understood those changes and the topography of the land before and after the destruction. As for the Bountiful temple and homes, obviously, the Lord, who directed this destruction (3 Nephi 9:3-10) wanted the temple and area of Bountiful pretty much untouched. Perhaps those living in the Land of Bountiful at this time were more righteous than those living elsewhere, such as in Zarahemla, or the cities that were sunk or carried over with earth.

It should be obvious to scholars and theorists, but it is not, that such definitive statements as they often make are frequently not consistent with the written record, or with logic and reason. It might be better to be less adamant about ideas that cannot be supported by facts and text.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What Became of the Narrow Neck of Land Part I

There seems to be some disagreement about the Narrow Neck of Land before and after the destruction shown in 3 Nephi chapters 8 and 9.

Prior to this event, there was a narrow or small neck between the Land Northward and the Land Southward (Alma 22:32) that separated these two lands and was all that kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water. This small or narrow neck might also be called a land bridge, that is, a bridge of land that connected the two lands with the sea to either side, narrow enough for a Nephite to walk across it in a day and a half—a distance of about 25-30 miles.

Within this land bridge or narrow neck, was a pass or passage that gave egress from the Land Southward to the Land Northward. Evidently, the two terms, “neck of land” and “narrow pass” are used in the correct terminology—the former to describe the geography and the latter to describe movement. That is, the land was configured with a narrow neck between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, and for people to move between these two lands through the narrow neck, they did so within a pass or passage.

There are six scriptural verses that mention this neck of land and the pass within it, and before the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi, the geography of the area, that is the narrow or small “neck of land” is described (Alma 22:32; 63:5). In addition, before the destruction, the “narrow pass” is also mentioned (Alma 50:34; 52:9). But after the destruction, the geological term “narrow neck” or “small neck” is not mentioned, but the pass is mentioned (Mormon 2:29; 3:5).

This might suggest that whatever happened in the area of the narrow neck during the destruction, afterward it was no longer a narrow neck of land, though the pass remained. There may be other explanations, but the one stated below as occurred in the Andean area of South America seems to fit these descriptions perfectly.

As has been mentioned in numerous posts and described in great detail in “Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica,” the area east of the present day Andes was under water, and the Andes Mountains themselves had not yet been raised or uplifted. This means that at the area of the Bay of Guayaquil in southern Ecuador near the border with Peru, the area between the east shore of the bay and the western shore of the Atlantic Ocean was about 26 to 28 miles wide, and provided a “narrow neck of land” between Peru and northern Chile (Land Southward) and Ecuador and southern Colombia (Land Northward). And within this narrow neck is a pass, referred to in later times by the Inca as the Huayna Capac Pass. This pass presently runs from the edge of the Andes across the eastern area of the Bay of Guayaquil and into the land north. It was the only path moving foot traffic north and south on the east of the bay.

In this scenario, before the Andes came up, prior to the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi, the pass provided a way north and south through the narrow neck of land that existed between the Bay of Guayaquil and the east sea (Atlantic Ocean that once covered the entire Amazon flood plain and much of eastern South America. Then, when the Andes jutted up at the crucifixion of Christ when there would be “great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23), the narrow neck of land no longer spanned from bay to ocean (sea to sea), but then (as now) spanned the land bridge between the bay and the Andes (from the east to the west sea).

In Mormon’s time, the narrow pass was still the strategic access point for travelers going into the land northward, as much for Mormon’s defending army around A.D. 350 as it had been in Morianton’s day more than four hundred years before when “Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward. And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:33–34).

Notice, that in Mormon’s day, he describes this same pass, but does not say it had seas on both sides: “And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5).

Thus, we can see that though there was some extensive changes surrounding the narrow neck of land, the pass still remained. Mormon knew what the narrow neck was like before the destruction, and knew what it was like after the destruction, and his language and wordage is consistent with that prior and present knowledge.

We might also add that even the pass might have changed dramatically, though still providing access through it between the two lands. The photos below show how that might be:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Effect of the Destruction in 3 Nephi

Some Mesoamerican theorists, including John L. Sorenson, try to limit the amount of destruction that was caused by the 3-hour earthquake listed in 3 Nephi, by saying that “Nothing about the pre-crucifixion geography seems to have puzzled them, the volume itself says that the changes at the Savior's death were mainly to the surface.” Others claim that there must not have been much damage by writing: “The catastrophe had changed the face of the land (3 Nephi 8:12), but a changed face apparently did not mean that most of the basic land forms and ecological conditions had been rendered unrecognizable.”

Generally, all these theorists claim that the damage to the Land of Promise as written about in 3 Nephi, was not sufficient as to cause Mormon not to identify pre- and post-period topography of the Land of Promise three centuries after the events. While Mormon obviously understood the topography after the damage caused by the 3-hour earthquake, etc., that does not mean the Land of Promise was not significantly changed by the destruction.

On the other hand, some argue that we cannot hope to attain clarity of the land because of the great destruction that took place at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion. They feel that that event so changed everything that what could be seen of the landscape in former times would not be recognizable afterward.

What seems to be misunderstood by theorists is that the changes mentioned could be both severe and yet understood within the topography after the destruction. Take, as an example, an event where if a devastating earthquake were to hit central Utah that caused a deep canyon to appear between Ogden and Salt Lake City, a tall mountain range to jut up where the lake now stands, the entire airport area to sink into the earth, a valley to appear where the eastern shelf now sits, and hills jut up randomly where the Avenues now are, with the city of Santaquin disappearing and a mountain appearing where it was, the city of Bountiful collapsing, and the city of Draper disappearing—though these changes would be severe, would someone not be able to tell where the Capitol building is, the temple site, where North Salt Lake is located, and South Jordan, etc? If the entire Wasatch Mountains from Provo to Bountiful collapsed into the earth and a great sea appeared in their place, it would not change the understanding of the land between that Wasatch area of today and the Great Salt Lake.

The point is, damage can be severe and completely alter a landscape to where many parts were unrecognizable, yet major areas could still be identified. Besides, over the three centuries after the destruction, all the cities that could be rebuilt were, the roads repaired, and the altered landscape became the common landscape and whatever existed previously would not be thought of as normal. To Mormon, having all the records before and after covering about 900 years of history in the Land of Promise prior to his birth, he would have been able to relate one geographical appearance with another. As an example, after the above fictitious destruction to Salt Lake, one would know there used to be mountains in the east border where now was a great sea—and one would know that there used to be a city in the former corner canyon area where now are very tall mountains, etc.

The fallacious idea that an historian would not know how to describe topographical conditions of the past as they related to his present—to know what was before and after the destruction if there had been any serious damage, is completely disingenuous.

Having been to New York City before and after the destruction of the Twin Towers has not altered my understanding of lower Manhattan. Even in movies, we talk about where the towers were once located, etc. People adjust to changes quite easily. But it does not change the fact that the impressively tall towers was once a major landmark and now they are gone.

The Lord himself is quoted as describing the terrible destruction caused in both the Land Southward and the Land Northward (3 Nephi 9:1-2), a destruction described in some detail by 3 Nephi 8:5--A destruction that was probably more severe than the leveling of Berlin during World War II, where entire cities and tall buildings were reduced to rubble, piles of brick, plaster, stucco, and rock were piled everywhere. No doubt, in many of the city areas of the Land of Promise, such as Zarahemla, such a sight was repeated (3 Nephi 8:15;9:3). Hills and valleys covered over numerous cities (3 Nephi 9:8), and scores of cities were sunk into the ground (3 Nephi 9:5,8), and many others covered over by the sea (3 Nephi 9:4,7).

Solid rocks, cliffsides, and other solid formations were broken up into fragments and the earth was left with severe cracks and seams upon all the face of the land (3 Nephi 8:18)—for this to have even been mentioned suggests to the severity of the damage to the appearance of the topography as described by “the face of the whole earth became deformed” (3 Nephi 8:17).

Whatever basis Mormon used to describe geographical settings before and after the destruction, is not known. However, both he and his son, Moroni, knew that certain Jaredite landmarks were the same ones the Nephites knew (Ether 7:6; 15:11), therefore, the records they had before them must have been quite complete in describing the geography of the Land of Promise, or inspiration testified to the locations.