Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lands of Appropriate Scale Part VII – Other Peoples in the Land of Promise Part V

Continuing with the last of these comments by Hugh Nibley regarding his claim that other people were in the Land of Promise before, and during the Nephite occupation, he wrote: “The focusing of the whole account on religious themes as well as the limited cultural scope leaves all the rest of the stage clear for any other activities that might have been going on in the vast reaches of the New World, including the hypothetical Norsemen, Celts, Phoenicians, Libyans, or prehistoric infiltrations via the Bering Straits.”

It is true that the Book of Mormon is foremost and specifically a religious volume, and has many “religious themes.” However, it should be understood that much of the scriptural record was about a people, of their society, of their government, of their wars and difficulties. While religious understanding and faith results from their stories, they are, nonetheless, not always about religion per se, but about life in general and the chronological and historical events that took place.

In fact, Mormon tells us: “There are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them. But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work. But there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites. And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites” (Helaman 3:13-16).

Mormon had all these records at his disposal when he eventually abridged all the writings. In addition, he included several comments of his own—some were religious instruction, some were of an historical nature, and some were geographical lessons. After all, Mormon knew that his writings were intended for a future people (Mormon 3:17), and he made every attempt to clarify directions, locations, distance relationships, and the different peoples involved.

In addition, one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon was the great heights of achievement both the Jaredites and later Nephites accomplished when they were righteous and obeyed the Lord, and the terrible depths they sunk to when they were disobedient and forgot the Lord. If there were other peoples the Lord led to the Land of Promise, would we not correctly assume that their story might well be mentioned—even as briefly as the Jaredite story was covered among the Nephites and also the brief Mulekite experience—for the value of teaching and instruction to both the later people(s) as well as us, the future readers? Why miss such a chance?

Nibley also wrote: “Indeed, the more varied the ancient American scene becomes, as newly discovered artifacts and even inscriptions hint at local populations of Near Eastern, Far Eastern, and European origin, the more hospitable it is to the activities of one tragically short-lived religious civilization that once flourished in Mesoamerica.”

So here we have the rationale for Nibley’s comments about other peoples. His model, not the scriptures, but the history of Mesoamerica, governs his need to verify and support the numerous tribes, peoples, and languages that have been found in Mesoamerica. The problem with academics is always their very nature to use man’s records before those of the Lord’s. Of course, we could argue that much of what is claimed in Mesoamerica is not as accurate as these theorists try to make it, but that is superfluous to the problem at hand—and that is the need for academics and theorists to include people in the Land of Promise despite there being not even a single inference of such ever existed.

The last of Nibley’s comments are, perhaps, the most degrading of all. He wrote of the peoples in the Book of Mormon, “and then vanished toward the northeast in the course of a series of confused tribal wars that was one long, drawn-out retreat into oblivion.”

The story of two of the greatest peoples that are recorded in history and the fantastic accomplishments they left behind, is here reduced by Nibley to some “tribal wars” and a “long, drawn-out retreat into oblivion.” It seems to me that Mormon and Moroni, the last of the Nephite generals deserve a better epitaph than that, as well as the lives of Abinadi, Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi, Captain Moroni, and the many other great and heroic men (and obviously their women) the Western Hemisphere, if not the world, has ever known.

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