Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Horses in South America

During the second Beagle survey expedition between 1831 and 1836, the young naturalist Charles Darwin had remarkable success with fossil hunting in Patagonia. Most of Darwin’s exploration was on land, covering 39 months on land, and 18 months at sea. At Punta Alta in Argentina, he made a major find of gigantic fossils of extinct mammals, then known from only a very few specimens. He ably collected and made detailed observations of plants and animals, with results that shook his belief that species were fixed and provided the basis for ideas, which came to him when back in England, and led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

However, on October 10, 1833 at Santa Fe Argentina, he was "filled with astonishment" when he found a horse's tooth in the same stratum as a fossilized casing of a huge armadillo embedded in rock. He was puzzled to find a horse tooth in the same rock layer, since it was understood that horses had only come to the Americas in the 16th century. He thought that the tooth had been washed down from a later layer, but concluded that this was "not very probable.”

After the expedition returned in 1836, the anatomist Richard Owen confirmed the tooth was from an extinct species, and remarked that "This evidence of the former existence of a genus, which, as regards South America, had become extinct, and has a second time been introduced into that Continent, is not one of the least interesting fruits of Mr. Darwin's pal├Žontological discoveries. In addition, Lund and Clausen discovered the existence of a fossil horse in the caves of Brazil in South America.

That is, the horse that had become extinct in eras past in South America, had been reintroduced in some manner to the Continent as the tooth showed. While the evolutionist believes that horses evolved from a smaller, less complex animal, most LDS people know that the horse was introduced into the world in its basic present form as the Lord has said.

The point is, the horse was found to exist in South America not long ago and much later than it was believed to be extinct. How the horse was reintroduced onto the South American continent, the biologist and evolutionist do not know, but that it was found there before the Spanish arrived, and much later than the extinction was believed to have occurred, it can only be concluded that the horse was in South America at a time when no one had believed it to exist.

As Owen himself reported: “In the account of the Mammalian Remains brought from South America in the voyage of the Beagle, I described and figured an upper molar tooth as belong to a species of Equus; and this tooth, having been found by Mr. Darwin imbedded in the quartz shingle of cemented pebbles at Punta Alta in Habia Blanca, together with remains of Megatherium, Meglonyx, Myolodon and Scelidotherium, I concluded not to be a tooth of a horse imported by Europeans into South America, but to have belonged to an Equine species which had coexisted with those large Megatherioids and had, with them, become extinct.”

Fossil remains of Equus, the first “true horse,” have been discovered in Asia, Europe, and Africa, as well as throughout North and South America. The so-called “extinction of the horse” to the scientist, after such along period of existence, is considered one of the great unsolved mysteries of history.

Of course, to the Lord, this is no mystery. The horse in the Western Hemisphere, as well as everywhere else, succumbed to the Great Flood, and only those Noah took with him on the Ark survived, to be reintroduced into the Western Hemisphere by the Jaredites, and utilized by the Nephites.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Elephants in South America

In 1934 the Peruvianist Wendell C. Bennett carried out several excavations at Tiahuanacu adjacent to southern Lake Titicaca along the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Excavating in the Subterranean Temple he found two large stone images. One was a bearded statue. Depicted are large round eyes, a straight narrow nose and oval mouth. Rays of lightning are carved on the forehead. The statue stands over 7 feet tall with arms crossed over an ankle-length tunic, which is decorated with pumas around the hem. Serpents ascend the figure on each side, reminding one of the Feathered Serpent culture-hero known as Quetzalcoatl in Central America. Strange animals resembling toxodons are carved up around the head.

These so-called “toxodons” have never been seen nor is anything known about them other than from the drawings. Therefore, the term “toxodon” is simply a name of convenience for an otherwise unknown animal. Unknown, that is, unless you compare it with an early tuskless elephant, then the resemblence is quite close. Given the lack of artistic ability of early carvings, cave paintings, etc., it is very possible this drawing is of an early elephant that wandered the Andean area since it is recognized by most archaeologists that such paintings and carvings depicting animals were taken from life, of animals known to the ancient artist.

Thus, these carvings of ancient Peruvians look as much like an elephant as any other animal known to man. However, since elephants are not a common idea to the Andean area or the entire Western Hemisphere, scientists look for some extinct animal rather than a more common elephant—the animal the Jaredites brought to the Land of Promise. Of course, we do not know exactly what the Jaredite elephants looked like, and may have been some early from of the later animal we know, just as the camelids llama and alpaca are another form of the camel.

In addition, on the Tiwanaku Gate, the figures flanking the centerpiece are unfinished, causing viewers to wonder what could have interrupted the craftsmen. Of the animals represented on the gate, two have been extinct for thousands of years. Jaguars and condors are still with us, but toxodons and elephants can no longer be found in the area, causing one to wonder if the elephant did not live into the Nephite era when this gate and carvings were made.

Modern man often fails to realize that the animals we have come to understand existed in certain areas at certain times are based solely on some type of picture, carving, or actual find. After all, if the La Brea Tarpits in Southern California did not exist, no one would have known of the numerous types of animals, including the horse and elephant ever walked the Americas. Nor can we be certain that an animal disappeared from view at any certain time, since dates attributed to such finds are always based on some type of dating system, such as radiocarbon dating, which is generally in error (see the book, “Scientific Fallacies and Other Myths.”) Since Tiwanaku dates from about 1500 B.C., such drawings could well have depicted the elephant that scientists claim never existed in the Americas.

In addition, there were other elephant-like animals that flourished in South America, one of which was an early elephant called the Cuvieroiusr, depicted on the Gate of Tiwanaku—a fact that has archaeologists baffled. Because they think the animal was extinct 15,000 eyars ago, they have dated Tiwanaku to 13,000 B.C.; however, their distribution is shown in the green area of the map, from Colombia to Chile—the red area shows the Stegomastodon waringi, found in Brazil and Uruguay, and the blue area shows the Stegomastodon platensis found in Argentina—and it is felt they lived into the A.D. period.

Certainly, the Gomphotheres, a diverse group of elephant-like animals (proboscideans) were not only widespread in North America during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, with some living in Eurasia and South America, they were slowly replaced by modern elephants, but the last South American species did not finally become extinct until possibly as recently as 400 A.D. In the toxonomy of the Gomphotherium, the complete “parentage” was finally decided in 1998 from Domain to Family. According to J. L. Prado, M. T. Alberdi, b. Azanza, B. Sanchex, and D. Frassinetti in their 2005 work on elephants in South America, the Gomphothere remains are common at South American Paleo-indian sites. One example is the early human settlement at Monte Verde, in Chile.

Consequently, elephants were widely distributed all over South America, with at least one variety existing to about the time of the annihilation of the Nephites, 400 A.D.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Lamanites Today

There is much speculation today about the Lamanites and the American Indians, with DNA studies, and other so-called scientific “evidences” showing a different beginning than that described in the Book of Mormon. However, we have it on unimpeachable authority that the American Indians are the descendants of Lehi through the Laman and Lemuel, and of the sons of Ishmael.

Bruce R. McConkie has said: "When Columbus discovered America, the native inhabitants, the American Indians as they were soon to be designated, were a people of mixed blood and origin. Chiefly, they were Lamanites, the great majority are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, the dominant blood lineage is that of Israel."

Aposlte Orson Pratt said, "Here we present a record of this American continent, a history of a branch of the tribe of Joseph…a history of the Lord's dealings with them from the time they left Jerusalem until one of their principal nations fell in battle, because of their apostasy; and the descendants of the remaining remnant are this degenerated people we call Indians, who still exist…which afterwards became a "multitude of nations," according to the blessing pronounced by the ancient patriarch Jacob, when blessing his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh…these Indian tribes..are the blood of Israel.”

Apostle Hyrum G. Smith added in a 1929 Conference, “the blood of Manasseh is found in the tribes and nations of the Indians of North and South America." Apostle George Q. Cannon wrote: “Here stretches out before us this immense continent on the south, peopled with descendants of the house of Israel.”

President Spencer W. Kimball said, "Here he [God] has the Indian or Lamanite, with a background of twenty-five centuries of superstition, degradation, idolatry, and indolence...They may be Navajos or Cherokees.... Mayas or Pimas.... Piutes or Mohicans.... And in these living descendants ... will be redeemed, will rise and will become a blessed people. God has said it."

Apostle Delbert L. Stapely added, “In a sense I do not feel sorry for the Indian people because they are children of promise, belonging as they do to the house of Israel and are the posterity of Abraham, the father of the faithful, through whose lineage the Lord promised that all nations of the earth are to be blessed; therefore, they are a chosen race and people unto God, possessing a divine and royal heritage."

Apostle Gordon M. Romney in a 1957 Conference said, "Guatemala is a country of about three million people. About half of them still dress in the Indian costume of a thousand or two thousand years back. I went to present them with a Book of Mormon. I started to say, "I come to give you a copy of the Book of Mormon, a history of your people," and two chiefs immediately arose on their feet, and said, "We are of the House of Israel."

Elder Milton R. Hunter of the Seventy has written, "Following the discovery of America, the Quiches vigorously opposed marrying Spanish conquistadors and members of successive groups of European colonists. They have held tenaciously to a traditional custom practiced by the ancient Israelites and brought to America by the Nephites who I believe were among their forebears.”

Joseph Smith said in 1844 to a band of Sac and Fox Indians that came and camped out in Nauvoo complaining "they had been robbed of their lands by whites and cruelly treated." Joseph Smith's response was: “I knew they had been wronged, but that we had bought this land and paid our money for it. I advised them not to sell any more land, but to cultivate peace with the different tribes and with all men, as the Great Spirit wanted them to be united and to live in peace. 'The Great Spirit has enabled me to find a book which told me about your fathers, and the Great Spirit told me, 'You must send to all the tribes you can, and tell them to live in peace;' and when any of our people come to see you, I want you to treat them as we treat you.'"

Not until the revelations of Joseph Smith, bringing forth the Book of Mormon, did any one know of these ancient migrants who came to the Americas. It was not known before, but now the question is fully answered. Now the Lamanites number about sixty million; they are in all of the states of America from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to Point Barrows, and they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand. The Church is deeply interested in all Lamanites because of these revelations and because of the Book of Mormon giving their history that was written on plates of ore and deposited in the hill. The translation by the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed a running history for one thousand years—six hundred years before Christ until four hundred after Christ—a history of these great people who occupied this land for that thousand years. Then for the next fourteen hundred years, they lost much of their high culture. The descendants of this mighty people were called Indians by Columbus in 1492 when he found them here, but they truly were the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon according to Spencer W. Kimball in the July 1971 issue of the Ensign: "Of Royal Blood.”

They came from Jerusalem with Father Lehi and have lived on the American continents ever since—descendants of the House of Israel that spread out over all the Western Hemisphere.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Misquoting the Gold Plates

Ralph Olsen claims he does not know how the plates got to New York from his Malay Peninsula Land of Promise, except possibly by a miracle. But he also points out that John L. Sorensen doesn’t adequately explain how the 200 lb plates moved from Guatemala 3000 miles north to NY without a wheeled vehicle.

We are not sure how he arrived at 200 pounds. Even if the plates were made of 24-carot gold, which Joseph Smith never claimed they were, the plates would have weighed only about 140 pounds. However, Nephi does not tell us what the plates were made of, but said, “I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands” (1 Nephi 1:17), and “I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people” (1 Nephi 19:1).

In Joseph Smith’s day, ore was defined as “the compound of a metal and some other substance. Metals found free from such substances are not called ores, but native metals.” Today, ore is defined as “a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals,” and “a mineral or an aggregate of minerals from which a valuable constituent, especially a metal, can be profitably mined or extracted.”

In any event, the word “ore” is not exclusively gold. Gold is “a malleable and ductile metal,” but not all metals are gold. Consequently, the idea that the plates Nephi wrote upon, and which Joseph translated, were “golden plates” has become a common term, but has no bearing in scriptural fact. They were described as “being golden or brassy in color, and being composed of thin metallic pages engraved on both sides and bound with one or more rings.”

These plates are generally referred to as “the plates of Nephi” and “the plates of Mormon.” While the “plates of Ether” are referred to as being made of gold (Mosiah 28:11), and the plates Lehi sent his sons back to obtain from Laban containing the record of the Jews as the plates of brass (1 Nephi 3:3), the material of the plates we have as the Book of Mormon is not defined. However, its substance or appearance is described by several who saw them, including their weight—generally speaking some witnesses described the plates as weighing from 30 to 60 pounds.

Late in life, Martin Harris stated that the rings holding the plates together were made of silver, and he said the plates themselves, based on their heft of "forty or fifty pounds" "were lead or gold."

Joseph's brother William Smith, who said he felt the plates inside a pillow case in 1827, said in 1884 that he understood the plates to be "a mixture of gold and copper...much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood, and thought they "weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgment."

According to Joseph Smith's one-time-friend Willard Chase, Smith told him in 1827 that the plates weighed between 40 and 60 pounds most likely the latter.

Joseph Smith's father, Joseph Smith Sr., who was one of the Eight Witnesses, reportedly weighed them and said in 1830 that they "weighed thirty pounds."

Joseph Smith's wife, Emma, never estimated the weight of the plates but said they were light enough for her to "move them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.”

The point is, when one is going to write a book, have a website, and claim his theory is correct, etc., one should really be accurate in his statements. 200 pounds makes it appear impossible for a man to transport over any distance; however, 40 pounds or so makes it a lot easier to lift and carry.

Yet, the main point is that we do not know for certain how much the plates weight, nor how the plates were transported from the area of the Land of Promise, wherever that might have been, to upstate New York where Joseph Smith found them in a hill Moroni called Cumorah. While some doggedly maintain there can only be one Hill Cumorah, others feel upstate New York and surrounding area does not match the geographical and topographical descriptions in the scriptural record, necessitating the movement of the plates. Having visited the Hill Cumorah recently, I have to agree that the area in no way matches the scriptural account of the Book of Mormon Hill Cumorah.

How they were moved, by Moroni before his death, by Moroni as a resurrected being or a “man made perfect,” is not known. Obviously, the Lord certainly has the ability for the plates to be placed somewhere different from where they were originally buried or hidden.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thinking in Eastern Concrete Terms, or Western Abstract Terms?

What most Westerners do not understand is that the Bible (and the Book of Momron) was written in an Eastern literary and thinking style—that is, how the Hebrews thought as opposed to how the Greeks thought. Some might not think this is important, but it often changes the entire meaning of a passage, thought or idea.

We need to understand that the Hebrews think differently than we do. One of the major differences is that the Hebrews think in concrete and Greeks (Westerners) think in abstracts. Concrete thinkers think in relation to things that can be seen, touched, smelled, heard or tasted. Some examples of this are tree, singing, smell of baking, etc. Abstract thoughts are such things as believe, faith, grace, etc.—which cannot be sensed by the 5 senses. The word everlasting (the usual translation of the Hebrew word "olam") is an abstract word. The Hebrew meaning is something like "behind the horizon." It is something that is beyond what you can see (or understand) at the moment but may be revealed as you travel closer (or at a later time). The abstract idea of "everlasting" would have been a foreign concept to the ancient Hebrews.

To further demonstrate the differences, take the two words from the English translation; "create" and "believe." The Bible says: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). The word "create" is usually understood as "to make something out of nothing.” This concept is abstract and therefore a foreign concept to the ancient Hebrews. Yet, it goes on to read: “God created man” (Genesis 1:26), but man was not created out of nothing, but out of the “dust of the earth” (Genesis 2:7).

The Hebrew word translated as "create" is "bara." The more concrete understanding of this word can be found in 1 Samuel 2.29. "Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?” Here the word "fattening" is the same word "bara" as found in Genesis 1:1. The word "bara" means "to fatten up" or "to fill up," thus, Genesis 1:1 is about God filling the light and darkness (separated out on day one) with the sun and the moon (filled on day four). He filled the water and the sky (separated out on day two) with the fish and the birds (filled on day five). He filled the land (separated out of the water on day three) with animals (filled on day six). Also notice the parallels, a Hebrew form of poetry; 1=4, 2=5 and 3=6. A more Hebraic translation of Genesis 1:1 would be "In the beginning God filled the skies and the land."

"And Abraham believed God" (Genesis 15:6). The word "believe" implies the meaning of "to know something to be true" and this verse is usually understood as "And Abraham knew God would do what he said he will do." This interpretation conveys the idea that God is the one with the responsibility to perform something while Abraham is simply an observer. The Hebrew word translated as "believe" is "aman" and can better be understood from the following verse. "I will drive him like a peg into a firm place, he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father." (Isaiah 22:23). In this sentence the word "firm," a place of support, is the Hebrew word "aman" and would be better translated as "support" instead of "believe."

Thus, when a person receives a calling, we might say “I believe he can do a good job,” and would be implying that we know he will fulfill his assignment. However, when we raise our hand and say “I support him,” we are actually saying that we will do something to help him. Now looking at this verse in Genesis 15:6 from a Hebraic point of view we can now read it as "And Abraham supported God." This now shifts the responsibility to perform something from God to Abraham.

As can be seen, the English words used to translate the Hebrew can often bring about a wrong interpretation of the verse. Hence, it is necessary to view words from their Hebraic perspective rather than from our own Western perspective. Or stated differently, even when knowing the ancient Prophets of the Book of Mormon wrote in reformed Egyptian, we need to recognize that they “thought” in Hebrew—that is, in concrete terms, not abstract as we do.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Were the Olmecs Jaredites? Part VI--One Last time, the Olmecs Were Not Jaredites!

In trying to promote the Olmec as the Jaredites of the Book of Mormon and give the Jaredites a space in Mesoamerica, John L. Sorenson and other Theorists have claimed that “Mesoamerica's First Tradition culminated in Olmec culture, much as classical Roman civilization was the climax on its line. The name Olmec has been conferred by modern investigators on a people (although more than one may have been involved) and their culture manifested in a remarkable set of archaeological sites and a distinctive art style. The remains are located primarily in a semi-circular area in and just north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.”

Such a statement is totally misleading. While the so-called Olmec culture was apparent in San Lorenzo, just north of the Mesoamericanists’ narrow neck, it remained on the north (Mesoamericanists East) coastal area, including such sites as Cascajal, Laguna de los Cerros, Llano del Jicaro, Cobata, and Tres Zapotes—all along the coastal region, with Las Limas the furthest south (Mesoamericanists’ west), many miles from the coast. They were also settled just to the north of their narrow neck in Tenochtitlan, Portero Nuevo, El Azuzul and El Manati—all within a very short distance of the Mesoamericanists' narrow neck. This hardly sounds like the dispersion of the Jaredites in the Ether account. But more importantly, the Olmecs were south of the narrow neck, in the Mesoamericanists’ Land Southward, in the large settlements of La Venta and San Andres, and also in Arroyho Sonso.

Now according to Sorenson, archaeologists have dated La Venta to about 1500 B.C., a large Olmec settlement in their Land Southward, yet the scriptural record is very clear about the fact that the Jaredites never came south of the narrow neck of land, except to occasionally hunt the animals driven there by the poisonous serpents (Ether 10:21). Therefore, there could be no Jaredite settlements in the Land Southward—but the Olmecs were in the Mesoamericanists’ Land Southward. Obviously, either the archaeological record the Mesoamericanists’ rely upon so heavily is wrong, or the Mesoamericansts’ themselves are wrong, or the scriptures are wrong. Take your pick.

Speaking of La Venta, we find that following the decline of San Lorenzo, La Venta became the most prominent Olmec center, lasting from 900 BC until its abandonment around 400 BC. La Venta sustained the Olmec cultural traditions, but with spectacular displays of power and wealth. The Great Pyramid was the largest Mesoamerican structure of its time. Even today, after 2500 years of erosion, it rises 34 meters above the naturally flat landscape. Buried deep within La Venta, lay opulent, labor-intensive "Offerings" — 1000 tons of smooth serpentine blocks, large mosaic pavements, and at least 48 separate desposits of polished jade celts, pottery, figurines, and hematite mirrors.

Sorenson also writes: “Finally, we cannot help being fascinated by, as one scholar put it, "the way the thing ends .... We are left without anything Olmec even to be considered ... [that is much] later than ... 600 B.C." Yet, the archaeological record these Theorists constantly quote shows that the Olmec as a culture existed to 400 B.C., not 600 B.C., so there is not connecting date with the Nephites to be “fascinated by.” In fact, Sorenson writes: “The Olmec settlement at Izapa extended over 1.4 miles, making it the largest site in Chiapas. The site reached its apogee between 600 B.C. and 100 A.D.; several archaeologists have theorized that Izapa may have been settled as early as 1500 B.C., (some sayo 1200 B.C.) making it as old as the Olmec sites of San Lorenzo, Tenochtitlan and La Venta.

Now something not often mentioned about Izapa is, that while it is near the Guatemala border, the site is 220 miles south of the Mesoamericanists’ narrow neck of land. 220 miles south—can anyone claim that these were Jaredites? In the Land Southward? Moroni, who translated Ether’s record knew where the narrow neck of land was located, he knew the poisonous serpents chased Jaredite animals into the Land Southward, and knew that the Jaredites did not settle there, but kept the Land Southward for an animal preserve. He knew that and wrote about it. Yet, Sorenson and other Mesoamerican Theorists, ignore the scriptural record to maintain that the Olmecs were the Jaredites. And if they want to claim that not all these Olmec settlements were Jaredite settlements, let us consider that the Jaredites came to a “quarter of the land where no man had ever been” (Ether 2:5).

In a somewhat humorous vein, speaking of Jaredites being in the land where and when Lehi landed, Sorenson wrote: “Laman's and Lemuel's ambition (we might compare them to Cortez) could well have thrust the immigrants into dominance and led the locals to recast their views to agree with the story told by the immigrant rulers, effectively making the newcomers into a replacement for the former Olmec chiefs they had been serving. The rapid expansion in numbers of Lamanites, suggested in the Nephite record, had to owe more to a scenario like this than to an unlikely dramatic biological expansion and ecological.

After reading the book of Ether, I challenge anyone to think that the Jaredites, following a history of civil wars, brutality and wiping out millions of people, no matter how small a surviving group, are going to let Laman and Lemuel, who had never been in a single combat situation, with a tendency to run from Laban’s guards, etc., would overcome the large-of-stature and strong Jaredites.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Were the Olmecs Jaredites Part V—What is in a Name?

Hugh Nibley, who “pointed out years ago that many Latter-day Saints had oversimplified how complete the 'destruction' of the Jaredites was." This is necessary because in the archaeological findings of Mesoamerica, the Olmecs did survive the period of 600 B.C. and they did live south of Nibley's (and Sorenson's) dividing line for the narrow neck of land. This concept is both a disingenuous and an inaccurate statement. It is merely supposition on his part, and that of John L. Sorenson, and most other Mesoamericanists who want to claim this because it agrees with archaeological population “findings” in Mesoamerica. However, the scriptural record tells us differently.

As for the Olmecs, numerous claims have been made by Mesoamericanists, from their time of existence in Mesoamerica (1500 B.C.) to their time of decline (900 A.D.). One such claim is that Nibley believed the name shiblon (shibl) was almost certainly connected to the Arabic “shibl,” which meant “lion cub.” One of Nibley’s students, Benjamin Urrutia went on to make the connection with the "Jaguar Cub" imagery of the Olmec people of Ancient Mexico, a theory that has been widely embraced by LDS scholars.

However, the noun shiblon as used in the Book of Mormon suggests otherwise. First of all, it was the name of a Nephite coin defined by Mormon as: ”A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for half a measure of barley. With a shiblum is a half of a shiblon, and an antion of gold is equal to three shiblons (Alma 11:16-17,19). Mormon also wrote: “Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value. And the names are given by the Nephites, for they did not reckon after the manner of the Jews who were at Jerusalem; neither did they measure after the manner of the Jews; but they altered their reckoning and their measure, according to the minds and the circumstances of the people, in every generation, until the reign of the judges, they having been established by king Mosiah” (Alma 11:4). Thus, it is not likely that the name shiblon came from any previously Jewish designation or name. It is more likely it came from either Arabic or Egypt since these were the people with whom Lehi likely conducted his buisness.

Second, it is a name of two people—one was the fourth great-grandfather of the Jaredite prophet Ether (spelled Shiblon in Ether 1:11, and Shiblom in Ether 11:4). His father was Com, the son of Coriantum, and back through Amnigaddah, Aaron, Heth, Hearthom, Lib, Kish, Corom, Levi, Kim, etc. None of these names are from animals or other creatures, but are from Mesopotamia with at least two being later Hebrew names. Since all names originated with Noah after the Flood, and he was in Mesopotamia after the Ark landed, all names would trace back to Mesopotamia. And the second was one of the sons of Alma who went with several others to preach among the Zoramites (Alma 31:7), and who Alma blessed (Alma 38:5), and who helped bring about peace in the land because of his preaching (Alma 49:30). He was a just man before God and took control of the sacred records (Alma 63:1), which he conferred on his nephew before dying (Alma 63:10-11).

Unfortunately, we do not know what the practice was of naming sons in Mesopotamia or by the Jaredites, however, we do know that the Hebrews named sons after heroes of their own lines and that of other nations. Lehi gave two sons Arabic names, two sons Egyptian names, and two sons Hebrew names. It might also be of interest to know that the name “lion cub” in Arabic is not shibl, but Usaim or Usaym, with Usama, Usamah being a description of a lion—none of which can hardly be construed to come from “shibl.” In fact, male Arabic names were more than 95% about the quality of the individual, righteousness, title, or descriptive. The same can be said for Hebrew names, with less than 5% being other, like animals. That names in the Book of Mormon had their root in an animal is most unlikely, though minutely possible.

Alma named his three sons Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton; and Helaman named his two sons Nephi and Lehi (Helaman 3:21;4:14) and did so for a reason that their names might be remembered and acted upon (Helaman 5:6-7). It was typical of the Nephites and Jews (and earlier Hebrews) to name their children, especially their sons, with names of great meaning that dealt the five senses of concrete Eastern thought—that is, something that they could see, taste, touch, smell or hear. That is names of things that were real. On the other hand, western languages from the Greek or western thought are often based upon abstract and not concrete items—Ralph, Jack, Joseph, Michael, Barbara, etc., which have no clear-cut meaning other than in the abstract.

It is far more likely that Nephite names were names in the concrete, and names that could be traced back to the Old World, or heroes of the Land of Promise, etc. For modern man, no matter how well schooled, to start saying this name was Jaredite, this name was Mulekite and this name was Nephite is a little far fetched. While it is true that certain names are in the Jaredite record of Ether, they are no more different from our understanding than are numerous Nephite names—and many Jaredite names were names that later showed up in the Bible and in Hebrew and Jewish names. There is no way to say this person was a Jaredite after 600 B.C. merely because he had a name found in Ether, than saying Helaman’s son Nephi was an Egyptian.

(See the next post, “Were the Olmecs Jaredites Part VII--One Last time, the Olmecs Were Not Jaredites,” for the last installment on this subject)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Were the Olmecs Jaredites?—Part IV

Continuing with the last two posts and John L. Sorenson’s unrealistic and non-scriptural claim that the Olmecs were the Jaredites, and that the Jaredites survived their war of annihilation in such numbers as to mix with “the Mulek group of voyagers from the Mediterranean.” In the last post we covered three of the five comments regarding Sorenson’s claim. We here continue with point number four.

4. Sorenson said, “The Book of Mormon account neither contradicts nor confirms it.”

Of course the scriptural record does not confirm such an outlandish idea—however, it DOES contradict it. First of all, the record of Ether is quite contradictory with its numerous comments about all the Jaredites being killed except for Coriantumr and Ether. Many posts presented here earlier have given extensive comment on each of Ether’s statements that ALL the Jaredites were gathered in for the final battle except Ether, and ALL were killed in that battle except Coriantumr and Ether.

To state that any Jaredites survived other than those two is contrary to numerous scriptures in the Book of Mormon. Secondly, the numerous promises the Lord made to Lehi for a land of his inheritance, free from other peoples, is also quite clear in several places in the Book of Mormon, beginning with 1 Nephi. Even the most cursory reading will show that the Land of Promise was not inhabited by people other than the Jaredites, Lehi’s descendants (Nephites and Lamanites) and the Mulekites. The scriptural record is also quite clear that the “other people” the Lord would bring to the land were the Gentils Nephi saw in a vision, beginning with Columbus and the Gentile nations that followed.

5. Sorenson also wrote: “neither does such continuity pose any particular problems for the scripture, as I read it.”

The continuity problem is simply whether or not one can accept the Lord’s promise as binding or whether one believes that the Lord is capricious in his dealings with man, for surely the Lord’s promise to Lehi and to Nephi was for an unoccupied land for their inheritance that had to be protected from others. Sometime after landing in the Land of Promise, Lehi told his family: “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations” (2 Nephi 1:8). Note the future tense words “should be” and “as yet,” suggesting no others had yet been led to the land, even at the time when the Lehi colony had been in the land for a while.

Lehi also said, “for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8). Lehi knew from the Lord’s promise, that the land was reserved for his family and was to be the inheritance of he and his children and their posterity. He knew this would not be possible were there other people in the land.

He also said, again using future tense words, “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” (2 Nephi 1:9), suggesting that whatever others might be involved in the land of his promise would come out of Jerusalem (evidently the Mulekites), but certainly NOT the Jaredites, for they came from Mesopotamia.

People like Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists can say whatever they want, and claim that it “pose any particular problems for the scripture, as I read it,” but when they make up ideas and try to squeeze scriptural meaning into their pre-conceived ideas and models, it may not pose any problem to them, as they read it, but it certainly poses a problem with accepting what is written in the scriptural record. However, Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists have shown time and again that they are not overly concerned how the scriptural record is written, but how they can manipulate it to agree with their ideas and model (see the book “Inaccuracies of Mesoameridcan and Other Theorists.”)

Nibley and Sorenson can also claim that those who disagree with them and read the scriptural record as it was written, oversimplify their understanding of the scriptural record, yet, it would seem that both try to insert situations and people into the record that does not exist. There is not a single mention, suggestion or indication in all the writing of all the ancient prophets, nor from Mormon who had ALL the Nephite records at his disposal, that any other people, group, party or band ever set foot in the Land of Promise between 2200 B.C. and 421 A.D. other than the Jaredfites, Nephites (including Lamanites) and Mulekites. Nor is there anything that would lead one to believe that Jaredites survived beyond Coriantumr in all the Land of Promise. Yet, Nibley and Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists, all try to suggest that other people were there, mingling with the Nephites, to satisfy their belief that others lived in the area at the same time.

(See the next post, “Were the Olmecs Jaredfites Part IV—What is in a Name?” for the more on this subject)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Were the Olmecs Jaredites?—Part III

Continuing with the last post and John L. Sorenson’s unrealistic and non-scriptural claim that the Olmecs were the Jaredites, and that the Jaredites survived their war of annihilation in such numbers as to mix with “the Mulek group of voyagers from the Mediterranean. The scientific information is unmistakable; there was definite continuity of population from earlier times into the days of the Nephites. The Book of Mormon account neither contradicts nor confirms it, but neither does such continuity pose any particular problems for the scripture, as I read it.”

Let’s take his points one by one and see whether they agree or disagree with the scriptural record.

1. “Some Jaredites survived their final wars.” Ether tells us “that the people began to flock together in armies, throughout all the face of the land” (Ether 14:19), and that the war moved so swiftly, that “there was none left to bury the dead, but they did march forth from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood, leaving the bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land, to become a prey to the worms of the flesh” (Ether 14:22).

To make a point of who was involved, Ether continued with: “And it came to pass that they did gather together all the people upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether” (Ether 15:12). In doing so, “They were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive. And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children -- both men women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war -- they did march forth one against another to battle” (Ether 15:14-15). And in all of this, Coriantumr was the last man standing (Ether 15:30-32). There were no Jaredites survivors—Moroni, who translated Ether’s account, did so around 400 A.D., when he was the last Nephite alive. He certainly gave no indication that any Jaredites survived. He even added a footnote that the Lamanites had tracked down all the escaping Nephites from their last battled and killed them (Mormon 8:2). If there were Jaredite survivors, one would think that Moroni might have footnoted Ether’s account as well. But he did not, and no mention of surviving Jaredites is found anywhere in all the Nephite records.

2. “The scientific information is unmistakable.” These events took place around 600 B.C. There is no writing, histories, carvings, stelaes, inscriptions, or records of any kind regarding this period in the Western Hemisphere other than the Book of Mormon. Any scientific evidence is based solely on speculation regarding what little has been found dating to this period. Naturally, one could assume this and that, one could speculate on what certain things meant, and one could make guesses (hypotheses), but when you strip all of it from archaeological and anthropological jargon, it simply boils down to people’s opinions based upon nothing but guesswork. Scientific information of a time period where there is no records of any kind is only speculation and “best guess” scenarios. And when it counters the specific word of God, it isn’t even a “best guess.”

3. “There was definite continuity of population from earlier times into the days of the Nephites.” First of all, it cannot be shown conclusively that the Nephites were ever in Mesoamerica in the time frame under discussion. There is so much evidence against such an idea, that it is not even worth considering (see the book “Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica”); however, even if we want to dabble in speculation about the Lehi Colony landing in Guatemala, the point is that population information is based solely on pottery shards, arrow points, settlement debris, and diffusion principles. And there are enough disagreement on what any of it means among archaeologists, it again is not worth mentioning. But even persisting with the idea, we can easily point out that such an idea of Jaredites mingling with the Nephites is so far outside the scriptural record that it is not even possible without claiming the Nephite prophets, abridgers, and translators all were trying to cover up the existence of other peoples in the Land of Promise at the same time as Lehi’s landing, and their so-called contribution to the Nephite nation.

(See the next post, “Were the Olmecs Jaredites—Part IV,” for the final installment on the Mesoamericanists’ view of surviving Jaredites and their mingling with the Nephites)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Were the Olmecs Jaredites?—Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the Mesoamericanists stubborn refusal to recognize their land, people, and history has nothing to do with the Nephites of the Book of Mormon scriptural record. Continuing with his remarkable disregard for scripture, Sorenson claims:

“The findings of science provide positive evidence that pre-Nephite peoples were culturally, linguistically and biologically continuous with those found in Mesoamerica after the date for the Nephite arrival. We have seen that in coastal El Salvador and Guatemala, where Lehi's group probably reached shore, data about peoples who might have been present right around 600 B.C. is ambiguous.”

Though the “data” is vague, he goes on to write: “Drastic changes were then being completed as a result of the death of the civilizational tradition of which the Jaredites had been part. Those final throes affected life all the way south to the Nephite "land of first inheritance," so the archaeological evidence indicates (this would be around Pajon on the map above). It seems possible that the population present in the immediate vicinity where the Israelites landed was small and weak enough to be no serious hindrance to the colonizers. Indeed, like the relationship of the Indians of Massachusetts to the Pilgrims, the indigenes may well have passed on the skills and crops necessary to the success of the new colony.”

So now we not only have the large, physical, war-like Jaredite survivors too weak and disorganized to put up any resistance to the farmer-merchant Lehi colony landing (see last post), now we find that they were the reason that colony survived, like the Pilgrims survival based on help from the Indians around 1620.

In addition, Sorenson adds a parenthetical note, “Diseases brought by Lehi's group, to which they had built up immunity, might soon have affected the locals, further weakening them, but would not have eliminated their genetic and cultural contribution to the subsequent population.”

An interesting speculative idea that has no basis in anything whatsoever in the scriptural record. But not satisfied with making up an unsupportable scenario, Sorenson goes on: “In the south-central Mexico and isthmus area, localized cultures are shown by archaeology to have persisted across the Jaredite-Nephite time boundary despite the spectacular collapse of the main "Olmec" civilization. The people of Zarahemla must have been involved in one of those bridging groups (making Omni 1:17 understandable).”

Leave it to Sorenson to tell us that Omni 1:17 would not be understandable to the reader of the scriptural record without his injection of sectarian history, as speculative as it is, for no records of any kind have come from the period of time Sorenson notes except for the Book of Mormon itself. In any event, let’s take a look at Amaleki’s writing in that verse. Speaking of the people of Zarahemla, which Mosiah found, and after stating an eye witness account of Zarahemla’s ancestry “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 (Omni 1:15-16), Amaleki goes on to describe a brief history by stating in the verse Sorenson referenced, “And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them“ (Omni 1:17).

Thus, Sorenson tells us that the Mulekites had been absorbed into the Jaredite society, had many wars, not among themselves, but with the Jaredites, and finally survived as the dominant people. He adds that the Mulekites “would have combined genetic and cultural elements of the earlier civilization with whatever the Mulek group of voyagers from the Mediterranean had introduced. The scientific information is unmistakable; there was definite continuity of population from earlier times into the days of the Nephites. The Book of Mormon account neither contradicts nor confirms it, but neither does such continuity pose any particular problems for the scripture, as I read it.”

It would seem that Sorenson should go back and re-read the scriptural record. There is no support of any such alliance, and plenty of contradictions.

(See the next post, “Were the Olmecs Jaredites—Part III,” to see how the scriptural record contradicts Sorenson on every count regarding the above claims)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Were the Olmecs Jaredites?

Mesoamerican theorists have long contended that the original settlers of Mesoamerica—the Olmecs—were the Jaredites of the Book of Mormon. Mesoamericanist John L. Sorenson wrote: “Taking together the geographical setting, the cultural patterns, the agreement in dates, and many specific facts we cannot go into at this point, identifying the culture in which the Jaredites were involved with the First or Olmec Tradition is very reasonable.”

How reasonable is it to make numerous claims that are not found in, supported by, referred or intimated within the scriptural record? First of all, Sorenson’s geographical setting in Mesoamerica for the home of the Jaredites falls far short of the scriptural record. As an example, in one very important case, though not the only one, the Olmecs lived in both Sorenson’s Land Northward (San Lorenzo, Tres Zapotes, Laguna de los Cerros, etc.) and in his Land Southward (La Venta, San Andres, Arroyo Sonso).

Sorenson himself acknowledges this Land Southward penetration and living existence of the Olmecs in saying: “archaeological record tells us that earlier First Tradition settlements had been concentrated north of the isthmus, but that after 1500 B.C. significant though still secondary Olmec activity was manifested south of the neck.” In plain English, this means that the Olmecs lived from about 1500 B.C. SOUTH of his narrow neck of land—which is contrary to the scriptural record of the Jaredites. That is, the Olmec history is in an area where the Jaredites never lived, south of the narrow neck of land (Ether 10:21), and the furthest south in the Land Northward the record says the Jaredites lived was a great city they built “by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land (Ether 10:20).”

However, the scriptural record must not be correct to Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists, including High Nibley, who constantly take the very questionable archaeological findings over what Mormon and other prophets wrote in the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, their many published works based on archaeology has been sold and presented as if it agreed with the scriptural record—which it does not!

In yet another remarkable concept held by Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists, they claim that there were Jaredites living where Lehi landed. Sorenson wrote: “Language and archaeological studies assure us that there were inhabitants in coastal Guatemala soon after 600 B.C., but the number could have been low. The fact that the Olmec (Jaredite-related) tradition was then in the final stage of disintegration meant that the remnants living in the area of Lehi's landing would have been disorganized, not about to challenge mysterious newcomers.”

So, despite Ether’s numerous comments to the contrary, Sorenson places Jaredite survivors in the Land Southward when and where Lehi landed, but that they were so disorganized and weak, that the families of Lehi and Ishmael, farmers and merchants, easily overcame them—a previously battle hardened group of warriors with a warlike culture of physically strong and large men (Ether 15:26), who had been fighting civil wars for most of their existence in the Land of Promise.

Now that makes a lot of sense. That would be like a group of Quakers landing in the midst of Ghengis Khan and overcoming his warriors.

To defend his position, Sorenson refers to Hugh Nibley, who “pointed out years ago that many Latter-day Saints had oversimplified how complete the "destruction" of the Jaredites was. He argued, and the evidence is persuasive, that significant Jaredite elements persisted into Mulekite and Nephite times.”

Never mind that this “persuasive evidence” are Nephite names that Nibley claimed were Jaredites that carried over into Nephite times, and that the Jaredite war-like nature later shows up in some among the Nephites. Weak arguments at best, and in all cases, a second, un-biased look at the so-called Jaredite names show that they were also Egyptian, Hittite, Arab and and Canaanite names—all names that would have been known to the Nephites through Lehi’s family.

Undaunted, Sorenson goes on to write that there is: “other evidence of cultural continuity from Jaredite into later times.” Then has the gall to call all this speculative “evidence” facts by saying: “There is really no question about it. Jaredite contributions to the later peoples were substantial, in just about the manner and degree we have the Olmec tradition continuing into the post-Olmec era.”

One might think that Sorenson and his Mesoamericanists would do better to forget what the questionable archaeological record and rely on the written word of God regarding the Jaredite and Nephite nations.

(See the next post, “Were the Olmecs Jaredites—Part II,” for more on how the Olmec record is quite different than that of the Nephites)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mormon’s Description of a Narrow Pass or Passage

Mesoamerican theorists, Joseph Allen, who wrote the book: “Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon,” and also set up a business taking tours through Mesoamerica, has written (p 279):

“The term narrow pass refers to the width of the pass between two mountain ranges rather than to the length or distance of the pass from ocean to ocean.”

First, while the distance of the pass is not known from the scriptural record, we know that on either side of the pass ran the two seas, the East Sea and the West Sea (Alma 52:34). The pass itself did not run “from ocean to ocean,” but rather from the Land Southward to the Land Northward (Alma 50:33-34). What ran from sea to sea was the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32;63:5), through which ran the narrow pass or passage (Mormon 2:29).

Three types of passes are shown. (Left) a Mountain Pass, (Center) a pass along a ridge, and (Right) a pass through impassable jungle or forest growth

Secondly, we do not know that this pass or passage ran between two mountain ranges, though that might be assumed. Yet, in Joseph Smith’s time, the word “pass” was defined as “a narrow passage” “a narrow or difficult place of entrance” “a road or avenue,” and the word “passage” was defined as “a place where men or things may pass or be conveyed.” Obviously, then, the terrain of the small or narrow neck of land allowed for a single area where men could pass through it from the Land Southward to the Land Northward. This might have been because of mountains, a canyon, the seas on both sides, cliffs, or some other obstruction that ran either north and south with the neck of land, or crosswise from sea to sea. In any event, there seems to have been a single passage or pass through the narrow neck of land.

Allen also claims it was the narrow pass that divided the land Northward from the land Southward, not the narrow neck of land:

“The Book of Mormon requirements for the narrow neck of land/narrow pass is that it divided the land southward from the land northward” (pp 280-281).

While it is true that the “small” or “narrow neck of land” separated the Land Southward from the Land Northward, the pass is not so described. The narrow neck is used as a topography description (of the land) while the pass or passage is described as a means of movement (from one land to the other).

Allen also claims this pass ran crosswise from sea to sea, cutting off the land. However, the scriptures refute that concept: "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." (Alma 22:32) The narrow pass is never mentioned in connection of the topography, only with the movement. Thus, it was not a narrow pass, especially one that ran "crosswise from the east sea to the west sea," that separated the land Northward from the Land Southward, but a narrow neck of land. Without this narrow neck of land, the sea would have completed surrounded the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla.”

Statue erected to Huanyna Capac and the battle he fought in the pass east of the Bay of Guayaquil

It is interesting that in the Andean area of South America, there is both a descriptive area of topography for a narrow neck of land, and a pass for movement through the narrow neck of land from the land to the south to the land to the north. This area is the Bay of Guayaquil. At one time in antiquity, before the Andes rose up, the distance from the east shore of the Bay to the Atlantic shore was a very short distance of about 26 miles. This fits the description of the narrow neck of land described prior to the crucifixion of the Savior. However, after that time, when the mountains rose up “whose height is great,” a small neck is never mentioned again in the scriptural record, but the pass or passage is (Mormon 2:29). And after the mountains rose up, the distance from the east shore of the Bay of Guayaquil to the sharp, impassable Andes mountains remained at about 26 miles. Through this area after the cataclysm described in 3 Nephi, a pass is mentioned in the history of Peru/Ecuador, with an ancient pass that later became a famous Inca battleground and called the Pass of Huanyna Capac, which crosses through this narrow area from the south to the north.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Misunderstanding the Scriptural Record Leads to Errors

Milton R. Hunter, of the First Council of the Seventy, in his book, “Archaeology and the Book of Mormon,” writes in “Modern Revelation Declaring Nephites Still Live,” claims that two scriptures, one in the Doctrine and Covenants, and one in 2nd Nephi, shows that Nephites would survive the annihilation of that Nation. The two scriptures are quoted below:

“Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever” (2 Nephi 29:10-14).

In this scripture, Nephi is being shown in a vision that in the latter days, the writings of the Jews (Bible) and the Nephites (Book of Mormon) and the Lost Ten Tribes (Unknwon at this time) will all be had by one another. This, of course, has nothing to do with the Nephites surviving the annihilation of their nation. As for the Nephites having the words of the Jews, they had this from 600 B.C. to 385 A.D. in the form of the brass plates that Nephi obtained from Laban’s treasury (1 Nephi 4:24; 5:10). Later, the Lamanites obtained the record of the Nephites and the Jews through missionary work done throughout the Americas, beginning in 1830. The Jews now have access not only to the Bible, but also the Book of Mormon as of 1829. What the Lost Ten Tribes now have is unknbown, and where their writings are, is also unknown—though we are told that when they emerge in the last days, they will have their own scriptures. The other scripture quotes is:

“Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people—And to the "Nephites, and the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites, through the testimony of their fathers—And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the "Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindled in unbelief because of the iniquity of their fathers, whom the Lord has suffered to 'destroy their brethren the Nephites, because of their iniquities and their abominations. And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records—that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to his people” (D&C 3:16-10).

The knowledge of the Savior to the Jews was had from the beginning through the original Twevle Apostles, and was recorded on the plates of brass. The Nephites first became aware of the Savior of mankind in both Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions (1 Nephi 13:40;21:26), and also from their reading on the plates of brass (1 Nephi 22:12). This knowledge was preached among the Nephites after they established the city of Nephi in the Land of Nephi (2 Nephi 6:18). The knowledge of the Savior therefore was had among the Nephites, the Jacobites, the Josephites, and the Zoramites, through the testimony of their fathers—Lehi and Nephi for the Nephites, Jacob for the Jacobites, Joseph for the Josephites, and Zoram for the Zoramites. At a much later time, this “shall come to the knowledge of the "Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindled in unbelief because of the iniquity of their fathers, whom the Lord has suffered to destroy their brethren the Nephites, because of their iniquities and their abominations.” This is actually taking place now, through the Book of Mormon, which “it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites -- Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile,” as the frontpiece of the Book of Mormon proclaims.

Obviouswly, neither of these scriptures say anything about the future of the Nephites, or that they survived their annihilation, or that any exist anywhere today. When Wilford Woodruff fulfilled his mission to the Zunis Indians in Arizona and New Mexico, wrote to the First Presidency on September 15, 1879, “I view my visit among the Nephites one of the most interesting missions of my life, although short. I say Nephites because if there are any Nephites on the continent we have found them among the Zunis, Lagumas and Isletas.”

Elder Woodruff at the time found a group of Indians above the caliber of most other tribes, but his key words are these—“if there are any Nephites on this continent,” suggesting this information is merely his opinion at the time, and is not an indication that any Nephites survived the annihilation of their nation as Milton R. Hunter claimed.

Yet, such loose interpretations, meant to be support of the scriptural record, tend to cause others to accept at face value and, like Hugh Nibley and John L. Sorenson, argue for Nephite survivors where there were none according to the writings of these ancient prophets.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Criticism of Mesoamerican Geography: the Two Cumorahs—Part III

Continuing with the last post, and dealing with the statement that: “As fantastic as it may seem…there were two Cumorahs: one in Mexico where the great battle took place, and where Moroni buried a longer, unexpurgated version of the golden Nephite records; and one near Palmyra, New York, where Moroni eventually buried a condensed version of the plates after lugging them on an epic trek of several thousand miles.”

First of all, the statement above is not correct. We do not know that Moroni buried any plates. We know that he had “a few plates” which his father, Mormon gave to him before he, Mormon, hid up all the other plates in the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6). What Moroni did with the plates which were entrusted to him we do not know other than he wrote on them the abridgement of Ether’s record, and the last two chapters of his father’s record, and then what is called the Book of Moroni, which included some letters his father had written to him earlier.

And as stated in the last post, we do not know if Moroni was the one who transported the plates, nor do we know if he was still mortal at the time if he did. We do not know if the records Mormon hid in the Hill Cumorah, in the Land of Cumorah among the many waters, rivers, and fountains, were ever moved. We simply do not know any of this.

What we do know is that the plates and records of the Nephites were buried by Mormon for he said, “I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.” (Mormon 6:6). Of the record given to Moroni and the many others, Mormon said, “knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops” (Mormon 5:8), and that the records “are written unto the remnant of the house of Jacob; and they are written after this manner, because it is known of God that wickedness will not bring them forth unto them; and they are to be hid up unto the Lord that they may come forth in his own due time” (Mormon 5:12).

It matters little where the records are, where they were buried by Mormon, whether Moroni transported them, or what portion now resides in the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. At some point in time, we will know all things for the Lord has told us they will be revealed.

Besides, the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York was not named Cumorah originally, and did not acquire that name until Joseph Smith was told of the location of the buried plates. What records he uncovered under the guidance of the Angel Moroni were three things: 1) what we now have as the Book of Mormon, 2) the Book of Lehi which he translated first and the 116 pages Martin Harris lost, and 3) the sealed portion of the plates which were not translated into print. Whether or not this sealed portion is the writings of the Brother of Jared (Ether 3:24), and that Moroni translated at one time (Ether 5:1), is not known. Where the other “wagon load of records” Brigham Young saw of the “proceedings of this people,” the Nephites (Helaman 3:13-15), is not known.

We only know that two Cumorahs are mentioned in LDS doctrine. The first, in the Book of Mormon, existed in the Land of Cumorah, among the many waters, rivers and fountains (Mormon 6:4), where the plates were buried, except for those few Mormon gave to Moroni, and second, the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York where Joseph Smith uncovered the “few plates” Moroni had and, evidently, buried there. No other plates were known to be in or around that Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. As stated in the last post, Brigham Young saw in a vision plates in a cave under the Hill Cumorah. He would not have known, and we do not know, if that was the same hil where Joseph found the plates, or a different hill somewhere else.

If there were two hills, obviously for continuity sake, both hills, the original burial place in the Land of Promise, and the hill in upstate New York, bear the same name, but there is absolutely nothing in the record to suggest they were the same physical location. That some early authorities thought this to be the case does not prove any fact, other than limited understanding of the geography of the Book of Mormon, which early readers were prone to have—especially since their reading was based on doctrinal matters, not history or geography.

If there are two hills named the same, there is certainly a type of this in Hebrew thought as well as Nephite history. It cannot be ignored that the Nephites named a land and city in the Land of Promise “Bountiful,” as did Lehi name the area along the shores of Irreantum where Nephi built his ship, by the same name, “Bountiful.” There are many other instances in the scriptural record to show that names sometimes were repeated from the Old World to the New.

To disregard any of this out of hand and stubbornly insist that there could not be two Cumorahs is inconsistent with the scriptural record and denies God the ability to move the plates from one place to another for His own purposes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Criticism of the Mesoamerican Geography Model: the Two Cumorahs – Part II

Continuing from the last post about the critique of the Mesoamerican model, the third issue had to do with the Hill Cumorah.

Hampton Sides, an American historian and journalist, the author of bestselling works of narrative history and literary non-fiction, wrote in his work “American: Dispatches from the New Frontier": “As fantastic as it may seem, Sorenson actually argues that there were two Cumorahs: one in Mexico where the great battle took place, and where Moroni buried a longer, unexpurgated version of the golden Nephite records; and one near Palmyra, New York, where Moroni eventually buried a condensed version of the plates after lugging them on an epic trek of several thousand mile.”

It is always interesting that people think something is too hard for the Lord. Nephi, confronting his brothers’ fear of Laban’s guards about obtaining the plates of brass, asks, “for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?” Why people want to claim Moroni could not have transported the plates over thousands of miles is beyond imagination. Anything and everything is possible with the Lord. And the reason of transporting is simple—the Lord wanted them in a handy location for when Joseph Smith would be directed to them.

For some reason, people seem to think the Lord’s plans are restricted to a small area of the earth and forget that the entire earth is His and He has planned and organized all of it for his purposes. The House of Israel began in a local area near Mesopotamia, and an area of Canaan was divided among them for their inheritance; however, the Lord then has led away different groups from Israel to the four corners of the earth—some we know about, such as the Nephites and Mulekites, others we do not, but Jacob made it clear that others have been led away, “the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also” (2 Nephi 10:22).

There are some that fanatically want to restrict the Lord and the Land of Promise to the small area of the eastern United States as though this one single area is the only place where the Lord’s work can go forth. While it is true that the United States is the center of the New Jerusalem to be, and the center of the work that is going forth at this moment, the entire Western Hemisphere has been reserved for His purposes and has been designated by Him as the Land of Promise.

In the southern part of this Land of Promise, the Jaredites and the Nephites were given promises for lands of their inheritance. The Gentiles were given a promise that the area further north would be their land of inheritance (all of this dependent upon each being righteous and obeying the Lord).

In that land to the south, the Nephites landed. They were commanded to keep records on plates of ore that Nephi molded out of the earth. Those records, and numerous others (Helaman 3:13) were kept and are now considered to reside in the Hill Cumorah; however, we do not know that is where they are. Brigham Young merely said a vision opened up to him of “wagon loads of records,” which may have been anywhere but projected at that moment into the Hill Cumorah. We know that Joseph Smith did not receive the plates in that underground cave or area Brigham Young saw. Joseph found the plates buried in a stone box near the surface of the ground, under a large rock he had to remove to get to the box.

We do not know if Moroni was the one who transported the plates, nor do we know if he was still mortal at the time if he did, or a “just man made perfect,” such as the Three Nephites or John. But it is foolhardy to think that anything is beyond the Lord and His servants. The idea of the Lord transporting the plates to a location for his future interests and purposes is not “fantastically” unbelievable, nor Moroni’s ability to “lug them on an epic trek of several thousand miles.”

It is more fantastic to think that anyone would believe such would be beyond the Lord’s ability. He who created the Heavens and the Earth cannot arrange to have the plates moved several thousand miles in this little area of His multitude of creations? Come on now!

(See the next post, “Criticism of Mesoamerican Geography: the Two Cumorahs—Part III,” for the last installment of the records, the Hill Cumorah, and their transportation)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Criticism of the Mesoamerican Geography Model

According to non-LDS archaeologists who have made a comparison between the Book of Mormon and their archaeological work in Mesoamerica, they claim there are three basic disagreements.

1. The Limited Mesoamerican Geography Model has been critiqued by a number of scholars, who suggest that it is not an adequate explanation for Book of Mormon geography and that the locations, events, flora and fauna described in it do not precisely match. In response to one of these critiques in 1994, Sorenson reaffirmed his proposal for a limited Mesoamerican geographical setting.

Obviously, despite all to the contrary, Sorenson continues to doggedly hold to the belief that Mesoamerica is the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon. This, despite so much showing that Mesoamerica could not possibly be Lehi’s promised land, Mesoamerican theorists continue to try and ram the idea down everyone’s throat. From the wrong directions, to the lack of a workable narrow neck of land, to not finding in all of Central America such things as metallurgy in B.C. times, these theorists tenaciously hold to their model—an act that brings down critic after critic on the Church and the Book of Mormon because anyone reading the scriptural record and studying Mesoamerica can see without any difficulty at all, that the two do not match. Metallurgy alone should disqualify Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise since “The emergence of metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica occured relatively late in the region's history, with distinctive works of metal apparent in West Mexico by roughly AD 800, and perhaps as early as AD 600” and that in Guatemala even later, basically around 900 A.D.

2. Establishing connections between ruins of the Mayan civilization (for example, Quirigua, Kaminaljuyu, and Tikal in Guatemala, and Copan in Honduras, and Palenduras and Palenque in Mexico) and the cities and civilizations mentioned in the Book of Mormon has been difficult for Mormon apologists on a number of fronts, the most significant issue being dating. Conventional archaeology places the pinnacle of Mayan civilization several centuries after the final events in the Book of Mormon supposedly occurred.

This has always been understood by non-LDS archaeologists—that is, that the dating of Mesoamerica really begins around the first century B.C. in dating the hard evidence of civilization there like buildings and visible constructions. The early dating of sites in Mesoamerica, especially by LDS archaeologists, is based on infusion and pottery shards, etc., not on the construction of temples and structures. Of course, the Mesoamerican theorists hold to the infusion belief, of the Lithic stage (before 10,000 years ago, based on the first appearance of lithic flaked stone tools—that is, “a portion of rock removed from an objective piece by percussion or pressure, and can be referred to as a chip or spall or collectively as debitage—waste material”); the Archaic stage (8000 to 2000 B.C., based on sedentary farming—which “can vary significantly across the Americas”); the Formative stage (1000 B.C. to 500 A.D., based on pottery, weaving and food production); the Classic stage (500 to 1200 A.D. based on craft development and metallurgy, ceremonial centers and government, and the Post-Classic stage (1200 A.D. to modern times, based on advanced metallurgy, social organization, complex urbanism and militarism). According to Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips in their 1958 book, “Method and theory in American Archaeology,” the Aztec and Maya were in this latter stage, the Post-Classic period. This can hardly be said to cover 2200 B.C. to 400 A.D. where the Jaredites would have had buildings of all types in the so-called Archaic Stage.

3. Among apologists, there have been critiques - particularly around the location of the Hill Cumorah, which most Mormons consider to be definitively identified as a location in New York. In a Mesoamerican Limited Geography model, this would require there to be two Cumorahs (which some consider preposterous.)

In addition to these cities that are found in the area of Jerusalem, the Land of Promise, and the settlements of Utah, there is also Midian in Palestine and in the Land of Promise, Manti in Egypt, Jordan in Israel, etc., and Zarahemla, Jershon and Cumorah can be traced to their Hebrew origins. The idea of names showing up in both the Old World, the Land of Promise and in the United States is not only very common, but easily found.

Some may consider naming new locations after old ones, but history has shown this to be the case more often than not. From the two Bountifuls, two Jerusalems, etc., in cities and lands from the Old World to the Nephite New World, to naming lands and hills after other lands and hills. The idea of every name in the Book of Mormon, whether a person, land, city or hill, as a unique name never used elsewhere, is preposterous.

(See the next post, “Criticism of Mesoamerican Geography—Part II,” for more on this issue, and the two Cumorahs)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who Are the LDS Apologists Critics Often Quote – Part III

Continuing with the last two posts, regarding who LDS apologists are, and why they are so labeled by the mainstream sectarian world, the first seven examples were covered in the preceding two posts, and the following is the rest of the list.

8. “One apologist claims that sheep wool has been found in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, but this is disputed by mainstream archaeologists.

More than just a claim is needed. A find may actually be what is claimed, but since it is outside the mainstream thinking, it is usually going to be disputed.

9. Some “apologists” suggest that the word "sheep" may refer to another species of animal that resembled sheep such as Big Horn sheep or Llamas. Critics point out that camel-like animals such as llamas, are unclean according to Israelite law, and are not acceptable for food or for sacrifice, and that Big horn sheep have never been domesticated by humans.

Wrong approach. Big Horn sheep are indigenous to western North America, basically in the Rocky Mountains. They have never been located in the areas of the Land of Promise, and even so, their high-altitude habitat suggests that domestication would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

10. “Some LDS apologists, such as Matthew Roper of FARMS, believe that "goat" in the Book of Mormon refers to brocket deer in order to explain the apparent anachronism.”

Wrong approach. The brocket deer looks nothing like a goat, and Joseph Smith certainly knew the difference between deer and goat, and the spirit acknowledged that “goat” was the correct term, not “deer.”

11. Some LDS apologists argue that the word "swine" refers to Peccairies (also known as Javelinas), an animal that bears a superficial resemblance to pigs. Critics rebut that there is no archeological evidence that peccaries have ever been domesticated.

Wrong approach. Joseph Smith, a farmer, living in farming communities, would have known that swine refers to “Any of various omnivorous, even-toed ungulates of the family Suidae, including pigs, hogs, and boars, having a stout body with thick skin, a short neck, and a movable snout.” That is, he would have known what pigs, hogs and boars were, and that the word “swine,” (Ether 9:18), is generally meant to be “pig.”

The point is, first of all, the Book of Mormon needs no further explanation meant to change the meaning or wordage of the scriptural record—the book can stand on its own, and 2) those who try to make such changes in hopes of proving a point, actually work against the purpose of the book itself.

The Book of Mormon needs no one to apologize for it. It is the word of God as written by various ancient prophets in the Western Hemisphere, abridged by one prophet under the direction of the Lord, and translated by another prophet under the direction of the Spirit. Nothing more needs be said other than to quote the record correctly and specifically as it is written.

Those who try to apologize for it, make changes in it, or claim what is written really means something else, do a disservice to the book itself, to the Lord, and to the Church in general. If one wants to write about the Jaredites and Nephites and what is written about them in the scriptural record, then one should hold true to the faith of what is written, for it is correct—every whit!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who Are the LDS Apologists Critics Often Quote – Part II

Continuing with the last post, regarding who LDS apologists are, and why they are so labeled by the mainstream sectarian world, the first two examples were covered in the last post. Below continues with the third and additional points:

3. “One apologist has suggested that the “chariots” mentioned in the Book of Mormon might refer to mythic or cultic wheeled vehicles.”

Wrong approach. Once again, the record states “chariot,” and is used at least in one circumstance as a vehicle for a king and his passenger: “They should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi” (Alma 18:9), and that the King and Ammon journeyed forth obviously in the chariots mentioned (Alma 20:6).

4. “Some apologists claim that wheeled toys have been found in tombs indicating that the wheel was known by ancient American peoples. Mainstream archaeologists are not convinced the toys are of ancient origin, since other artifacts were also found in the tombs that are clearly out of place. It is suspected that the toys were introduced into the tombs after the arrival of Europeans on the continent.” In addition, mainstream archaeologists claim that “Chariots would, of course, suggest wheels. This is another gross blunder. The wheel was never used in America before the coming of the Europeans, and was not adopted by the Indians even after they had come into possession of the Spanish horses.... The wheel was never used in making pottery.”

Diane E. Wirth, in her scholarly work, “Parallels,” explains that “until recently, scholars were of the opinion that the potter’s wheel was not used anywhere in pre-Columbian America. But with a new find of a potter's wheel in the excavations of Pashash, Peru, scholars have reevaluated their views. Rotary tools, drill bits, and a spindle were also found there.”

5. “One LDS apologist argues that few chariot fragments have been found in the Middle East dating to Biblical times (apart from the disassembled chariots found in Tutankhamun’s tomb), therefore wheeled chariots did exist in ancient America and it is not unreasonable that archaeologists have not discovered any evidence of them.”

This is an argument that carries no weight with mainstream archaeologists, especially since there is other evidence in the Old World.

6. Critics counter that although few fragments of chariots have been found in the Middle East, there are many images of ancient chariots on pottery and frescoes and in many sculptures of Mediterranean origin, thus confirming their existence in those societies. The absence of these images among pre-Columbian artwork found in the New World, they state, does not support the existence of Old World–style chariots in the New World.

This is why any statement about the Book of Mormon must be well-thought-out, and encompass all the known information regarding the subject. The fact that evidence of chariots from Roman days onward is well known and documented, only adds to the fuel of the term “apologist.”

7. “Another LDS apologist speculates that the word "chariot" in the Book of Mormon may refer to a non-wheeled vehicle.”

Wrong approach. Whatever the chariots of King Lamoni were, they were pulled by horses. This seems obvious in the mention of horses and chariots in the same sentence (Alma 18:9-10,12;20:6). However, these chariots were configured, they would have been something that a horse could pull and fit the regality of a king and his guest.

(See the next post, “Who Are the LDS Apologists Critics Often Quote – Part III,” for more on this subject and to see why apologists trying to change the meanings of words in the scriptural record have led to the very label “apologist.”