Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Covino Comments Answered-Part VIII-A Vapor Darkness

Peter Covino in his True Book of Mormon Geography website, in discussing the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi and prophesied elsewhere, he writes:

1. Covino: “The rivers and seas were untouched. If there had been ash, they would have turned to mud, and become polluted affecting the crops, animals, and areas of habitation. There is no mention of any of this."

However, there is no mention of “river” or “rivers” in all of 3 Nephi, and the term “seas” is not mentioned at all, but “sea” is mentioned twice: “And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned” (3 Nephi 8:9); and “And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned” (3 Nephi 9:4), neither of which refer to the condition of the sea, only to its destructive power. Since muddied water is correctable, or a changing condition that would naturally resort back to its original condition, it would not be mentioned along with the destruction of roads, cities, land forms, and solid rock formations, which changes were permanent. Obviously, the recording of these disasters were major calamities, not muddy water! Consequently, Covino’s comment and interpretation are both unfounded, and offer no clarification whatever.

2. Covino: “The darkness was described as a vapor and was different from smoke or ash.”

However, in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, he defines vapor as “a visible fluid floating in the atmosphere, such as smoke, fog, etc., are in common language called vapors.” He also adds, vapor is “a substance resembling smoke, which sometimes fill the atmosphere,” “to emit fumes” and “convert into vapor from heat.” All of which describes the type of vapors emanating from the heat source of a volcano. And, Nephi made it pretty clear when he quoted the prophet Zenock of what would take place at the savior’s death: “The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up. (1 Nephi 19: 11).

Left: Smoke billowing out of Mt. St. Helen’s 1980 eruption; Right: Smoke, mingled with vapors of steam as the eruption continued

In 1980,  “Mount St. Helens continued to spew an ash plume for more than 9 hours after the lateral blast, reaching over 15 miles into the atmosphere. Volcanic deposits blanketed an area mainly to the northeast— and the ash plume turned daylight to darkness over 120 miles away, and circled the earth in 15 days. It was enough ash to cover a football field to a depth of 150 miles, and “the northern slope of the mountain was buried in several feet of ash.” What was called ash in the past is now called tephra, which has numerous categories, such as pumice, lapilli, spindle, fusiform, blocks, bombs, scoria and cinder. All of these can bury huge areas to a great depth for many miles around.

Obviously, such burying sounds much like: “And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth” 3 Nephi 9:6….” and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth,” (3 Nephi 9:8)

Left: A car buried in ash—note the solid mass burying the car—in the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption, a large portion of the mountain slid down and covered 100 square miles of forest, and a valley was buried by ash to 150’ deep for 14 miles; Right: Vaporous steam and smoke “that could be felt”

In addition, vapor is associated with volcanic eruptions, and are the result of “rapidly released pressurized gases within the volcano.” As steam and ash spew from the crater, and “the plume of steam and ash rises miles into the sky for the rest of the day.”  The vapor of water, of course, is referred to as “steam.” According to the Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol 91, No B12, page 12,233, November 10, 1986: “Volcanic vapors provide a steady flow of elements from the earth’s interior to the atmosphere and exocycle, most notably during explosive volcanic eruptions,” and scientists have known for decades about volcanic vapors, “its opacity is attributable to water vapor, mildly condensed and its reddish color, a volcanic dust, so subtle that it is dragged in a suspended mixture of gases and vapor. In the end, the actions upon the plants, prove without a doubt that chloric acid and sulfurous acid expelled in conjunction with aqueous vapors were dragged with it.”

Obviously, and contrary to Covino’s comments to the opposite, volcanic eruptions create vapor, smoke and ash.

3. Covino: “Some have interpreted the cause of the "three days of darkness" as being from volcanoes, and thus make volcanoes a mandatory part of Book of Mormon geography. That however is not what The Book says: Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up; And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days” (Helaman 14:3,21,27). And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all; And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.”

Obviously, then, the darkness lasted three days! However, Covino’s point is that: “The darkness would have lasted for longer than three days if the ash was so thick you could not light a candle”  (3 Nephi 8:21).

Of course, that is an assumption on his part. The scripture merely says: “And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen” (3 Nephi 8:23). The point being that at the end of three days, light was obviously seen, but there is no mention of the quality of the light, whether the sun shown brightly, or was merely a dim orb in the sky as seen through continually drifting ash. Perhaps it was now possible to light a candle, and see someone close by, and navigate through the streets, etc. Covino is making a huge assumption that it went from total darkness where no light was possible to complete daylight of a regular day. Such an event is highly unlikely, since natural disasters, in fact disasters of any kind, seldom make such a change—improvement is almost always gradual.

Left: Note the gradual lifting of the darkness—you can barely see cars on the street; Right: Getting lighter, you can make out buildings

"And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness; (3 Nephi 8:20).”

During the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote: "Broad sheets of flame were lighting up many parts of Vesuvius;  their light and brightness were the more vivid for the darkness of the was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night."

Whether or not the destruction in 3 Nephi was accompanied by volcanic eruptions is not known, but to dismiss the idea out of hand seems unreasonable since the descriptions in the scriptural record suggests the high possibility of such volcanic eruptions. The only reason Covino wants to eliminate the idea of volcanoes is because in his model of the Land of Promnise, there are no volancoes.

(See the next post, “More Covino Comments Answered-Part IX, for more of Covino’s so-called “errors,” which, in fact, are errors he makes while trying to defend his model)


  1. Eyewitness accounts from the New Madrid earthquake of 1811.

    “We were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness.” – Eliza Bryan

    “A dense black cloud of vapor overshadowed the land.” – Godfrey LeSieur

    “My maw tried to light the lamps; but the darkness was so dense they didn’t help at all.” – Eliza Bryan

  2. More from Eliza Bryan:

    On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, a.m., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do—the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species—the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi— the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed— formed a scene truly horrible.

  3. Clearly, other things besides volcanoes and ash could have been at play.