Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part VII

In the first three of these posts we discussed the facts and scriptures surrounding the Nephite building materials. In the last two posts we have answered the specific statements about not using stone and clarifying the point. We continue here:
Comment #20: “More common techniques are building with earth (see Alma 48:8; 49:2; 50:2; 53:4) and wood (see 2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 11:8–10; Alma 50:2–3; 53:4; Helaman 3:9–11).”
Response: An earth embankment is a “quick fix” to a long-term problem, and though used extensively, would not be a good defense against repeated attacks. The scriptural term “cast up dirt” (used twice) and is used in the same way as “throwing up dirt”—that is, digging and throwing the dirt upon a pile (Alma 48:8). This is a totally different meaning than “building walls of stone” (Alma 48:8). You can throw dirt, but you build with stone. Thus, it can be seen that a quick fix was to throw dirt up into a pile, but when time allowed, the building of stone walls was actually preferred.
Left: The typical type of rampart construction of earth piled high to form a trench with timbers along the top as described in Alma 50:2-3; 53:4; Right: Another type of “throwing up dirt” to create a steep incline up which an attacking force would have to climb, as described in Alma 50:1,4
Comment #21: “Cement (limestone plaster?) was used only in the land northward and only when there were not enough trees (see Helaman 3:5–11).
Response: According to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language the word “cement” referred to a glutinous substance (glue) and building cement was simply a more hardenable material. What we know today as Portland cement was not invented until 1827. The word we read in the scriptural record as “cement” should probably be translated as mortar, and could refer to plaster or stucco type substances.
Comment #22: “Wood was clearly the preferred Nephite building material, but it does not survive well archaeologically, especially in Mesoamerica. To re-emphasize Gee's point, if the Nephites built mainly with wood, then such buildings would decompose rather quickly leaving few prominent or obvious ruins.”
Response: We have covered this point several times. It might be noted that wood preserves very well in the Andean area of South America, and even after 2500 years can be evidenced in some of their building for roof framing and frame work, even a few lintels.
Comment #23: “I seriously question whether the Nephites ever built anything similar to the elaborate temple complexes of Mesoamerica.  Such projects undoubtedly required slave labor to construct, involved heavy taxation of the resources of the community, and required a monarchial government to impose such requirements.”
The Temple of Herod, or Second Temple, built in the last century B.C. in Jerusalem, and was much more magnificent, larger, and imposing than the First Temple of Solomon; however, no slave labor was used to build this--it was a work of dedication and religious desire
Response: A person can doubt anything they want, but the temple complexes seen in the Western Hemisphere are similar in extent, labor, and elaborate construction as Jerusalem from which Nephi, Sam and Zoram came. Wood temples, structures and even wood homes were not consistent with Jewish custom in 600 B.C. Jerusalem as has been shown. As for slave labor, it was thought for centuries that the great Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves, however, recent excavations of the Sphinx area shows these temples and the great pyramids were built by paid servants who labored under far better conditions than many laborers in more modern times. As for the Nephites, it was the Army that labored to build the magnificent areas described. In addition, contrary to public belief and Hollywood movies, governments imposed less restrictions on people of antiquity than people realize, and in most cases, the king’s rule had less authority away from his general area of existence, living, rule and travel. Rather than slave labor, it was usually through taxation that money was raised and public buildings constructed, as can be seen in the case of King Noah, otherwise, why heavily tax the people?
Where there were slaves, most were treated well through early history, despite Hollywood’s attempt to show otherwise. The Jews were under religious law to treat slaves well, and Rome found it prudent to maintain peace in their conquered realm by treating their slaves well. Dictators, warlords and conquerors like Gengis Khan and Alexander the Great, built up their power by bringing defeated men into their inner circle (sometimes thousands strong), creating an army that willingly followed, and gaining power and fame of their own through the leader’s power and strength. Slaves were not needed—just followers (one notable exception to this was the building of the Great Wall of China where it is reported that one million slaves and criminals were used in its construction).
Comment #24: “When you read the account of righteous King Mosiah (Mosiah Ch. 2) who refused to tax his people, working with his own hands for his support, not placing unbearable burdens upon the people, and certainly not placing them in servitude, it is difficult to envision him building huge cities, public works, or monuments beyond the actual needs of the community.”
King Benjamin’s final address to his people. His was a leadership role in marked contrast to king Noah
Response: Obviously, King Benjamin was a very unusual leader. When the Priesthood is in control, righteousness has a very strong chance of spreading throughout the people. This has not always been the case, but probably at times better than most believe. Abraham was such a leader, as was Melchizedek. Mormon’s description of Captain Moroni in Alma 48:11-17 is inspiring—but of men we are not too often privileged to read such things.
Comment #25: “But such things (extensive building) were the product of wicked and oppressive monarchs such as Riplaskish (see Ether Ch. 10) who enslaved his people and taxed them to the point that they rebelled against him, all to "build many spacious buildings".
Response: Actually, he taxed his people and with that tax money paid others to build lavish and spacious buildings (Ether 10:5). These were not built out of slave labor. In addition, when a person could not pay the heavy taxes levied, they were put in prison, and forced  “to labor for their support.” While taxes are an evil thing above and beyond minimal and needful government requirements, it is not true enslavement, such as in with the Jaredites under Riplakish’s governance. The same thing through taxes was achieved by the Nephite King Noah who used tax money to build many elegant and spacious palaces and buildings (Mosiah 11:8), and lived off the support of the people in a lavish and evil manner (Mosiah 11:3-4).
Comment #26: “Noah built his palace out of wood” Albion T.
Response: In fact, Noah “also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things. And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass” (Mosiah 10:10-11). As we read this, we find only the interior of the temple and his throne were made of wood—fine wood, with gold and silver and precious things adorning the interior of the temple.

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