Thursday, April 18, 2013

Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part VIII

In the first of this series we discussed the facts and scriptures surrounding the Nephite building materials. In the last several  posts we have answered the specific statements about not using stone and clarifying the point. We continue here:
Commenbt #27: “One additional point needs to be made. The Israelites were expressly forbidden to use cut or worked stone in their altars as can be seen from the following references. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon. (Exodus 20:25-26.) And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. (Deuteronomy 27:5.) Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. (Joshua 8:30-31.) I assume that the Nephites were under the same restrictions as the Mosaic Hebrews. Yet Maya and Olmec altars are generally fashioned into elaborate symbolic shapes and engraved with ancient script which would violate these commands. Thus I think we can safely assume that they are not of Nephite manufacture.
Response: Several assumptions are being made here to justify a conclusion. It is assumed the Nephites were under the same restrictions in building as were the Jews, yet there is no reference in the Book of Mormon to suggest this other than they lived the Law of Moses itself (1 Nephi 4:15), knew that righteousness was the result of living the Law of Moses (1Nephi 17:22), and that they did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things according to the Law of Moses (2 Nephi 5:10). On the other hand, Nephi, the law giver in the Land of Promise as Moses was to the children of Israel, stated clearly, “my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him” (2 Nephi 11:4). Yet, “notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled” (2 Nephi 25:24), and that when Christ visited the Nephites after his death, he told them “in me is the law of Moses fulfilled” (3 Nephi 9:17).
The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan at Moab in preparation to reclaiming their land of Palestine
The question at hand is what was given in Deuteronomy and what was its relationship to the Temple building as is suggested above. First of all, the quotes in Chapter 27 is toward the end of a lengthy set of three promises the Lord makes with Israel at Moab, where the Jordan flows into the Red Sea, through his prophet Moses during the 40 days prior to entering the Land of Promise. It was to stand beside the covenant they made in Horeb. The altar being described is not a temple altar, but simply an altar to the Lord and was to be as different from those of Egypt, from which they had just departed, as possible. Nor did this instruction, called the Second Law, have anything to do with the building of the future temple, which would not take place for almost 500 more years. 
Joshua’s altar at Mt. Elba; Right: A drawing of the altar. Note that these were just stacked natural stones, which was a temporary arrangement
In fact, this altar was meant to be temporary, for the children of Israel would be moving on beyond Jordan to reclaim their land, and the Lord merely wanted it made of stacked stones (stones laid upon one another) not manufactured (cut and dressed). This would be very different from the Temple altar they would later build, which was of cedar wood overlaid with gold, or the later one made of brass and set squarely in the middle of the inner courtyard. It might also be noted that I Kings describes the temple being surrounded by a court, which was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams (I Kings l6:36). I believe that reads: Hewn Stones! And it was called the Court of the Priests. There were also carved pillars and dressed stones throughout.
Comment #28: The Jaredites are assumed to correlate with the archaeological Formative and Olmec era peoples.”
Response: This is the first mistake historians make, that of comparing the so-called Olmec culture with the Jaredites. According to Genesis, the Flood came in 2344 B.C., and Noah left the Ark 1 year and 3 days later (Genesis 7:11; 8:6), making in 2343 B.C. Which means the Jaredites would have arrived in the Land of Promise sometime about 2100 B.C. (based upon the chronologies of scripture, listed in two separate works—the Bible and the Book of Moses—it is easy to see that not only did the Flood occur in 2344 B.C., end in 2343 B.C., but that the earth was divided sometime between 2247 and 2008 [see the book Who Really Settle Mesoamerica? for a detailed account of these dates].
The Jaredites, then would have left the tower area after the actual division of the earth, which would be sometime around 2100 B.C. Based upon the other dates included elsewhere in these works, we have arrived at 2116 B.C. for the Jaredite migration). Their arrival in the Land of Promise would be about six years later, or in 2110 B.C., while Mesoamerican Theorists claim the Olmec arrived in 2600 B.C., requiring a Flood date of 3100 B.C., (though recent finds at Zazacatla suggest an older date for the Olmec) Others place the Olmec in Mesoamerica in 1500 B.C., requiring a 2000 B.C. Flood Date, neither of which agree with the two scriptural records cited above. In addition, the Olmec settled in both the Mesoamerican Land Northward and the Land Southward, which does not agree with the scriptural record. The point is, the Olmec culture of Mesoamerica does not fit the Book of Mormon account and requires these Theorists changing the scriptural dates of the Flood and, therefore, the Jaredite voyage.
Comment #29: “The Olmec people built their ceremonial centers and public buildings with earth and stone and clay. The common housing consisted of wood, bamboo, and thatch built on raised mounds of earth.”
Response: The Olmec built out of clay and stone, and included large clay platforms and terraces, usually painted bright shades of red yellow, and purple, and for special ceremonial centers, the Olmec used multicolored clays on the floors to add commotion to the building. They also built stone-mosaic floors and basalt (a kind of stone) columns. The other buildings, probably used as houses for the Olmec people, were rectangular huts made from plants and adobe. There were also buildings with wooden walls covered with clay and palm roofs. Underneath the cities and towns, the Olmecs built an underground, stone drainage system. They carved underdeveloped human figures that resembled jaguars on their architecture, and is thought of as a rain spirit, which may have been a prototype to the later rain gods of Mesoamerican civilizations. 
Unlike many later groups, the Olmec used few types of animals, their selection limited to jaguars, monkeys, serpents, falcons, and eagles. Though they are said to have built the first stepped-stone pyramid in the Americas, they were most famous for their huge busts, mainly of rulers, which had thick lips and broad flat noses, and were made of volcanic rock basalt that had to be quarried more than 80 miles away. They also carved stone and jade.
(See the next post, “Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part VIII,” for more on the building of the Jaredites and the Nephites)

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