Monday, August 5, 2013

Baseless Writing About the Book of Mormon

It is always amazing that, with 531 pages in the Book of Mormon, covering 1000 years of Nephite history, and another 1500 years of Jaredite history, one would think that someone wanting to write about this period could find plenty to write about without having to make up their own version of the events. Why writers feel they need to insert their own ideas, speculation and meaning to the written information shows a terrible lack of scholarship.
Take, as an example, an article entitled “Background Information and History—Dissection of Mormon’s Account, written by Don R. Hender, where he makes the statement: “By the time that Mormon's father brought Mormon south into the Land of Zarahemla, much of the forest had been cleared. This was during the times of harvesting the timber and shipping it to the desolate lands of the north as Shiz and the Jaredites had not left much timber standing with which to build cities.” However the scriptural record tells us that the shipping of timber into the Land Northward is shown in 46 B.C. “As timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping” (Helaman 3:10); however, Mormon was not carried by his father into the Land Southward until 366 years later in 320 A.D. (Mormon 1:2). Since the Nephites who went into the Land Northward “did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up, that in time they might have timber to build their houses” (Helaman 3:9), that after 366 years, there would be plenty of timber in the land and since there is no mention of any clearing of the land in the Land Southward, Hender is merely speculating on there being no timber left in the land when Mormon arrived in the Land Southward. Such is not scholarship, and places a huge question mark over anything else he writes.
But that is not all. Hender goes on to say, “When Mormon saw the land, it was filled with people and cities. And what had been to the north and west of the City of Zarahmela, the wilderness of Hermounts, had been reduced greatly.” Now how can anyone talk about the size, shape or distances of the Wilderness of Hermounts? This wilderness is mentioned only once in the entire scriptural record, lying to the north of Zarahemla. The record states: “And it came to pass that when they had all crossed the river Sidon that the Lamanites and the Amlicites began to flee before them, notwithstanding they were so numerous that they could not be numbered. And they fled before the Nephites towards the wilderness which was west and north, away beyond the borders of the land; and the Nephites did pursue them with their might, and did slay them.
"Yea, they were met on every hand, and slain and driven, until they were scattered on the west, and on the north, until they had reached the wilderness, which was called Hermounts; and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts. And it came to pass that many died in the wilderness of their wounds, and were devoured by those beasts and also the vultures of the air; and their bones have been found, and have been heaped up on the earth” (Alma 2: 35-38). We would have to know how far the River Sidon was to the east of Zarahemla in order to determine if the Wilderness of Hemounts was to the west of Zarahemla, or just to the west of the river Sidon.
There is no possibility that anyone can then say, as Hender does, “And what had been to the north and west of the City of Zarahmela, the wilderness of Hermounts, had been reduced greatly.” Reduced by what? Why, by the chopping down of the trees making up the timber the Nephites sent into the Land Northward for those there to use building houses 366 years earlier.  In addition, there is no indication that the Wilderness of Hermounts was to the west of Zarahemla—the scriptural record talks about it being to the north of where they had been fighting, and to the west of the River Sidon (Alma 2:35-36).
But that is not all. Hender goes on to write: “No longer was the route to Zarahemla a round about route southeast along the coast and then southwest up the Sidon valley, but it was a more direct southern route directly to Zarahemla's great central capital city.” Again, this is all speculation, for nothing of the kind is stated in the scriptural record other than “And now I, Mormon, would that ye should know that the people had multiplied, insomuch that they were spread upon all the face of the land” (4 Nephi 1:23). Obviously, Hender likes to create his own Land of Promise scenario. He concludes with “Thus briefly, this is a picture given of the lands and a bit of their past history upon which the discussion of Mormon and the last years of the Nephite nation may proceed,” which is an interesting summation since much of what he said before this is totally inaccurate and nothing more than his own speculation. Certainly, in all of the 531 pages of the Book of Mormon there is no comment about the route from the land Northward to Zarahemla; nor can it be concluded that sending timber into the north country changed the route to Zarahemla to one that was more direct.
In Fourth Nephi, a short writing of only four pages, covering a period from 36 A.D. to 321 A.D., saying nothing about the land—the entire message is about the spirituality, or lack of it, of the people of Nephi following the Lord’s visit to the Land of Promise, and ends with Ammon hiding up the records—“ even all the sacred records which had been handed down from generation to generation, which were sacred -- even until the three hundred and twentieth year from the coming of Christ” (4 Nephi 1:48). Thus it cannot be concluded by Hender that this period of time (some 300 years) was not a period of desolation or cleared forests in the Land Southward, or that any routes into the Land Southward from the north were altered or changed. What took place during that time is simply unknown to us.
Further, Hender writes: Zarahelma and all the land south, as the Jaredites had indicated had been kept as a natural preserve. And thus Zarahemla was for the most part a forested wilderness. Even when the Mulekites migrated there to obtain a better set of living conditions than those offered by the lands of destruction, they traveled to the heart of the land, perhaps by ship up the Sidon river (Magdalena River) and established their city of Zarahemla there.” Obviously, Hender has a specific place in mind; however, it matters little—what is important here is that the scriptural record says one thing and Hender writes another, making it up as he goes. Other than the fact that Amaleki, an eye-witness to the events of Mosiah finding Zarahemla and talking to the leader there about his people: “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). First of all, the land is the Land of Zarahemla, and the Mulekites had always lived there since that was where Mosiah found them. The idea that they landed in the Land Northward is a typical Mesoamerican Theorist claim (spawned by the Olmec culture of antiquity) that is in disagreement with the scriptural record, and the idea the Mulekites traveled from there into the Land Southward, and into the “heart of the land” and “perhaps by ship up the Sidon river” where they establish Zarahemla, is all Hender’s imagination.
But he goes on, To the north and west of Zarahemla lay the vast wilderness of Hermounts. This was the wilderness of beast and animals of all kinds including the migrant domestic animals of the Jaredites which had come for the want of food. There it was that the party of Lehi and the Mulekites where able to gather the domestic flock and herds up for their use in the land.” Now, it is interesting that Lehi found the domestic animals Nephi writes about (1 Nephi 18:25), when that area would have been far to the north of where they landed, and where the scriptural record suggests that Lehi remained. After all, Lehi was in the same area as Laman and Lemuel, from whom Nephi and “those who would go with him” fled into the wilderness, traveling for many days (2 Nephi 5:7).
Then, some three hundred or more years later, Mosiah fled from there northward to where he discovered Zarahemla (Omni 1:13). Finally, the Wilderness of Hermounts is to the north of Zarahemla. It seems most unlikely, and certainly not scriptural, that Lehi found the domesitcated animals in the Wilderness of Hermounts. Of course, that doesn’t stop Hender from his wild and unrealistic speculation.
The point is, this type of baseless speculative writing about the Book of Mormon serves no worthwhile purpose at all. It is not scholarly. It is not helpful. And it sheds a negative light on the Book of Mormon and the Church.


  1. I appreciate your writings Del. You should consider also putting this blog on a Nephicode facebook page.

  2. Good idea. I'll look into it. Thanks.