Monday, August 26, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part II

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “You Mormons cite James 1:5 in support of your beginning. However, James 1:5 is speaking about believers asking God for wisdom to overcome temptation (James 1:2-18), not about unbelievers asking God to reveal to them whether a particular book is Scripture. The Bible tells us to apply objective tests to alleged revelations (Deut. 13:1-5; Matt. 7:15-23; 1 John 4:1-6), not to seek a purely subjective revelation of the truth of a written revelation” Laurin M.
Response: Hmmm. I read this as “God giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not,” and then adds, “and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). All men. I don’t read “just to believers.” And if you ask sincerely, the Lord will not upbraideth—give no reproach. But that is not all. James says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). And when he does, and receives an answer, as Joseph Smith did, James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness” (James 1:17). Matthew also tells us along this line: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7), and to make sure we do not fall into your type of thinking, he adds, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:8). And to make sure that we understand that God will respond when we so seek, ask, and knock, Matthew adds, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will be give him a serpent? …how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11). It seems to me that Joseph asked, with real intent and sincere heart, and received as promised. Why you and others want to deny what the scriptures promise us, is beyond me.
Comment #2:Thanks for the excellent information on engravings on metal plates!” Alex D.
Response: Thank you. I remember a time when no one believed people wrote on gold or metal plates, but now we know that it was very prevalent during the time of Lehi.
Comment #3: “I read somewhere that in the ancient past, the Earth rotated quicker than today, and had only 290 days rather than our 365 ¼ days like now. Doesn’t this throw out the ancient calendars you claim existed in South America?” Dylan G.
Response: The Lord told Abraham that each planet belonged to an order, and each order had a set time of its rotation (Abraham Ch 3). This would seem that the Earth would have always had the same rotational period as it has today.
Comment #3: “Another term that Wellington and Potter examine to help determine both the path to and the location of the Valley of Lemuel is “borders.” They make a distinction between "the borders near the shore of the Red Sea" and “the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (2:5). Concluding that “borders” actually means “mountains,” they surmise that Nephi is speaking of two mountain ranges, one near and the other nearer the Red Sea. There are multiple Hebrew terms translated as “borders” in the King James version of the Bible that relate to geography, the most common being gĕbûl, which term Wellington and Potter equate with “mountain” Ernestine.
Response: First of all, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon states that the Hebrew word gĕbûl actually means territory or boundary. Secondly, Nephi uses the word borders (1 Nephi 2:5, 8; 16:14) and mountains (1 Nephi 11:1; 16:30; 17:7) without difficulty elsewhere in his writing, so there is no reason to believe he meant mountains instead of borders in 1 Nephi 2:5.
In addition, there are two separate areas of the Red Sea along Lehi’s path. One is the Gulf of Aqaba (located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai Peninsula), which is the northern extension of the Red Sea. The trail south from Jerusalem, through the Wadi Rum, would have passed along by that area—or stated differently, the Lehi Colony “came down by the borders of the Red Sea” (i.e., the Gulf of Aqaba off the Red Sea), “and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (along the Red Sea itself). It is always amazing to me how people writing about the Book of Mormon like to inject superfluous ideas into the simple statements of the scriptural record.
Comment #4: “There are several places where tents are mentioned in the Book of Mormon, used by both Nephites and Lamanites both at different times. I saw in a painting of Lehi finding the Liahona after emerging from what looked like an old style army tent. Weren’t the tents of Lehi’s day different from that?” Jill Y.
The Army style tents some artists use in their artwork of Lehi finding the Liahona in 1 Nephi 16:10
Response:  In the time period indicated, tents were usually used by nomadic people who followed their flocks to pasture and water, and moved around according to the seasons—these were mostly Bedouins (Arabs). There were also semi-nomadic people, who were based in a village but lived part of the year in upper or lower pasture areas. On the other hand, Lehi, who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem in a regular home, also had tents (1 Nephi 2:4), though such would have been unusual for the Jews living inside the walls of Jerusalem to own.
Tents of the day were large, typically having two separate sections. The front section was used for work, and was the public area of the tent, open to visitors. The men of the family lived here, ate their meals here, gathered here with family members or friends, and conducted business here if necessary, and was left open in warm weather. The second or rear part of the tent was private, and was divided from the front by a curtain. This is where the women, children and babies lived and slept. 
Tents were large, with at least two sections, and rooms divided by curtains. It took three donkeys or camels to carry a single tent: one for the poles and ropes, a second for the tent itself, and a third for the curtains and interior rugs, etc.
These tents were made from goats' hair or dark sheep's wool, woven in rectangular strips on large looms. Women wove the fabric for the tents, stitched them together, and kept them in good repair. They also made the ropes that tethered the tents to the ground. In effect, they were the craftspeople who produced the housing. 
Women also set up the tents each time the family or group moved to a new site, selected by the women and usually situated on hilltops in summer to capture the breeze, and in winter on the leeward side of valleys, just above the base where flash floods could occur. They used wooden mallets and tent pegs they hoisted up and secured the unwieldy tents. When it was time to move on, they took down the tents, folded them and stowed them for the journey. While this might seem heavy work to us, the Hebrew women were sturdy and skilled, and they worked as a group. In the case of Lehi’s family, we know of at least two daughters mentioned only once when Nephi is explaining who went with him when leaving their first landing site after Lehi died: “...and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 5:6), there would only have been Sariah and the two daughters, so undoubtedly the four sons helped set up the tents during their early sojourn in the wilderness. However, after all were married, no doubt the five wives and Sariah and Ishmael’s wife set up the tents during the many years in the wilderness to Bountiful.
Left: Tents were set up by the women, and (Right) it took three donkeys or camels to carry one tent
Generally, in a family such as Lehi’s, there would be a tent for the parents, with each adult son having his own tent. This is shown in Lehi’s case when Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem after the brass plates. “I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 3:9). Nor were these tents the one Lehi and Sariah stayed in, for when Nephi and his brothers returned with the plates, Lehi was living in his own tent: “And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted” (1 Nephi 45:7).

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