Friday, November 29, 2013

An Attempt to Put Other People in the Land of Promise – Part I

One of our readers sent in this website publication entitled: “Other Peoples in the Promised Land,” from the "Book of Mormon Resources website," posted on Friday, April 6, 2012. Like some others we have been sent, this is too long and too full of errors to simply answer in a short paragraph or two, consequently, we are posting the entire articler here with our responses per subject.    
    Comment: The Book of Mormon never states or even infers that the various groups of people mentioned in its pages were the only peoples living in the Americas during the time period of approximately 2500 BC to 300 BC during the Jaredite period; or from 590 BC to 421 AD during the Nephite/Lamanite period.” 
    Response: Conversely, the Book of Mormon never states or even infers that anyone other than the participants mentioned, i.e., Jaredites, Nephites, Mulekites and Lamanites were ever in the Land of Promise during these periods.
However, that never stops some types of people from speculating.
As for never saying no one else was there, it must be strange to read Lehi’s promise given to him by the Lord when he said, “But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:5—note the term “also all those who should be led” in the future tense). And also, “there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (12 Nephi 1:6—note no one should be in the land except those “brought” by the Lord). We should keep in mind that the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), and after the Flood, was devoid of life until the Jaredites arrived about 300 years later. With the residue of Noah’s family extending outward from Mesopotamia during those 300 years or so, it is unlikely that anyone came to this particular island some 15,000 miles away. So who would have been there?
   Comment: “On the contrary, there are numerous suggestions and indications that there were other groups of people with which the main Lehite colony, or its sub-parts, came in contact.  Following are the scriptural references of many passages that suggest or infer the existence of other groups of indigenous peoples.” 
Response: In looking over the following verses, keep in mind the tense used, for there is no question that others were to be led to this land in the future, and Nephi not only had a vision of such, but outlined it quite extensively in 1 Nephi 13.
    Comment: “2 Nep. 1:5-11 - Other peoples would be led to the Americas.  These could have preceded the Book of Mormon people.” 
    Response: Would be led is future tense. Lehi was prophesying to his children just before he died, and said, “Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” These are all future tense, and not one statement makes sense if there were already people who  had been brought to the Land of Promise other than those mentioned in the scriptural record before Lehi arrived.
    Comment: “2 Nep. 5:6-9 - All those who would go with Nephi: inferring that there were others besides his own family and those mentioned by name.” 
    Response: When Nephi is told to flee from his older brothers, he states: “it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.” All those who would go with him were those of the original Lehi colony who believed in the revelations of God as Nephi states. This may have included some of Ishmael’s grandchildren, perhaps Ishmael’s wife, if she were still living, and those of his household not mentioned by name earlier. In fact, we don’t even know if Nephi’s mother was still alive at the time, of if Lehi brought anyone from his household, such as servants. Actually, we don’t even know how long the colony lived in this area of first landing before Lehi died, nor do we know how large the colony was that left the land of Jerusalem. To claim an outside, indigenous group in the Land of Promise without even knowing who and how many might have been included in Lehi’s colony and unnamed seems a little ridiculous. To think there were other people in the area, who believed in God, and were not mentioned is beyond speculating, it is downright negative commentary upon the record keeping of Nephi and other prophets.
    Comment: “2 Nep. 5:15-16 - Within barely 30 years after leaving Jerusalem, the Nephites had built a large temple.  In that short period of time there probably weren’t more than 100 Nephites, many of whom would have been children or teenagers, so the inference is that there must have been many other able-bodied men enough to construct the temple in addition to their own homes.” 
Response: As has been written here many times, the original temple of Solomon was nowhere near as large as the one of Herod that we know about. Nor do we know how the original temple of Solomon was built or what it looked like, nor even where it was built. To try and make comparisons between Solomon’s temple, of which we know next to nothing, and Nephi’s temple is a waste of time. Nor should we think that Nephi’s temple was as large and as well appointed as what Solomon built. What we do know is that in order to practice the Law of Moses, a temple was needed, and Nephi made his temple sufficient for the time and circumstances. He told us “And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.” Much erroneous writing and scoffing has been given about Nephi’s temple that is undeserved. He built a temple “that could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple” but that what he did build “was exceedingly fine.” That it’s “manner of construction” was like Solomon’s temple merely tells us that it had the rooms and appointments necessary to worship the Law of Moses, as did Solomon's temple.
   Comment: “2 Nep. 5:34 - After only 30 years in the New World (essentially only 40 years since leaving Jerusalem) the Nephites had already had wars with the Lamanites (in only 2 generations); and there would have been only approximately 150 people on each side, hardly enough to be considered having a war unless thousands of indigenous peoples were also involved.” 
    Response: As stated above, we do not know the numbers of people that came in the Lehi colony. We know who Nephit told us, but like not mentioning his sisters until fleeing from his brothers in the Land of Promise, nor not telling us when or where they were born, or who Jacob and Joseph married, when and where his mother and Ishmael’s wife died, etc., etc., etc., it is not unusual for oriental writing to not include such matters.
In addition, wars and contentions do not necessarily mean how we would translate those words in our language today. In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, including language of the New England area of Joseph Smith's day, a definition of "war" is also "Hostility: state of opposition or contest; act of opposition" as well as "Enmity: a disposition to contention" as well as "to invade or attack," and "to carry on a contest" as in Paul's admonition to Timothy: "that thou mightest war a good warfare"  (I Timothy 1:18). A war, therefore, could mean nothing more than a fight, a skirmish—with little or no contact or death; on the other hand, it could mean that actual sword fighting between the two groups could have taken place, which might have resulted in wounded people, even some death. War can be interpreted to mean struggle, strife, fight, armed conflict, etc., as well as warfare, battle, etc. On the other hand contention means heated disagreement, quarrel, dispute, argument, etc. Consider that these two words, used together, might suggest that the two groups (Nephite and Lamanites) had heated quarrels and arguments, that developed into fighting, and someone might have drawn a sword or shot and arrow and a battle took place. But it should be remembered that few men will fight to the death in such an arrangement. They tend to acquiesce and retreat to lick their wounds. On a small scale, you can have a war with a handful of people, if that battle involves the majority of people on two sides. This does not suggest either a large force or a small one and no particular size can be drawn from such events.
(See the next post, “An Attempt to Put Other People in the Land of Promise – Part II,” for more information on the website article sent to us and whether or not the scriptural record tells us that there were other people in the Land of Promise)


  1. I am glad you discussed what war meant in 1830. I did not know that and it now makes more sense. When you think of war parties among the Native Americans.. they were usually relatively small. An example would be in the movie "Dances with Wolves". They were very small as a group and yet had wars.

  2. Actually, one man can go to war--even books have been written and movies have been made of such. On the American frontier, as you suggest, the Indians had "war parties," often around a dozen men. The term has always been used loosely when not involved in a formal declaration of war between nations.