Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where did Lehi Live Before Departing into the Wilderness? Part XI

Continuing with Chadwick’s article sent to us by one of our readers, the “comments” are Chadwick’s writing regarding his belief in where Lehi’s home and property were located, and the “response” is our reply based mostly on the scriptural record.
Comment: “5) Lehi "beheld a rod of iron" (1 Nephi 8:19 see 1 Nephi 8:24 and 30). It is noteworthy that no other artificial object in his dream is described with such specificity. He does not, for example, mention the material from which the large building was constructed. That he actually noted what specific metal the rod was made of, rather than just calling it a rod or handrail, suggests that Lehi was especially sensitive to or interested in metals, as a smith would naturally be.” 
    Response: Again, this might be true. On the other hand, the way the oriental mind (Middle East) works, it is not strange to use numerous adjectives, such as rod of iron. Consider in this 25 verse 833 word description of Lehi’s dream, the following adjective phrases are used, some more than once: Dreamed a dream; Dark and dreary wilderness; Dark and dreary waste; Large and spacious field; River of water; Narrow path; Great and spacious building; Head of the river; Fruit of the tree; Depths of the fountain. Referring to a rod made of iron is certainly in keeping with this type of writing. And, since Lehi was beside the rod, he was no doubt aware of its composition. In our western minds, we would simply say a rod or rail, or we might say a wood rail or a metal rail, but eastern thinking and writing is quite different. Now if Lehi had said, “I beheld a rod and it was made of iron,” then we might place more emphasis on this fact, but simply saying a “rod of iron” is little different than saying a “mist of darkness” or “fruit of the tree.” These are simply statements of description by a writing sequence unused in the West. On the other hand, one might want to consider that Lehi's description noted by Nephi does show this rod of iron was the word of God--what better importance could be attached to the word of God and its steadfast purpose in our lives than to be represented as iron--the most hardened surface in the time of Lehi; and mentioning it as iron draws attention to the fact that it was not just some unimportant item, but represented the ministry of the Son of God.
Comment: “6) Nephi describes what eventually became known as the Liahona (1 Nephi 16:10 see Alma 37:38). He notes that it was made of "fine brass" and was of "curious workmanship." These are the types of assessments that one who has experience with quality brass work, such as a smith, would make.” 
    Response: Again, this is quite possible. On the other hand, the description of fine brass is again in keeping with the way the eastern mind thinks—in terms of adjectives. While we would say brass, the eastern mind thinks in terms of an adjective to describe the brass. It does not take a metallurgist to see that something made is of fine quality--especially in the 600 B.C. era, where advanced tools to make such an instrument did not exist. We are so used to such things in our day and age (the fine workmanship of craftsmen) that we don’t often think of things this way, but out in the middle of the wilderness where there were no refinements, no finely made products laying around, and most objects known made of clay (pottery), something made of metal would be quite unique, and when made by the Lord, one can only imagine what fine workmanship it was. Certainly worthy of an exclamation. “Made of fine brass” tells us of its material, and “curious workmanship” tells us it was skillfully and beautifully made. In addition, while scriptures in the Book of Mormon frequently have depth and meaning beyond our first reading, they do not contain hidden messages of which they are not apparent to the average individual.
     Comment: “7) Nephi knew how to smelt metallic ore from rock and forge tools with the metal made from the ore (1 Nephi 17:9–16). This is obvious evidence that he was skilled in all aspects of the metallurgical knowledge of the period. Note that Nephi does not know how to work with wood or how to design a seagoing vessel—these skills are taught him by God (see 1 Nephi 18:1–2)—but he does know, without divine tutorial, how to work in metal and forge tools, indicating it was a previously mastered skill.” 
Response: Not long ago, at the age of 64, never having built anything larger than a stereo cabinet in all my life, and never having worked with wood, metal, or any other material (I ran businesses from behind a desk or lectured to audiences across the country), I designed a 7,400 square foot, two story home, and built it with my own hands (along with my wife), including designing a complicated roof, a 1000-foot overhanging deck, full cabinets in two extensive kitchens, installing huge granite counters, installing three shower units and the plumbing and units in five full bathrooms, over five miles of electrical wire, all interior and outside plumbing, numerous retaining walls, etc., etc., etc., without a single bit of previous knowledge, experience, or help. My father, who sat behind a desk all his business life, was capable of making and fashioning tools, makeshift objects, and numerous other items, yet had no training or experience (his father was a traveling salesman for Studebaker). What modern man forgets is that a person is both capable of accomplishing great things so long as he has a positive attitude and belief in himself, and that in times past when products were not available (or money to buy them) man has always been able to make what he needed. Nephi does not tell us his tools were of fine workmanship, only that he made them. He does not tell us how great was his bellows, only that it worked. Many years later, he tells us about his temple “and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16). It is entirely possible, unlike today and the past many centuries, people in Nephi’s day knew how to do many fields of craft out of necessity—they didn’t have a Sears, a corner hardware store, or grocer. They did for themselves what modern man buys from others. As for Nephi's positive attitude, can a person be more positive than "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them" (1 Nephi 3:7).
    Comment: “8) On arrival in ancient America, Lehi's party found "all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper." The inclusion of these items in their assessment of resources available to them indicates not only their value but implies the ability to use them in metalworking.” 
Response: This one is a stretch. When the conquistadors invaded the New World, they were interested in gold, silver and precious things though they were merely soldiers. They searched for it, and where it was not readily available, they dug for it. Were they metallurgists? One of the things Nephite wrote about early on was that his father’s wealth of gold, silver, riches and previous things, were left behind. When their first attempt to obtain the brass plates failed, Nephi thought of the gold, silver and precious things his father had left behind. When he arrived in the Land of Promise, he mentioned "all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” Perhaps he was trying to tell us that though they left all their wealth at Jeruslaem when the Lord told them to flee, they recouped that wealth in the Land of Promise after being obedient to the Lord. In addition, before mentioning the ore, Nephi mentioned that tilling the ground and planting the seeds and having an exceeding harvest. He also mentioned finding beasts in the forests of every kind, and described them, then he mentioned the ore. He also might have been telling us these things so we understood that they had sustenance (planting) wild animals (eating), farm animals, and ore to make things.
    Comment: “9) Nephi made "plates of ore" and lists the various records that he had "engraven" upon them (1 Nephi 19:1)—in other words, Nephi was experienced not only in ore smelting and metalworking but also in engraving long texts on the metal he worked.”
Response: It is likely that when Nephi made these plates, it was some thirty years after leaving Jerusalem. In those thirty years, Nephi would have had much experience building, both with wood and with metal. Therefore, it would not require a metallurgist to be able to make these plates. First of all, gold is very malleable, and to make sheets for engraving, would require much patience hammering and hammering until you had the thickness desired. Nor do we know that Nephi was not instructed by the Lord initially in how to work with metal, though he didn’t mention it in the record we have—what may be on the large plates we do not know. Nor do we know on what material Lehi wrote his record, but it was probably on perishable parchment, etc., because Nephi engraved Lehi’s record on the large plates. Again, Nephi was not a shipwright, but he built a ship far beyond any man’s ability or knowledge at the time. Of course, the Lord showed him how to build it, but Nephi might have mentioned that only because a future reader might wonder how he could have done such a thing—however, few people are going around asking how he made plates of gold to engrave upon.
(See the next post, “Where did Lehi Live Before Departing into the Wilderness? Part XII,” for more of Chadwick’s comments regarding where Lehi lived before he and his family went into the wilderness)

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