Saturday, February 1, 2014

More Comments Answered Part III

Continuing with more comments from readers of our website, along with our responses:
    Comment #1: “At the end of the Nephite wars with the Lamanites, Mormon writes that his several “generals’ all commanded 10,000 men. That seems like a simple number and odd for one man to command that many others in battle” Alden.
    Response: For the purpose of the final battle of the Nephites against an overwhelming Lamanite army, Mormon divides his overall army up into 23 strategic commands of 10,000 men each, under the leadership of 21 of his trusted “Captains,” (2-star Generals by today's standard), with himself and his son also commanding a 10,000-man unit, for an overall number of 230,000 troops. While there were also women and children among his commands, and since it would be unusual to list women and children as part of a military or group number, it is possible there were another 100,000 to 200,000 Nephites among Mormon’s overall control (Mormon 6:10).
In regard to the “simple number,” the Lachish Letters, which were written on potsherds just before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C., and discovered in 1938 by J. L. Starkey, regarding events in Jerusalem, a man named Yaush, a high commander at Lachish, commanded a force of 10,000 troops, which is the same number of troops commanded in The Amarna Letters, a group of 350 clay tablets found at Arkahetan, written between the Egyptian Pharoah and his Canaanite representatives. Evidently, both Israel and Egypt had commanders commanding 10,000 troops around this time. In the U.S. Army, a Division contains 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers, which is commanded by a 2-star Major-General, which is typically closer to 10,000 in actuality. A Brigade, from 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, is usually deployed in tactical operational units of two, which could be a total of 10,000, commanded by a Colonel, but in case of a two-unit tactical deployment, is commanded by a 1-star Brigadier General. Both in the past and present, a single commander of a 10,000-man unit is practical; however, it should not be overlooked that this single commander would have numerous sub-commanders to carry out orders and actually direct the control of these sub-units. In the U.S. Army today, a Division has three to five Brigades, each commanded by a Colonel; each Brigade has three to five Battalions, each commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel; each Battalion has three to four Companies, each commanded by a Captain; each Company has three to four Platoons, with each Platoon commanded by a First Lieutenant; and each Platoon has three to five Squads, each commanded by a First or Staff Sergeant. l would think that each of Mormon's 23 commands had a similar type of breakdown, as was seen in the ancient Roman military.
    Comment #2: Smithsonian archaeologists claim that iron and steel were not known or available in the Americas before 1492 when the Spaniards arrived. They claim mentioning of this in the Book of Mormon is incorrect” Grayson.
    Response: First of all, the Smithsonian did say that “except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron”; however, the Smithsonian has been shown to be incorrect in their statements numerous times. They also have shown articles, pictures, etc., of many “scientific facts” that are not only unproven, but rejected by numerous scientists, such as the Bering Land Bridge, and Western Hemisphere settlement from north to south, when archaeologists show it was from south to north. In addition, it should be noted that while the Smithsonian makes such a claim, numerous findings in Ecuador, Chile and Peru, which date back to B.C. times, have shown that iron mines existed and iron was worked in the Andean area of South America. Also in addition, iron was well known and worked in Egypt dating into the 2nd and possibly the 3rd millennium B.C., as well as some other Old World cultures, and there was obviously close ties between Egypt and the neighboring peoples of the Palestine region for much of this time--so it stands to reason that there would have been interactions which included the trading of goods and technologies. As an example, many critics object to Nephi’s bow of steel, which he had with him when they left Jerusalem, and which broke at the time they were passing by the Red Sea, but it was obviously made prior to that time, very likely in Egypt and probably obtained by Lehi during one of his interactions with the Egyptians.
A steel sword found near Jerusalem made of Philistine steel and dates to around 600 B.C.
    It should also be kept in mind that steel is produced from iron, which is the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, and is present in every continent. As has been mentioned in these posts numerous times, iron has been worked since very ancient times as well as making steel from iron, and there should be no surprise it is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Even using the coals of a regular fire a low grade of steel can be produced, which is the process of combining iron and carbon. The fact that the Smithsonian weighed in on this matter is not surprising for them, but well beyond their knowledge. Just because a steel sword has not been found in the Americas, by archaeological reasoning, does not mean they did not exist. The country would be better served through its Smithsonian tax dollars for the Institution to keep to the things they can show and prove rather than speculate on what they cannot prove or show.
    Comment #3: “I find the idea that an ancient record was kept on gold plates two thousand years ago rather tedious, especially since it is such a monotonous dialogue in Mormon discussions, as well as your blog. Have you ever tried writing on metal with some type of stylus? It is more than difficult. It is like trying to write on a pinhead with a grease pencil!” Garrick.
Ancient writing on metal plates of gold: Left: Etruscan writing on gold plates dated to 500 B.C.; Center book in Bulgaria dated to 500 B.C., ; Right: A Hebrew prayer, written with Greek letters on a scroll of thin gold
    Response: First of all, your comment should give you a deep appreciation of those who had to do this in order to preserve a record for a future generation. Secondly, writing anciently on stone and metal was the only way a written record could be preserved, and was done by King’s (scribes) in various countries for millennia. Anciently, such writing was called a “Book of Remembrance” (Moses 6:5; Malachi 3:16; see also William Poole, A Book of Remembrance, the Mysteries of God, Unwin Brothers, London, 1878)
    From antiquity God has commanded his people to keep records. In the days of Adam, the people wrote a book of remembrance "by the spirit of inspiration" to identify the faithful, to "know" their fathers (Moses 6:45-46), to define "the right of priesthood" (Abraham 1:31), and to promote literacy (Moses 6:6). Biblical records indicate similar practices (Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:5; Ezekiel 13:9). Lehi was commanded to obtain the brass plates to “enlarge their memory” (Alma 37:8), so that his posterity might know whence and from whom they came and might not lose the language of their fathers. Later, the Savior admonished the Nephites to be accurate and complete in their record keeping (3 Nephi 23:7-13), and quoted Malachi (3:16-17), which includes a statement about keeping a book of remembrance (3 Nephi 24:16-18). President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity” (Spencer W. Kimball, "Listen to the Prophets." Ensign, May 1978, p.76).
    Comment #4: “All your discussion about the Urim and Thummim seems quite self-serving. Besides, whoever heard of it among the Jews?” Thommen G.
Response: Much could be written about the sacred Temple clothing in Ancient Israel, but I’ll respond only to your question here: “The Urim and Thummim, (left) traditionally translated to mean “light and perfection,” was a device worn on the ancient a Jewish High Priest's breastplate, through which he received answers from God. In 1 Samuel 14:41, Saul discovered the sinner in a group by continually splitting the group into subgroups while asking for “Urim” or “Thummim.” Some suggest that the Urim and Thummim therefore used cleromancy, because this verse in the Septuagint version indicates the object was manipulated. Also, the next verse says they “cast lots.” Because all but two recorded uses of the device brought yes or no answers, some scholars believe it produced single words. Talmudic rabbis traditionally believed light shined from the gems on the breastplate to create letters that spelled out an answer. Josephus said it shined brilliantly. Some even said the gems moved. The Urim and Thummim was believed to have been created by God and given to Moses. It was used for matters that concerned the entire congregation. Recently, scholars have done extensive research and determined that the Urim and Thummim had a significant role in ancient Israel for receiving revelation from God” (Cornelis Van Dam, The Urim and Thummim, “A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel,” Eisenbrauns, Indiana, 1997)

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