Monday, March 31, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part I

We continue to have comments, questions and criticisms being sent in from readers of our blog. Here are a few more with our responses.
     Comment #1: “A Jewish friend sent me this email and I was wondering if it is an accurate criticism of the Book of Mormon. He wrote - “The Book of Mormon, contrary to every precept of the law of Moses, told of temple worship in the new land. Unlike Jews of every time period, your Nephites were never sad about being cut off from the main group and never having looked back to Jerusalem and to God's temple. Even Jews in captivity looked to Jerusalem and God’s temple there, but the Nephites, enjoyed God's presence in a substitute temple in a foreign land. It is obvious that your Book of Mormon portrayed the Nephites as subverting the law of Moses, even though Malachi and Moses commanded the Jews to keep the law until the Messiah should come” Rialto C.
Response: This reminds me a little of an early attack on the Book of Mormon by Alexander Campbell, an Irish-born American minister, who organized the largest Protestant group in the Western Hemisphere called the Campbellites (in Ohio). I seem to recall an article or series of articles he ran around 1830 or so, in one of his newspapers, called the Millennial Harbinger (the other was the Christian Baptist), which had a masthead that included the text of Revelation 14:6-7, about this subject. Anyway, there are a few answers to this: 1) The Nephites did follow the Law of Moses: “And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away” (2 Nephi :24-27);
    2) Nephi did not write about the Jews in Jerusalem because he was more interested in his own people and that preaching of Christ. He said, “For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews. For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations.” (2 Nephi 25:1-2)
    3) It cannot be said that the Nephites did not look back to Jerusalem and the Lord’s people there. In fact, the Nephites were so concerned about this in Jacob’s time (during Nephi's later years), that he took occasion to settle their fears and concerns about being “cut off” from Jerusalem and the Lord. However, Jacob made it clear that the Lord led them to this new land and that they were blessed. He told them “And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Consequently, his arguments are ill-founded. On the other hand, it is the nature of today’s Jews (and for millennia) to reject the word of God—they stoned and killed the prophets, they rejected Jesus Christ when he came among them, and they rejected his church that he set up, nor did they accept that Christ came and fulfilled the law. The Jews have always felt that God would do nothing with anyone other than themselves, but when he came to them and they rejected him, he replaced them, something no Jew would ever accept.
    Comment #2: “Why do you keep stressing that Lehi had Beduin-style tents. He was Jewish, not Arabic” Gibby A.
    Response:  The only tents made in the Middle East in Lehi’s time, before and for many centuries afterward, were tents in which a person could live. When they traveled (and only those with purpose, and typically with money), they did so in style. It was not until Roman times that military tents of smaller size came into being, but the type of military or pup tents known today, especially since World War I, are simply a very late developing idea.
The style tents known in Lehi’s time had several rooms, divided by rugs or heavy curtains, so at least Lehi would have slept in a separate area from his sons, and there would have been a living room where the caravan leaders would have sat down for drinks of water and bargaining 
    In the Middle East, the only people who had tents were those who used them—and that typically for use in traveling many days, or traveling to a place and staying for several days, which some claim was Lehi’s occupation in traveling down to the King’s Highway at the base of the hills from Jerusalem, waiting for the Frankincense caravans to pass, trading with them, perhaps using his agricultural products from his own land, and then taking these new products up to Jerusalem (the camels from caravans could not travel into Jerusalem because of the sharp rocks in those hilltop areas), where he sold them to the city merchants. While waiting for the caravans to come by, Lehi and his sons would have lived for a few days in their tents along the trail. They are called Beduin-style tents today, because the Beduins are the only ones who now use them, i.e., Arabs or people of the desert who move about frequently, depending upon the water and grass of each area.
The tents above were drawn by artists who have no idea what middle eastern tents looked like, or their purpose. Both depict a modern style tent and appeared in Church magazines
    Comment #3: “Nephi tells us that when Lehi left his home in Jereusalem, he took nothing with him, ‘save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.’ We were discussing this in a class Sunday and wondered about what provisions would he have taken” Ashira T.
    Response: First of all, Lehi’s home was not in Jerusalem, but at Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4), meaning he lived in the area outside, and lower, than Jerusalem (1 Nephi 3:16; 3:29). Secondly, the best answer about provisions I know of is what was written by Lynn and Hope Hilton. Lynn Hilton, by appointment of the Church’s Ensign magazine, was called to organize an expedition of discovery to find the trail of Lehi and his family. The results of Hilton's discoveries were first published in the Ensign in the September and October 1976 editions about their research and trip along Lehi’s trail. They said about his provisions, “We know that they included his tents, and probably such food as wheat, flour, barley, dried sour milk, olive or sesame oil, olives, dates, a few cooking utensils, bedding, and weapons such as bows, arrows, and knives. According to our research no spoons or forks were used in Lehi’s day among the Hebrews or the Arabs.” In addition to these provisions the Hopes outlined, we should certainly add the seeds they took from Jerusalem: “we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1), and these seeds were loaded on the ship Nephi built (1 Nephi 18:6), which seeds were brought from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 18:24). Also, it would be obvious that they took what cooking and living items Lehi deemed necessary—when the tents are set up, these pots and other items are placed in baskets that are hung form the tent poles.
They would also have had water skins (left), that were likely made from the skin of a mature, large-sized goat with the front legs sewn together with a rawhide thong to form a handle, and the dorsal opening stitched together with rawhide. These were then filled with water. They would also have had pillows and rugs, a staple of travel in Lehi's time. Also, Lehi had donkeys in Jerusalem (no camels were in or around the city because of the shale-like stone that cut the soft under hooves of camels), in sufficient number to load the tents (typically three donkeys to one tent, which was typically made of heavy, dark goat hair along with lighter sheep skin), along ropes and pegs for the tent, along with feed for the animals and all their seed, no doubt carried in goatskin bags, which are still used by Beduins today. Later, they probably traded the donkeys for camels for the journey along the Red Sea, but especially to cross the Rub’al Khali (Empty Quarter) when they turned eastward. It should be noted that one of the reasons Lehi left all his gold, silver and precious things behind, would have been as protection against marauding desert tribes who would naturally investigate a small caravan displaying many goods--which was the main reason they did not travel across the Empty Quarter cooking their meals each night over a fire, but eating their meat raw (1 Nephi 17:2).

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