Monday, June 30, 2014

Comments from Readers – Part I

We continue to receive comments, questions and criticisms being sent in from readers of our blog. And since it is our policy to answer all such, here are a few more with our responses.
    Comment #1: “Do you have any idea how long Lehi lived after they reached the Land of Promise, and how long before Nephi left to settle in the city of Nephi?” Kelvin G.
Response: Nothing is directly stated in the scriptural record; however, there is a clue that might suggest a time frame. Upon landing, Nephi writes that the seed they brought from Jerusalem grew exceedingly, providing an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:24); then after leaving there to found their settlement, eventually called the City of Nephi, they planted and Nephi says: “we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance” (2 Nephi 5:11). Note that he uses the term “we did reap again in abundance.” In this case, the word again must relate to a former occurrence and the only former occurrence mentioned is found after first landing, which might suggest that this was the next crop they planted and harvested. If that is correct, then it could be said that at most, they planted and harvested in one year, and then moved and planted and harvested in that second year. If their crops grew on a shorter time frame, it could be less than two years. Either way, based on this we can suggest that from the time of landing to Lehi’s death would have been within that first year, since planting would have been one of the first things they did. So, if their second crop was the following year in their new home, Lehi would have died before that time (2 Nephi 4:12).
    This might well be borne out by Nephi’s comments about the increasing anger of his brothers toward him (2 Nephi 5:2). With Lehi quite old by the time they landed (1Nephi 18:17-19). After landing, two things are recorded: First: Nephi was commanded to make plates and record a second set (1 Nephi 19:1-5)—which led to extensive discussions in which Nephi taught his brethren (2 Nephi 1:1), and Lehi prophesied to his family (2 Nephi 1:6); and Second Lehi blessed all his family preparatory to his death (2 Nephi 2-4).
    With the assumption that Lehi died soon after these two events, Nephi would not have been safe among his older brothers for any length of time and, as the record states, was told to depart into the wilderness, taking all those who would go with him (2 Nephi 5:5).
    These events suggest a very short time—a year perhaps, two at the most.
    Comment #2: “When Nephi says he taught his people in wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, what exactly did he teach them and how did he know more than they?” Rigby R.
Response: Although there were no factories in Jerusalem during Lehi’s time, there were industries. Most craftsmen worked in their own homes, at such crafts as potters, blacksmiths, bronze smiths, goldsmiths and silversmiths. There were also many stonemasons and carpenters. No doubt, with Lehi’s wealth, he either employed some smiths on his property, or there were those who came by to take care of whatever smith requirements were needed from time to time. Either way, Nephi would have been exposed to such activity, and may well have developed either an interest in, or a skill in, some of these things.
    When Nephi was in Bountiful, the Lord taught him many skills necessary in the building of his ship (1 Nephi 18:1-3)—after all, this ship was not some minor accomplishment like one would build in his garage. It was a ship large enough to hold two very extensive families, children and grandchildren, supplies, food, seeds, tools, and whatever else Lehi brought with him or that Nephi made in Bountiful. It would also have been strong enough and deep-hulled to weather the pounding of deep ocean waves, storms, and strong winds. In building such a ship, Nephi would have needed to know, or at least learn by doing, with the tutelage of the Lord, several crafts, not just carpentry. In fashioning tools, he knew or learned metallurgy; he may well have used metal in some way in constructing the ship, such as joints holding timbers together, etc.
    No doubt, by the time he was in his permanent location after leaving his older brothers, developed further some of those skills. Woodworking, of course, is the skill of a carpenter, and he would have taught those interested in that skill the craft of carpentry—something Nephi would have been very well suited for after building his ship.
He either knew how, or developed the skill of smelting ore and making tools (1 Nephi 17:9, 11), which would have been needed in this new land, especially those for planning and harvesting, building and repairing. Nephi obviously knew to mix copper and zinc ores for brass; adding zinc to iron to make steel; and no doubt knowing some other important ores the Lord had told him about (1 Nephi 18:1-3). To what degree Nephi knew how to do these things we are not told, other than his ability to build a ship, and a temple he compared to that of Solomon—both of these accomplishments stagger the mind. How many of us could do either?
    Probably the gold and silver work was used in decoration, and it seems unlikely it would have been in making jewelry, since building seems to have been Nephi’s main emphasis.
    Comment #3: “I came across this on the internet, and I assume you disagree with it—‘If there had only been one candidate for the River Sidon, Book of Mormon archaeology would probably have progressed much further by now. Because there are supporters for each of these rivers, the efforts have been divided, and hence we are unsure of just where Zarahemla was located. With all our modern technology, we have been almost as confused as Limhi's expedition. M. Wells Jakeman favored the Usumacinta River, whereas John L. Sorenson, head of the BYU Dept. of Anthropology from 1978-1986, favored the Grijalva because the archaeology is better there. He has proposed that the ruins at Santa Rosa were Zarahemla. Most researchers have followed his lead. Garth Norman, however, has maintained all along that the Usumacinta is indeed the correct solution. The one thing on which most researchers agree, is the location of the Land of Desolation, and the area of several destroyed Olmec cities which might have been confused with Zarahemla. The principal candidates seem to be La Venta, San Lorenzo, and Tres Zapotes’.” Sloane.
As seen, both mentioned rivers in Mesoamerica run a compass north and south, but the land runs a compass east and west. Mesoamericanists seem to have difficulty believing their own directional system for the Land of Promise
    Response: It is interesting that there is a debate over two different rivers for the River Sidon, yet in the entire scriptural record, there is not a single mention of another river, let alone a second major river that runs parallel with the River Sidon. At the same time, according to Mesoamericanist theory of west being north and east being south, both the rivers mentioned by Jakeman and Sorenson run to their east, not their north and empty into their East River (Gulf of Mexico). However, it seems when something is running in the right direction (these two rivers actually do run north), they accept that direction in the scriptural record, but when the entire land runs east-west, they reject that and try to tell us the Nephites had a different directional system. As the old adage says, “you can’t have it both ways.”
    As for my disagreement, how could one not disagree with these comments when they are based upon a Mesoamerican model for the Book of Mormon that, despite these strong- and single-minded individuals trying to ram this model down everyone’s throat without a concern for, or any attempt to match, the scriptural record and its descriptions of the Land of Promise? It would not matter whether one chooses Jakesman’s Usumacinta River, or Sorenson’s Grijalva River, Book of Mormon archaeology would not progress in the area of Mesoamerica, since that land runs east and west and the scriptures make it clear that the Land of Promise runs north and south.
    When Joseph Smith announced that he had seen God, the Father, and his son, Jesus Christ, most, if not all, of the religious community were of a different opinion—but it did not make them right. Even if almost everyone believed Mesoamerica to be the Book of Mormon lands, it does not change the fact that Mesoamerica is 90º off-kilter of the Land of Promise (Alma 22:27-34); does not have a narrow neck of land where the sea actually divides the land (Ether 10:20); does not have four seas in the north, south, east, and west (Helaman 3:8); does not have a terminus in the south or in the north and has never been an island (2 Nephi 10:20); does not have two animals that are as useful to man as the elephant that were unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829 (Ether 9:19); does not have two important grains that are on a par with corn, wheat and barley that were unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829 (Mosiah 9:9); does not have walls built “round about their cities” (Alma 48:8) 
Top: The large ancient complex of Teotihuacan (100 BC) in the Valley of Mexico; Bottom: The ancient Maya city of Palenque (200 BC). Note in both cases, neither is surrounded by defensive walls, fortress like defensive positions, etc., and were not called or referred to as fortresses by the conquering Spanish 
    As seen above, Mesoamerican city sites are mostly open and were not built with defensive walls; Mesoamerica also does not have “places of resort,” that is, outpost defensive positions (Alma 48:8). For more differences, see the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica.

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