Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part III

Continuing from the previous two posts regarding the website article of Richard G. Grant (Come to Zarahemla) and the article written in it called “Lehi in the Promised Land: What did he Find?” And with a sub-heading “When they arrived, what did they Find? Cows and horses? Were there others there?” In the previous posts Grant is quoted as suggesting that Nephi gave names to the animals he found in the Land of Promise that were not indicative of the actual animals, but similar to what he had known back in the Old World; and also that early explorers named American bison by the name of Buffalo in error, which was shown to be inaccurate, since bison and buffalo translate into English as the same meaning. 
It was also introduced in the last post that Grant writes about other people in the Land of Promise when Lehi arrived. Following is another of Grant's assertions that is in error:
    Grant writes: “Dr. Sorenson points out that a careful reading of the text does not support the general view that "Nephite" and "Lamanite" refer to lineage. Rather, these are political designations. Jacob makes this very plain in Jacob 1:14. He there says that "Lamanites" is a name he is giving to all who seek to destroy the Nephite. He further states that all who are friendly to the Nephite king will be called "Nephites."
    Response: The problem is, Sorenson, as he always seems to do, doesn’t bother to tell you what he doesn’t want you to know in his writing and scriptural references, and evidently Grant didn’t bother to check it out. In this first chapter of Jacob, the prophet tells us Nephi died (Jacob 1:12) after describing a little about the continuation of Nephi’s name earlier. Then he begins his writing by telling us who he is writing about, i.e., the Nephites and Lamanites.
    He says, “Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites,” that is, the Nephites were made up of the tribes of Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and Zoram—and the Lamanites were made up of the tribes of Laman, Lemuel and Ishmael, i.e., the sons of Ishmael who are never named. Thus, we are told that the people that were not Lamanites were Nephites, i.e., there were just two divisions that Jacob would name in his future writing—Nephites and Lamanites. They can be called a political division if one wants, however, they were made up of lineage tribes of Lehi and Ishmael, plus that of Zoram.
This is also borne out in Mormon’s own explanation of who the people were in the Land of Promise as late as 322 A.D. (Mormon 1:8), and Mormon, it should be remembered in about 385 A.D., wrote: “And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi” (Words of Mormon 1:3). At this time Mormon knew of Jacob’s explanation of these tribal lines and wrote of them himself, so it should be understood that from first landing down to the final battle, the Nephites and Lamanites were divided along tribal lines—not just political lines as Sorenson maintains and Grant repeats.
    Grant Writes: “Population, cultural differences, and the story of Sherem all suggest that there must have been others.”
    Response: The story of Sherem merely states that evidently in the latter part of Jacob’s life, “there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem” (Jacob 7:1), and Grant asks: “Where did Sherem come from? If there were only Nephites and Lamanites, Sherem could only come among the Nephites by coming from the Lamanites.” However, that is not true at all. Jacob lived at the time in the city of Nephi; however, there were other villages, towns or cities nearby at the time.
    Many years earlier, upon first arriving in the area, Nephi said he “did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15). There is simply no reason to believe that some of these Nephites wouldn’t have built a little ways off from where Nephi dwelt, such as in the land of Shilom (Mosiah 7:21; 9:6, 8), which was very close by, or the land of Shemlon (Mosiah 10:7), which also was within view of the city of Nephi.
    “Came among the Nephites,” might just be the same as saying someone from another Ward came over to your Ward, and where I live that is five or six blocks away, and in Provo or Salt Lake City would be half that distance. It could have meant form another town, or it might have even meant that Sherem had been living some distance away as a recluse or private-type person. Nothing is known and nothing can be speculated about the incident. He was a Nephite, he knew about Jacob and what he taught the people, and he spoke the language—was so fluent in it that he was both a flatterer and very persuasive (Jacob 7:2).
Sherem did not seek out Jacob initially, not until after he had been preaching for some time among the people and converting many to his way of thinking (Jacob 1:3). After a while, he obviously thought he could persuade Jacob himself to change his mind and sway him to his own way of thinking (Jacob 7:5). Jacob evidently sought to avoid the man for a time, but eventually agreed to see him, for when Sherem got an audience, he said, “I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you” (Jacob 7:6).
    While Sorenson, and Grant in following this line of thinking, try to make out that Sherem must have had a hard time getting an audience because there being so many people (other than Nephites) in the city and area, all this merely shows is that while Sherem wanted a chance to argue with Jacob, obviously Jacob was not interested in such a confrontation any more than Church leaders are today--even missionaries are warned not to get into confrontations with contacts or leaders of other churches.
    However, it finally became necessary for such a confrontation (Jacob 7:9) and the Lord helped Jacob to confound (dumbfound, bewilder, baffle) Sherem in all his words (arguments).
    Grant Writes: Dr. Sorenson states an even stronger case for the evidence from linguistics. Both the internal and external evidence is relevant and consistent. For example, the Book of Mormon tells us about the Mulekites found by Mosiah in Zarahemla. The record says that due to the corruption of the Mulekite language, the Nephites and Mulekites were unable to understand each other. Dr. Sorenson indicates that linguistic studies have shown that such language changes will only occur if there has been an infusion of another language into the culture.”
    Response: This is pure hogwash. While other languages can and do have an effect through additional words (English has an infusion of numerous languages over the past 300 years or more), but more changes over time occur simply because, in part, 1) Not all people who speak a language speak it the same way, 2) people living in isolation from one another develop varying pronunciations and even dialects, 3) developing accents effect pronunciation, 4) idolect (manner of speaking of an individual person) also has an effect over time as it is adopted by others, 5) differences between industrialization (fast paced living) and agricultural life (slow paced living) have a distinct effect of speaking and pronunciation over time, 6) jargon (specialized vocabulary used within disciplines) has a pronounced effect on pronunciation, and 7) the younger generation making up words (slang) and using it for so long, it becomes a natural part of the vocabulary—this change is noticeable in our own language (nuisance, passenger, last, facetious, diaper, doom, awful, nervous, pristine, matrix, egregious, protest, brave, hilarity, garble, sad, bully, evil, dapper, angel, pretty, buxom, sophisticated, guy, manufacture, nice, stupid, pedant, inmate, success, villain, etc. (the list goes on and on—none of these words were changed because of other languages, but simply that over time, their meanings were changed within English to mean something else—in my lifetime I have seen scores of words be changed to mean other things, such as grass, pot, radical, airhead, bad, can, busted, fix, hot, whack, ice, hood, blast, hoops, hustler, job, jock, joint, ill, kickback, fan, mug, knock off, threads, pig, rap, redneck, ripped, jack, zip, john, etc.)
So-called “Correct English” is spoken in 25 varying areas of the U.S. that have different forms of pronunciation from each other
    Languages change because people invent new words (selfie; bitcoin; binge-watch), alter existing words, called clipping or truncation (gymnasium to gym; examination to exam; and fore-clipping: phone from telephone; flu from influenza); change pronunciation (gay-rawg to ga-rawg; ask to ax; vall-e to val-lee; poor to pour; sure to shore); lose knowledge of a word (ruricolous 1730 living in the country; exlineal 1716 out of direct line of descent; sinapistic 1879 mustard; foppotee 1663 simpleton; mowburnt 1900 crops spoiled by overheating; scelidate 1877 having legs); alter its meaning (awful once meant inspiring wonder; gay meant lighthearted, joyous, happy; mouse from rodent to computer device), etc. In addition, language changes because people get lazy in their pronunciation, from southern drawls (pin for pen; fill for feel; fell for fail; or y'all for you all; gonna for going to; a hootin' n' a-hollerin') to New England clipping of words (meen for man; hoarse for horse; planeat for planet), which is especially seen in various dialectic areas of a single country (just look at the numerous dialectic pronunciations in the various regions of the U.S.)
(See the next post, “Bison, Buffalo, Corn and People – Part IV, “ for the continuation of Grant’s comments and the misinterpretation of the words he describes and how that affects our understanding of Nephi’s descriptions of the Land of Promise)


  1. Nephi’s detailed list of what he found upon the promised land (animals, ores, etc.) never mentioned other people. The proponents of the "others" theory like to say that we can't "impose" our modern sensibilities upon the text. If Nephi had never mentioned anything about what they found and did initially upon the land of promise, that position would be stronger. However, since he does devote time and space upon the plates to describe what they found (animals, terrain, ores), what they experienced (crops growing abundantly) and what they did (built a temple, worked stone and wood, built buildings), it seems awfully peculiar that he would omit what would have been the most important fact: that there were other people, too.
    Proponents of the "others" theory claim that the Lamanites needed help with agriculture from “others” to sustain themselves since the industrious "Nephites" left. However, the Nephites left behind the "abundant" crops Nephi recounted. The Lamanites would have been set up pretty nicely—since the land under cultivation and food stores would have instantly yielded a surplus upon the Nephite exodus. Since the Lamanitish people would have been involved in their own subsistence up to that point, they hardly would have been helpless.
    They point to 2 Nephi 5:6 and say look: anonymous "others" fled with Nephi! I say, not so fast. Nephi was actually quite logical and specific in his list of who fled with him (reflective of his highly organized writing style overall). His list is hierarchal. He starts by listing himself and his family, then Zoram and his family, then Sam and his family, then his two brothers, and then his sisters, and then anybody else. This is an organized list. Others here is not meant to mean generic people that were already there, but members of the party that weren't his direct kin. Possibilities include servants and/or offspring or members of the Lamanite/Ishmaelite branches.
    The followers of Nephi fled with their TENTS. Apparently, and highly coincidentally, these native "others" used tents, too. It's unusual since it's later understood that the Nephites lived in homes/houses—which is reflective of a more permanent lifestyle. These "others," it would seem, were naturally nomadic and fit right in with the relatively recent and young upstart Nephites who had not yet been in the promised land long enough to abandon their tents as they would later on (unlike the “others” who never did).
    They called the new place they reached "Nephi." Are we to believe that these indigenous "others,"—a tent-using, nomadic people—had presumably been there for centuries but never traveled to, or come up with a name, for the area? Well, I suppose that would be imposing some of my modern "sensibilities" upon the text...
    Under Nephi's leadership, the people learned to reap and sow in abundance, work metals, and raise animals and herds. I mean, it's a good thing Nephi came along when he did, or else those indigenous "others" would have been in a world of hurt! Paradoxically, however, the portion of the "others" who stayed behind were whom the Lamanites depended upon for survival. In other words, the "dumb, less productive others" went with Nephi and the "smart, productive others" stayed with Laman and Lemuel. That math makes my head hurt.
    Jacob, in ch 7 of his book, talks about being a "lonesome" and "solemn" people. ‘Lonely’ and ‘solemn’ are not usually words used to describe a people who find themselves in a foreign land, surrounded by indigenous "others" who supposedly BEFRIENDED them and chose to ACCOMPANY THEM into a wilderness. That's sort of the OPPOSITE of lonely.

  2. On the subject of language variance...
    Several years ago I visited North Carolina with my wife. I am from the Southwest, so the regional accent was quite noticeable to me.
    In one case, a waitress asked me a question. I knew she was speaking English, and that she had asked a question, but I had no idea what she had actually asked.

  3. Great comments from both of you. Thank you. As for the so-called others, very well organized thoughts, and nicely stated. I agree, it makes one's head hurt to try and get around such an idea. And for language, I've been in just about every state, and have had the same experience in trying to follow someone speaking their regional dialect--especially in the South, where the DowDells (a name pronounced DOWdle there) spent more than a hundred years when first coming to this land.