Friday, February 27, 2015

Letter of Arthur Budvarson—Part VII

Continuing with Arthur Budvarson’s six questions asked of Dr. Roberts of the Smithsonian Institution about the Book of Mormon, their answers and our evaluation. The first five questions were covered in the last five posts. Here is the sixth and last question:
6. “What are cureloms and cumoms? Have they ever been discovered? I have referred to numerous dictionaries and encyclopedias and I cannot find any reference to either of them?”
    Budvarson's sixth question concerning the identity of cureloms and cumoms borders on the ridiculous. One might wonder why the question was asked of Dr. Roberts in the first place, since the names used in the Book of Mormon were so used by Joseph Smith because he had no idea what animals these were—so he used the original Jaredite names, which, of course, would not have survived over the centuries since both the Jaredites and Nephites were annihilated.
    It is likely, therefore, that Budvarson probably had this in mind, believing these were made-up animals that "only existed in someone's imagination,” as he writes elsewhere.
Why he referred to "numerous dictionaries and encyclopedias" to find out about them when these two animals were obviously not household words in the Americas at the time Joseph Smith translated the plates, and being as he was raised on a farm and knew animals, these were obviously not known animals within his experience. And doing what any translator would do when not knowing what animal these words described, transliterated their original (Jaredite) names.
    Certainly Budvarson understood this, having a background in the LDS faith, and having studied to some extent the Book of Mormon as he claims. The point is, it can only be concluded that these were not animals known in the United States, but fairly common to the Land of Promise, since they are described as being more useful to man than “cattle, oxen, cows, sheep, swine, goats, and many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man...and also horses and asses.” In fact, they were as useful as elephants (Ether 9:18-19).
    So to identify such animals one must look to where the Book of Mormon lands were located and find two animals that were relatively unknown in the United States in 1830, but very useful for the indigenous peoples of that land, especially in the era before any type of technology. This suggests some type of beasts of burden, yet ones that provide food and clothing—no doubt some type of pack or draft animal, an Equidae (horses, donkeys, etc.) or ungulate such as elephants, camels, yak, reindeer, goats, water buffalo and llama and alpaca.
    Of all the possible animals located in the Western Hemisphere, few would qualify as unknown in the United States in the 1830s. John L. Sorenson has suggested the sloth or giant ground sloths and the tapir. However, these animals would not qualify based on the scriptural account as to their value to man—neither the sloth nor tapir (about the size and shape of a pig) have little value to man other than meat and hide.
    In fact, the tapir does poorly around man, is highly affected by any changes in its habitat, lives in moist, dense forests, especially around water, and thrives only where man is not present. They are extremely shy animals, and other than their meat and leathery skin, they have little or no value at all to humans.
Left: Giant ground sloth; Center: regular sloth; Right: Tapir
Of the five species of Sloth, not one has much value to man, spends most of its time hanging upside down in trees and cannot exist outside the tropical rainforest; the giant ground sloth was extremely dangerous to man and is believed to have been extinct for 10,000 years or more
    There were, of course, other ungulate animals of Central and South America, such as the Peccary and Javelina, medium-sized hoofed mammals (Tayassuidae), but again, these do not fit the criteria established in the comment found in Ether, regarding their “use unto man,” being more than horses, asses, goats, sheep, cattle, oxen and cows.
    No other unknown land animals seem to have existed in the Western Hemisphere that have been suggested as the cureloms and cumoms the Jaredite animals brought to the promised land. A new carnivorous mammal species was discovered in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia recently, called the Olinguito, which is a member of the raccoon family, but certainly would not qualify as important to man.
    Since horses, asses (donkeys), goats and elephants are already mentioned in the record, that leaves camels, yak, reindeer, water buffalo, llama and alpaca from the earlier list. Camels probably would have been known to Joseph Smith in 1830, as well as reindeer; however, yak, water buffalo, llama and alpaca probably not.
Left: Yak; Right: Water Buffalo. Both are similar to oxen and have the same value to man as beasts of burden and draft animals
    The Yak is found on the Tibetan Plateau, Himalayas and south central China, Mongolia and Russia. When domesticated, they provide milk, meat and clothing and are used as beasts of burden; however, their habitat has never been in the Western Hemisphere. The Water Buffalo, also a valuable animal for milk and meat and as a beast of burden, are found almost entirely in Asia, specifically India and China, and were not introduced into North and South America, Europe, Mediterranean and Australia, until the mid to late 1800s. Like the yak, they were not found in the Western Hemisphere in antiquity.
    That leaves the llama and alpaca (Lamoids). As has been presented here numerous times, the llama and the alpaca, are both camelids (lamini), and exist only as domesticated animals—descended from the wild vicuñas (vicugna) and guanaco. They have been widely used as meat, clothing and willing pack animals by Andean cultures since pre-Hispanic times, are very intelligent and can learn simple tasks, are friendly and pleasant to be around, and serve effectively as “watch dogs” for livestock. Their attributes make them durable and dependable and their wool has numerous uses, with their undercoat used for handcrafts and garments, and the coarser outercoat used for rugs, wall-hangings and rope, and leather made from their hides.
Left: The Llama (Lama glama); Right: the Alpaca (Vicugna pacos)
    The llama and alpaca are native to the Western Hemisphere and date back in South America to Jaredite times. They were, however, not native to Central or North America since after the Flood. Known to the Jaredites as the cureloms and cumoms, these are names unknown after the demise of the Nephites, and certainly would not have been known to the Smithsonian or any archaeologist—a fact Budvarson would have known before he posed his questions and his misleading and superfluous comment about searching dictionaries. But this is the typical attempt that critics make in trying to mislead the issue of the accuracy of the Book of Mormon. As a result, and understandably, Dr. Roberts reported in his answer to the question that the two animals, cureloms and cumoms were unknown to the Smithsonian.
    These, then, are the six questions Budvarson asked the Smithsonian, and the answers given by Dr. Roberts of that institution. They neither support nor reject the credibility of the Book of Mormon.

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