Tuesday, August 4, 2015

350 Years of Nephite Development – Part II

Continuing with the last post on 350 Years of Nephite Development, and more on the discrepancy of Hunter and Ferguson claiming the Nephites were not involved in much building and expansion during the period between Nephi’s arrival in the Land of Nephi and Mosiah leaving that land to discover Zarahemla—a period of about 350 years (though they list it as 400 years). 
Top: Map of several ancient cities developed around the area of Cuzco, Peru, the area considered to be the City of Nephi. If this is the case, then several other cities were built in this close area—eventually acquiring the title the Sacred Valley (Valley of Urubamba; Middle: This is a very productive river valley with crops, cities, overlooking resorts; Bottom: A picturesque valley that today draws tourists by the hundreds of thousands
    One of their comments, as listed in the last post, was: “Some of the skills and some of the knowledge of the original company may have been lost because of not having been put to use by succeeding generations. Such losses may have occurred both during the period of Nephite history covered in the Book of Mormon (600 B.C. to 421 A.D.) and the period between the close of the Book of Mormon history and the coming of the Europeans in the sixteenth century.”
    Hunter and Ferguson, in their book, Ancient America And the Book of Mormon (1950). On pp258-259, also wrote: “The Book of Mormon indicates that less than fifty persons were in the original Nephite colony.  Not all of the skills of the artisans of the ancient Near East may have been represented. Manpower was so limited during the first 400 years, according to the data contained in the Book of Mormon, that no great building program was possible.” 
    Four points here are in question according to the scriptures:
1) Twenty-two specific people are mentioned in the scriptures as being part of the original colony, plus an unspecified number of children.  Ishmael's sons are indicated as having families (1 Nephi 7:6), and Nephi says their women gave birth during the 8-year-trek in the wilderness (1 Nephi 17:1, 20).  With at least seven married couples, and over an eight year journey plus a couple of years while building a ship at Bountiful, figuring a child every two years, that could be five children per couple or 35 children.  If Ishmael's sons had children before they left, which the record suggests, there could likely be four to eight more children, making a total of 61 to 65 people. 
    Jacob and Joseph were not married (1 Nephi 18:7) and evidently his two sisters were not married for there is no mention of their families (2 Nephi 5:6).  If Nephi's "sisters" were more than two, then additional numbers could be added.  Thus, at least 60 and possibly upwards of 70 people could have been in that original colony that set sail from Bountiful.
Ishmael, his family and his household. It was very common in Lehi’s day for wealthy families to have large households involving servants, indentured servants, slaves, etc., but all considered part of the "household" under Hebrew law and to whom the patriarch of the family was responsible for them in every way. It would be unlikely that Lehi would have left any behind since he did not want anyone to know where he went who might want to kill him, plus the fact that a patriarch of the time would have felt totally responsible for all in the household, their care, well being, and livelihood
    2) In addition, when Nephi went back to get Ishmael and his family, an interesting statement is made: “the Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael, and also his household, insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness to the tent of our father” (1 Nephi 7:5, emphasis mine).
    A Hebrew household of this period would have included servants, slaves, and even workers of the land, as well as their families, especially among wealthy landowners—for certainly Lehi was wealth, and very likely Ishmael also. We see this in Abraham’s household when it says, “And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him” (Genesis 17:27)—that is, servants and slaves alike, of course the term “slave” is used but the relationship between master (Abraham) and slave (bought with money of the stranger) was quite different in the Hebrew household. As an example, this act was one of willingness and with their consent, not forced upon them as the word “slave” brings to mind. In fact, according to Catherine Hezse, Jewish Slavery in Antiquity, Oxford University Press (2005), p 382, slaves in ancient Israel were seen as an essential part of a Hebrew household and, according to Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford, 2004 pp 102-202, from a salve’s point of view, the stability of servitude under a family in which the slave was well-treated would have been preferable to economic freedom.There were two sets of rules governing slaves—one more lenient set for Hebrew slaves (Levitifcus 25:39-43) often referred to as “bondman” or “bondservant,” and one set for Canaanite slaves (Levitucus 25:45-46).
    It is also well understood that Jews owned both Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves before the Babylonian exile (while Lehi lived at Jerusalem) and up to at least the Maccabean era (164-63 B.C.) Because of Lehi’s wealth, his home and lands of inheritance outside of Jerusalem, having businesses that took him away from home (down to the king’s highway to the Frankincense Trail or into Egypt), it is most likely that he had servants and slaves in his household.
    In addition, it should be understood that the statement “all his household” is a specific understanding in Hebrew of those who make up the household, as seen in 1 Nephi 5:14 when talking about father Jacob “and all his household from perishing with famine.”
If this was the case, we could add from 10 to 30 or more people in this original party that sailed to the Land of Promise--many adult men, for a grand total of 80 to 100 people. Nor would it be unusual for Nephi not to have included such in his listing of his family, for such was common among writing of the period—and is the reason why we do not know anything about Nephi’s sisters (2 Nephi 5:6).
    We might want to keep in mind that in the Biblical period, extended households included numerous other people as seen in Abraham, who had an older servant in charge of his household (Genesis 24:2), who he sent back to Haran to find a wife for his son, Isaac (Genesis 24:4); and this servant had taken other men of Abraham’s household with him (Genesis 24:32)
    As for the skills of the rest of the colony, consider that Nephi had been taught at the hands of the Lord to do many things.
1. Specifically, he learned to make tools from ore (1 Nephi 17:9-11, 16), he knew or at least was aware how to work with wood or build “after the manner of men,”  (1 Nephi 18:2), as well as after the manner of the Lord, which was beyond what man knew to do (1 Nephi 18:1).  It was the Lord who showed Nephi how to build (1 Nephi 18:3-4), and it was Nephi's undying positive attitude that he could do anything that sustained him in this learning (1 Nephi 17:50-51).  Thus it can be understood that Nephi possessed the requisite building skills to achieve whatever building he might desire and the Nephites might need.
2. Nephi did not keep this skill and knowledge to himself.  Once in the land of promise and separated from his older brothers and the sons of Ishmael, Nephi showed his people how 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). It should also be kept in mind regarding this, that the Lamanites did not know how to build other than that first generation and their work on the ship, and since we have no knowledge of the Lamanites building anything, it might be assumed that after that first generation that worked on the ship, any building knowledge was lost.
3. Regarding how extensive the cities in the land of Nephi were, and how much manpower the Nephites possessed during those nearly 350 years in the land of Nephi can be seen from the writings of Jarom, the son of Enos.  Two hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem the people had "waxed strong in the land" (Jarom 1:5) and had cities (Jarom 1:7).  They "multiplied exceedingly and spread upon the face of the land" constructing with fine workmanship many buildings (Jarom 1:8).
The marvelous earthquake-proof building we find at Sacsayhuaman and numerous other sites in Andean Peru is certainly reminiscient of an ability far beyond man at the time and even rivals building ability of our day
    Thus it can be concluded that the early Nephites had the manpower, the skill, and the experience in building.  How extensive that was is unknown, but when Zeniff went back to the land of Nephi "away in the south in the land of Shilom" (Mosiah 9:14) around 200 B.C., we learn that there were at least two cities there besides the city of Nephi (Mosiah 7:21).  How extensive these cities were we are not told, but we do know that both the city of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom had walls about them (Mosiah 9:8), thus suggesting a city of some size and extensive construction.  We also know that Zeniff was granted only a portion of the land by king Laman (Mosiah 7:21), and that the Lamanites who had been in that area retreated elsewhere (Mosiah 9:7). 
    Zeniff called the Lamanites a lazy group of people content to live off the labors of others (Mosiah 9:12), and if they had been living in the vacated Nephite cities before Zeniff's arrival, they might have retreated to other cities Jarom tells us the Nephites built during their nearly 350 year stay in the Land of Nephi.
    As for building during certain periods, it is obvious that building programs would have been curtailed during times of extended wars, such as during Mormon’s time, 305 A.D. to 385 A.D., when the Nephites were constantly running for their lives (Mormon 2:16; 4:2, 14, 21-22; 5:7) or digging in for pitched battles (4 Nephi 1:20; 3:1; 5:4). It is also evident that huge building programs would have been going on during the period following the Savior’s appearance in 3 Nephi, for they “did build cities again (4 Nephi 1:8), and “did wax strong and multiply exceedingly fast” (4 Nephi 1:10).
    It should also seem obvious that building programs following the annihilation of the Nephite nation basically put an end to any building, since civil wars followed that event (Mormon 8:8) for a very long time, and also that we have no knowledge of the Lamanites ever building anything during the scriptural record period.


  1. Since the people who traveled north in the ships that Haggoth built.. was in about 50BC.. that would put the building of MesoAmerica 550 years later after Lehi had arrived. So it is obvious that there was no building going on in MesoAmerica and these guys would be right based on the evidence when looking at MesoAmerica as the land of promise. Problem is.. they needed to look southward and then they would have thought much differently! But they are making their statements based on what they actually see in MesoAmerica.. which was nothing because no one was really there.

  2. Exactly! As we have written in these articles in the past, the "hard evidence" of Mesoamerica, i.e., the dating of buildings and structures carry dates of 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. onward into A.D. time, which matches perfectly the Hagoth ship immigrants. We need to keep in mind that this immigration started then but continued onward in time.