Sunday, March 6, 2016

Interesting Thoughts from a Reader and Our Responses – Part I

We received a series of comments from a reader named Brian who must have been surfing old articles of ours in the blog. Since his various comments cannot be answered in a simple response, we are taking his comments one at a time in answer below: 
   Reader: “This is such a great topic [Erecting Small Forts, or Places of Resort,” Monday, September 28, 2015] and one that I have been interested in a long time as a military man. All credit to Capt. Moroni for his military planning and preparedness, but in the Mentinah Records it explains that Hagoth was the chief engineer for Capt Moroni during the wars and was the one who planned the forts and structures…” 
Response: First of all, the Mentinah Papers claim to be a history of a people called the Nemenhah, who are said to have occupied the area of present day Sanpete County in Utah. The Papers claim to be translations of records found in the mountains around Manti, Utah, in the 1800s, and that Brigham Young supposedly said he could not interpret them. The holders of the Papers also claim that since then they have contacted (unnamed) General Authorities who have encouraged them. They now claim the Papers have been translated by wise men speaking languages descended from the languages at the time of the Book of Mormon. The papers have never been made publicly available, but the translations have been published both on the internet and in book form. 
    The story purports to tell of the descendants of Hagoth, and others who traveled north from the Nephite lands, from the Book of Mormon. The story seems to take some of the "loose ends" found in the Book of Mormon and tell what is not present in the Book of Mormon. For example, Moroni is described as joining the Nemenhah after the great battles that destroyed his people in about 400 A.D. He joins with the body of believers and becomes a great leader among them. It tells of Corianton, son of Alma, who left the Nephite lands with his wife, Isabel, and established a great and righteous city in the northeastern part of the land. Although the narration contains some original ideas and stories they are all off shoots of the Book of Mormon narrative. It describes great conferences held among the people of the north and the people of the Pacific Islands. The holders of the Papers have organized an American Indian church based on the teachings of the Mentihah papers. It is interesting that, on the other hand, the Mentihah has its own website, published its books and sells them, and asks for donations—hardly sounds like the way the Lord would provide additional scripture for us.
    Secondly, it should be kept in mind that in addition to the numerous points in which they are not consistent with the Book of Mormon, there are theological or procedural problems. If there were to be such scripture revealed at this time, it would come through the proper channels of priesthood authority. It would come from the current Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not from obscure individuals who claim support from unnamed apostles. As an example, we received the Book of Abraham via papyrus scrolls purchased by members who donated them to the Church and were reviewed by the Prophet and found to be authentic writings of Abraham.
As a shipwright, Hagoth built him an exceedingly large ship
    Thirdly, the record of Hagoth in these Papers does not hold true with the descriptions we have in the scriptural record. Also, looking at the land where Hagoth built ”him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5), which by Mormon’s own description that the narrow neck of land is a day and a half journey across for a Nephite, thus, the West Sea is somewhere between 30 and 50 miles apart, yet in these Papers, Hagoth is described as launching ships into the East Sea and sailing up the east of the Land Northward as well. 
    In addition, it is recorded that those who went via the West Sea found a land beyond the Land of Desolation that was “barren and unforgiving”; however, as the scriptural record says: “And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate” (Helaman 3:6). These are just two of the errors in the writing, however, we include them because they are common mistakes made by people who are familiar with the scriptural record, but not overly familiar, i.e., they have read it but did not read it carefully in order to understand exactly what is being said. One more thing is that the story unfolds with Hagoth sailing north himself, discovering the Mississippi River and sailing up it, etc. However, there is no record of Hagoth ever sailing anywhere, no any suggestion as to the fhe possibility of this. Hagoth was a shipwright, a builder of ships, not an explorer or one who would go off and leave his business which played such an important part in the economy and history of the Nephites (Helaman 3:14).
    Reader: “I have also collected pics off the web of structures built in South America that could only have been military fortresses. I believe Machu Picchu was one of them as it overlooks a river valley that leads from the west coastal plain east through the Andes into the jungle areas of what must have been the land of Zarahemla.
Machu Picchu overlooks a large valley and was built with a commanding view and defense in mind
    Response: First, there are some great photos on the internet; however, to really get an appreciation of the military genius behind the placement of buildings, fortresses, resorts, etc., you have to see them in person. To stand on the front steps so to speak of a fortress and look at its coverage down the mountains, hills, slopes, etc., gives you a remarkable insight into what the builders truly had in mind in placing their structures as they did. Their field of view (field of fire) was extremely well thought out, their defensive walls brilliantly set, and even escape routes for small forts ingeniously understood. Second, however, the Land of Zarahemla would not have been to the east of Machu Picchu down in the jungle. The Land of Zarahemla ran from the east, along the borders of Antionum (Alma 31:3) and Gideon (Alma 6:7) to the West Sea (Alma 22:32).
    Reader: “It is good to plan your defense in a choke point or narrow point where fighting is restricted by space and terrain features so that a smaller number of defenses can withstand a greater number. It is the same strategy that Leonides used to stop Xerxes and the Persians at Thermopylae. I also found pics of the wall that Moroni had built from the sea west to the mountains of the wilderness to stop the Lamanite advances north along the west coast to points where they could slip through the mountain passes unnoticed down into the land of Zarahemla.”
    Response: We have written several times about the “Great Wall of Peru,” on these pages. Unknown to most people, with very few structures left to see today, there were 50 small forts built on the south side of the wall, each about a mile apart, some being square, others rectangular and others circular in shape, and each on the top of a mountain to command the high ground, with each about 200 feet by 300 feet in size. There is no question that Moroni, and his son, Moronihah, were both geniuses in thinking and building the defenses of their nation; however, there is no cause to think that Hagoth had anything to do with these defenses, living far to the north of most of them and involved in shipbuilding, not traveling around with Moroni inspecting the defensive positions.
    Reader: “You mentioned [“What Did Mormon Mean Giddianhi and the Band of Robbers? Part I,” Wednesday, September 30, 2015] that the Nephites were well versed in maritime trade because Hagoth had built ships to take the Nephite and Ammonite ex-patriots north to a new land and a new life. If so that is never mentioned anywhere. The ships as far as we can tell were only used to carry the people away and later return for supplies, and more people."
Response: It seems important to inject here the writings of Helaman who Mormon abridges in a few short sentences about the history of the Nephite people in the last century B.C., in which it is written: “And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them. But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work” (Helaman 3:13-14).
    Now of all that Helaman and Mormon could have written and included regarding the enterprises in which the Nephites were involved, shipping and building of ships was one that was not only singled out, one of only two mention, the other building buildings (temples and synagogues). We are not talking here about taking some passengers into the Land Northward and coming back for supplies, etc. Instead, we are talking here about a huge enterprise that involved the entire Nephi economy—“and their shipping” is indicative of a wide-spread and far flung  enterprise commercial business; and when we keep in mind they were on an island  with a main coastline of 1200 miles of Nephite-controlled land from Zarahemla (Pachacamac) to Ogath or Ablom (Waters of Ripliancum) one can see that shipping would be a useful and no doubt lucrative business. This no doubt would have included transportation, hauling freight, including food to markets, fishing, movement of troops, and, of course, immigration—the latter being what Mormon chose to specifically include as part of his showing the incursion of the Nephites into the Land Northward.
(See the next post, “Interesting Thoughts from a Reader and Our Responses – Part II,” for more information on the comments and responses regarding the Nephites and their activities)


  1. Here is another theory about who built Machu Picchu. If you look at maps made by Venice Priddis you find that Machu Picchu was likely built by Amulon and the wicked priests of Noah. It would have been called the City of Amulon. Hence the reason for it being built like a fortress and found high in the Andes. Of course back during the time of the wicked priests of Noah it would have been at a lower elevation. I'm sure it was fixed up and used later by the Incas and may have been greatly changed by them. Ira

  2. I am familiar with her map and idea and find it as good a point as any other. The only negative I see on it is that I'm not sure the evil priests of king Noah would have been sufficient in number to have built that very extensive site. They were a lazy and indolent lot (Mosiah 11:6) and Machu Picchu was a very laborious project. It would be interesting if some group decided to trace back the small boulders used in the building of the houses--when you are there you can see where the large, square stones were cut in the "quarry" that were used for the larger public buildings, etc., but there seems to be no source for the smaller, rounded boulder-stones used for the myriad of private housing. It would be interesting to see if that rock/bounders came from a river bed at a lower elevation.

  3. Macchu Picchu, Cusco and many Andes sites show two types of stonework: later Inca work, and earlier megalithic work that must have been Nephite. I agree it is hard to believe the Priests of Noah did the megalithic work. Possibly these Priests started the site in a primitive way, and then later the megalithic work was done in the period when the Nephites and Lamanites were no longer at war with each other. Here is an example of what I mean:

  4. I was going to add a scripture to my earlier comment, but was hurried to get to Church. So I'm back and here is the scripture: "Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing and to dance and to make themselves merry...a small number of them gathered together to sing and to dance...and the priests of king Noah...and having tarried in the wilderness discovered the daughters of the Lamanites...and when there were but few of them gathered together to dance, they came forth out of their secret places and took them and carried them into the wilderness; yea, twenty and four of the daughters of the Lamanites they carried into the wilderness” (Mosiah 20:1-5). So one would think that the most the Priests would have had was 24 men...having seen Machu Picchu, I find it hard to see how that number of heretofore lazy men would have built all those houses, but it could have been.
    As for your video...yes, there is certainly a difference between work the Lamanites did and work the Nephites have done, we have shown numerous examples of the more-or-less shoddy work the Lamanites performed in trying to repair the walls later built by the Nephites. As for the example, which is down in Cuzco itself, the base of many of the buildings still show the Nephite work. However, we might want to remember two things: 1) the later work in Cuzco attributed to the Inca was mostly built after the Spanish arrived--while the Spanish forced the Inca to build their buildings, the Spanish knew a lot more about building than the Inca and forced the labor performed. I imagine the Spanish insisted on the same type of work (finish) previously done which they may have attributed to the Inca who had not done it and were evidently incapable of duplicating it as the film shows.
    As for the shiny surface, there is a story told by Garcilaso de la Vega regarding that and it is quite interesting. One of these days I'll get around to writing about it because it shows the splendor of the city of Cuzco under the reign of the Nephites, especially the temple that Nephi built.