Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Genius of Nephite Building – Part I

While it is true that special earthquake construction would not be needed in the Great Lakes area since their earthquake history in almost non-existent (including Southern Ontario, Canada; Ohio; Shenandoah; Greater Philadelphia area; Greater New York area; New Jersey; southern Quebec, Canada; Southern New England; Coastal Massachusetts; and along Virginia, North Carolina border), which has not seen an earthquake above 3.9 magnitude [3.9 Edgewood, Ohio, 2001;  3.8 Ajax, Ontario, Canada, 1999) in the past 17 years (includes 20 earthquakes, two of which were above 3.0, 10 others above 2.0, and 7 others above 1.0), earthquake building would certainly be important anywhere along the eastern Pacific Ocean coastline, from Chile to Alaska, where large and high magnitude earthquakes have been known throughout recorded history. Half of these 20 earthquakes were under 2.5, which is considered an earthquake not felt, but is recorded by seismographs, of which there are an estimated 900,000 per year in tbe World.
Between December 18, 1737 and September 25, 1998 there were ten notable earthquakes in the northeastern to central eastern U.S., from Attica, New York to Virginia. In fact, a 3.0 earthquake hit in Tonawanda (near the Great Lakes Theorists’ Land of Desolation) on May 25th 1995. The other nine included one at 5.6, 5.0, 4.7, 3.0, and most recently, a 5.9 magnitude (considered a “Moderate” earthquake) in Virginia, which shook buildings in Buffalo, New York. All but one of these eastern U.S. earthquakes are considered minor and listed as “often felt, but only causes minor damage” of which there are 30,000 recorded per year in the World. Only one, at 5.9 was considered in the “slight damage to builders and other structures” category with only 500 recorded per year in the World.
    The point is, the Great Lakes and the eastern U.S., especially northeastern (Virginia to New England, including the Great Lakes area of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio), rarely experience earthquakes, and of those they do, they are extremely minor, rarely even felt, and of the worst recorded, rarely causing damage, with a high end of “slight damage.”

When we compare this with the indication of earthquakes in the Land of Promise, we find that the Great Lakes area simply does not qualify. Take the idea recorded by Nephi, the eldest son of Nephi, Helaman’s son: “And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder” (3 Nephi 8:5-6, emphasis mine).
Image Lightening Circular Cloud

    This was not just a local earthquake and storm, for Nephi also tells us: “there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth” (3 Nephi 8:12, emphasis mine). That is, the earthquake was centered in both the Land Southward and the land Northward, and in the language used, the “whole earth” referred to the entire area of the land of Promise in which the Nephites and Lamanites occupied, for the message Samuel the Lamanite delivered was to the entire Nephite Nation as a sign “that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that upon seeing this destruction that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).
    Now having established that in the Land of Promise there would been an extensive storm accompanied by a lengthy and powerful earthquake that “shook the entire” Land of Promise, both in the Land Southward and in the land Northward, that the construction techniques that the Lord taught Nephi (1 Nephi 18:1-3), which he, in turn, taught his people (2 Nephi 5:15) had some remarkable properties in withstanding not only the ages, but also in withstanding the ravages of earthquakes and the extreme shaking of the earth that continually hits this area.
    In this Andean region where the early Nephites built, the original structures are still standing today, more than 2000 years after their construction. This is a tremendous testament to the skills of the Nephites since Peru regularly experiences strong earthquakes that record over 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. In these earthquakes modern buildings are completely destroyed while the ancient Peruvian structures remain standing.
The famous walls of Andean Peru where mortarless stones are so well fitted not a single sheet of paper or knife blade can fit between them 

    To build walls, the Nephites used a mortarless construction with irregularly shaped rocks that were placed together much like a jigsaw puzzle. In addition to shaping the rocks to fit together on the wall face, they also carved or grinded the rock surfaces that met to have concave and convex surfaces. This type of construction is very resistant to earthquakes: The lack of mortar allows rocks to move independently during an earthquake and since the rocks were irregularly shaped it has been demonstrated that they would fall back into their proper place as the earthquake subsided.
    In fact, in contrast to the Nephite stonework, the Spanish, who came more than 1500 years later, at a time when man’s knowledge was believed to be far superior to 600 B.C., the Spanish tore down the Quricancha structure in the center of Cuzco, leaving only the rounded tower base wall and the entire foundation walls intact and built their Spanish cathedral on top of it.
The Spanish Cathedral built over the foundation stones of the Nephites; Red Arrows: Nephi foundation construction; Yellow Arrows: Spanish construction was destroyed by an earthquake in 1950, but the Nephite stonework remained unscathed and the Spanish Church was rebuilt on the same foundation walls 
    Nephi, coming from Jerusalem, along with Sam and Zoram, were well acquainted with stonework and cities built of stone. Certainly they would have built their Temple to the Lord, whom they loved, out of the best they could manage, and did so well enough for Nephite to write: “And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16).
The streets of ancient Jerusalem which Lehi, Nephi, Same and Zoram all trod and of which they were completely familiar when it came time to build their own cities in the Land of Promise 

    In contrast to the Nephite stonework, the Spanish used a brick and mortar construction. This had the advantage of being much easier and quicker to build, but would fall apart with any major earthquake. For example, in Cusco the Spanish church built on top of Qoricancha was destroyed by an earthquake in 1950. The Nephite foundation remained untouched.
    Although we can study the completed Nephite structures, the method by which they built them is unknown. The Nephites left no written description of how they accomplished their building expertise and any knowledge that would have been passed on to their descendants with an oral tradition was lost after the Spanish conquest. Today, researchers can only guess at the techniques they used, which has become no simple matter.
    We don’t know how Nephi built his ship that weathered the deep ocean at a time when no ship was built that could come close to sailing blue water. What technique he employed, how he built the ship and worked the timbers that was “not after the manner of men,” we can only try to guess. However, when it comes to the walls and stonework found in ancient Peru, we can see how it was done, but what we don’t know is how the Nephite were able to do so in the last few centuries B.C. and the first two A.D.
    The fact is, the Lord told Nephi how to build—how to build a ship far beyond the ability of man in his day and how to construct buildings and cities that could withstand severe earthquakes far beyond the ability of man in the Land of Promise.
    As the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah, “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). And Nephi responded by saying, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).
(See the next post, “The Genius of Nephite Building – Part II,” for more on how the Lord taught Nephi who taught his people to construct buildings, walls and foundations that could withstand high magnitude earthquakes)

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