Friday, October 28, 2016

Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part XIX

Continuing with more of the scriptural record statements that lead us to a clearer understanding of the location of the Land of Promise, for there can be no question that any Land of Promise must have all these descriptions Mormon and Moroni left us, or that they existed at the time of the Nephites. In this particular article, we take a look at two animals that were essential to the Jaredite and Nephite peoples, described by Ether as useful to man as the elephant, and in 1829, unknown in the United States and to Joseph Smith, a farmer from a farming family. 
    The scriptural record of the Jaredites tell us: “And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:19). The three animals we know listed are beasts of burden, and their value to man covers both their working ability, load carrying ability, and their hides as well as in their domestication. For these two animals to be more valuable to man than the horse and the donkey, whose value trace back to the ancient Egyptians, according to Patricia D. Moehlman and Hagos Yohannes in a DNA study news release by the University of Florida (2010) for the National Science Foundation.
    Thus we are looking for animals that have proven of great worth to man at least over 1500 years or more, and such animals are hard to find anywhere in the world. There are, of course, some animals that might fit the bill, but few of those reside now or in the past in the Western Hemisphere.
Left: Sloth, which is related to the Anteater, are very slow-moving, dwell in trees, and are home to moths, beetles, cockroaches, ciliates, fungi and algae; Right: Tapir, similar in shape to a pig, they inhabit jungle and forest regions, and spend most of their time in and under the water of rivers, stand about 3 feet high and weigh about 330 to 700 pounds, and will attack humans if scared or in defense of themselves or their young. Neither of which are of much use to man, except possibly as food

    Certainly, John L. Sorenson’s idea of these animals being the Sloth and Tapir fall far short of the description and value, nor are either of these beasts of burden. Nor would the American Buffalo or Mountain sheep as others have suggested fill this purpose, since neither are or have been domesticated or provide any value beyond food and clothing, and no doubt rule out Water Buffalo since Joseph Smith would have known of Buffalo (Plains Bison) in 1829, which were the dominant animal (25-30 million) of the prairies of North America—by 1830, the Commanches and their allies on the southern plains reached a high in killing Buffalo of 280,000 a year. Obviously in Joseph Smith’s time, such activity would have been well known.
    Nor can it be suggested that these were cattle, oxen, cows, sheep, swine, or goats or just animals that were of value because they were useful for the food of man, since all of these are mentioned in the previous verse (Ether 9:18), which Joseph Smith translated without difficulty.
    Consequently, we are talking about something entirely different.
First of all, a pack animal or beast of burden is a draught or draft animal that carries or pulls heavy loads, such as a donkey, mule, llama, camel or ox. Others are the yak, reindeer, goats, water buffalo and camel and many of the domesticated Equidae (horse) family.
    Secondly, these two animals would have been unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829, and most likely to the average person in the area where the Book of Mormon was first published, read and distributed.
    Third, the animals, at least in Nephite times (Moroni translated the Ether record around 400 A.D.), would have been well known and heavily used, since Moroni adds a comment about the animals that they were more useful than the horse and the ass, and as useful as the elephant.
    Fourth, the animals need to be domesticated and be indigenous to the Western Hemisphere.
    Thus, to know of the Land of Promise, we must find a location where two animals that were unknown to Joseph Smith in New England America in 1829, but were present in the Land of Promise and of great importance to its inhabitants.
Even today, llamas are used as pack animals, they are more sure-footed than horses or donkeys in traveling on difficult terrain, rock ledges, etc.
    So far discovered, the only animals in the Western Hemisphere anciently and now that can qualify for this description are the Llama and Alpaca, the former being a pack-carrying beast-of-burden animal and the latter being a fiber-producing animal, with a very fine, soft fleece coat of lustrous and silky natural fiber that has been used for making knitted and woven clothing and fabric for thousands of years. Both provide food, and the larger llama can be ridden, though more often used to carry heavy packs.
Pottelry showing a man riding a llama

During the Inca Empire, llamas were the only beasts of burden, and many of the people dominated by the Inca had long traditions of llama herding. For the Inca nobility, the llama was of symbolic significance, and llama figures were often buried with the dead. There are figurines of llamas being ridden by the Moche (100-300 A.D.) 1400 years before the Inca
     Part of the Camelid family, of which there are five species: camel, guanaco, vicuna, llama and alpaca. Other than the camel, their indigenous habitat has been the Andean area of South America, specifically Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Chile.
Left: Vicuna; Right: Guanaco, the wild ancestors of the Llama and Alpaca

    In this Andean area of South America, there are two wild animals known as the Vicuna and the Guanaco, from which two domestic animals derive, the llama and Alpaca. These animals date back more than four thousand years. They have historically been used by ancient Peruvians for the purposes stated above as well as for guarding livestock. Even today, llamas, requiring no training and little care, are imported all over the world for guards to specifically sheep and goat herds, and have eliminated the losses to predators for many producers.  
    Today, llamas are still used as beasts of burden, and along with the Alpaca, used for production of fiber and meat—the fiber of the llama’s ancestor, the Vicuna, along with the Alpaca, are both considered the finest natural fibers of any animals in then world; twice as fine as Angora Rabbit, 2 ½ times finer than Cashmere, and four times finer than Chinchilla. They are also excellent pets if treated well, and require little attention to keep.
    From an agricultural standpoint, according to Alex Chepstow-Lusty, who finished his PhD at Cambridge University in Quaternary Research in 1990, and has subsequently been actively involved in botanical and palaeoecological projects from many parts of the world, particularly with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and the Andes, now with the University of Montpellier as a researcher attached to the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima, though base mostly in Cuzco, claims that the switch from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to widespread agriculture in the Andes area was only possible because of the use of llama dung as fertilizer (Information Resoures on the South American Camelids, 2006).
    Obviously, the llama and alpaca are two very important animals to man in just about every way possible.
Left: the Llama; Right: the Alpaca, which was raised for its extraordinary fiber for clothing. These animals, and their two wild ancestors shown above (Guanaco and Vicuna) are indigenous only to Andean South America, as is the Spectacled or Andean Beara

    Typically, they are saddled with loads of 50 to 75 pounds. Under such weight they can cover up to 20 miles in a single day. Pack trains of llamas, which can include several hundred animals, move large amounts of goods over even the very rough terrain of the Andes. Llamas contribute much more than transportation to the human communities in which they live. Leather is made from their hides, and their wool is crafted into ropes, rugs, and fabrics. Llama excrement is dried and burned for fuel. Even in death, llamas can serve their human owners—some people slaughter them and eat their meat." It is not difficult to see why Moroni wrote that these two animals he called the curelom and cumom “were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms" (more useful than horses and donkeys).
(See the next post, “Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part XX,” for more of Mormon’s statements that lead us to a clearer understanding of the location of the Land of Promise)


  1. I tend to agree with Ludlow that it is unclear if Moroni translated and abridged the book of Ether, or just abridged it from an earlier translation when it was first discovered. --

  2. “Therefore he took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, and also the plates of Nephi, and all the things which he had kept and preserved according to the commandments of God, after having translated and caused to be written the records which were on the plates of gold which had been found by the people of Limhi, which were delivered to him by the hand of Limhi” (Mosiah 28:11); “And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow.” (Mosiah 28:13); “Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam. Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice“ (Mosiah 28:17-1).
    Later, we find that “Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth” (Alma 63:12).
    The question whether Moroni re-translated Ether’s writings or simply abridged the earlier translations of Ether’s writings are unknown to us as far as I know.