Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel 1886 – Lehi’s Landing Part I

It might be of interest to know that one of the granite cornerstones that the Salt Lake Temple stands on is hollow, and inside there’s something of a time capsule that includes a handful of key Church books, including one: A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel by apostle Franklin D. Richards and co-author James A. Little, published in 1882, which is one of those books. It was sufficiently authoritative that James E. Talmage, listed it among the capstone’s contents, and referred to it as just Compendium. It’s also one of only seven works from the 19th century that makes the Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s list of doctrinally significant books.
In the late 1800s, Franklin D. Richards (above), who was a carpenter, businessman and newspaper editor, served as an Apostle in the Church for 50 years, and later as President of the Quorum until his death in 1899. He was one of the two men who survived the mob attack at Carthage Jail when Joseph and Hyrum were killed, and served in the Utah Territorial Legislature, was President of the British Mission then later president of the European Mission, editor of the Millennial Star and finally as Church Historian while an Apostle. Both his son (George F. Richards) and grandson (LeGrand Richards) also served as Apostles, and another grandson, Franklin D. Richards served as Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve and later as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. His book Compendium had 19 editions published between 1882 and 2010 and held by 82 libraries around the world.
    What is so important about Compendium? It is the first reasonably comprehensive, topically organized doctrinal exposition the Church ever produced. It took 74 key gospel topics and provided a succinct statement regarding each, along with key scriptural and other references establishing the stated doctrine. It would be like the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, Index, and True to the Faith all rolled into one, released for the first time ever.
    Today, of course, anyone who wants to know the Church’s doctrine on baptism or spiritual gifts or the second coming can Google it, look it up in any number of books, check the various study helps in the scriptures, etc. But lest we forget, the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary date back only to 1979. The Book of Mormon itself first received an index in Talmage’s 1920 edition, and Reynolds’ Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon was only published in 1900. In the earliest days of the Church, you had the text of the scriptures (if you were lucky enough to have access to the Pearl of Great Price or its constituent works) and some periodicals or pamphlets.

So if, in 1881, you asked “what is the Church’s doctrine on” any particular gospel subject, and “what are the key scripture reference, talks, etc. establishing that doctrine?” you were courting a substantial research project. But with the 1882 publication of Compendium, Deseret News for the first time in Church history, that information was at any reader’s fingertips. As a default source of such information for decades, with reprints as late as 1925, the importance of Compendium as a doctrinal standard can hardly be overstated—although it may seem this is attempting to do so. Yet, it is obviously one of those books no one seems to have heard about. Certainly no one has ever published a brilliant paper on its doctrinal impact that we have ever heard about (the original leather-bound volume, now very rare, was 336 pages and is now owned by the corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church and is part of the Church History Library.
    Before going into one of its contents, we might include here a comment from Leon C. Dalton, who wrote in his work “Routes to the Promised land” which appeared in the Liahona, The Elders Journal, August 8,1944, page 102. "Regarding pilot charts, which depict averages in prevailing winds and currents, air and sea temperatures, wave heights, ice limits, visibility, barometric pressure, and weather conditions at different times of the year, with the information used to compile these averages obtained from oceanographic and meteorologic observations over many decades during the late 18th and 19th centuries, and based on the fact that in temperate zones speed of ocean currents is 8 to 10 knots per hour, but in tropical regions, it is 10 to 15 knots, due to a more forceful convergence and lighter density of water."
A United States Coast Pilot chart book, one of several available today that charts in great detail the course of ocean currents and wind velocities throughout the entire coastal waters of the U.S.; also Ocean Atlas, one of numerous such offerings for offshore waters in the deep ocean showing currents and wind velocities for mariners
It is also a fact that current velocity is fastest near the surface. And in the Indian Ocean there is a seasonal change in the northern part due in part that there is an absence of a cold current there, but no such seasonal change of currents in southern part of the Indian Ocean. As an example, Columbus’ ships covered an average of 150 miles a day crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.
    This led Dalton to write in 1944: “An examination of the pilot charts of the world reveals that if the Nephites embarked in late summer, after the harvest, they would have two or three months of northerly winds (winds out of the north blowing toward the south) for about 100 days, and if they floated at the normal rate of from three to five miles per hour, they would reach a south latitude of about 40 degrees in that length of time, or slightly south of the line connecting Cape Town, South Africa and Melbourne, Australia.

Lehi’s Course (Yellow Arrow) following the northerly winds (blowing south) in the Northern Indian Ocean down through the Southern Indian Ocean to the Prevailing Westerlies of the Southern Ocean

“Here they would encounter the ‘Prevailing Westerlies’ (winds blowing west to east) as they would here enter the ocean currents that trail eastward around the globe the year around. These currents continue their eastward course until they encounter 56 degrees continue on around the earth, while those striking the Chilean coast are deflected northward along the shoreline, turning seaward again at about 35º south latitude during the warm months, but continuing northward to about 20º during the winter…”
    Regarding the book Compendium under the subject matter of “Where Lehi Landed,” in the 1912 edition, (p 289), under the heading “Lehi’s Travels—Revelation to Joseph the Seer,” and in reference to 1 Nephi 18:23, it states: “The course Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the place of their destination: They traveled nearly a south-southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction and landed on the continent of South America, in Chile, thirty degrees south latitude.”
    Now some have questioned whether or not this was a revelation. As an example, the text continues: “Reynolds and Sjodahl have a note on this in their Book of Mormon Geography, p 54: ‘In the library connected with the office of the Church Historian, Salt Lake City, there is a sheet of paper on which the statement is written that the landing was in 30 degrees south. That would be in Chile, about where the citiy of Coquimbo now is situated. The statement is handwritten by Frederick G. Williams, at one time counselor to the Prophet, and it is found on a sheet on which the revelation of D&C 7 also has been copied. That revelation was given in the year 1829. The presumption, therefore is that the lines relating to the landing of Lehi were also penned at an early date, and certainly before the year 1837, when Frederick G. Williams was removed from his position as counselor. If this is correct, the statement of Williams would undoubtedly reflect the views of the Prophet Joseph on that question.”
(See the next post, “A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel 1886 – Lehi’s Landing – Part II,” for more information on early Church Leaders views and the type of information that was available in the Church publications before Mesoamerica and Limited Geography concept was introduced through BYU archaeology)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part V

Continuing from the previous post regarding what help, if any, Nephi had in building his ship other than his own family and those in Lehi’s party. 
    Regarding how much help Nephi had in building his ship, keep in mind that not another single person is mentioned outside the Lehi party, so despite theorists wanting to bend the scriptures to agree with their points of vie3w, by adding people, let’s take a look at the crew Nephi had at his disposal:

Lehi and Ishmael’s families before Jacob and Joseph and any children of the five new couples were born, and without any household servants and workers
1. Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Laman, Lemuel, and the two sons of Ishmael = 7 adult men;
2. Probably two teenage sons for each of Ishmael’s sons = 4;
3. Seven wives, plus a couple of teenage girls = 9;
4. Perhaps 10 youngsters around the age of 6 or 7 (children of the five newly wedded couples), plus Jacob and Joseph = 12 (and unlike children of today, children anciently around these ages were often hard workers with daylong chores to perform);
5. Possible field workers, hands that kept the fields, crops, grounds, etc., of a farm outside Jerusalem of both Lehi and Ishmael, including possible distant family members making up their households = 10;
6. Possible household servants of both Lehi and Ishmael = 5; for a possible pool of about 29 adults; 6 teenagers; 12 older children, or 47 total. Of course, 15 of these are speculation (field workers and household servants), but we are still talking about sufficient numbers to work a ship that is “driven forth before the wind,” that would require very little attention.
    There is also a specific event in the journey that should suggest no other professional people had been hired to run or work the vessel and that appears when, after many days of sailing, when Laman and Lemuel and the two sons of Ishmael tied up Nephi (1 Nephi 18:11) and Liahona stopped working (1 Nephi 18:12). Nephi states: “Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless they did not loose me. And on the fourth day, which we had been driven back, the tempest began to be exceedingly sore. And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 18:13-15).
Now, one might think that if there were experienced seamen or an experienced captain on board the ship that 1) it would not matter that the brothers didn’t know how to steer the ship, and 2) they would have had the ship under sufficient control in heavy weather to which they would have been experienced. But as the narrative goes on to show, it was only the releasing of Nephi that saved the day, because he knew how to steer the ship and get the Liahona to work again (1 Nephi 18:21). What were the experienced seamen doing, twiddling their thumbs?
    Nor does the statement Nephi made make any sense if there were professional seamen on board, when he stated about his brothers: “And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts; wherefore, when they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed me” (1 Nephi 18:20).
    Experienced seaman could have cared less about whether Nephi was tied up or whether the brothers were at odds one with another. Experienced seamen would have known what to do in a terrible storm and it would not have mattered whether a compass was available or whether the brothers were scared to death—at most they would have laughed at the drama unfolding around them because they would have been concentrating on the weather and handling of the ship.
    The problem always arises when theorists think they are more intelligent than the scriptural record, and more intelligent than Joseph Smith who translated it. Because of this, they feel they have to fill in the blanks, because in their intelligent thinking, it could not happen the way God tells us it happened, but would have had to have happened differently.
Greek ships at the time of Lehi were driven mostly by manpower (oars) with the sail a secondary convenience

Potter and Wellington also stated that “It is figured that at the time that Greek ships traveling between India, Persia, Arabia and Egypt visited the harbor at Moscha, few places would have provided Nephi with such a wealth of maritime tradition of sea traveling and shipbuilding.”  However, the Greeks were not sailing into the area of Oman until the first century A.D. (George Fadio Hourani, John Carswell, Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1951, 1995, pp31-33). At least, we know that in the first century A.D., the ancient Greeks called the Sea of Arabia the Erythra Thalassa, meaning “Red Sea,” and the Romans called it Mare Erythreaem. In the third century, Flavius Philostratus made this comment: "And they say that the sea called Erythra or "red" is of a deep blue color, but that it was so named, as I said before, from a King Erythras, who gave his own name to the sea in question” (Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book III, chapter L, Loeb Classical Library). In the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written in the 1st century A.D., as well as in some ancient maps, the name of the sea refers to the whole area of the northwestern Indian Ocean, including the Sea of Arabia. In centuries past, the name "Erythraean Sea" was applied by Cartographers to the Northwest part of the Indian Ocean, mainly the area around Socotra, between Cape Guardafui and he coast of Hadhramaut, now called the Gulf of Aden.
    As to the Greeks, not only were they not in Khor Rori or this area before the first century B.C.., their traffic in the area withered away in the 3rd century A.D. after the fall of Rome. In fact, the earliest notice of the Greeks in the Indian Ocean is found in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea or Periplus of the Red Sea (Latin: Periplus Maris Erythraei) is a Greco-Roman periplus (manuscript document that lists the ports and coastal landmarks, in order and with approximate intervening distances, that the captain of a vessel could expect to find along a shore), which was written in Greek, describing navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports along the coast of the Red Sea to the South western India.
The Greeks were still fighting sea battles in the Aegean Sea as last as the 4th cetury B.C. and despite much print to the opposite, did not leave the Mediterranean until the voyage of Pytheas of Massalia in 325 B.C. to northwestern Europe. He wrote of this voyage and it was widely known in antiquity, but has not survived

    Ancient Greeks were in awe of the seas and deified the oceans, believing that man no longer belonged to himself when once he embarked on a sea voyage. They believed that he was liable to be sacrificed at any time to the anger of the great Sea God. The Greeks were still fighting sea battles within the Aegean Sea as late as the 4th century B.C., some two hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem, and the Mediteerranean Sea was still a dangerous place to sail in the third century B.C., the first fire-based lighthouse not being built until between 285 and 247 B.C. in Alexandria. For the Greeks to have sailed to far away India via the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean would have been doubtful before the second or first century B.C.
    Since we know that Khor Rori was not occupied until around 300 B.C., it seems likely that the Greeks would not have been using this port much before the first century B.C., since the periplus was not written until the first to the third century A.D.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part IV

Continuing from the previous post regarding what help, if any, Nephi had in building his ship other than his own family and those in Lehi’s party, and also continuing where we ended in the last post, according to Agius, these shipwrights of today using the techniques of their great ancestors, use:

Top Left: Mango tree; Top Right: Mangrove trees; Bottom Left: Coconut Palm trees; Bottom Right: Honey-producing Al Sidir tree (sapling)
1. Mango (also known as bīfūn) for the ship’s planking and treenails (pegs and wooden fastenings);
2. Salt-tolerant mangrove trees, common to the area, used for the boat frame (Theophrastus—a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos and the successor to Aristotle—reported 2000 years ago that Mangrove was quite plentiful in this area);
3. Coconut tree (nargīl wood) was used for the hull, mast and rudder, as well as the lengths of rope;
4. Other local trees, the Delonix elata [Gul Mohur] and érîr, was used for the ribs, stem and sternpost;
5. Shalāmīn ayrīr or anīr, a tree that grows to 16 feet, and very pliable when laid underwater for six months, was used for bendable plank support, and if peeled could be used for rope nets;
6. Athab or ithebe (ficus) which grows up to 20 feet tall, was used for the frames;
7. Kilīt evergreen tree which grows up to 13 feet and used for oars;
8. The strong wood of the sidir tree (nebeq, Had nebk) was also used for the stem and sternpost;

When finished, tar was spread on the planks to hold them firmly in place and keep water out, then the outward planks were covered with fish liver oil (Dionisius A. Agius, Seafaring in the Arabian Gulf and Oman: People of the Dhow, Routledge, New York, 2005, pp31-33).
    Potter and Wellington further state that “I had finished the ship” (1 Nephi 18:4) certainly did not mean that he built it all by himself. History tells us that the hanging gardens of Babylon were built by King Nebuchadnezzar for his wife, but we don’t think that he was down on his hands and knees doing the work. Nephi does not tell us how many people worked on the construction of his ship, only that “we did work timbers” (1 Ne. 18:1), and that at least on one occasion his workers were his reluctant brethren (1 Nephi 17:18).”
    Funny, no one is suggesting Nephi built the ship all by himself. He had the help of at least five other adult men (brothers and the sons of Ishmael) and some teenagers who would have been the sons of Ishmael’s sons, and after eight years in the wilderness and probably at least a year at Bountiful, we are talking about several kids to do gopher work, seeing to the planting and harvesting of food, etc.

A modern crew building a dhow using traditional methods and materials, taking up to a year to construct
Today, while iron nails have come to replace the rope which held these floating vessels together in centuries past, and brass propellers and engines now help mobilization, the approximately year-long process of finishing a dhow has remained tried and true not only as a commercial enterprise, but as an Omani expression of art, craftsmanship, tradition and culture—it has remained tried and true with wooden beams being cut, manipulated and shaped with saws, hammers, bows, awls, and a lion’s share of the woodwork is done manually by hammer and chisel, and what one understands when visiting this shipping sanctuary, is that these laborious undertakings aren’t so much a task to complete, rather than a culture to preserve. Manual tools are used more often than electric, manuals don’t exist, and the best way to figure something out is to sit down with a decades-long veteran of this seaside workshop.
However, Nephi’s ship would not have taken as many people to build as some theorists seem to think. A typical standard medium sized 52 feet long 14 feet wide dhow, for example, takes one shipwright and four to five workers a total of only three months to complete using ancient building methods and materials. Building, a 100 feet long, 20 feet wide ship, which was about the size of Nephi’s ship, would have taken approximately 9 months to build with the same crew: one shipwright and 5 workers, i.e., Nephi, and Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and the two sons of Ishmael. Plus they would have had a handful of teenagers and older children to help do other things, plus women to make the ropes, sails, and other paraphernalia. However, for the benefit of the doubt, let’s add another three months or so since Laman and Lemuel would not have been working fast or really very willingly, and perhaps lacked some worker skills to the extent of slowing down the project, which could have taken a year and a half, if necessary. There was no time element involved of which we are apprised.
    Despite all the understanding to the contrary, and evidently with an extraordinary lack of understanding, Potter and Wellington sum this up by stating; “However, his brothers were not working on the ship when it was being finished (1 Nephi 18:4).”
    Now, other than wanting to limit the number of people helping him build the ship and further their view that outside workers were used, they misunderstand the simple meaning of Nephi’s words. After all, for a very long time, at least close to a year or perhaps even longer, Laman and Lemuel were working and grousing about their having to work on a project of which they had little, if any, faith, but in the end, when it was completed, they looked at the ship with a different view—it was finished and required no more of their effort, and it looked really good. Perhaps for the first time they realized that Nephi knew what he was doing. But to say they had not been working on the ship toward the end is without merit and has no supportive commentary anywhere in the scriptural record to suggest such a thing.

Notwithstanding the simple truth the scriptures tell us, Potter and Wellington, evidently unable to see beyond their own experiences to the work of the Lord and the capability of Nephi, state: “Still, it would have been impossible for a lone man to have outfitted and finished a large ship by himself. Simply lifting the heavy timbers would have required many men. If his brothers were not helping him build the finished ship, then who was? We believe it was imperative that Nephi needed at least one experienced shipwright to train and assist him, as well as, a number of other workers.”
    Their doggedly worrying that bone back and forth reminds one of the Mesoamericanists who insist that other people were in the Land of Promise before, during and after the Nephites even though there is not one single reference or suggestion in the entire scriptures to indicate such a conclusion. Again, even though no other people are indicated other than who was in Lehi’s party, Potter and Wellington mention “other aspects related to the ship, such as, having a trained crew to sail the ship, and how to captain and command the ship. We won’t take time to discuss them, but it is quite interesting what Nephi had to learn to be the Captain, and he probably hired on several experienced seamen for the journey, which would have brought other bloodlines to the New World.”
    One can only imagine at such creativity involving the scriptural record practiced by numerous theorists in order to make the scriptural record agree with their point of view and model.
(See the next post, “Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part V,” for more information on this and a clearer understanding of why Nephi did not need outside help or assistance in building his ship and how much help he actually had)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding what help, if any, Nephi had in building his ship other than his own family and those in Lehi’s party. 
    Potter and Wellington go on to ask the question: “Why would the Lord suddenly start intervening in every matter, after having Nephi and his group suffer great afflictions for eight years in the desert where they nearly died and having them later almost drown in a great tempest at sea?

Laman and Lemuel tied up their brother Nephi onboard his ship and a terrible storm broke out and the Liahona stopped working
Nephi seems to have had to suffer through each ordeal the same as any man. The sun shone just as hot on him as anyone else, the rain fell just as wet on him, and the wind blew just as hard.”
    Suffering through those hardships, developing the nature of a leader, preparing him to take command and charge when it would be required of him in the face of constant bickering and disagreement by his brothers and the sons of Ishmael, the hardships he faced refined his abilities to the point he could carry out the assignments the Lord gave him. There is no mystery in this. The Lord works the same way in most of our lives, some of us rise to the occasion, and some don’t, but the Lord is always preparing us for the future events of our lives. And so he did with Nephi. When the time came, Nephi was fully capable of carrying out his role without requiring shipwrights in an area where they did not exist and would not for two or three hundred years after Lehi left Bountiful in Nephi’s ship.
    As though Potter and Wellington caught a glimpse of this, they write: “Like the desert journey, building a ship was part of Nephi’s development under the hand of the Lord. He, too, would have had to learn line upon line, precept upon precept, as all who had gone before him or would go after. The Lord seems to have made a pioneer par excellence of the faithful Nephi, who on his journey acquired all the basic skills necessary for the creation and settlement of an ancient society in the strangeness of the promised land.” Yet, they turn right around and disqualify it when they think the task was beyond the man the Lord raised up to carry out the task, when they add: “Building a ship required Nephi to learn from local tradesmen how to smelt ore to make tools, to cut stones to form anchors, to work wood within very tight specification, to weave sails, to fabricate rope, to mold pots for storing water, to tan hides for bellows and how to fasten the ship’s riggings. Culminating with the building of a great ship, Nephi’s journey was, we might say, his university. In the New World he became a ruler and teacher (2 Nephi 5:19), passing on to a new society a storehouse of knowledge that took civilizations thousands of years to acquire. Nephi personally taught his people the basic skills of metallurgy (2 Ne. 5:15), high quality wood working skills—manifested in the wilderness family’s ability to construct a temple of “exceedingly fine” workmanship (2 Nephi 5:16), building construction, and to work in all manner of woods (2 Nephi 5:15).”

Yes, he did all that, but he did not teach his people how to build ships as far as we know. Nor did he have anyone teach him, other than the Lord, how to build his ship. What he taught his people were the skills he developed over a lifetime and honed to perfection in the construction of his ship. After all, the Lord was fully capable of teaching Nephi what he needed to know, and seeing that he developed the skills during his lifetime that would lead him to be able to carry out his assignments. Thus, Nephi did not need outside help, and none is mentioned or even suggested in the scriptural record that he had any or sought any.
    Isn’t it time we trust in the Lord to be able to do all that he needs to do, and to see that we develop, if we are willing, all that he needs in us, and accept his word in the scriptural record as it is written and not go around trying to add things that are not there?
    Yet, Potter and Wellington go on to press their viewpoint: “Without a master shipwright it seems impossible to envision Nephi building a complex sailing ship. Here is a very short list of some of the essential competencies exercised in building the Sohar:
1. Forming the hull from preshaped planks.
2. Wood working: Tim Severin, a Marine archaeologist, who built a replica of an Arab ship and sailed it to China, noted of the effort it took to work just one twelve-foot-long garbord plank, “this piece was 3 inches thick, and it took us four days to twist, bend and chisel it into the right curve.
Example of sewn planks and framework
3. Rope-working and sewing timbers: Sevenin called the fifty-two-foot-long coconut hulk ropes pythons. These ropes were then stretched and sewn into place using more rope by teams of men working up and down the length of the planks. He noted that “the operation was very precise there had to be exactly the right number of strings and at the correct tension.”
4. Bending planks into exact shapes using steam boxes.
5. Caulking the ship and knowing how to mix the caulking compounds: Severin relates that his shipwrights “spent a week stuffing coconut fiber plugs into the stitch holes in the planking, a tedious but essential task. He estimates that they had drilled more than 20,000 holes in the planking, and if these holes were not pegged properly the ship would leak like a huge sieve.”
6. Oiling the ropes: Without oiling on the ropes of a sewn ship, the ropes and the ship will fall apart in a matter of months.
7. Antifouling coating: To protect against shipworms.
8. Outfitting the ship: Nephi needed to know how and where to anchor the masts. He then needed to install a complicated set of riggings and sails.” 
    However, the point is, Nephi had an expert shipwright in the Lord to teach him through visions, and "showing" him how to perform whatever tasks that might have been outside his pervue. He did not need another.
    Yet, Potter and Wellington go on to ask: “One question, of course, is which of the species Nephi shaped for his ship (1 Nephi 18:1-2,6). We do not know. It is possible that Nephi somehow acquired teak logs floated from India, because sources earlier than Lehi speak of this kind of import for the work of shipwrights in the area of the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles to the north. It is the judgment of George Hourani that "Arabia does not. . . produce wood suitable for building strong seagoing ships," and thus "the materials for building strong vessels had to be brought from India."
    We do not know, of course, which wood or tree species Nephi may have used—he may have cut different trees for different parts of his ship as is common today among shipwrights who claim they are doing exactly what their great ancestors did—but suitable trees have been growing in the Dhofar region for millennia.

The luxuriant growth of trees and flora in Dhofar near Khor Rori
In fact, when some theorists touting Khor Kharfot or elsewhere claim there were no trees in Khor Rori area from which Nephi could have built his ship, we should understand that the trees form part of the luxuriant, tropical growth in Dhofar, Oman, along the Salalah Plain, and around Khor Rori, were made up of Mango and Coconut palm trees, both of which could be used to build the ship.
    Potter and Wellington add: “This is only a partial list of the scores of skills Nephi needed to master in order to construct a large sailing ship.”
    Of course, the one thing Nephi had on his side in learning and performing all this was time. They had all he time in the world to accomplish the task the Lord set before them.
(See the next post, “Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part IV,” for more information on this and a clearer understanding of why Nephi did not need outside help or assistance in building his ship)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding what help, if any, Nephi had in building his ship other than his own family and those in Lehi’s party. 
    Nephi built his ship after the manner the Lord showed him. He mentioned no outside help, other than those of his family. After all, if Nephi was being shown by experienced shipwrights who were doing the technical work as Potter and Wellington claim, then why did Nephi’s brothers rebel as Nephi said: “And thus my brethren did complain against me, and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:18). Surely that would have made no sense if there were experienced ship builders giving the instruction and showing how it should be done.
    Isn’t it about time to accept the scriptural record the way it is written and not try to add things that are not included? It matters little what the common man can do, but what the common man can do with the help and aid of the Lord. Nephi’s experience, rather than to be belittled in such a manner, should be seen in the light of his great achievement under the tutelage of the Lord—a guidepost for us all!
    One of the more important things that had to be achieved in the building of his ship was for Nephi to make sure the planks of the ship were joined with such exactness as to prevent leaks.

Left: Oldest wood plane found, dated to the early Roman period and made of wood with a metal blade; Right Top: Egyptian plane; Right Bottom: Later early planes of Europe
    It is believed that such planning had to be within 1/64th of an inch of exactness. Of course, the question is always raised as to how could Nephi have learned to do this if not at the side of an experienced shipwright?
    It might be of interest to note that ancient wooden planes for smoothing wood planks has been in existence since B.C. times—exact tools with iron sole plates riveted to the wooden bodies, though most Roman planes were constructed of an iron cutter with a wooden body, push bar and wedge very similar to planes used today. Earlier Egyptian planes and other hand tools have also been found, along with the ancient adze, which early shipwrights used almost exclusively in building their small dhows.

Left Top: Hafted jade adz; Top Right: Hatchet hafted as an adz; Left Bottom: Hafted bone and stone adz; Hafted bone and iron adz
    The adze (adz) is a cutting tool shaped somewhat like an axe that dates back to the stone age. It can be any tool with a sharp cutting edge, used for smoothing or carving wood in hand woodworking, similar to an axe, but with the cutting edge perpendicular to the handle. Two basic forms of an adze are the hand adze, a short handled tool swung with one hand, and a foot adze, a long handled tool capable of powerful swings using both hands, the cutting edge usually striking at foot or shin level. The blade of an adze is set at right angles to the tool's shaft (like a hoe or plane) in contrast to an axe’s blade, which is in plane with the shaft.
    Most ancient ship builders used the adze, which is still used by old Omani shipwrights in Arabia today. Both ancient and modern adzes are hafted upon essentially the same patter—a short curved haft, the shape of which is sufficiently well indicated below, which was made of whale’s rib, deer antler, or shaped wood, as a sturdy tree branch.

Ancient Egyptian adzes dating to 2000 to 1500 B.C.
    The shipwright's adze is lighter, and more versatile than the carpenter's adze, and designed to be used in a variety of positions, including overhead, as well as in front on waist and chest level. It is imperative that the blade be extremely sharp, and the handle be the right length for the person using it, and one who is experienced using this tool can shape a piece of wood as easily as a baker ices a cake. Anciently, this took was almost used solely in all kinds of carpenter work, but especially by shipwrights in building boats and ships.
    It is also important to keep in mind that the adze was a household tool for any worker and would have been found on Lehi’s farm outside of Jerusalem, and obviously used by Nephi and Sam as well as Laman and Lemuel in their work around the farm in any type of wood working. To think that ancient man in such a farm situation for much of their lives would not know how to use such tools, as well as forging knowledge at least in the making of tools used each day is foolhardy. There were no local Wal-Marts or Ace Hardware store--tools were hand made on the farm and used there.
    It should also be understood that the Lord knew that Nephi would someday be called upon to build a ship that had to withstand deep ocean travel. During his early years, the Lord would have prepared him for that eventuality by seeing that he had the opportunity to develop such skills as would someday become necessary. Theorists seem to forget that the Lord has a Plan and operates that Plan, preparing those he needs to assist him in his work at different times well in advance so that when the time arrives, they are ready and able to carry out their roles. Moses was raised in the house of the Pharaoh for 40 years, then given another 40 years of preparation for his history changing task. Joseph Smith, and his father and those who came before underwent numerous trials in their preparation to mold him into the man needed to usher in the restoration.
    When it came time for Nephi to build the ship, he was ready. He did not concern himself with how to do it or if he could, after seeing the images of the ship he was to build and how it was to be built, all he wanted to know was where the ore could be found to make the tools (1 Nephi 17:9) “to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (emphasis added).
    This was not a new idea to Nephi. He had earlier been given a vision which he asked to see. As he stated: “For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot” (1 Nephi 11:1, emphasis added).
    While there is no question that a person needs to have the skills needed in which to carry out the instruction of the Lord, he also can develop or increase his ability, by seeing exactly how it is to be done. As any communication expert today knows, a picture is worth a thousand words--and to the prophet, a vision is worth a thousand pictures.

Consider a picture of each and every step to be taken in the phrase: “And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1)
    The Lord did not just tell Nephi how to do something, as so many theorists seem to think, but he “showed” him all the things he had to do to build his ship. While Nephi had no knowledge of building a ship, he did have knowledge and experience in building around his father’s farm the items that such a farm requires. And though he may not have known why he was learning such skills, the Lord certainly did and made sure he had ample opportunity to hone those building skills to the point that would be needed.
    But theorists always miss the point. As Potter and Wellington argue: “One could argue that it was no problem at all for the Lord could have simply supplied Nephi with all the materials, knowledge and skills he needed on request. We refer to this as the “storybook” version of Nephi’s ship. It is a scenario that we think grossly misrepresents how the Lord deals with his faithful servants and significantly undervalues what Nephi actually accomplished through applied faith and works, and it also leads to a mythological rather than factual understanding of the Book of Mormon. Besides, the storybook version makes no sense. If the Lord simply wanted to supply everything for Nephi, one miracle after another, why build a ship in the first place? Why not have them walk across the ocean?”
    Such simplicity not only misses the point, but in and of itself ignores the training and development the Lord places in the path of those he needs to serve him in certain ways. When I was called to be on a stake high council right after being married, I didn’t even know what a high council was or how it operated—much to my chagrin because of the many protocol mistakes I initially made—let alone what work they did other than give talks in Sacrament meeting once in a while. But I had been prepared by the Lord to do certain things and develop certain skills which the Stake Presidency needed and utilized through me. And so it is with those the Lord calls.
    He knew what Nephi would be required to do, knew what skills and abilities he would need, and knew He had a willing subject with which to teach in  his developing years around his father’s farm. By the time those skills were needed, they were available, and with Nephi’s extremely positive attitude and trust in the Lord, he carried out his responsibilities without the need for outside help.
(See the next post, “Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part III,” for more information on this and a clearer understanding of why Nephi did not need outside help or assistance in building his ship)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part I

George Potter and Richard Wellington wrote in their book Lehi in the Wilderness (published by Cedar Fort, 2003): “Building a ship required Nephi to learn from local tradesmen how to smelt ore to make tools, to cut stones to form anchors, to work wood within very tight specification, to weave sails, to fabricate rope, to mold pots for storing water, to tan hides for bellows and how to fasten the ship’s riggings. Culminating with the building of a great ship.”
Of course, we have in this blog, always maintained that Nephi did not have help outside his own family and that of Ishmael, along with whatever family retainers and household servants that accompanied them into the wilderness.  While the Potter and Wellington’s work of Lehi’s trek to Bountiful is probably the best explanation of that journey found in print outside the Book of Mormon, on this particular issue, like many others beyond Bountiful, we have a strong disagreement, partly because like most theorists, Potter and wellington go far beyond the scriptural record to intone their own and other's ideas, such as Nephi learning how to buiuld from men of his time; however, actually Nephi makes no reference, intonation, or suggestion of any type that anyone else was involved in that effort other than receiving direct guidance and instruction from the Lord.
    In all reality, Nephi lays it all upon the Lord. This means to me, that through the Liahona or Urim and Thumim, the Lord communicated with Nephi, as well as on the mount about which Nephi said: “I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3, emphasis added). What exactly the Lord showed him, we are not told, but it might have been anywhere from instruction to actual visions of how things were to be done, i.e., seeing wood worked, seeing wood cut and shaved to the clearance needed to make the vessel watertight, and so on.
    After all, the words: “the Lord showed unto me,” has specific meaning. In 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the word "show" is defined as: “to enable to see,” “to present to the view of others,” “to contain in a visible form,” “to teach,” “to point out as a guide,” and “external appearance.”
    Perhaps it was like a modern “You-Tube” where a viewer is shown quite quickly how to actually perform the steps needed to build a boat, sailing ship or whatever. After all, the Lord has said, “I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly” (1 Nephi 20:3).
A You-Tube presentation on working wood during the construction of a boat. Note the step-by-step methodology used; surely the Lord can do better and quicker, by installing the images directly in the mind of the individual, such as in a detailed vision as both Lehi and Nephi saw earlier

    Potter and Wellington also stated that “It is probably a fact that when Nephi arrived at Bountiful, his knowledge of shipbuilding was nil.” In fact, Chief Engineer and Maritime expert Frank Linehan believes that to build his ship Nephi needed access to very skilled shipwrights. He believes that Nephi could not have developed the required expertise in Jerusalem, and while the Lord gave Nephi the instructions on how to build the ship, he did not give him the lifetime of experience that shipwrights need to perform their craft. Nephi built a ship that was large and of fine workmanship.”
    Under normal circumstances, of course, that is no doubt quite true—Lineham has been around the sea all his life with numerous harrowing experiences and would certainly know what it took to build a sea-worthy ship. On the other hand, it is amazing what an indomitable spirit can do in the case of building. In my own case, at the age of 64, I designed and built (along with my wife) a 7400-square foot, two-story home on 3 acres without one ounce of building experience of anything larger than a stereo set. The retirement home had six bedrooms, four baths, two kitchens, two family rooms, a library, child’s playroom, huge laundry room, huge pantry, formal dining room and living room, formal entrance hall, large game room, large craft room, with curved walls, recessed lighting, five-miles of wiring, including an indoor putting green, workshop and extra-large 3-car garage.  By the time we finished after 11-months, using a hired man to help with lifting of beams from time to time, the house appraised at five times what it cost to build, and in eight years, over ten times value. The point is, a person can accomplish great things if they are not too timid to try and willing to spend the time and effort to do the job.
In Nephi’s case, he not only was all of that, but also had an undaunted spirit and trust in the Lord: “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). And in the case of Nephi, he would have been truly ungrateful had he not given credit to the Lord preparing a way by providing skilled workmen if Potter and Wellington were correct in their assessment, and Lineham in his beliefs.
    John L. Sorenson, another theorist who believed that Nephi had the help of other people, stated: “No hint can be found in the text that anyone in Lehi’s party had any knowledge whatever of nautical matters.” At the same time, there is no hint in the scriptural record that he had any help in building his ship other than who was in Lehi’s party. So again, we are led back to the Lord, who once again, Nephi said would not give any commandment unless the Lord provided a way for the command to be carried out.
Tim Severin in the Sinbad Voyage. The ship Severin built had moveable sails and was not "driven forth before the wind," since it could tack and sail into the wind--the skills just to move the sails about took great experience as Severin notes

Famous British explorer, historian and writer Tim Severin, who was the captain of the Sohar ship on its voyage from Muscat to Canton in China, in 1980-81 that covered 6000 miles in eight months, noted the skills required of the shipwrights who constructed his replica, and the seamen who had to learn “how best to adjust the sails to the wind and steer a steady course,” stated: “Whether cutting a foot-thick lump of timber to size, or shaping the finest sliver of wood for a delicate joint, 90 per cent of [his shipwrights] work was done with hammer and chisel; only very reluctantly did they pick up a saw or a plane. The soft iron chisel was their tool, and with it, they could work wonders. They could carve a plank into delicate curves, or they could shape the 60-foot spar into a taper as if it had been turned on a giant lathe.”
In Severin's ship, when the mainspar hung vertical, its butt swept back and forth across the deck with the rolling of the ship like a lethal scythe--split second timing was called for . Also, in hauling in the mainspar, the crew readies to swing the great mainsail around the mast and set a new course--this is a type of sailing requiring enormous experience and had nothing to do with Nephi's ship as he describes it

These are skills, of course, that take many, many years to learn and execute to satisfaction. On the other hand, whatever the Lord showed Nephi, and whatever the young man learned in his building a ship, he then turned around a couple of years later and “I did teach my people 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). Or, stated differently, evidently in that short time of building a ship, Nephi went through a lifetime of learning from the Lord and as a result, built a ship, and then taught his people how to build buildings, work with wood and metals, and precious ores.
He says nothing of learning that from anyone other than the Lord. So why do theorists keep insisting other people had to have been involved? 
    At the same time, Severin's type of vessel, a dhow, not what Nephi built for Nephi's ship was unlike that of men, required special handling because of the manner of the sails, mainspars and masts. While we do not know what the Lord instructed Nephi to specifically build, it obviously was not like that of other ships being built by men of that day; therefore, Severin's experience in his voyage would have had little or nothing to do with what Nephi's voyage experienced, especially in the physical handling of the ship.
    However, not to be swayed by the scriptural record, Potter and Wellington go on to write: ““To prevent leaks ... planks had to be planed to 1/64 of an inch in exactness. How could Nephi have learned to do this if not at the side of an experienced shipwright? The same can be said for sailing a large multisail ship. It takes years to learn and practice the skills needed to master a large sailing ship at sea.”
It is not that the Lord took away the responsibility of Nephi to learn and accomplish these things; he taught him not just by words, but “showed” him how it was to be done. As Nephi put it: “the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1, emphasis added). And to make sure we understood that he was “shown” how to do it, he added, “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2, emphasis added). That is to say, the working of the timbers and building of the ship was of a different design than that known by men of that day, so what it required and how it was done, is simply something beyond our knowledge and perhaps even our understanding. What we do know and can accept without questions, is that whatever the Lord showed Nephi to do, it was something Nephi, and his brothers, etc., could master and do.
    What more on this matter needs to be said?
(See the next post, “Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part II,” for more information on this and a clearer understanding of why Nephi did not need outside help or assistance in building his ship)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Legends of the Book of Mormon – Part VI

Continuing from the previous post regarding the legends found in the Amerias, and that those in South America are as legitimate as those found in Mesoamerica and North America. 
    Most of the Guaraní legends were compiled by the Univeridad Nacional de Misiones, and published as Myths and Legends: A journey around the Guarani lands, Anthology in 1870 (translated into the English language in 1906. Guarani myth and legend can roughly be divided into broad categories, with one of their origination legends stating: 
at one time in the distant past our ancestors crossed a great and spacious ocean from a far land to settle in the Americas. They found the land both wonderful yet full of dangers; through diligence and effort they subdued the land and inaugurated a new civilization.” There were two brothers that vied for leadership of the people: Tupi and Guaraní. Eventually they feuded and divided the people into two separate nations. Each nation, or tribe, adopted the name of the brother who was its leader.” In this division, the Tupi tribes adopted a more fierce, nomadic lifestyle, rejecting the agricultural traditions of their fathers. They engaged in the practice of drinking large quantities of “mate,” a drink prepared from the guarana tree.
    The Guaraní tribes became a stable, God-fearing people, believing in ñamandu, “the true father, the first one” who worked the land and became excellent craftsmen. These hospitable people were well-built, vigorous, and healthy, and seemed gifted with good character and abounding joy, and looked forward to the coming of a tall, fair-skinned, blue eyed, bearded God (Pa'i Shume) who, according to legend, descended from the skies and expressed his pleasure with the Guaraní, and imparted religious instruction. He unlocked the secrets of health and medicine and revealed the healing qualities of native plants.
    Today, the descendants of these people live mostly in Paraguay, which at the time the Spanish arrived, was a territory much larger than today, and still speak the Guaraní language. Over the last few centuries their population has made a comeback and now stands around 270,000. 
The bearded Creator God, Bochica, also alluded to as Nemquetaha, Nemqueteba, and Sadigua, is a figure in the religion of the muisca, who inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense during the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the central Andean highlands of present-day Colombia. He was the founding hero of their civilization, who according to legend brought morals and laws to the people and taught them agriculture and other crafts. In the Andes, he is much like the Peruvian Viracocha
    In Colombia the ancient natives had a legend of a creator and civilizer God, like Viracocha named Bochica, a bearded man who came from the east. He was a gentle hero, a teaching of all thing good, including laws and morals, wandering far and wide teaching the natives right from wrong, and considerined the founding hero of their civilization, who the people ethical and moral normals and a model of by which they could organize their states with both a spiritual leader and a secular leader. He also taught the agricultgure, how to build, and many other crafts. He is remembered as having a startling appearance, tall and imposing-looking, weathered and dressed in a tunic. In his strong broned hand he carried a large gold scepter. He wanted the people to learn how to care for themselves, so he began to teach them. He taught them how to sow their fields, how to plant and harvest, how to build houses and how to weave cottyon and other fibers that they learned to grow in abundance upon their land. 
    Over time, it would appear, lthat this legend became mixed with the legend of a mortal, one easily paralleling Nephi, who taught his people how to do so many things (2 Nephi 5:15). He was the founding hero of their civilization, who the people ethical and moral norms and a model by which they could organize their states with both a spiritual leader and a secular leader. He also taught them agriculture and other crafts.
    In Peru is the legend of two races, or two peoples, both came to the land by sea, one to the north and the other settled in the south, with the one in the north advanced, busy, active builders and developers, while to the south is a less capable people with totally different customs, speaking different languages though at one time they were the same, who continually attack, kill and rob the people to the  north. Another legend considers these two peoples the Quichua and the other the Aymara, with two separate languages that today are recognized as a common grammatical structure, with a great number of words being common to both.
    There is another legend of four peoples settling the greater Cuzco region, which they divided into four sections, that of the Colla-suyu, with the valley of Titicaca as its center, and stretching from the Bolivian highlands to Cuzco; the Conti-suyu, between the Colla-suyu and the ocean; the Quichua Chinchay-suyu, of the north-west; and the Anti-suyu, of the montaña region. Much later in time, when the Inca people, coming suddenly into these lands, annexed them with surprising rapidity, and, making the aboriginal tribes dependent upon their rule, spread themselves over the face of the country. Thus wrote the Spanish historians and chroniclers, but now it is that such rapid conquest was a practical impossibility, and it is now understood that the Inca power was consolidated only some hundred years before the coming of Pizarro.
    The legend of Manco Capac, the hero of Peruvian antiquity, and his sister-wife Mama Oullo Huaca, who was involved in laying the foundations of a city, called today Cuzco. This heavenly pair in the land of Peru abounded in every desirable thing, like the Eden of Genesis. This is sometimes mixed with the legend of the four brothers, with Manco being the youngest of the four who rose to lead the others, and their wives were all sisters, and thus having had the beginning of their lineage in them, they made huacas [sacred things] and places of worship of them, in memory of the origin of their lineage (this certain sounds once again like Nephi and his brothers and their wives, the daughters of Ishmael, who founded the land after Lehi landed).
The point of all of this is to show that Lehi and Nephite legends abound in Andean Peru, including evidences of baptism; Egyptian-style mummification of the dead; stone burial sepulchers like those in the Middle East; the legend of Tupã, Viracocha, Pachacamac, all the supreme God of all creation known by different cultures throughout South America;  flood legends among all ancient cultures there; earliest dated metallurgy in the Americas; archaeological evidence showing paleoamericans were first in South America, as well as white tribes in South America.
    Thus, we find evidence of Lehi and Nephite legends and occurrences throughout the Western Hemisphere. We also find that it began in the south (South America) and worked its way northward (Meso/Central America) and finally into where Joseph mentions Nephites/Lamanites in the land of the plains where Zelph was found (North America). This verifies the many comments made by modern-day Prophets and Church leaders that Zion and the Land of Promise if the Americas, both North and South America.
    This also verifies the scriptural record that tells us that the Nephites were continually moving northward with the Lamanites following them from the south. Thus, we see that the Nephites began in the south where Mormon tells us Lehi landed (Alma 22:28). From there they advanced northward, with many going further north in Hagoth’s ships to “a land which was northward” and disappearing from the Nephite Nation and the story-line of the scriptural record, but not lost to history as Joseph Smith informed us with his vision of Zelph and understading of the Nephite Plains.
    There is simply too much evidence of the Nephites and Lamanites in all three general areas to deny the fact any longer. Lehi landed in South America, and the entire Book of Mormon incidents took place in Andean South America, with Lehi’s descendants traveling northward, beginning with Hagoth’s ships (Alma 63:5, 6-7), ending up in the plains Joseph Smith wrote his wife, Emma, about.
    Thus, the inheritance of Lehi (Menasseh) will be in the south, and the New Jerusalem and the government of the Church (Ephraim) will be in the north.