Comments: #1: “What do you think of John L. Sorenson’s following comment: ‘The Book of Mormon shows so many striking similarities to the Mesoamerican setting that it seems to me impossible for rational people willing to examine the data to maintain that the book is a mere romance or speculative history written in the third decade of the nineteenth century in New York State’” Tanner W.
Response: This statement appears in Sorenson’s book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, and found on page 354 in the Epilogue. Just prior to this on the same page he writes: “The geographical setting identified meets the criteria set out unintentionally by the Book of Mormon as it tells the story. Dimensions, climate, topography, configuration of land and water, and cultural levels exhibited in scriptural statements were found to agree with characteristics of central and southern Mesoamerica. Cultural, historical, and archaeological data substantiate the geographical correlation. In the interest of space, much available data was omitted; still the agreements have been consistent and arresting.
Comment #2: “The Book of Mormon makes a point that Lehi was from the tribe of Manasseh. Why would this be important?” Chester S.
Response: The tribe of Manasseh was the one which lived farthest out in the desert, came into most frequent contact with the Arabs, intermarried with them most frequently, and at the same time had the closest traditional bonds with Egypt. Lehi, belonging to the tribe of Manasseh which makes the first part of the book of Mormon especially accurate—especially to all of those critics who continually want to tell us how the Jews of that period were so anti-Egyptian, etc. It explains his connection to the desert, to having animals, knowing Egyptian, and all the other small nuances of the Lehi-Arab-desert-Egyptian connections.
Comment #3: “I get the impression in reading the movement of Lehi and his family between the Valley of Lemuel and the place they called Nahom as one of great haste. Do you think this is because Lehi thought he might be followed?” Thomas R.
Response: Actually, I think between Jerusalem and the Valley of Lemuel that Lehi might have feared that, but once encamped there, about 210 miles from Jerusalem, he seems to have lost his interest in haste and even moving on. It is likely that the time spent at this campsite, while the boys went back to get both the brass plates, and later Ishmael and his family, including having 5 weddings there, might have taken quite some time. Lynn and Hope Hilton who wrote of this suggested it might have been upwards of two years, especially the part about the traditions surrounding Hebrew weddings, including making additional tents for the new families—an event that takes some time.
A Sheikh’s tent is far more spacious and luxurious than most westerners would think
Well-off Bedouins, for the most part, would not willingly exchange his tent for a stone house. And as for the rest of the trip, it seems to be one of comparative leisure, almost in the Bedouin fashion where travel is for a few days, maybe a week or so, then a campsite is established where they may stay a month or more. It was always the Bedouin nature to stay as long as possible in any given site or until the water and forage ran out.
Thus, moving through the desert for a few days and then camping “for the space of a time” (1 Nephi 16:17) is exactly the way the Bedouins move. Caravan speeds run between about two four miles an hour, thirty miles a day being “a good average,” according to Major R. E. Cheeseman (In Unknown Arabia,1926,, p27,52). The camp would usually be about ten to twelve days on the average before moving on, usually until “it is soiled by the beasts, and the multiplication of fleas becomes intolerable and the surroundings afford no more pasturage.”
This is evidently how Lehi traveled, spending 8 years in the desert to travel about 2500 miles.
Comment #4: “I find it interesting that you neglect to ever say that Sorenson shows where the alpaca and llama cameloids have been found in Mesoamerica, specifically on pre-Spanish figurines from Guatemala, and in Tehuantepec where they were living wild, as discovered by a Costa Rica archaeologist” Grant A.
Response: I find it interesting that you did not mention further in Sorenson’s report of this on page 295 of his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, “A few miles away were the Huave Indians, whose tradition says their ancestors had come anciently from South America, the home of the alpaca and llama,” in which he quotes from Matthew Wallrath, “Excavations in the Tehuantepec Region Mexico,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Vol 57, No 2, 1967, p14). You also fail to mention that this information is regarding the report of living wild was recorded in the middle of the last century. There is no question that the Nephites moved northward, especially in Hagoth’s ships (Alma 63:5) and would have brought with them animals for their new settlement, especially the valuable llamas and alpacas.
Comment #5: “I have read the Book of Mormon several times, but only once continued on with the Book of Ether, and found it a superfluous writing of littler value. Everything you need to know is within Nephi through Moroni” Chad B.
Response: Interesting. I find it just the opposite, for the story of the Jaredites is to reassure us that the Lord is running things and that men miss the whole point and meaning of their life by failing to recognize the fact. It is in Ether we learn of secret combinations, how they were organized, and their destructive power, which is reinforced in Helaman. “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains,” the Lord tells the brother of Jared—but to men it does not seem that way, for the Lord is constantly showing forth “great power which looks small to the understanding of men.” Because man lacks faith he denies himself the blessings and the power that might be theirs—boundless “knowledge of all things” that is “hid up because of unbelief.”
The story of Jared’s brother is a burgeoning of this process, of having faith, of developing faith, of exercising endless faith until he gained such knowledge as to see the Lord and to move mountains. Some of my greatest discoveries came to me while studying the Jaredites, some of which ended up in the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica, in which the first half is devoted to the development of the Jaredites and who they were, how they were connected to the Bible lineage, and how they got to the promised land. It was a fascinating adventure and would never have come to me without a very indepth study of Ether.
Nothing is harder than to convince a man of a thing he has not experienced, and we see this as “Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not” (Ether 12:5). We also see from Ether how those who live without faith live in a world of their own which to them seems logical and final—but they take a very unscientific stand that beyond the realm of their own very limited experiences nothing whatever exists.
Without understanding Ether, it is hard to understand Helaman and the first part of 3 Nephi, and without understanding Helaman and the first part of 3 Nephi it is hard to understand what has been happening in our own society and country for the past 25 years. Ether is a very clear template, one this nation entered back in the early 1990s and unless we break the cycle, we will end up much like the Jaredites.