Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What Kind of Buildings Did Nephi Teach His People to Build?

Nephi tells us that after he, and those who went with him to escape his brothers and the sons of Ishmael, that “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). While most of the information in this is of a smaller nature (wood, iron, copper, brass, steel, gold, silver and precious ores) suggesting detail work in the building of buildings and other matters, what exactly was the nature of the “buildings” that Nephi taught his people to build. And why would he have needed to teach them how to build buildings?
This is the entrance to a site in Peru where anyone seeking entrance to the city has to pass through this hundred-yard-long uphill corridor flanked on both sides by tall walls which would allow armed defenders on top to deny entrance to this city in Peru

    The answer to this last question is probably due to the fact that other than having lived their lives in tents, albeit large Bedouin-style tents, their time during eight years of struggle in the wilderness and probably two years at Bountiful, and the time it took to sail across the oceans and the year or two they spent in the area of first landing, by the time they reached the land they called Nephi, most had never seen a constructed building and would have known nothing about such. Consequently, he had taught them the building skills he had learned constructing a ship after the manner the Lord showed him (1 Nephi 17:18; 18:2) and all the conversations he had with the Lord who “showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3). However, Nephi built the ship, the final product was “exceedingly fine” (1 Nephi 18:4), and no doubt he learned many techniques and skills during that time, and he then taught his people after they settled in the land called Nephi.
A Sixty-Foot high wall all around a city denies inside access to enemy intruders except at the entrance

    We also know that Nephi was concerned about defending his small community against attack, so he “did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people” (2 Nephi 5:14), and after writing that, is when he talked about teaching his people to build buildings (2 Nephi 5:15), and then goes on to say “I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (2 Nephi 5:17).
    So what kind of buildings would Nephi have taught his people to build, and would they have been defensive buildings, meant to provide the small community with as much protection as possible against Lamanite aggression, which he feared? As Jacob wrote later, “many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain, for they delighted in wars and bloodshed, and they had an eternal hatred against us, their brethren. And they sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually” (Jacob 7:24).
Yellow Arrows: Note the steps on the outside of the building, which can only be scaled slowly, and in a single direction

    Another method of building defensively was in constructing buildings and walls that required single side steps leading in higher levels where any intruder would be slowed down and completely exposed. Such constructions are found all or Andean Peru.
These singular steps are found all over Peru on buildings, walls, and forts

    It seems likely that whatever the Nephites built, during the latter years of Nephi’s life and into Jacob’s time, they were aimed at defense, for the Lamanites “continually” sought to destroy them. Jacob’s grandson, Jarom, wrote of this: “they came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle. But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands, and began to fortify our cities, or whatsoever place of our inheritance” (Jarom 1:7), and his son, Omni, stated that “in my days, I would that ye should know that I fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites” (Omni 1:2). Even two generations later, Abinadom writes of this “I saw much war and contention between my people, the Nephites, and the Lamanites; and I, with my own sword, have taken the lives of many of the Lamanites in the defense of my brethren” (Omni 1:10).
Another method of defensive building found in Andean Peru is the long entrance pathways between tall walls

Still another method of defensive building is outside stairwells, where any enemy intruder would be vulnerably exposed

    After about 400 years in the City of Nephi and constant Lamanite intrusions and many wars, when the bulk of evil Nephites had been destroyed, Mosiah, the prophet of the Nephite people, was told by the Lord to leave the land and flee northward and take “as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord [to also] depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).  
    There seems little question that Nephi would have taught his people how to build in such a way as to protect themselves from the future constant attacks from the Lamanites that Nephi knew would occur. There are many simple manners of building that can protect entrances to buildings, to cities, and within the cities and communities. It would be foolish for any historian, knowing the history of the Nephites and Lamanites, not to expect Nephi to teach his people to build in preparation for such difficult and dangerous conflicts and outright wars. After all, Nephi knew the history of the Lamanite aggression and wars for the Lord gave him a vision of this when he wrote: “And it came to pass that I beheld multitudes gathered together to battle, one against the other; and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars, and great slaughters with the sword among my people, And it came to pass that I beheld many generations pass away, after the manner of wars and contentions in the land; and I beheld many cities, yea, even that I did not number them” (1 Nephi 12:2-3).
Another defensive structure in Peru, showing forty-foot tall walls with a single heavily guarded entrance

    It seems Nephi would have been remiss, knowing that was to be the fate of his people, not to prepare for such events with buildings, cities and plans that could counter such events and protect his people as much as possible. Yet, other than Andean Peru, such defensive structures and defensive buildings are not found in the Americas at such a time as Nephi taught his people how to build buildings.

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