Friday, April 28, 2017

Why Has No Evidence of the Nephites Been Found? – Part III

Continuing from the previous article regarding the reason why proof of Book of Mormon archaeology is not apparent, but that it exists. So what has been found? 
First of all, before getting into that, we need to keep in mind that artifacts, finds, and archaeological determinations are often very subjective. As an example, for many years the story of Christ healing a man at the pool of Bethesda was mocked by critics since no pool had ever been located, and the entire event labeled a myth without merit. One of the problems was that the pool was described as having five porticoes—a puzzling feature suggesting an unusual five-sided pool, which most scholars dismissed as an unhistorical literary creation. The fact that no such pool was found in the vicinity of its Biblical description also led to this critique of it not being a factual story.
    However, in 2013, a pool was discovered in Jerusalem during an excavation that located the Bethesda Pool, or mikveh—the celebrated ritual bath of the scriptural record. It was found in Jerusalem’s Qiryat Menachem neighborhood that dates back to the Second Temple period (538 B.C.E–70 C.E.). 
    Small pools used for ritual cleansing, then known as mikva’ot (singular, mikveh), were built to strict specifications: According to the Mishnah, the earliest rabbinic code of law, they had to be of a certain size and filled with “living” water—water that was not transferred from a vessel but has flowed directly into the bath from a river, spring or rainwater collector.
The recently-discovered Jerusalem mikveh featured a unique water supply system designed to preserve every possible drop of rainwater collected in the arid Jerusalem environment. Water ran into the mikveh from three collecting basins (otzar) hewn out of the rock on the mikveh’s roof, following kashrut laws dictating that the water be carried in naturally and without human contact. In addition, the mikveh was paved with plaster, following the Jewish law that water from the mikveh not seep into the earth.
    While the area was used for quarrying after the mikveh went out of use, Jerusalem archaeologists are working with the neighboring community and the Israel Antiquities Authority to preserve the site of this unique Second Temple period mikveh.
    Interestingly, revealed in the excavation was the rectangular pool with two basins separated by a wall—thus a five-sided pool—and each side had a portico. Why two basins? The archaeological evidence shows that the southern basin had broad steps with landings, indicating that it was indeed a mikveh. The northern basin provided a reservoir, or otzer, to continually replenish and repurify the mikveh with fresh water flowing south through the dam between them. Anciently, Jerusalem’s pilgrims would flock to the Bethesda Pool and Siloam Pool to purify themselves in these public mikva’ot and, at times, to seek healing.
Top: The Bethesda Pool, where Jesus healed the paralytic man in the Gospel of John. As can be seen, it is a complex site, and appearing to have been a mikveh, or ritual bath. As the spot of one of Jesus’ miracles, the Bethesda Pool was built over in subsequent periods with chapels and churches that are still visible today; Bottom: The mikveh from above, showing the three collecting basins hewn into the roof of the mikveh. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

    Until the discovery of the pool with five-roofed colonnades near the Sheep Gate (although everyone was looking for a pentagon shaped pool at first), many did not consider the Gospel of John to be historically reliable. The gospel was thought to be either allegorical
(truthful only in the sense similar to apocalyptic literature) or simply inaccurate (written by someone who was not from Judea and was wholly unfamiliar with Jerusalem’s geography and topography). However, both pools mentioned in the Gospel of John were identified—the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:2 and the Pool of Siloam in John 9:7. One of the pools turned out to have five colonnades (as described in the Gospel), but it was not structured as a pentagon. There were four colonnades separated in the middle by another one, thus forming the five colonnades just as the Gospel described. Since its discovery, the pool has been heralded as the one mentioned in the writings of John.
    Now, the question arises, what proof is it that this particular excavation revealed the same pool that is outlined in scripture? There was no sign buried in the area saying this was that pool. There is no specific determining factors that tells anyone what it is, other than a five-sided portico area where water had been stored. It is not even known specifically if this is the exact same spot though it is in the general area. The point is, the find is recognized for what it very much appears to be, the Bethesda Pool.
Now contrast this with a specific description regarding the tower King Noah built in the city of Nephi in the Land of Promise, that was, as described in Mosiah 11:12-13:
1. Tower was near the temple,
2. Tower was very high,
3. You could stand on top,
4. Tower overlooked the land of Shilom,
5. Tower overlooked the land of Shemlon,
6. Tower provided a view over all the land round about,
7. Tower built on a hill north of the land of Shilom,
8. A resort (fort) was next to the tower.
    Now such a tower existed on a hill to the north of the valley, overlooking the city of Cuzco, the main city in Peru at the time and the center of both Lamanite or Inca culture. This tower was quite high, built next to a temple, and also next to a large fortress, and overlooked the entire valley below and adjacent lands. During a rebellion, the Inca climbed up on this tower and jumped off to his death, which caused the Spanish to tear it down, leaving only the stone foundation base clearly seen and identified today as the foundation or base of a tall, round tower.
The find in Cuzco, Peru, known today as Sacsayhuaman, is so closely aligned to the description in Mosiah of King Noah’s tower, that it can hardly be considered anything else, since it is exactly where Mormon placed it. But is it considered Noah’s tower? Certainly not by the mainstream of Book of Mormon geography. Yet, there it is, right where some of us believed it to be and see it described in Mosiah’s writings.
    The point is, there are numerous places that should be considered fulfillment of Book of Mormon sites in Andean South America, just like the Pool of Bethesda is now known to exist in Jerusalem as once described but unknown for nearly 2000 years. And this is not the only edifice or connection found in Andean Peru, but just one of many.
(See the next post, “Why Has No Evidence of the Nephites Been Found – Part IV,” for more information why when the critics ask about evidence you have a legitimate and accurate answer)


  1. First, to your question about the pool discovered being the Pool of Bethesda, it has some things going for it--namely, that it fits the description and is in the right time and place based on other known and verified anchoring points. It also follows the pattern for how such a pool should have been constructed. Therefore, many factors corroborate to place a high degree of confidence in the find.

    Moving onto the King Noah edifice example, there are some interesting factors to consider for sure. However, I would dispute your assertion that there had to be fort on said hill. The text refers to the hill itself as being a place of resort, not to some edifice. In addition, the 1828 dictionary definition of "resort" places no requirement on there being an actual edifice. There need be no fort on said hill.

    Furthermore, in spite of the descriptions found in the text, without an anchoring point within which to view them, they remain just ruins. We don't have concrete dates. We don't have prior place names to place this in context. There is no provenance of this location from antiquity. We don't really know anything about the tower architecture except that it was "high," which is a pretty nebulous and relative term.

    You essentially are left with a set of ruins that once had a tower and (maybe?) a temple of some kind, overlooking land? To say that these ruins in Cuzco can "hardly be anything else" but Noah's temple/tower complex is a laughably specious assertion.

    However, you could bolster your case by going down there and demonstrating that your putative temple is patterned after an ancient Hebrew temple. You could also dig up old jars or containers that have wine residue. Etc. Something that's more than an old tower base and ruins on a hill.

    Just my $0.03.

  2. WonderBoy: Thank you for your comments. I would like to point out that Mormon describes for us what he means by a “resort,” when he writes: “and erecting small forts, or places of resort” (Alm 48:8). While the 1828 does not require an edifice, Mormon’s explanation does, and Noah Webster uses the term as a place of refuge as a place “other means of defense,” which is open, but does not disagree with Mormon’s use of the term. Webster also refers to a “resort’ as a “concourse as a place of resort,” then defines “concourse” as “A meeting; an assembly of men; an assemblage of things; a collection formed by a voluntary or spontaneous moving and meeting in one place.” Not always, but generally, and with few exceptions, an assembly requires a place in which to assemble. We also find mention of this “resort” on the hill above Shilom next to the “great tower” Noah built (Mosiah 11:13).
    As for its construction of the tower, Garsilaso de la Vega, who called himself “El Inca,” son of an Inca princess and Spanish conquistador, who played in, around, and beneath Sacsayhuaman as a child growing up, gave us a very extensive description of the tower, being built of stone, round, four actual floors inside, and a height that would equate to approximately 60 feet, with a covered overhead and a flat floor (or roof) on which one could stand and look all around the valley below. There were also descriptions given of the buttress foundation braces of stone, as well as stone aqueduct leading into the basement area of then tower for water storage. He even gave an exact location of it so that in the 1900s, it was located beneath a pile of debris that covered much of the hill behind the zig-zag walls—until then, not much credence was given to de la Vega, but when that was found, then his overall descriptions of the fortress itself was considered to be authentic and thoroughly accurate.
    Garcilaso also wrote about the many rooms in the buildings and underneath, as well as complete descriptions of what was in them (mostly weapons and other military equipment), the underground tunnels in which he played with other children, as well as quite a bit about the overall complex of Sacsayhuaman overall.
    I will say this, my friend, if you are looking for something, anything, that is going to say without a doubt, that this was Book of Mormon artifacts, ruins, or whatever, I’m afraid you are going to be sadly disappointed, for two reasons: No ancient location to my knowledge has ever been found and located or identified without question except for a handful of Babylonian sites that had inscribed messages found in the foundation, since they were greater recorders of the achievement of their kings than anyone else of the ancient era except, perhaps, for the Chinese. The other reason, and this is my personal $0.03 worth—the Lord is not of a mind at this point in time to disclose such locations to man. What we discern on our own is going to have to suffice.

  3. (Continuing)
    For me, having studied this area for some 35 years now (Mesoamerica for nearly 30 years, and North America for the past 20 or so years), having seen most of what exists in Andean South America, as well as much in the Yucatan, Guatemala and Belize, charted out my own maps, locations, etc., coupled with, and most importantly based upon, the scriptural record and Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni’s rather clear descriptions, I have an unquestionably firm belief, of which I feel extensive verification from several means, to have been the landing site and location of the Land of Promise as illustrated in the scriptural record. In all of those 35 years, I have yet to run across any scriptural description that does not fit perfectly, and I do mean perfectly, with the location of Andean Peru—and in all those years, there have been numerous obstacles to this location thrown at me, or that I have run into, yet in every single instance, barring none, each and every single one has been either borne out, or a perfectly reasonable and rational explanation, usually based on the scriptural record, why there is no match evidence (such as a written language surviving in Nephite-Lamanite territory).
    During that time, though some explanations that have presented themselves to me have at first been met by me with some significant resistance, every single one over time has been borne out to be correct.
    So, I’m afraid I do not agree with your often stated view of there being no evidence of Book of Mormon archaeology. At the same time, I readily admit that proving the archaeology to someone else, especially non-members and critics, is not likely ever to happen. I could recount to you innumerable personal experiences connected to this work, but they would not mean the same to someone else than to me to whom they were given, and such is the type of work we are involved in.
    As for “anchoring points,” such, of course, is open to individual view, however, in my world, I have found that sometimes two plus two equals four and nothing else. I have found 44 different scriptural references that deal with location in the scriptural record, and in all 44 cases, they relate to Andean South America. Of course, many points can relate elsewhere, but the most I have found relating to any one location other than all 44 to Andean South America, is that about a dozen relate to Mesoamerica, but mostly only a handful relate to other areas, even Malay, Africa, Caribbean, etc. And by the way, some of those 44 scriptural references are found nowhere else in the world than Andean South America. While the famous quote from Sherlock Holmes is probably not as accurate as it might sound, in some cases I believe in the logical fallacy of “If you’ve eliminated all other possibilities whatever remains must be the truth.” Whether that works the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meant it, I don’t know, but in eliminating all the known suggestive locations for the Land of Promise, I have found only Andean South America remains, though I did not start out thinking that.

  4. (Continuing)
    I think Joseph Smith had a lot of “laughable specious assertions” directed his way, and though I am not comparing myself in anyway conceivable to Joseph, or anyone else, I have found that truth is truth no matter how much it is questioned and how often ridiculed. There is not a single doubt in my entire being that Andean South America is the Land of Promise as described, and that Lehi landed at 30º south Latitude in Chile. Some of it is based on faith, some on concrete evidence, and some on thousands of hours of research that has, over time, eliminated all other possibilities, and even in some cases on “Occam’s Razor” principles, but far and away mostly on the scriptural record and endless hours of researching words and meanings involved.
    Having said all that, I do not think for a moment that anything I have said here or elsewhere is going to make a bit of difference to someone who has not researched things out for themselves with an open mind and follow the scriptural record, which ultimately is the guiding road map to the Land of Promise.

  5. Del,

    I appreciate your explanation of how you arrive at the conclusion of there being a fort, and I admit that a case can be made for it. However, the actual textual evidence is thin and could just as easily preclude a fort.

    A fort is by necessity a place of resort, but a resort need not include a fort. High ground with the means to defend and then escape is enough to be a place of resort. And given that the text tells us it was a place of resort "at at the time they bfled out of the land" there's reason to believe there was little to no construction on the hill. Who builds a massive stone fort when they're in the process of fleeing? To what end? They're just going to leave it behind, plus time is of the essence. What's more likely is that the hill was a readily defensible rally point due to its view of the surrounding country and as the pass-through to escape.

    But back to your assertion that Mormon's later explanation places the requirement of a fort: it actually doesn't. First of all, to be precise, he actually equated SMALL forts with "places of resort," not large ones. Second of all, he provided a clarification there that he didn't previously. If the Zeniffites had built a fort on the hill, why didn't Mormon simply say so, or clarify it? If your argument is that Mormon only ever refers to things in one way and that he only ever uses terms to mean the same thing every time, then to be consistent, he should have clarified that there was a fort there. But he didn't. So either his language and usage is inconsistent (which negates a fundamental pillar of your theory), or there was no fort on the hill (which also negates your theory). If, however, you simply realize that Mormon is a writer with a vocabulary and is composing/compiling these things over extended periods of time, like any writer there are inconsistencies and variances in usage. Just because he employs a term or usage in one spot doesn't necessitate that every time he uses a certain construction that he means the identical thing.

    Finally, there's no requirement in the text for the tower to be made of stone. In fact, I really have a problem with your assumption here because you've made one of the cardinal sins that you constantly harp on others for making: using geography to inform the text. Because you've convinced yourself that this is King Noah's tower, I guess you've read stone into the text. But in fact the text indicates wood! King Noah built a "spacious palace" of wood! The text also mentions that he used as a construction material for the temple. Nowhere in the entire Book of Mosiah is stone as a construction material even mentioned. Only wood and metal.

    Finally, I respect the time and effort you put into study and communicating your findings, or else I obviously wouldn't read them and participate in the discussion as I do. However, when I see flaws in your reasoning, I'm going to point them out (sometimes anyway :) ). That being said, your personal "testimony," as it were--while sincere--scarcely carries any weight from a scientific standpoint. There are many students of Book of Mormon archeology that would (and do) make the same claims about their own locations/models from the Heartlanders to the Mesoamericanists to the Malay "penisulars."

    Finally, it's BECAUSE I hold (for now anyway) with the South American placement of the BOM that I hold you to a high standard. As somewhat of a scientist myself I feel it extremely important to not overstate cases and make claims beyond which can be reasonably supported.

    Finally, just because someone challenges your opinions and interpretations it doesn't mean they haven't researched things for themselves or that they don't have an open mind. It might just mean that they interpret things differently. Who here wants a "Del Echo Chamber?" Not me, anyway.

    1. I composed this over the course of a while and noticed that I used "finally" way too many times. My apologies to everyone for that, but there is no "edit" functionality.

  6. Wonder boy- when I read mosiah 11: verse 8, it seems clear that Noah buildings ornamented with wood. Not that the buildings themselves were built of wood. I can see how if you read verse 9 in isolation you may think the palace is built with wood but when reading all the verses I believe the wood was for ornamentation.