Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Matter of Reference

Several years ago when I retired, we moved to Southern Utah and built a large family home for us and our seven children and their small families. We lived on the main floor and the walk-out basement, containing five Bedrooms, two Baths, Kitchen, Family Room, Game Room, Living Room, etc., was for our family, which often came to visit and stay for several days over the next ten years.
When we started to build, we worked out how much wood framing, beams, supports, etc., it would take, and went to the local lumber yard and ordered it delivered, as well as bags of cement for the slab, drywall sheets, roofing, etc. Unlike the pioneers, we did not have to chop down trees, debark them and cut the boards for lumber; nor did we have to clear a forest of tree stumps, plant fields of corn, wheat, barley, etc., or plant fruit trees, grape vines, and vegetables for our food.
    The idea of already cut lumber, S4S boards (sanded four sides) all exact length, buying doors already packaged with door framing, was very appealing. Had we had to make our own lumber, our 7400-square foot home would have been maybe 1000-square foot and still taken much longer to build. And pre-mixed concrete bags, requiring only water to mix and use, pre-cut and precisely measured tile for flooring, pre-made kitchen cabinets, pre-sized and randomly-cut rock for fire places, standard-sized drywall and plywood sheets, etc., without which the labor would have been unimaginable. As it was, with all the labor-saving devices available, still took my wife and I and one part-time helper eleven months to complete the large home.
    Frankly, I cannot envision what it would have taken to build anything without power tools, nail guns, sanding machines, routers, etc., let along cut trees for all the lumber we used, by splitting the logs, then cutting, sanding and finishing the wood by hand. It would seem that modern man would not, under almost any situation considering doing by hand what can easily be done (and usually better) with machine help.
    Yet, therein lies the rub of understanding the past. Not living in a modern, convenient world is so far from the thinking of people today that when they study or think about the past, they naturally think about it from the perspective of a modern man. As an example, when Noah was instructed to build the Ark, we don’t usually think actually how long it took. In fact, it took Noah more than modern man’s entire lifetime—one hundred years, from his 500th year to his 600th year.
How long would it have taken him to cut enough trees, strip and slice into boards the lumber needed to build the Ark?
    When we write a journal, we take a piece of paper, a ball-point pen and start writing—or just begin typing on the keyboard or typewriter, printing out the results. We don’t have to find ore, smelt it, shape and pound it into sheets of metal. When we have to travel from one place to another, we just get in our car and drive there. We don’t have to concern ourselves with terrain, paths, canyons rivers, etc. The road is already in place and about as straight a course as possible.
    When I was a kid and mom decided on a chicken dinner, my dad caught one of the older hens in the coop our back, cut off its head, hung it on a line to drain the blood, and then my job was to pluck off the feathers—something I absolutely detested doing, and perhaps it is the reason I never liked chicken as an adult and still don’t. Today, in our society, very few people have to kill something before they can cook it for dinner.
    When Lehi traveled from Jerusalem to the Sea of Irreantum, he didn’t go in a straight line as we basically travel today. He had to travel where the wells for water had been dug and were located. Nor did he travel each day, but took several rest stops where he relaxed for several days before setting out again. This is one of the reasons an ancient Old Testament Prophet was so surprised to see a future where man could travel without unlatching his shoes.
When I was a kid, we used to travel from Los Angeles back to southern Utah to visit relatives and my dad had to hang on the bumper canvas bags for water in case the water levels in the radiator dropped too low, and we drove from gas station to gas station, and ate at strategically placed restaurants along the way—all with little concern. On the other hand, Lehi hung bags of feed on his camels and when hungry stopped and cooked a meal, typically a lengthy affair as he had to carry his food with him until it ran out, then kill game along the way.
    There is no question traveling and living is far simpler and convenient today than in Lehi’s time. We all know this! However, when we read the scriptural record, we tend to pay little attention to such things and skip over their significance. After all, when Nephi broke his bow, and the other bows lost their spring, not only was it an extremely important event—it was critical and meant the difference between life and death (how many life and death situations do we face?) for without bows they had no way to kill game to feed their party (1 Nephi 16:14,15) of upwards of 50 to 60 people, including children. To have no way to provide food for the group, they were faced with starvation (when is the last time we were faced with no way to obtain food?)
    Along this same line, when reading the scriptural record we tend to ignore the important information that should be obvious but is so often overlooking yet holds significant information meant to help us better understand what we are reading. Take as an example, the concept of terrain. If we do not take into account the terrain of the Land of Promise we often arrive at conclusions not warranted by the facts.
During their journey along the Red Sea, Nephi tells us the information written on the Liahona (from time to time) led them “in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16). So what is meant by “the more fertile parts”? When Joseph Smith translated this phrase, the word “fertile” meant “fruitful, rich, producing in abundance, as fertile land, ground, soil, field or meadow. The word is rarely applied to trees or animals, but to ‘land.’ Rich, having abundant resources, able to produce abundantly.”
    So what was meant by the “more fertile parts of the wilderness”? If “wilderness” means “desert’ as Hugh Nibley claims, or “mountains” as Sorenson claims, etc., then how fertile would either place be? But since “wilderness” means an unoccupied uncultivated tract of land as Webster states in his 1828 dictionary, then we understand that Nephi is telling us that certain parts of the land along the Res Sea were more fruitful, having more natural resources for their needs and use than others. But why did they need the Liahona to point out such a simple fact since they were following a well-established route from water hole to water hole along the coast?
   This then leads us to the need to understand what was meant by a trail, such as the Frankincense Trail leading from Oman across to the Red Sea and then up the coast past Jerusalem and beyond to Syria. By explanation, this trail was not a well-marked path or road like we might think, but a wide swath in the wilderness as much as several miles wide, where caravans and groups traveled often not even in sight of one another. To know where the “more fertile parts” were located, Lehi needed the Liahona to show him.
    This also gives us a better insight as to the terrain through which they traveled, the hardships involved and the importance of minor points not always apparent in a quick reading, which often leads us into thinking along inaccurate paths.
The entire point is that our frame of reference causes us to think along certain lines when we read Lehi’s or any other event or story, and our references causes us to interpret what we read in light of our own experiences and understanding. If a person has never been along the coast of the Red Sea, they probably would not know what it was like for Lehi and his party to travel there, conversely, if a person thinks the Jaredites departed from the Pacific coast as Hugh Nibley claimed, they would be left to wonder how an isolated area like Salalah had wild honey and fruit trees when Lehi arrived after the Flood killed all living things there and no one settled there before Lehi arrived. This problem would tend to cause the reader to think Salalah and Khor Rori had been occupied before Lehi arrived, therefore the existence of the honey and fruit trees (neither of which would have existed there without the man bringing them there), which in turn leads to the erroneous belief that there were skilled boatwrights there to help Nephi build his ship. This same kind of erroneous thinking leads Mesoamericanists to insist that there were other people living in the promised land when Lehi arrived.
    As stated earlier in this article, it is all a matter of personal reference. How much of what we read is our own bias or prejudices on the subject and how much is based on knowledge and fact or on hearsay and opinion. When we read the scriptural record, we need to understand that our own personal beliefs and points of reference determine in whole or in part what we interpret and what we understand. If that is based on erroneous ideas, other material than the scriptural record, such as opinions and speculations, then the chances are quite high that our interpretation and understanding will be affected and typically in an inaccurate direction.
Take, as an example, when someone comes up with a theory that is obviously flawed, such as the recent idea of Lehi landing in Florida. If one reads the person’s ideas and because it sounds plausible (especially to the less knowledgeable), and accepts the idea without doing any due diligence of their own—such as checking out sea currents and winds, location of landing against the described terrain Nephi provides, the lack of mountains (such as Florida), then they night well start down an irreversible path toward an inaccurate assumption. This is what happened with the theories of the Heartland and the Great Lakes in the eastern United States theories as well.


  1. And Malay. Winds and currents don't flow there either as you've proven.

  2. Del,

    I have been binge reading your blog for several months now. I have read several years worth of posts and am currently reading your book Lehi never saw Mesoamerica.

    I have to say that I absolutely love your blog and book! I'm blown away by your knowledge.

    I have a question that maybe you can answer. What do you make of the artifacts purporting to be engraved in ancient Hebrew which have been found in North America? According to the Heartland theorists at there is even an artifact depicting a priest wearing Temple apparel and containing an inscription of the 10 commandments in ancient Hebrew.

    I know the various Heartland models do not square with the geography described in the Book of Mormon, and that the burial mounds have no correlation to ancient Mesopotamia, but if these artifacts in North America authentically contain Hebrew inscriptions that are dated to the correct time period this is evidence that is very tough to ignore.

    What do you make of it? Are these artifacts forgeries, evidence of those who left in Hagoth's ships moving northward into the American heartland, evidence that the Hopewell could have been Israelites but not those from the Book of Mormon, evidence that inspite of all the problems with the Hearland models that there is a chance that it could be the land of the Book of Mormon, or something else?


  3. One possibility is that these do point to settlers from Hagoth's ships. Del's second book, "Who Really settled Mesoamerica" goes into more details on that topic.

    1. I'll have to check out Del's second book,it looks really interesting. Perhaps he has a good explanation for those artifacts.

      I'm not a heartland theorist, but I do think that those artifacts are a pretty nice feather in the cap of those who are convinced that the Book of Mormon took place in America's Heartland and that the Hopewell were the ancient Nephites and Lamanites.

      Del's South American model is excellent and he has a lot of strong evidence to support his conviction that the Book of Mormon took place in Andean Peru. I especially love his evidence about the two unknown animals which were very useful to man and the two unknown grains which were more useful than wheat. He also has Frederick G. Williams revelation as excellent support. In fact has many more excellent connections.

      His model adheres very, very well with the scriptures. In fact almost flawlessly. There are a few leaps of faith however. One of those being the rise of the Andes and most of South America at the time of Christ's crucifixion. Del has strong geological evidence to support this theory, but as to the exact time frame of when this happened, ironclad proof is not possible. His theory is quite plausible, but is still only a theory.

      His evidence for Hagoth's ships landing in Mesoamerica and the people then building similar buildings as in Andean Peru, is also very strong.

      However the evidence to support those people then spreading out and eventually moving into America's Heartland is pretty sketchy. Especially considering that the ancient Adena are believed to have lived been there from 800 BC to 100 AD and the Hopewell from 200 BC to 500 AD. That is quite problematic for the notion that these people settled there after Hagoth's ship's went north around 60 BC. If the Hopewell were not Nephites or Lamanites than that is problematic for the statements Joseph Smith made about Zelph and the plains of the Nephites during Zion's Camp, not to mention the statement by the angel Moroni that the plates contained a record of the former inhabitants of this continent and the source from which they sprang.

      Also if we assume that the ancient inhabitants of America's Heartland were descendants of those who left on Hagoth's ships, we still have to explain why they were divided into Nephites and Lamanites and fought each other again along those lines (which Joseph Smith said they did at the time of the Zelph discovery).

      Perhaps Del supplies an answer for these questions in his second book, too.

  4. MC one thing to keep in mind though is that some of the Indian tribes did come from the north. The Navajo has that tradition. The Hopi on the other hand came from the South and they have some similar ceremonies that the LDS might recognize. I don't have much information about that however. Only what I've been told.

    1. I don't doubt that some American Indians did come from the North, while others from came from the South. I think there's strong evidence for that.

      My question is how that fits with what Moroni told Joseph Smith about who the Book of Mormon is a record of and Joseph Smith's statements during Zion's Camp about Zelph and the mounds and plains of the Nephites. I also wonder how that fits with the supposed timeline of the Adena and Hopewell and the precursors to the Inca and Mayans.

      The more I think about it the more I'm having trouble reconciling the revelation Joseph Smith received about Zelph and the one received by FG Williams about Lehi landing at the 30th parallel in Chile. Perhaps I'm over thinking it, but the two revelations as we have them recorded appear to be at variance with each other.

      It's of course possible that the individuals who recorded Joseph Smith's statements about Zelph all recorded it wrong or misunderstood him.

      It's also possible, though rather unlikely, that Joseph Smith could have been flat out wrong about Zion's Camp crossing the lands and mounds of the Nephites and his revelation about Zelph could have been a false revelation, too. If we accept that road though it creates even more problems, especially in light of the fact that Joseph's mother Lucy recorded that during the translation of the BOM Joseph was taught all about the way the Nephites and Lamanites had lived, they way they dressed, and even their mode of travel.

      These are just some questions that I am working through as I've immersed myself in Del's writings.

    2. Del explained that one too quite a while ago about Zelph. For one thing Joseph Smith didn't write anything about Zelph. It was the brethren who wrote what they thought they heard. Zelph didn't die in THE final battle. I think it's quite possible he was simply a Lamanite that migrated north after the destruction. I don't see a contradiction I guess because when you read the description it isn't talking about the final Nephite-Lamanite battles.

      Del went over the fact that North and South America were considered one continent up until WWII. After that it was separated. So again it fits very well.

      I haven't found too many things that are clear contradictions. I find many in the Heartland models and the really dumb Malay model. The South American model fits very well. Even the destruction at the time of Christ fits because of the ruins around lakes that were once saline and are now fresh at a much higher elevation.

      Good stuff!

    3. I totally agree. Del's work is incredible.

      His find on the once saline lakes and surrounding ruins up in the mountains is incredible and absolutely points to mountains rising up suddenly. He's also pointed out that there are underwater cities in the area, too. By all accounts that appears to be a perfect match to what is described in 3 Nephi about the destruction at Christ's death.

      And of course you are correct that Del has pointed out many times that until around WWII North and South America were generally referred to as a single continent.

      You're also correct that Del has shown that it is quite likely that Joseph Smith did not state that Zelph died in the final conflict between the Nephites and Lamanites.

      I still wonder though, if the Adena and Hopewell were not the Jaredites and Nephites, who were they and what were they doing in the promised land at the same time that the Book of Mormon took place?

      If the artifacts artifacts found in the Hopewell burial mounds with Hebrew inscriptions are authentic, then by all acounts the Hopewell at least had to have been Israelites.

      Not sure how that all fits. There has to be an answer. In spite of the major problems with the various Heartland models they do have few potential matches with the Book of Mormon. There is at least one site in Ohio that matches the description of how Captain Moroni fortified the Nephite cities and places of resort very, very well.

      The Book of Mormon also does not ever state that the Nephites built their buidlings out of stone. They could have been wood, stone, or both. Houses were built out of wood and adobe at some point in Helaman. We don't know if Nephi was an expert in building out of stone or not. We do know that he would have been an expert at buiding out of wood after building a ship unlike any other previously built.

      Now if in fact the Hopewell were Israelites and the inhabitants of Andean Peru and Mesoamerica were also Israelites only one of them could be the Nephites and Lamanites. The other would have to be another group led away upon the isles of the sea.

      We know that the destruction at the time of Christ's death also happened upon the isles of the sea. Is it possible that those in Andean Peru were not the Nephites and Lamanites, but another group of Israelites who were upon the isles of the sea at that time? Or is it possible that the Hopewell were among the other Israelites led away upon the isles of the sea at the death of Christ? Now of course the American heartland is not an island today, but neither is Andean Peru. Could the area that the Hopewell inhabited once been an island as well? I haven't looked into it, but I would say that it's not impossible. There is undeniable evidence that North America was once under water, which of course proves that great flood really happened, but could it also point to part of North America still being submerged at a later date, too. I know your a geologist, perhaps you would know if this is possible. Perhaps Del knows.

      I know this is pure speculation, but like I said there has to be answer as to who the Hopewell were. If they were in fact Israelites (and there is evidence to suggest they were) then it would be great to know for sure who they were and how it all fits into the scriptures and statements of Joseph Smith. Makes me wonder anyway.

  5. MC interesting thoughts. I don't know that much about the Hopewell culture. I am sure however that we have found the place for the Nephites/Lamanites in South America. So the question is when did the influence of Israelite culture make it to the Hopewell culture in North America. I don't know. Could they descend from the people of Hagoth? Again I don't know. I don't think that the BOM was written describing people here in North America. It all took place in South America.

    I'm a believer in Noah's flood. The ice age occurred after the flood of Noah. That means that ice covered North America through the Great Lakes region in BC times. When did it break up? According to records handed down in Europe after 1500BC is when Ireland became ice free. Briton was finally settled around 1100BC. There were attempts before then but they failed.

    The Jaredites arrived in the land of promise after the tower of Babel or around 2000BC. Therefore North America cannot in anyway be the location of the Jaredite race because they settled in the North of the land of promise. Ecuador is found at the equator and during BC times that would be the perfect place to settle a new civilization.

    As for North America being an Island. The answer is we know what the boundaries were because of the ice age. The Appalachians and Smoky mountains along the east coast area were created at the time of the flood. There was no inland sea in North America. The deposition of the limestone in the Midwest and Great Lakes region occurred during Noah's flood. So we know the boundaries of North America.

    The places that were submerged however was all of Panama, part of Nicaragua, and the Brazilian basin. We know this because of several reasons. One is the fact that there was some writings left by Phoenician explorers in BC times. This is reported in Venice Priddis book "The Book and the Map". And also the information that Del has found confirms that as well.

    We will likely not know all the answers to the question as to if the Hopewell were in fact Israelites or not until the gathering. But the interesting thing and something to keep in mind is by in large the Indians of North America have not joined the Church. This to me is an indication that they are not of the house of Israel. There might be some influence of the Israelite there of course. I do believe the Hopi are Israelite or have some influence of Israelite in their culture. I don't believe the Navajo are. We simply don't have the answers. I think DNA hasn't given us the answers we are looking for either.

    For me it is clear that it all happened in South America. We won't have all the answers until the gathering. One thing we do know from scripture is North America will be swept clean in preparation for the New Jerusalem. That means that the North American Indians will be dispatched. To me that means they are not of the House of Israel by in large because the Lamanites will be gathered from South America. The Lord raised up South America to protect them during the tribulation that is coming.