Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Did Laban Have the Ownership Rights to the Brass Plates? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, regarding the ownership of the Brass Plates and why Laban had them in his possession. 
    First of all, the Brass Plates contained “the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve; also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah” (1 Nephi 5:11-13). The record also revealed to Lehi that both he and Laban were descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt (1 Nephi 5:14,16). Nephi states that all things concerning the prophets of old were written on the plates (1 Nephi 19:21), and that they “should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed, and that they would never perish” (1 Nephi 5:18-19, emphasis added).
    The plates also contained the prophecies of Joseph concerning the descendants of Lehi (2 Nephi 4:1-3). Later, Alma repeats that the brass plates contained the holy scriptures and the genealogy of their forefathers “even from the beginning” (Alma 37:3). In addition, the brass plates also contained the words of four great prophets that are not mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures of today—Zenos, Zenock, Neum and Ezias. We are told that Zenos lived after the days of Abraham and died as a martyr (Helaman 8:19), and that he was the author of the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees that was related by Jacob (Jacob 5), which comprises the longest chapter in the entire Book of Mormon.
    Nephi informs us in that the “record of the Jews” or the Bible contains “many of the prophecies of the holy prophets…save there are not so many” as in the Brass Plates (1 Nephi 13:23). He also stated that “many parts which are plain and most precious” had been removed from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:26). Importantly, Nephi makes the point that “it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise” (1 Nephi 5:22).
    Now when the brothers reached Jerusalem, there was some hesitation on who would approach Laban with the message from their father (1 Nephi 3:11). For some reason, Laman, as the oldest and therefore, as the titular head of the group, did not want to approach Laban himself, so the brothers, perhaps all reluctant to be the one, decided to cast lots to see who would go in and see Laban.
Now the casting of lots is mentioned throughout the scriptures as a method for receiving revelation. Proverbs places great trust in it and reflects two sides to it, that is, on the one hand, there’s a very practical side since those that bind themselves to the lot cannot claim favoritism or impartiality on the part of the caster, i.e., “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty” (Proverbs 18:18). The other side involves a higher level by attributing to the Divine that which is actually quite pedestrian. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). It should also be understood that in the Biblical world of the ancients, casting lots assumed that the randomness inherent in the lots opened the door for God to place His hand in the outcome.
    While the precise ritual and order surrounding the practice has largely been lost to us, let us conclude that two things were likely involved: 1) Laman did not want to be the one chosen, and rather than have his three brothers point to him as the leader and requiring him to go in, he felt he had a better chance of not being the one through the casting of lots; and 2) it seems likely the others went along with the process, each thinking they, too, had only one chance in four of being chosen, as well as some perhaps thinking there might be the hand of the Lord involved in the process—they would have known from the scriptures that the casting of lots was used in the Levitical rotation of temple service was involved (I Chronicles 25), and that Joshua cast lots to determine which tribe to assign to which portion of land (Joshua 18).
    As Nephi concludes: “And we cast lots—who of us should go in unto the house of Laban. And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman; and Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house” (1 Nephi 3:11).
    From the circumstances of the day, it seems likely we could assume that Laban knew who Lehi was, after all, they were related and Lehi was a wealthy man. It could also be concluded that Laban knew who Lehi’s sons likely were. After all, Laban was somewhat of an important figure in Jerusalem, connected with keeping the peace from a military or law enforcement point of view. With Lehi having been preaching in the city and upsetting people with his words regarding the coming of the Messiah, and also the redemption of the world, and about the wickedness and abominations of the Jews (1 Nephi 1:19), and “when the Jews heard these things, they were angry with him” and sought to kill him (1 Nephi 1:20), surely the civil unrest of the city would have come to Laban’s attention.
    At the same time, if Laban had a clear and indisputable right to the plates, he probably would have told Laman “no” when he asked to have them, or when the boys came with Lehi’s wealth, might even have demanded a greater payment, knowing of Lehi’s wealth and property outside the city.
    However, he did neither.
    Instead, he initially threatened to have Laman killed just for asking about the plates, “and thrust him out from his presence, and…said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee” (1 Nephi 3:13).
    Why such vehemence?
    After all, if Laban’s claim to the records was just and legal, why make threats? Was it that he knew he had no right to them and did not want to subject brought up that he had them? As Hugh Nibley claims on this issue: “Laban could have simply said ‘No’ or he could have bargained for a greater payment than the sons of Lehi were offering…Instead, he actively sends his servants to kill the sons of Lehi, while retaining the “gold, silver, and precious things” that the sons had brought.”
    In both instances, Laban’s actions were more like those of a criminal rather than one having legitimate ownership of the records. In the first instance, he threatens murder when Laman brings up the subject, and in the second occurrence, Laban clearly attempts to carry out an act of murder against all four petitioners, which might cause one to wonder if Laban gained possession of the plates through unlawful or at least questionable means.
    It should also be kept in mind, that as the administrator of the city, one of Laban’s main duties was to hear petitions, and based on historical practice it has always been the practice of these men to rob such petitioners wherever possible. Laban appears in Nephi’s writing as the ancient quintessential arrogant and superior governor, willing to both commit murder and to rob people of their possessions under the cloak of authority. Laban obviously considered his own self-importance, meeting as a member of the old aristocracy in full ceremonial armor with “the elders of the Jews” (1 Nephi 4:22) for secret consultations by night, probably holding his position because of his ancestors and not by merit, having his own treasury and with his house the depository of old records—all helping to establish his pretentious character.
    It might also be understood that Laban was given both a chance to do the right thing for the right reason and a chance to do the right thing for a less honorable reason. However, as often happens, his violent reaction instead set up the circumstances by which he lost both his ill-gotten possession and his own life.
    While we do not know that Laban did not have a legitimate claim to the possession of the records, his attitude and actions certainly lend to the likelihood he did not, and that ultimately, the Lord saw that they ended up in the hands of a righteous and rightful heir.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Did Laban Have the Ownership Rights to the Brass Plates? – Part I

We find in Nephi’s writings, no doubt he took and abridged from the original Book of Lehi, which 116 translated pages Martin Harris lost, that the Lord, knowing of the pending doom that awaited the city of Jerusalem and its surrounding region, as well as the immediate dangers facing Lehi from the wicked inhabitants of the city where Lehi had been preaching, had cautioned Lehi, while there was still time, to leave his home and take his family into the wilderness. Now, this was not surprising, since "Hiding in the wilderness" was exactly what people of the Middle East were known to do when difficulties within the city arose, as we find with David hiding in the wilderness of Ziph in the Judean desert when King Saul hunted him (I Samuel 23:14).and in Lehi’s case, we find a parallel event. 
    So in obeying the Lord, Lehi left his home at Jerusalem and traveled into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:4), down into the lowest land elevation on Earth at 1300 feet below sea level, skirting the Dead Sea, and then through the wadi Arabah (HaArava) along the Arabah Depression, to the Gulf of Agaba, whose shoreline the depression incorporates. In Biblical times, this area was a center of copper production, where King Solomon apparently had his mines. The area was home to the Edomites (Idumea) and to the east was the domain of the Nabateans, builders of the city of Petra. The area is very scenic, with colorful cliffs and sharp-topped mountains, notable for its prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and a convoluted cliff called King Solomon's pillars. The Arabah is very hot and dry, and consequently only lightly populated, with the main economic activity agriculture and herding sheep, along with selling camels to those travelers, like Lehi, that would have come off the Jerusalem mountains with donkeys, as such exchange sales are done even today.
Top: The arid Negev (han-Néḡeḇ, meaning “dry south” and references “the [mountain] pass”) at 4,700 square miles, it covers half of Israel, and is the largest desert in the southern region, through which the Wadi Arabah passes; Bottom: the Wadi Arabah—the entire area is a rocky desert of dusty, rocky mountains interrupted by wadis and deep craters, and craterlike makhteshim, or box canyons
Once reaching the southern end, near the Gulf of Aqaba (called the Red Sea in the scriptural record), Lehi traveled three more days before stopping and pitching his tent by the side of a river of water (1 Nephi 2:5-6) that emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:9)

At this point, Nephi writes: “And my father dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15), signifying that Lehi was not a city dweller, but one who lived outside the city and was both familiar with, and comfortable, living in a tent. In fact, Taufik Canaan in Mohammedan Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine, states that there were only two classes of Jews in Palestine, the “dwellers in cities and villages, and the Bedouin” (Luzac & Co., London, “The Palestinian Arab House: Its Architecture and Folklore,” Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, vol 13, nos 1-2, 1927, p1932).
    In addition, Stephen L. Craiger in Bible and Spade: “an Introduction to Biblical Archaeology,” also refers to Palestinians as either “city dwellers” or “tent dwellers.”  (Oxford University Press, 1944, p181). Hugh Nibley in Lehi in the Desert, expands upon the subject, saying: “Nephi himself finds the fact very significant and refers constantly to his father's tent as the center of his universe.”
    Nephi is clear when he refers to his father as a “tent dweller,” letting us know his familiarity and comfort with tent living, as opposed to city living. And with this announcement in his record, Nephi tells us that his father assumed the desert way of life, as obviously, he must have in order to complete his lengthy journey (to Bountiful).
    The question is, where did Lehi go into the wilderness, since the region of Jerusalem is surrounded in the south by the wilderness desert—the Negev—also called in part the Wilderness of Zin (Sin). Yet the southern coastal route directly toward Egypt would have been watched and controlled, and though often that route toward Egypt saw many prophets take to escape from Jerusalem, many were followed and brought back for execution.
    Nibley states of Lehi’s route: “As to the direction taken by Lehi's party the Book of Mormon is clear and specific. He took what we now know to have been the only possible way out [from Jerusalem], what with immediate danger threatening from the north, and the eastern and western lands held by opposing powers on the verge of war. Only the south desert, the one land where Israel's traders and merchants had felt at home through the centuries, remained open—even after Jerusalem fell this was so. And the one route into that desert was the great trade-road down the burning trough of the Arabah.”
    This, of course, is the only route that would have been open later for Mulek and his party that whisked the young lad out of Jerusalem and into the south wilderness before Nebuchadnezzar could exact his revenge on the last of king Zedekiah’s family.
    So it was this route, branching east of the Gulf of Agaba and through the mountains toward the Red Sea, into which the Gulf of Agaba emptied. In Nephi’s account, understanding that the Gulf of Agaba was part of the Red Sea, he states of those last three days in their journey as “he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5, emphasis added).
    It was here, encamped in the valley that Lehi called Lemuel, resting from their lengthy journey from Jerusalem, that Lehi “dreamed a dream,” which is to say, he had seen a vision, as he told Nephi, “in which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem, for behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass” (1 Nephi 3:2-3).
    Now Laban, described as a notable citizen of Jerusalem that commanded both great wealth and many servants, was the keeper of the record of the Jews, and commanded a garrison of at least fifty men (1 Nephi 3:31), though it should be understood that his position as high military commander, he would have commanded tens of thousands (1 Nephi 4:1) in the field away from Jerusalem, where only fifty were housed for local control.
    It might be noted that for quite some time, according to the Amarna tablets, that the cities in Palestine and Syria had basically been under military rule of native local governors, though they were answerable to Egypt, at a time when Egypt controlled or held influence over much of the Middle East, including Greece, Turkey and most of the Fertile Crescent.
    According to Nibley, “These commandants (called rabis in the Amarna letters) were subordinate to the city-princes (chazan), who commonly address them as 'Brother' or 'Father.'  They were by and large a sordid lot of careerists whose authority depended on constant deception and intrigue, though they regarded their offices as hereditary and sometimes styled themselves kings...The Lachish letters show that such men were still the lords of creation in Lehi's day—the commanders of the towns around Jerusalem were still acting in closest cooperation with Egypt in military matters, depending on the prestige of Egypt to bolster their corrupt power, and still behaving as groveling and unscrupulous timeservers.”
    The Lachish letters mentioned were written shortly before Lachish (an ancient city that is now an archaeological site located in the Shephelah region of Israel between Mount Hebron and the Mediterranean Sea)  fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army in 588-86 B.C. during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and refer to commandants (commander of any army), of which Laban would have been one.
    Another question that arises, is why did Laban have the Brass Plates? At the time, Zedekiah, of course, was king, not a prophet, nor was Laban, though his genealogy, as was Lehi’s, was recorded on the Brass Plates. It is likely that Laban held the plates in some official capacity, and kept them in his treasury, evidently because of their great value. It is also likely that he took them with him to the Sanhedrin from time to time to be read among the Elders of the Jews, which is borne out by Nephi’s statement: 
    “And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury. And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins. And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.  And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban. And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls. And I also bade him that he should follow me. And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me. And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls” (1 Nephi 4:20-27).
    Thus, Laban’s servant, Zoram, was not at all surprised that Nephi, posing as Laban, took the Brass Plates and carried them to who Zoram thought were the brethren, or leaders of the Church at the time.
(See the next post, “Did Laban Have the Ownership Rights to the Brass Plates? – Part II,” for more on this subject)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The “I’m Not Changing Scripture” Game – Heartland—Great Lakes

While we are on the subject of changing scripture or ignoring scripture in order to justify a particular theory, let us turn to the North American belief in it being the location of Lehi’s Land of Promise, where Lehi landed, and where the Nephite Nation lived and died that Mormon describes—specifically the two theories referred to as Heartland, and Great Lakes. 
    Collectively, this is sometimes referred to as the “central-eastern” U.S. Theory, and covers the area (lumping all of these different beliefs into one general area) as being as far west as eastern Nebraska and Kansas, and as far east as the Appalachian mountains, including western New York, and western Pennsylvania, as far south as northern Mississippi, Tennessee, and as far north as the Great Lakes and the western St. Lawrence River. In this general area, we find various ideas promoted regarding where specific Book of Mormon areas were supposed to be located, including the Land Northward, Land Southward, the general land areas of both, the Sidon River, the East, West, North and South Seas, and the hill Cumorah.
    While no North American Theory encompasses the entire area described, each theory covers a portion of the total area until parts of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise can be found within this area in each theory. It should be noted here, that the more recent theory of Florida, and the older theory of Baja California, are not included in this general area, but will be dealt with later.
The point to be made is how well, if at all, do these North American theories adhere to Mormon’s many and detailed descriptions of the size, shape, and location arrangement of the Nephite Land of Promise. Or stated differently, how many of Mormon’s descriptive statements have to be overlooked or ignored entirely to make the Heartland or Great Lakes theories appear viable.
    Take as an example one of the most obvious statements ignored by these theorists that is found in Helaman when Samuel the Lamanite so clearly states that “behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
    Now, to put this prophecy into its proper perspective, the events found in Helaman discuss a Lamanite prophet, named Samuel, who came into the Land of Zarahemla and began to preach to the people (Helaman 13:2); however, after many days of preaching, the Nephites cast him out and Samuel was about to return to his own land. But the voice of the Lord came unto him, and told Samuel that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever should come into his heart (Helaman 13:3). As he returned, the Nephites would not allow him to enter the city, so Samuel got upon the wall and cried out with a loud voice, and began prophesying “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart” (Helaman 13:4).
    This event took place in 6 B.C., and he, in part, said, “I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people” (Helaman 13:5).
    Because the Nephites had rejected Samuel’s initial preaching, the Lord told them “Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them. And four hundred years shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten; yea, I will visit them with the sword and with famine and with pestilence” (Helaman 1:8-9).
    So before 406 A.D., the Nephites were to be smitten (defined as “struck, killed”), and as events took place 391 years later (385 A.D.), completely wiped out, annihilated as a people to the last man.
    Now, for every Nephite and Lamanite to understand, after Samuel went on to prophecy about the destruction of the city of Zarahemla, he told of the coming birth of the Savior, in which “there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born” (Helaman 14:4).
    Samuel then told them that there would be another sign, “a sign of his death,” and that the sun, moon and stars would be darkened for three days, and the time of his death there would be thundering and lightening for many hours, and the rocks above and under the earth will be broken up and rent in two, and there would be great tempests, and “mountains would be laid low like unto a valley, and they shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great”(Helaman 14:12).
    Samuel went on to tell them that highway would be destroyed, and “many cities shall become desolate,” and graves opened and many saints appear, and that these tempests would last three days.
    More importantly, Samuel added, “And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).
    That is, these events would not be isolated, hidden, or obscure. They would be seen by all and there would be no doubt that the Lord was involved in their creation so that if they did not believe after that, “a righteous judgment would come upon them” and if they are condemned by their disbelief it will be to their utter condemnation (Helaman 14:29).
    So let us take a look at Samuel’s prophecy, which the Lord told him to deliver to the Nephites in Zarahemla:
1. Existing mountains would be laid low, and become valleys (Helaman 14:23);
2. Existing valleys would become mountains (Helaman 14:23);
3. These new mountains would have great height (Helaman 14:23);
4. This would all be done in a three-hour period (Helaman 14:26; 3 Nephi 8:19);
5. These accompanying rumblings, thunder and lightning would last for three days (Helaman 14:27);
6. These events would be seen by many, and all would know it was from God (Helaman 14:28);
7. The overall purpose of these events was to save those who believed (Helaman 14:29).
    Thus, these events, the mountains falling and the new mountains rising to great heights, would be seen by all in such a manner that they could not deny the author of the events, and was for the salvation of those who accepted God (Helaman 14:30-31). Once again, it should be stressed that these events would be so significant, the result so obvious and so lasting and understood, that there could be no doubt in the minds of the Nephites in the Land Southward and the Land Northward, as to what had happened and, because of the prophecy, that it was from God.
    The Lord, through Samuel, even provided a consequence of these events, by stating: “wo unto this people who are called the people of Nephi except they shall repent, when they shall see all these signs and wonders which shall be showed unto them… If they will not repent, and observe to do my will, I will utterly destroy them, saith the Lord, because of their unbelief notwithstanding the many mighty works which I have done among them; and as surely as the Lord liveth shall these things be, saith the Lord” (Helaman 15:3, 17).
    Through Samuel, we understand clearly and without a doubt, that the Land of Promise had mountains created within its confines, so extensively that all could see them and their miraculous rise, so miraculous that all could only acknowledge that they had been created suddenly by God as a fulfillment of prophecy.
    Since mountains do not disappear except through the control of God, and these mountains, “whose height is great” were raised for a testimony then and now of the greatness of God and the fulfillment of prophecy, it is impossible and without a doubt contrary to the scriptural record, for someone to make a claim that an area was the Land of Promise without a range of mountains, raised in the time of man, “whose height is great.
    As for the Heartland and Great Lakes theories, there are no mountains “whose height is great,” or anything that even comes close to it, within the confines of the Heartland and Great Lakes Land of Promise areas—no, not one. In fact, there is hardly even a hill to point to in that vast area from the Great Plains in the West to the eastern boundaries of their designated lands. Not until the Appalachian Mountains near the east coast of the U.S. do we find a rise in land elevation into what are called mountains in the east—generally just over 6,000-feet. As mountains go, even those, which are outside the Heartland and Great Lakes Land of Promise area, cannot be considered “whose height is great.”
    It is long past time that all honest readers of the scriptural record acknowledge the meaning, intent, and clearly stated descriptive nature of the Land of Promise as given to us by Mormon, and in this case, Helaman’s account of Samuel the Lamanite and the Lord’s prophecy. And among all the claims of the Land of Promise among numerous theorists, only one area meets that single requirement so clearly laid out for us—and that is Andean South Americathe youngest and tallest mountains by far in the entire Western Hemisphere.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The “I’m Not Changing Scripture” Game - Mesoamerica

In a typical Mesoamerican view of the scriptures, the following statement is submitted by John E. Clark (FARMS Review 16/2, 2004, p1-54, of Review of Sacred Sites: Searching for Book of Mormon Lands, by Joseph L. Allen, 2003; and A New Model for Book of Mormon Geography, by James Warr, 2001) as a defense of John L. Sorenson and his treatment of directions in the Book of Mormon scriptural record. Regarding those critical of Sorenson's work, Clark claims:
    “The specific claim of interest is that "some literature" alters directions in the Book of Mormon or on Mesoamerican maps. This is demonstrably untrue. Sorenson's geography is the real target here. He has preserved the orientation of Mesoamerica in all of his arguments, and he has not, to my knowledge, altered even a single scripture to say that north was west or south was east. What Allen's loose accusations appear to be trying to convey is that Sorenson does not assume that "northward" in the Book of Mormon is obvious, so it is not something that can be taken at "face value." The problem resides neither in the manipulation of modern maps nor in ancient scripture but in the rapprochement of the two.”
    One can only wonder how an intelligent individual can make such a claim. First of all, the word used here is “rapprochement.” While it is taken from the French “rapprocher,” meaning “to approach,” from Late Latin “appropiare” which is “to approach.” Originally the French word was used to signify “to approach with intensive force.” In public groups it was sometimes used for “reunion, reconciliation,” and literally means “a bringing near,” it is used today “in public relations and international groups” who have been enemies” to have “friendlier relations.” Even in 1809, the word was meant to “establish cordial relations.” In fact, its meaning is listed as the opposite (antonyms), such as “alienation, disaffection, disgruntlement, estrangement, coldness, cold shoulder, distance, iciness, animosity, antagonism, antipathy, bitterness, enmity, hostility ,jaundice, rancor, spite.”
    Hardly an appropriate word to use in this case, but since it is used, we can assume that what Clark meant is that combining both Sorenson’s map, which shows a 90º tilt from true north-south directions, and the difference between it and “ancient scripture,” i.e., the Book of Mormon, is in harmony. 
    However, there is no possibility of this being true unless one changes the intent of either the existing maps or the directional wordage in “ancient scripture.” To be clear, Sorenson does not come out and say “the scripture is wrong,” nor does he write, “We need to change this scripture to read,” etc. But what he does is ignore the scripture because it does not fit his pre-determined shape and compass orientation of his Land of Promise, which he claims is Mesoamerica. And when one looks at Mesoamerica—not Central America, which are to entirely different things—we find a land form that runs basically east and west, in fact, almost due east and due west!
Mesoamerica, meaning “middle America” is that area of land beginning a little above Mexico City and extending a little beyond Guatemala, including the area of southern Mexico, the Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, and the western portion of Honduras and El Salvador. It lies between North America and Central America in theory and ancient usage

However, if one goes beyond Mesoamerica lines, then one can bring in that there is a northwest orientation through upper Mexico, and a southeast orientation from Nicaragua southward. In fact, if we take the entire land mass from the United States southern border, including all of Mexico to the Panama border with Colombia in South America, then we can see a definite northwest to southeast direction of the land going from north to south.
The actual lay of the land of Mexico, Mesoamerica and Central America

The problem lies in the fact that Mesoamerica, or Middle America, or the land that Mesoamerican theorists claim is the Land of Promise of the Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites, actually runs from about Mexico City through western Honduras, including Guatemala, Belize the Yucatan and southern Mexico. At best, because of the slight curve of southern Mexico, one can say that Mesoamerica is about 90º off kilter from the north-south orientation of both Mexico and Central America, which is inarguably the direction of the Land of Promise as Mormon so clearly describes it.
When the rest of the land is removed from Mesoamerica, you get a very different picture. That area inside the red lines is the actual location of ancient ruins, southern Mexico, Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize and some of Honduras. As one can see, it basically runs east and west

So how on earth is it possible to make any claim at all that Mormon’s north-south descriptions are not being changed when you introduce a map of the Land of Promise that runs basically east and west, when you label the Gulf of Mexico, at the north of the narrow neck of land, as the Sea East, and the Pacific Ocean, as it runs along the narrow neck of land to the south as the Sea West? 
    How is that not changing the scriptural record?
    To say Sorenson does not come out and change any scripture is a blatant falsehood—since he is changing the basic meaning of the scripture even though he tries to do so without appearing to do so. 
    In the early days of verbal manipulation, it was called a “sleigh of hand,” a “silver-tongue” a “selling of snake oil.” Today it is called “The Word Game,” a psychological technique of using words to make it sound positive when discussing a negative idea, or stating a positive sound in order to cover up a negative approach. More specifically, using words that are positive in their individual meanings in a context that is, in and of itself, representing a movement, theory, idea or ideology that is fundamentally negative to those receiving the information.
During the Cold War of the 1960s through 1990s, the Soviet Union developed numerous front organizations to hide their infamous internal organizations bent on the destruction of the American Way of Life. In all cases, they used names and titles that, on the surface, sound like great ideas and organizations, yet in reality, represented organizations bent on the overthrow and destruction of the United States

So one can say Sorenson is not changing scripture; however, when you take a map and change its directions from those Mormon described in clear and precise language, you are changing scripture and it is not a game! Neither is taking locations of lands Mormon gave us and putting them on a map out of order, in the wrong direction, and not in relationship one to another as Mormon laid them out. 
    If that is not changing the meaning of scripture, then we would like to know what is!
    In fact, our third book Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists, in which more than half of the book is devoted to all the claims that Sorenson makes about the scriptural record that is wrong, altered, changed, or misleading, i.e., changing what the scriptural record states in the clear and previse language Mormon uses, shows this constant tendency.
Sorenson’s Map of Mesoamerica as he Land of Promise (Map 5, Page 37)

In addition, when looking at Sorenson’s map of his Land of Promise, not only are the directions skewed from Mormon’s clear and precise language, but so are the placement of locations within the Land of Promise. Take, for instance, Sorenson’s distance between the Land of Many Waters and the land and hill Cumorah, that distance is approximately 400 miles, yet Mormon describes Cumorah being within the Land of Many waters as he so states: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4).
    Also in looking at the map of Sorenson’s Land of Promise, he has the land of Bountiful (using his directions) east of Zarahemla, and east of Nephi (north on a regular map); the Sea East to the north, and the Sea West to the south, Desolation due west of Bountiful, and the Land Northward due west of the Land Southward.
    One cannot defend changing scripture in order to make the scripture sound like it means something else—which is no different than claiming the scripture means something else if you think you know what Mormon meant to say, but did not, or should have said, or said differently than was meant. One can play a word game, but the end result is that the meaning and intent of the scripture is changed! And John E. Clark, a professor of Archaeology at BYU, who has published, according to his bio, over 177 works, should know that.
    Clarke goes on to say: “We may be tempted to think automatically that "northward" and "southward" label directions that are the same as "north" and "south." But "northward" signals a different concept than does "north," something like "in a general northerly direction."
    The problem with this is, theorists think they can change the meaning of words in order to make the scriptural record say what they want it to say. As an example, “north” means “being in the north,” and “being that point of the horizon which is directly opposite to the sun in the meridian, on the left hand when we stand with the face to the east.” And northward, as we have written many times, means “being toward the north,” or “nearer the north than to the east and west points.”
    Thus, we have two words, “north” and “northward” which pretty much mean the same thing, i.e., "in the north” and “toward the north.” It cannot be said that “northward signals a different concept than does north,” in that both point to the same basic direction, with northward having a little more leeway in degree latitude—but does not signify a “different concept.”
    Clark then goes on: “By their frequency of using the -ward suffix, we can infer that Mormon and his ancestors used a somewhat different cultural scheme for directions than we do.”
    How on earth anyone can draw that conclusion is beyond irresponsibility, it is downright fallacious! Mormon and his ancestors used north just as we do today, i.e., placing lands and places to the “north” and to the “northward,” or stated in definition terms, placing lands and places “to the north,” and “toward the north.”
    Lastly, this theorist concludes: “However, we cannot tell from the Book of Mormon text exactly how their concepts differed from ours, because all we have to work with is the English translation provided through Joseph Smith.”
    It is near impossible to understand such thinking. We can certainly tell from the Book of Mormon text exactly what Mormon’s concept was and that it was not different from ours despite how much this author and other theorist want it to be, so it would validate their model and thinking. And because we have the English translation provided through Joseph Smith, by the Spirit, we know exactly what Mormon meant!
    Thus we can easily see that in order for these Mesoamerican and other theorists in their desperate attempt to make the scriptural record say what they want it to say and not what Mormon actually said, they do have to change the meaning of the scriptural record! They must cloud the issue, introduce doubt and problems that do not exist, and throw a cloud over both the writing and the translation of the original prophets on the plates. The only reason to do that is to try and prove their own message, their own location of the Land of Promise, and their own beliefs that obviously do not agree with the scriptural record—if it did agree with the scriptural record, then all this subterfuge would not be necessary on their part!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Are These the Waters of Mormon?

It has never been our nature here to speculate on locations of such fleeting areas as rivers, lakes, cities where limited information in the scriptural record does not provide sufficient descriptive information to provide more than just an educated guess. However, in regard to this particular area, the Waters of Mormon, has provided sufficient information after lengthy study to allow us to suggest at least a strong possibility. 
   Though we have tried every possibility to disprove this possible location, it is interesting that a turn of events worked its way into our grasp with answers falling into place almost of their own accord, and the possibility seems sufficiently strong to offer our opinion on this. After all, there just might be a chance to pinpoint the Waters of Mormon in the Peruvian landscape outside Cuzco, the City of Nephi.
“Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light... if this be the desire of your heart, what have ye against being baptized in the name of the Lord?” (Mosiah 18:8, 10)
  
First of all, we know very little about the Waters of Mormon, and typically not enough to say this is where the Waters of Mormon were located; however, what we do know is quite consistent with an area in south-central Peru, a little north of Cuzco.
    In suggesting these might be the Waters of Mormon, we need to review what is known about those waters:
1. In the borders of the land (Alma 5:3)
2. In a land called Mormon (Alma 5:3)
3. The waters were so configured, that a large number of baptisms took place there in a short time (Mosiah 18:16; Alma 5:3)
4. It had a fountain of pure water (Mosiah 18:5)
5. There was a thicket of small trees near the water (Mosiah 18:5)
6. The natural cover of the thicket was sufficient for Alma to hide in during the day from searches by the king’s guard (Mosiah 18:5)
7. The overall area was called Mormon, a name given it by the king (Mosiah 18:4)
8. It was located in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, with wild beasts (Mormon 18:4)
9. The waters were by a forest, called the forest of Mormon
10. The area was large enough to sustain 450 people in the final days before they left.
    So the area had a large enough pool or lake to be named, a small enough area of water fed by a fountain of pure water (probably meaning mountain water from a spring) that was separate enough for the water not to be mixed or influenced by the lake water; had a small stand of trees near where the baptisms took place, plus a forest of some size in which 450 people could hide and live.
    It also had to be a place where this number of people could sustain themselves, either through hunting or some type of planted groves; where people could move in an out without drawing attention to themselves; where their movements were well enough masked by undergrowth that when the king’s army searched for them, there was no trace of them.
    Now, since we know what we are looking for, we also have to consider that this area existed prior to the destruction signaled by the crucifixion, where mountains tumbled to the ground, and flat areas rose into mountains, whose height was great. If the lake or waters survived, they might not look exactly like what they had before, on the other hand, when Mormon introduced himself around 25 A.D., he does so by saying, “I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people…” (3 Nephi 5:12), which sounds like the area of Mormon was still in existence and had not changed much, if at all. Still, Mormon’s father was also called Mormon (Mormon 1:5), so we don’t know if he was named after his father, or both of them named after the land.
    According to Mormon’s words, the people Alma baptized, assembled together as often as it was in their power to do so (Mosiah 18:25), suggesting they not only traveled from the City of Nephi to the Waters of Mormon to be preached to by Alma and then baptized, by him afterward, as often as they could manage it, they traveled there to assemble together and hear more about God, for all of this was done in the land of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, and the forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30). And by the time the king discovered them so meeting and sent his army, they numbered 450 people (Mosiah 18:35).
    So has been discussed in earlier articles on this subject, the distance from the City of Nephi to the Waters of Mormon should have been within a one to two-day journey—for they did take their tents and overnight stays are evident (Mosiah 18:34).
    Typically, historians have placed this area to either the north or northwest of the City of Nephi. While we have no confirmation of this in the scriptural record, we have found a lake to the north of Cuzco, the City of Nephi. That lake is 18 miles distance (shorter as the crow flies), which means it would take about a day and a half to travel there over the type of mountainous terrain existing in the area. It might also be assumed that the converts would have left at night when unobserved, and likely pitched their tents when a few hours from the city, for travel over uneven ground at night is very difficult, especially with women and children.
Puray Lake, with the yellow arrows showing the lengthy forest stretching out for miles along the lake front, and impassable mountains beyond low-lying hills. It is a haven for birds much of the year

Consequently, about a day or day and a half journey north of the City of Nephi in the Sacred Valley of Peru, lies a lake at 13°25’48.98" S  71°59’58.30" W, called Puray Lake (Laguna Piuray), at an elevation of 12,877 feet, about 8 miles southeast of Chincero.
    This is a forested area with sparsely-covered, low lying hills, and barren mountains jutting up behind. Between the hills and the lake is a long, wide forest running the entire length of the water. To the northeast along the lake shore, the forests have long been removed and terraced planting installed, as well as along the east shore and hills as well.
    Within the forest are several waterways, mostly fed by the Puray Falls, where fountains of pure water exist higher up and spill over into the pools deep in the forest completely secluded from exterior view.
    Lake Puray is 18 miles to the north of Cuzco deep in the Sacred Valley, surrounded by the Andes on three sides, with a large forest between the lake and the mountains in which are found the Puray Falls, and perfect pools of water for baptizing. The Falls flow more heavily in the winter, and less in the summer, providing a perfect, pleasant pool collection where baptisms could easily be conducted. Today, this area is used as a swimming pool, where kids jump off the rocks above into the deeper end of the pool. However, most of the pool is about waist-high in depth, with river rock on the bottom and allow for easy walking in and out.
Left: Puray Falls back from the lake and within the forest of trees drops into a pool of pure water and provides a perfect place for baptism; Right: Today this area is used as a local swimming hole

This is a very isolated region, even today a couple of small villages with only a couple of dozen families live around the lake, with Chincera about eight miles away. Much of these highlands are fed by natural spring water.
Isolated Lake Puray showing the forest around it and how difficult it would have been for Noah’s army to find people hiding there
 
While this area may not be the Waters of Mormon, given the location of the City of Nephi and the land of Shilom, it fits in with the scriptural record descriptions, complete with being in the borders of the Land of Nephi and Shilom, a perfect location for baptisms in an isolated pool of fresh, pure water, where thickets of small trees grow nearby—new growth of the forest beside the area, and the natural cover would have provided security for more than four hundred people.
The boulder-rimmed pool of pure water around Puray Falls, which would have been ideal for baptism, containing pure water from the falls, and before people began swimming in it, you could have drunk this mountain water without hesitation

Again, while this is all assumptive and we are not suggesting this is definitely the area of the Waters of Mormon, it certainly meets the requirements of the location specified, though briefly, in the scriptural account.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Strength of the Book of Mormon – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, regarding the accuracy of the scriptural record and its direct ties to its Hebrew origins. Much has been written disparagingly of the LDS Church and its Book of Mormon, but as the years pass, more and more information comes forward and is discovered to verify the accuracy and authenticity of the scriptural record. In fact, the finding of more and more typically “Christian” institutions among pre-Christian Jews who had fled from Jerusalem because of their faith in the Messiah and their disapproval of the wickedness of that city answers what have been in the past the most powerful arguments against the Book of Mormon.
    Since Hugh Nibley’s lesson manual first appeared, there have been hundreds of books and articles written in the pursuit of examining the nature of that “strange Church in the Wilderness” or “Church of Anticipation” that was first brought to light by the Dead Sea Scrolls.
 
The community to which the Dead Sea Scrolls apparently belonged occupied Qumran around 130 B.C. to 70 A.D., and possibly lived also in other places in the region. The site of Qumran, now a series of ruins, located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea along the west bank, sitting on a dry plateau about one mile from the shore, near the kibbutz (collective community) of Kalya (from Latin for Kalium, a potassium chemical found in abundance in the region). Qumran was originally constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus (134-104 B.C.) until destroyed by the Romans around 68 B.C. Nearby were caves in the sheer desert cliffs and beneath, in the marlstone terrace. The site of Qumran ruins (Khirbet Qumran) had been occupied at various times in antiquity. At a low level were found the remains of walls and pottery from of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. A deep circular cistern also belonging to this period existed which, centuries later, was incorporated in an elaborate system of aqueducts and reservoirs, and likely was the site known as the Biblical "Ir ha-Melah"—City of Salt.
    The name "Dead Sea Sect" was given to the people because the main knowledge of the sect derives from these manuscripts, and were an extremist offshoot of the Jewish apocalyptic movement, whose basic doctrine was the expectation of the soon end of days. According to them, when that time comes, the wicked would be destroyed, and Israel freed from the yoke of the nations. Before this, God would raise for Himself a community of elect who were destined to be saved from the divine visitation, and who were the nucleus of the society of the future.
    The Dead Sea Sect carried these views to extremes specific to itself. They believed that God had decreed not only the end but also the division of mankind into two antagonistic camps called "the sons of light and the sons of darkness," lead by superhuman "prince of light" and "angel of darkness" respectively. Reference is also made to "the spirit of truth" and "the spirit of perverseness" which are given to mankind. Of these, each person receives his portion, in accordance with which he is either righteous or wicked. Between these two categories God has set "eternal enmity" which would cease only in the end of days, with the destruction of the spirit of perversion and the purification of the righteous from its influence. Then "the sons of the spirit of truth" would receive their reward.
    It is not difficult to see in this group the same type of fervor that has marked other groups who separated from the main body of Israel and moved or fled to a distant area from the main community in Jerusalem. A fact that Hugh Nibley has used to show the likelihood of Lehi’s separation and his fleeing into the wilderness to establish a very distant Land of Promise of his own.
    As for the Qumran Scrolls, it is also understood today that those Scrolls were not hidden in haste anticipating some emergency, but were “deliberately laid away, at a time when the authors knew that their society was on the verge of extinction, carefully buried in ‘a solemn communal interment’ to come forth in a later dispensation.” It was Nibley who had suggested this in his manual and mentioned a writing known as the “Assumption of Moses” as evidence, and among the Scrolls a fragment of this very writing was found (Matthew Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins, Scribner, New York, 1961, pp11—12).
    It is now generally accepted, moreover, that the organization and ordinances of the Church in the Wilderness not only resemble those of the later Christian Church very closely, but that there is a definite connection between them.

Left: One of the caves of Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; Right: Cave #4, where 90% of the scrolls were found 

Scholars today understand that Qumran represented a movement by refugees that mirrored such ancient movements dating back to the time of Lehi. In fact, Lehi’s behavior to take his family into the wilderness is nothing more than following the path that had been well established by the tradition of the time (John M. Allegro, The Treasure of the Copper Scroll, Doubleday, Garden City, 1960, p62).
In the same year in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, an equally valuable find was made in Egypt—that of the early Christian library of Nag Hammadi—codices that had lain buried in a large jar and forgotten under a cliff of the Jabal al-Tarif in rural Egypt until two Bedouin shepherds found them in 1945, close to the upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi. This library was a collection of thirteen ancient books (called "codices") containing over fifty texts, and was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. This immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary "Gnostic Gospels," that is, texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define "orthodoxy, including scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth. The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi library, initially completed in the 1970's, has provided impetus to a major re-evaluation of early sectarian Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism, i.e., the prominent movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin.
    The publication of the Hammadi library (also known as the Chenoboskion Manuscripts, referring to the early center of Christianity in the Thebaid, Roman Egypt (see above map), a site frequented by Desert Fathers [and mothers]—hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived in the Scetes desert and monasteries of Egypt—from the 3rd century) translations were originally slow, and the first texts became available only since the appearance of Nibley’s manual. What became readily understandable was the teachings of the Lord to his disciples after the resurrection.
    While Nibley’s manual paid little attention to 3rd and 4th Nephi, these two books in view of the discoveries, should now perhaps be considered some of the most significant parts of the scriptural record, by comparison and in alignment with the Nag Hammadi discoveries. In fact, Nibley considered the “patternism” of these scholars’ works on the library translations fully supportive of his own patterns of the Near Eastern mindset. Patternism is a method of comparing the teachings of the religions of the Ancient Near East whereby the similarities between these religions are assumed to constitute an overarching pattern—thus showing that through these patterns the religions of the ancient near east are related.
    As Nibley stated: “A year after the manual appeared, those Cambridge scholars who first brought “patternism” to light issued an important volume summarizing the work of the past two decades and bringing their conclusions up to date” which literally supports Nibley’s stand on the subject.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Strength of the Book of Mormon – Part I

In An Approach to the Book of Mormon Melchizedek Priesthood manual (revised in 1964), Hugh Nibley stated: “These lessons are dedicated to the proposition that no one can know too much about the Book of Mormon” (“Introduction to an Unknown Book”). As vital and timely as these lessons were in that era, it might be said today that the “basic theme of the wise commentaries of Mormon and Moroni, the problem of survival, has suddenly become an issue of the day.” Certainly, the more we understand in the scriptural record, the more clearly we see the events that unfold around us currently.
Throughout, the Book of Mormon speaks zealously of pending disasters, though not the final destruction of the earth, but about the many man-caused destructions of both the Jaredites and Nephites, both of which suggest a close tie-in to today’s world events. In the nineteenth century, most people laughed at such dire consequences of mankind, but nobody is laughing as such depictions today.
    Take the "end of the world" psychology of the Jaredites in their last desperate years--what some call their “fallout-shelter psychology”: “Wherefore every man did cleave unto that which was his own, with his hands, and would not borrow neither would he lend; and every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defense of his property and his own life and of his wives and children” (Ether 14:2). It was a terrifying image in the 1830s and later, and no one at the time would have considered we would come to understand its meaning as we do today.  After all, no other work states in such an open, honest and direct manner about the very fundamental issues of our day that is caused by the misuse of power and the attempt to acquire it.
Not until the bombing and destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic weapons in August of 1945, the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the ensuring Cold War of the 20th Century, and the crazed appeal of fallout shelters that followed, has such mentality been so widespread. One would have had to go long and far during the widening spread of the Book of Mormon to find another work even remotely suggestive of a comparable passionate commentary on such an irreversible point of no return. Such vices of national destruction that overtook the Nephites  actually are threatening our own age with the same fate.
    Such vices as the passion and struggle for wealth, power and success which, we are now being warned, have become something like a national obsession with a people who are displaying the twin Nephite weaknesses of attributing their own success to their own superiority—as Korihor preached to the Nephites who ridiculed prophecy, calling it “foolish traditions,” and “the effect of a frenzied mind because of the traditions of their fathers“ and that there “could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:16-17). He also told the Nephites that “their setbacks and defeats to the evil machinations of other people” were due simply to a people “who had a different way of thinking.” After all, the Lamanites were wicked.
    It was Dr. Karl Jaspers, the German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher, who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry, and philosophy, who wrote influentially about the period surrounding 600 B.C., calling it Achsenzeit, “the Axial Period,” which was that “period when, roughly at the same time around most of the inhabited world, the great intellectual, philosophical, and religious systems that came to shape subsequent human society and culture emerged.”
    Jaspers also proclaimed: “In this age were born the fundamental categories within which we still think today, and the beginnings of the world religions, by which human beings still live, were created. The step into universality was taken in every sense” (Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1953).
    As Cyrus Herzl Gordon, scholar of Near Eastern cultures and ancient languages, a fellow of American Schools of Oriental Research, and leading expert on ancient languages, pointed out (regarding this age surrounding Lehi): “was the most perfectly calculated moment and the Eastern Mediterranean the most suitable point of departure for the launching of a new offshoot civilization in far places. It was that same age also which saw, as we have since discovered, the definitive split between those “Sophic” and “Mantic” ways of thinking,” that is changing from oral to written tradition.
    As Hugh Nibley adds of these two ways of thinking, they are “so vividly set forth in the Book of Mormon accounts of the vast controversies stirred up by such ambitious intellectuals as Nehor and Zoram. The Book of Mormon even tells us how these conflicting schools of thought were transplanted from their Near Eastern home as part of Lehi’s family baggage and a source of perpetual trouble in his afflicted household.”
    Nibley also added, “Even if one does not choose to go with Professor Gordon all the way, few will dispute the common elements of Near Eastern civilization which made Lehi “a representative man” of 600 B.C.”
    In fact, it might be added that “in this age were born the fundamental categories within which we still think today, and the beginnings of the world religions, by which human beings still live, were created. The step into universality was taken in every sense.”
    It was Nibley who first used the phrase “churches of anticipation” with regards to Alma and other back in the 1950s. This is seen and understood through Alma’s preaching with a strong sense of anticipation. He is always telling his audience to look forward to Christ (Alma 4:14; 5:15; 7:6; 13:2,16; 25:15; 32:40-41). Obviously, Alma had a strong sense of anticipation regarding the gospel he taught.
    As Bruce Webster wrote: "there was, of course, a curious religious transition that occurred among the Nephites about a century before the birth of Christ. Up until then, the Nephites appear to have been following the law of Moses, in spite of a clear and unprecedented Christology introduced by Lehi, Nephi and Jacob in the 5th century B.C. and re-emphasized by King Benjamin around 124 B.C. just before turning leadership over to his son Mosiah. And even though Nephi clearly indicated the need for baptism in following the Savior’s (future) example, there is no record of baptism being practiced for roughly half a millennium afterwards. Instead, the Nephite civilization during that time appears to be a continual kingship with prophets calling the people to repentance. Yet, when Nephi was still alive, he stated “he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:23).
    Thus, we might conclude that baptism was had among the Nephites, though no mention of it is given before Alma baptized in the waters of Sidon (Alma 4:4). Certainly the Nephites knew that baptism was a requirement, for they had Nephi’s words and his condemnation of those who failed to be baptized when he added, “And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it” (2 Nephi 9:24). On the other hand, perhaps as a result of Zeniff who took numerous Nephites back to the city of Nephi from Zarahemla, and not feeling he had the power to baptize, or perhaps because of king Noah removing the legitimate priests and replacing them with his evil followers, the right and authority to baptize was lost among the Nephites, or at least those in the city of Nephi, for we learn in Mosiah that “Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God” (Mosiah 21:33), and even Ammon, who came from Zarahemla, “declined to do so considering himself an unworthy servant.”
(See the next post, “The Strength of the Book of Mormon – Part II, for more information regarding the accuracy of the scriptural record and its direct ties to its Hebrew origins)