Monday, January 1, 2018

Understanding Building With Stone

We are continually finding that theorists, though well-meaning, ignore the most common of understandings of the ancient Hebrews, specifically in Jerusalem from which Lehi, Nephi, Same and Zoram came, before arriving in the Land of Promise. And such misunderstandings lead to ideas that simply are not justified. Take the idea of the Nephites building their cities in North America, as such theorists claim, where there is no evidence of such buildings ever found, and only a record of mud and stick huts.
Stone foundations take on many forms, but importantly, the term applies to a permanent, strong, and solid foundation that supports an edifice. “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone - a precious cornerstone” (Isaiah 28:16)

"And the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city Moroni..." (Alma 50:13); and "they also began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron...and called the name...Nephihah" (Alma 50:14). To better understand this, according to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary (of which Joseph Smith was familiar since he used this dictionary for the School of the Prophets), the word “foundation” means “The basis of an edifice; that part of a building which lies on the ground; usually a wall of stone which supports the edifice.” Having spent an earlier part of my life as an architect, designing houses, apartment buildings, business offices and complex centers, it is clear that when it comes to building, the word “foundation” has a very specific meaning, and is critical in constructing the erection of any building of any size, weight, and durability.
A large Cahokia Mound Builder city  of houses/huts of North America, standing across the Mississippi from St. Louis in the heart of the Heartland area claimed to have been Nephite territory by North American theorists. There were no foundation structures and nothing is left of the buildings or city other than mounds

The word certainly does not meet any standard of any type of simple hut, mud, adobe, or otherwise found in North America prior to the arrival of the Europeans. In fact, early houses in America were built on level ground, without foundations, and if uneven ground, stones were used at the corners to level off the weight-bearing floor beams. No foundations were ever laid. And, of course, as stated above, no foundations were ever used for tents, or basic and simple wood construction. Thus the use of “foundation of a city” can only have one meaning as used in Alma 50:13,14, and that has nothing to do with wood or tents.
    In addition, we have illustrated time and again in our blog in various articles that the Hebrews in Jerusalem (the area of construction known to Lehi and Nephi) was built entirely of stone. Begun in 750 B.C., the area of Judah was built of stone, cut from quarries in and around Jerusalem that can still be seen today. Solomon’s original palace walls have recently been discovered, which was built just to the south of the temple (1 Kings 6:38; 7:1) just outside and north of the original city, and included Solomon’s own palace (built 1004-991 B.C.) and a small house for his Egyptian wife, an armory called “the House of the Forest of Lebanon,” a Hall of Pillars, a Hall of the Throne, and a special “Ascent” connected this complex with the temple (1 Kings: 7:1-11).
    These original walls just discovered were made of stone, and to make sure there is no question about stone being used, we find in (7:9) that all these structures, from the outside to the great courtyard and from foundation to eaves, were made of blocks of high-grade stone cut to size and smoothed on their inner and outer faces. (7-10) The foundations were laid with large stones of good quality, some measuring ten cubits and some eight. (7-11) Above were high-grade stones, cut to size, and cedar beams. (7:12) The great courtyard was surrounded by a wall of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams, as was the inner courtyard of the temple of the Lord with its portico.
    As you will notice, cedar beams or wood beams made from the cedars of Lebanon, were used liberally in the construction (7:2,7,11). In addition, some of the stones used were cut with a saw (7:9) and measured eight and even ten cubits (7:10), and they were costly (7:9,10, 11). As a side note, the Hebrew cubit (אמה [ammah]), measured from the fingertips to the elbow and varied between 17 ½-inches and 20.4-inches, thus, the stones measured from 140-inches to 163.2-inches for 8 cubits, to 175-inches to 204-inches for ten cubits.
    There is also considerable mention of pillars, which are carved columns of marble, stone or concrete (modern day made of steel or iron), and are not made of wood; however, there is mention of beams, which are made of wood, and in Solomon’s construction, those wood beams were made of cedar (from Lebanon).
    To be more exact, ancient columns were carved and fitted together, using wooden dowels or metal pegs in the center of the stone drum (or column section) and were so made since they were remarkably resistant to seismic activity (earthquakes). In ancient Israel, the pillar (עַמּוּד; from the root ʿmd, "to stand") were used in construction (rather than decoration) to support beams, such as for a roof (7:6). Pillars were sometimes made from one solid stone block, but generally from several stones placed one on top of the other. Sometimes, pillars were set up in the middle of a large area that could not be beamed from wall to wall, thereby shortening the distance between walls and making it possible to place short, strong beams between the pillar and the wall in order to build a roof over this area.
    The use of pillars in the construction of houses and other types of buildings was widespread in the Israelite period. Buildings from this period have been found that are divided internally into four sections: three long sections that lie side by side forming an almost perfect square, and a fourth section, of approximately the same size, running across their ends. The long rooms were sometimes divided from one another by solid walls, but generally by rows of pillars. It appears that of the long rooms, the middle one was uncovered, being a type of court lined on either side by rows of stone pillars. The roofs of the two outer rooms were supported by the outside walls and the two rows of pillars that surrounded the court. These structures were common.
    The point is, Nephi was well familiar with the construction of Jerusalem, and the stonework used there. He was so familiar with this stonework and construction, that he tells us that he built a temple like unto Solomon’s temple, which he must have known well. So the question arises, why on earth, with such knowledge of building out of stone, would Nephi teach his people how to build little wood huts of mud or sticks like the ones found in North America?
    Would a man who loved God build the Lord a temple out of wood and compare it with the temple of Solomon made of stone? How little one who makes such a comparison knows about the character of Nephi, and the character of the Hebrews of whom Nephi would have been well acquainted. Yet would was used for framing and beams, etc., and often for decoration, in which it would have been necessary to teach the Nephites how to use wood, as he indicates in his writing (2 Nephi 5:15).
    Consequently, it is easy to see how little these Heartland and Great Lakes theorists understand about the buildings that the Nephites would have erected. Also, how little they know about how stone construction took place. As we have evidence in the biblical record of when Solomon built his temple and palace, wood from Lebanon (cedar) was used liberally in the construction. In fact, we know that other types of wood was also used, such as pine, algum, and olive. In fact, when it comes to the temple, the outside walls were made of stone; however, the interior walls were often made of stone but covered with cedar paneling and then covered with gold--covered first with cedar panels, then with gold so no stone was seen inside the temple.
    In addition to the temple, Solomon built a royal palace in which he used cedar for the wood, that is, it was roofed with cedar and cedar columns and beams supported the roof. Solomon’s Hall of Justice was paneled in cedar from floor to ceiling. contracted with King Hiram of Tyre to supply the cedar and pine logs from the forests of Lebanon, and was transported by rafts from Lebanon at Joppa, the port for Jerusalem, where Solomon had the wood conveyed from Joppa to Jerusalem.
    Cedar was used because it was the constructions were meant to last centuries, even millennia. Cedar is durable, free from knots, and easy to work. The heart wood is a warm red and beautifully grained. In addition, cedars exude a gum or balsam which gives the tree an aromatic scent in which people take delight, but most insects dislike the smell and taste; consequently, they do not attack the tree or later the shaped wood. And since fungus is the most common cause of disease in plants, cedar is thus resistant to fungal disease so dry and wet rot rarely occur.  Evidently an expert botanist, Solomon knew the cedar’s characteristics and preferred them to trees more available to him in Israel, such as sycamore and box trees.
    The point is, ancient buildings, whether Solomon’s temple and palace, the normal houses and buildings of the Jews, or the castles of England and Europe, though built of stone, also used wood liberally. In fact, it is almost impossible to build any sizeable structure without using wood for framing and finishing, including ceiling and roof beams, stairs, and other supportive structuring. And when such buildings are set afire, the wood burns and often collapses the roofs and most inner walls as the building “burns to the ground.” Thus, we see such remains still standing in parts of Europe and the Middle East of the outer walls, but the interior almost completely gutted.
    Thus, none of which we write here is “problematic” as some of our critics claim from time to time—and especially when it comes to our showing that the Nephites built of stone.


  1. I guess it boils down to do I want to believe in an inferior society that existed in North America anciently or the highly advanced civilization that existed in South America. The one in South America has close ties to ancient Jerusalem, whereas the North American society does not.

  2. Note... typo in the title.
    Thanks for the great article. Yes, wood is a big part of stone construction. They go hand in hand. How I would have loved to see the complete cities for which we only now see bare foundations and wall remnants. I'm counting on some great "historical images" in the spirit world. Hopefully they've got some cool spiritual, virtual tours going. Hehe. Sign me up!