Thursday, January 18, 2018

Who First Settled Here? –Part I

From time to time we receive inquiries as to why there is no evidence of Nephite existence in the Land of Promise after their 1,000-year-history. It seems like people expect there to be some type of definitive awareness of someone who lived 2500 years ago. After all, they say, we know about the Romans, Persians, Greeks, Sumarians, Olmecs, Angeans, Phoenicians, etc. We know about these, why not the Nephites?
A section of the temple complex (one of five circular pits so far excavated) at Gobekil Tepe located six miles from Urfa in south-eastern Turkey, dated earlier than Stonehenge

However, without written histories, we would know little about these groups, perhaps nothing at all except their remains. Take, for example the Gobleki Tepe, of south-eastern Turkey who built massive circular structures some 12,000 years ago; or the Nan Modol, who built on a coral reef in Micronesia, a culture that built a series of small artificial islands, a grouping of 100 artificial islets linked by a network of canals; or the Rama Empire around 500 B.C. in India that may actually date back several thousand years before that; or who built the Longyou Caves, which the Chines call the “Ninth Wonder of the Ancient World”?
    The point is there are as many unknown ancient civilizations as there are known ones. Some kept records, or information about them survived, others did not; and who built the 12,000 year-old-stone age tunnels that run from Scotland to Turkey. There are also some better known civilizations of which we actually know next to nothing about, though their names are linked within the network of civilizations and accepted along a chronology, but the truth is we know nothing about them: such as the Minoans, the Caral-Supe, the Olmec, the Angkor, the Moche, the predynastic Egypt, Nasca, and the Dilmun.
    Our knowing nothing about so many of these ancient civilizations provides yet another solid reason why it was so important for Nephi to kill Laban to obtain the records of Lehi’s ancestry and a knowledge of who they were dating back to the beginning.

We not only have the remains of Roman architecture, but a lengthy knowledge of the Romans and their civilization 

One of the more interesting questions is why we don’t know as much about the Nephites as we do about the Romans—both lived about the same time, and both achieved similar greatness in their building and the arts (not in conquest).
    However, it could be asked how much evidence would we have today of the Romans, if another occupying force swept through Rome in 400 A.D., systematically killing all the Romans, renaming Roman cities, destroyed all Roman records, rewriting history and imposing their own culture? And, 400 years prior to that, the Roman Empire had been decimated by a massive earthquake, after which the rubble was picked up and some cities rebuilt by survivors? And, over 1,000 years after, all The Romans in what would be the land no longer known as Rome were killed and the vast body of their written records was destroyed by invaders from another country?
    And what would have happened if that invading people, themselves, were barbaric, without a government of their own, driven by fragmented tribal interactions, killings, and constant warfare so much so that no culture survived long enough to establish a history or record? What if these people reverted to complete barbarism, destroying, not building, living as nomads, moving with the weather and the wild game, living off the land until there was no wild game left? And what if they were illiterate, having no written records to tell of their own existence on the scene of history?
    The problem is, the Nephites were systematically exterminated by the Lamanites. As far back as Enos, who tells us the Lamanites swore that if it were possible, “they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers” (Enos 1:14). This is repeated at the end, nearly 1000 years after Enos, when Mormon and Moroni tell us basically the same thing about the intentions of the Lamanites.
    This goes way beyond one nation simply conquering another. It even goes further than book burning. The Lamanites swore to destroy every trace of the Nephites, their practices, their traditions, everything.
    That should suggest to us that the Lamanites had different practices. Things we wouldn’t know to look for. Did the Lamanites find any Nephite records? If they did, they swore to destroy them. Did they keep city names? No, they would have changed them—we have that in the fact that they called the city of Nephi, the city of Lehi once they occupied it (which Mormon then called the City of Lehi-Nephi). Did they tell the history of what actually happened? No, they didn’t keep any records, so would not have written down anything about their annihilation of the Nephites, or their many years of civil wars afterward.
    Rome merely fell, their records, history and accomplishments still intact—and numerous peoples throughout the region well aware of their one-time existence. The Nephite civilization was utterly destroyed; annihilated; wiped off the face of the Earth. Nothing that could be destroyed remained. Only large buildings that within a few centuries no one had any idea who built them. And the magnificent roads that were used by generations of cultures afterward until not a soul knew who built them. No writings survived. No names survived. No history survived. Just buildings, albeit of magnificent construction, and roads that marveled those of Rome, and bits and pieces of cultures that worked metallurgy in far back ancient times, had silk before the eastern lands, and were able to build in stone pyramidal temples, fortresses, and palaces that have lasted as long as that of Rome. That so many tribal cultures rose and fell in between then and now, that no one even knows who those ancient people were that built all the stone marvels they see today.
One of numerous ancient cities found in Andean Peru dating back to Nephite times showing an advanced civilization throughout Peru and Ecuador of whose existence there is no extant sectarian written record

Do we have any evidence of the Nephite people and the land they occupied? Certainly. Is it Nephite specific? It certainly matches the written record discovered and translated in the early 1800s, but is it Nephite specific? No. Nothing appears in all the land that would draw attention to the name Nephite, or Lamanite, or Land of Promise.
    But it is there, just the same!
    If we look at the western ledge of the Andean shelf, an area from southern Colombia to central Chile, and from the Pacific coastal area between the seashore and the far side of the Andes Oriental Mountain Range or Cordillera, we find an enormous amount of matches between the Book of Mormon scriptural references to the Land of Promise and the land itself.
    Do we find signs indicating the city of Zarahemla, or Nephi, or Bountiful, etc.? Of course not. But we do find cities in those general areas, matching size and scope, and we find a massive complex road and highway system as briefly described in 3 Nephi. As has been pointed out in this blog over the past eight years, we have found some 65 matches to the scriptural record, at least 44 specific scripture references, like a cure for killer fevers, such as malaria (Alma 46:40)—an indigenous plant grown only in the Andean area until the 17th century A.D. when the Dutch transplanted it in Indonesia; two unknown animals on an equal footing with the elephant in their value to man (Ether 9:19)—two indigenous animals found only in the Andes of South America; two unknown grains on a nutritional footing with corn, wheat and barley (Mosiah 9:9)—found only in the Andes of South America; a climate where only Lehi’s “seeds from Jerusalem” would grow (1 Nephi 18:25)—an area found only in 30º South Latitude, Chile, or in Central California, in all of the Western Hemisphere; where a narrow passage within a narrow neck of land is found (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 2:29; 3:5)—which can be crossed in a day-and-a-half, and numerous others.
(See the next post, “Who Settled Here? – Part II,” for more information on the existence of matching locations within South America to the descriptions of Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni, that show the history of the Nephite Nation)

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