Saturday, January 5, 2019

Were There Two Temples in the City of Nephi? – Part I

Through overburdening taxes, the evil king Noah “built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon which was possessed by the Lamnanites; and he could even look over all the land round about” (Mosiah 11:12). Thus, this tower had two all important features: 1) it was very, very high; and 2) it was “near the temple.”
    In interpretation, the word “near” means "close," while the word “next” means "closest." We often use in our writing both the word “near” and “next,” to describe this tower. A tower “near” the temple would mean being close to the temple. A tower “next” to the temple would mean a tower directly adjacent or almost in contact, or closer than any other. From the scriptural reference, we do not know for certain what distance the tower was from the temple, but obviously the word “near” has a variable meaning.
South Salt Lake is 3 miles from Salt Lake City; the latter is 45 miles from Provo; Salt Lake is 2330 miles from Tampa Bay Florida, and 2545 from Miami. The term “next to” is relative to overall distances 

“Saying I live near Salt Lake City,” has a different meaning depending on who one is talking to and where they are located. If said to someone in Florida, Provo is near Salt Lake. To someone living in Provo, Murray is near Salt Lake, whereas the city of South Salt Lake is next (borders, is attached or adjacent) to Salt Lake.
    “Near the temple” would mean quite close, but not “next to it,” that is, not bordering or attached to it. Thus we can suggest that this tower was in close proximity to the temple in the City of Nephi, but not adjacent to, or connected to the temple, but separate. This understanding might help us become aware of where that tower was located and where the temple in the city of Nephi was located.
    First of all, there are claims to there being two towers in the City of Cuzco, as well as to temples. The first, and the best known, is the one on a hill overlooking the city called Sacsayhuaman. Today this is built on a hill overlooking Cuzco, which may be the hill area mentioned in Mosiah 7:5-6). This temple complex had a tower, called Muyucmarca (Muyuq Marka), near the main building, or temple, but not adjacent or connected to it.
One tower is at Sacsayhuaman, another (white circle) is considered to be in the Coricancha, in the valley of Cuzco, or the city of Nephi—however, the tower at Sacsayhuaman would have overlooked both Shimlon and Shemlon, the one in the valley would not

The chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega said that when he was a boy he used to play on the tower, and describes it as being round, with an open central court with a fountain, consisting of three concentric, circular stone walls connected by a series of radial walls, having four floors between ten and twelve feet in diameter, and 66-feet in height (equivalent to a six story building).
    The other claim for a tower near a temple would be the structure now called the Coricancha (Qorikancha). Today, it is an exposed semi-round stone structure along the base of the church at Santo Domingo, built by the Spanish during their occupation of Peru. In fact, the entire overall original structure, now mostly underground and the foundation of the current Church, is referred to as the “Golden Enclosure,” by archaeologists (Coricancha), and thought to be the original “Temple of the Sun,” built anciently by the pre-Inca, to which the Inca gained control upon their rise to power in the valley around 1400AD, and it became their most important temple or spiritual place in the kingdom.
    However when one goes down into the old structure beneath the church at Santo Domingo and looks at the base construction and the tower base as it extends underground, one does not get an impression that this wall was a tower, certainly not one as high as Garcilaso de la Vega describes. In addition, it was attached to and part of the overall structure, not near it, but connected to the rest of the building, again not as the scriptural reference states. Nor would a tower in the valley allow one to see as far as is described in the scriptural reference.
    In addition, while the Nephites built temples, synagogues and sanctuaries, we do not know specifically within the Land of Promise where these temples were located. We know at least one was in the city of Nephi, but not exactly where in Nephi. A case can be made for either location, either in the valley (Coricancha) or on the hill (Sacsayhuaman), or there could be two temples, one at both sites—but the stronger case would be for the one at Sacsayhuaman.
    While from the scriptural references, we know of only three temples in the Land of Promise—the city of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:16), the city of Zarahemla (Mosiah 1:18), and the city of Bountiful (3 Nephi 11:1), there are hints of others. Of course, given the size of the land (as opposed to Israel) there is reason to believe that more than one temple was built in that overall area, as well as elsewhere in the Land Southward and the Land Northward. The problem lies in the term "temple" as thrown around by archaeologists for just about any large or public building they run across. They rarely separate "temple" from "palace" or "public building" such as ones used for administration.
    More specifically, they tend to label the largest building in a complex as a temple, or even the two or more largest buildings. They also call any pyramid a temple, even though the ziggurats in Mesopotamia, and those in Egypt were not known as temples in the sense of the word meaning a place of worship. In the case of Greek temples, we know from written historical records that they were, in fact, temples where ancient heathen worship took place; the same is true of the Jewish temples being a place of worship, for their use is spelled out in the Bible. However, there is no written record of “temple use” from the Nephite period that archaeologists claim existed in nearly every complex, city or ruins found in Meso-, Central and South America.
(Top Left) Jerusalem Temple; (Top Right) Synagogue in ancient Israel; (Bottom Left) Synagogue built in 1200AD; Bottom Right) First Synagogue built in the Americas. Note the more simple idea of a synagogue from the Jerusalem Temple

In the Bible, of course, a "temple" is a "temple"—a place of worship and spiritual meaning; but a "synagogue" is not a "temple," it is a "house" or simple "building" where people met for religious purposes, typically instruction. In the strict sense of the scriptural record, we can definitely say there was a “temple” in the city of Nephi, but we do not know from the scriptural record that there were any others in the city.
    Yet, archaeologists today claim there was a temple built in the valley, whose ruins are limited to mostly underground and beneath a current Christian monastery of Santo Domingo, which was built over or on top of the original ancient structure by the Spanish after their conquest of Peru and the one on the hill connected to the fortress built there. Of the one in the valley, it is claimed by archaeologists that this original structure included the famed Temple of the Sun, claimed to be the most sacred site or huaca (wak’a) in the Inca religion and the very center of the Inca world.
    It is also claimed there were five other temples or wasi placed around the main square courtyard of Coricancha, in order of hierarchy—one of these was covered in gold, another in silver, all had a statue in front of it, which archaeologists claim were cult gods.
(See the next post, “Were There Two Temples in the City of Nephi? – Part II,” for the rest of this article regarding the temples in the City of Nephi)

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