Friday, November 6, 2020

One Theorist’s View of Mesoamerica – Part V

 Continued from the previous post regarding Joseph L. Allen’s erroneous comments about Mesoamerica and the scriptural record. Below, continuing with page 73, are the pages on which Allen’s comments are found.

• (Page 73) “Clearly, the Nephites and Lamanites, during the 600 BC to 300 BC time period, adopted the spoken language of the people who already lived in the area of Highland Guatemala.”

It is so ludicrous to introduce another language for the Nephites when we have two very clear statements, one when they first landed, and the second one at the end of their 1000-year occupation of the Land of Promise. In both instances the Hebrew language is indicated as their speaking and writing language except for the written sacred record, which was recorded in Reformed Egyptian.

Lehi preaching in Jerusalem after a vision of the destruction of the city


Lehi, of course, lived at Jerusalem all his days, and Nephi grew up there “my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days” (1 Nephi 1:4, 7), obviously, Lehi and Nephi spoke Hebrew, which is shown when Lehi went into Jerusalem to preach. As Nephi wrote: “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). The learning of the Jews, is the Hebrew language.

During the course of the Nephites, about 400 years later, it is written: “And he appointed teachers of the brethren of Amulon in every land which was possessed by his people; and thus the language of Nephi began to be taught among all the people of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 24:4).

The Lamanites by this time had corrupted their original Hebrew so much that it could not be understood. At the end of the Nephite Nation, in about 400 AD, Moroni wrote: “And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record” (Mormon 9:33).

He also said of the Reformed Egyptian, “But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34). To suggest that the Nephites spoke [the] language of the people who already lived in the area of Highland Guatemala.”

Such an idea is so inconsistent with the scriptural record, which shows that there is no mention, hint, or suggestion that any other people (other than the Jaredites and Mulekites) lived in the Land of Promise prior to 600 BC to which the Nephites or Lamanites could have come in contact.  Allen, like most LDS Mesoamerican scholars, seems to forget the promises made to Lehi by the Lord to keep the Land of Promise for he and his worthy seed.  In fact, Moroni, writing in Ether, claims the land had been unoccupied and kept for this very purpose since the flood. 

In addition, why would a people like the Nephites ever adopt a foreign language to replace their own—a language their lineage had used for 4000 years.

• (Page 73) “The spoken language of Highland Guatemala was a derivative of the original language spoken by the early Olmec/Jaredite culture.”

The Olmec (Jaredites) were the first major civilization in Mexico (in Allen’s Land Southward), their name is a Nahuatl—Aztec language—word, meaning “Rubber People,” first appearing around 1600 BCE. They were among the first Mesoamerican culture, which throrists claim their culture influenced many later civilizations, like the Maya (Nephites)


Allen suggests that the Nephites and Lamanites adopted the Jaredite (Olmec) language, of which there is no indication, hint or suggestion in scripture to corroborate.  On the other hand, at the time of the Tower of Babel, the Lord confounded the language of all but Jared, his brother, and several of their friends (Ether 1:35).  One can speculate whether the Jaredites spoke the Adamic language, or whether they were given a different language as a result of this dispersion.  In any event, the Jaredites spoke a language that could not be understood by the Nephites, Mulekites, or the people of Zeniff, Noah, or Limhi.  It took a prophet with the aid of the Lord to interpret the Jaredite language, both in Coriantumr's inscription (Omni 1:20), and Ether's 24 gold plates of which no one in the land could interpret (Mosiah 8:11) and had to be interpreted by a seer, using the Urim and Thummim (Mosiah 8:13).  Contrary to Allen's premise, no earlier language (Jaredite or other) survived into the Mulekite or Nephite era.

• (Page 73) “The written language, however, was preserved and handed down by Nephite royalty from generation to generation.”

Allen suggests that while the Nephites adopted the Jaredite spoken language (which has no merit in the scriptural record), they maintained the written language of their fathers. Further, Allen suggests this written language, like all LDS Book of Mormon scholars, was only Reformed Egyptian.  Obviously, the sacred record, engraved on plates (brass plates brought from Jerusalem and the gold plates began by Nephi) was in Reformed Egyptian.  But this was not the only written language of the Nephites.  Moroni, some 600 years after King Benjamin, tells us that he and his predecessors would have preferred to have written in Hebrew (Mormon 9:33), for they were far more familiar and comfortable with it and would have made no mistakes in writing it, as they did in the less familiar and far more difficult Reformed Egyptian. After all, the only reason for using the written Reformed Egyptian language was to conserve space in engraving on the gold plates (Mormon 9:33).

It is interesting that these scholars would have us accept the fact that the Nephites readily gave up their age-old Hebrew spoken language and adopted an unfamiliar Jaredite tongue, yet retained the written Hebrew to which they were far more accustomed than the Reformed Egyptian—The Jaredite language is unknown, but believed to have been the extinct Akkadian, or spoke a language ancestral to Mixe–Zoquean, though it is unknown what they actually spoke.

In a different tone, Allen tells us that the record keepers (prophets) of the Book of Mormon were the royalty of the period. It is true that King Benjamin and King Mosiah would have been so considered, but Helaman was a Chief Judge and his descendants were judges (elected officials of the government). Nor would Nephi, himself, allow his people to call himself a king.  he preferred ruler or teacher (2 Nephi 5:19), which is more closely associated with one who is elected or appointed. In addition, the record keepers after Nephi were Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki—none of which are shown to have been in any royal line, since that was Nephi's own lineage (Jacob 1:11).  Lastly, to show that Reformed Egyptian was not the only written language, Helaman had all the engravings in his possession written down and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land (Alma 63:12).  This suggests that 1) the Nephites were literate to a high degree and, 2) that another, more common, written language was known and used among the Nephites than Reformed Egyptian, which Moroni tells us was Hebrew.

• (Page 73) “These conclusions are in agreement with both the archaeological record and with the Book of Mormon.”

No they are not in any agreement, as shown in the above two examples. The conclusions are simply the opinions of Allen and have little bearing or connection with the scriptural record.

• (Page 73) “King Benjamin taught his children the language of his fathers’ so the people could read the records that had been preserved.”

In this case, the language of the fathers’ was the Reformed Egyptian, and he taught them this because they would be the next generation custodians and recorders of the record.

• (Page 73) “And Moroni said that no other people could understand their written language.

The slip of paper on which  Joseph Smith wrote down some Reformed Egyptian characters


No one would be able to understand the Reformed Egyptian which was used to engrave the Gold Plates. This was so later generations would require a prophet to interpret the engravings as the Lord willed.  Actually, the manner of speech among the Nephites over the centuries had caused some differences in writing in Reformed Egyptian during that time according to Moroni (Mormon 9:33), as also the written Hebrew was altered by the Nephites over the 1000-year period (Mormon 9:33)—after all any language in daily use changes over time (Our own English is a good example). 

Today we do not speak or write the King James English of the 16th Century, nor the Shakespeare English of the 17th Century.  Yet, we can understand it and they would be able to understand us, though perhaps a little confused at times. The Nephites spoke a slightly altered Hebrew in Moroni's time, and their Reformed Egyptian writing had undergone some subtle changes, as any spoken and written language will over time.

• (Page 73) “Obviously, both Benjamin and Moroni are referring to the written language.

Only the Reformed Egyptian.

• (Page 73) “This reference is consistent with the archaeological account, as even to this day the written language that was in use in Kaminaljuyu between 600 BC and 300 BC has not been interpreted.”

It was and is the Reformed Egyptian which scholars and educated people could not interpret, not the normal written language of the Nephites.  What has been found in Mesoamerica is not the Nephite language (Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian), as even Allen agrees (see bottom of pg 71).  Consequently, the fact that a Mayan language  found in Kaminaljuyu between 600 BC and 300 BC has not been interpreted has nothing whatever to do with Moroni's statement, which, by the way, was made a little after 400 AD, some 700 to 900 years after the Mayan period indicated.

• (Page 73) “As Coe states, and as referred to above, the elite of the Valley of Kaminaljuyu were very literate during this time period.  The elite were probably the Nephite record keepers.”

As indicated above, and as spelled out in the scriptures, around 53 BC, the Nephites as a whole could read, and the records were written down and distributed among the children of men throughout all the land (Alma 63:12). In addition, numerous other scriptures suggest and tell us that the Nephites could read and write (Alma 33:14; 3 Nephi 27:5; Mormon 9:8), which hardly suggests only an elite group—nor does it suggest only the record keepers could read Hebrewit may be true, however, that only the record keepers (prophets) could read and write the Reformed Egyptian.

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