Thursday, May 6, 2021

Did the Nephites Know About Chariots?

Historians claim the Nepihtes would not have known about the chariot, that it was not really developed until after Lehi left Jerusalem, however, the facts prove otherwise. In fact, from the fourteenth century BC onward (at least 800 years before Lehi left Jerusalem), the chariot was in use in Mesopotamia and the near east. The main purpose of these chariots was in war since they moved fast, could turn sharply had both a driver and a sharpshooter with bow and arrows, as well as spears secured by a leather restraint inside the chariot. This usage was quickly associated with war in Israel, as well as the horse, ridden by regimental cavalry units, and was forbidden by the Lord for the people who he wanted to reject war and a warrior elite, except in the defense of the nation, and on a personal level, in the defense of one’s family. As for the knowledge of chariots, they were used throughout Mesopotamia, just to the north of Israel by the Assyrians, Mitnani, an Indo-Iranian empire centered in northern Mesopotamia that flourished from about 1500 to about 1360 BC, and the Hittites, another people north of Israel, which many served in David’s army around 1000 BC.


According to Elena Efimovna Kuzmina, a Russian archaeologist, and chief research officer of the Russian Institute for Cultural Researches, who led twenty five archaeological expeditions and participated in over a hundred, mostly in the Eurasian steppe region, author of more than 300 articles and 15 books on the archaeology of the Eurasian Steppes, the appearance of wheeled vehicles or their substitutes in burials suggests the high class of the dead and the fact of class differentiation (J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Taylor & Francis, London, 1997).

In fact, Mary A. Littauer and Joost H. Crouwel have argued that the light war chariot was developed within the Near East as a practical response to the imperial need for a prestigious vehicle combining speed with maneuverability (Mary Aiken Littauer and Joost H. Crouwel, Selected Writings on Chariots, other Early Vehicles, Riding and Harness, Culture and History of the Anc8ent Near East, vol.6, 2001).

It is also clear that from as early as the third millennium the chariot was associated with both gods and goddesses throughout the Near East. In Hittite representations of wheeled vehicles of the second millennium BC and with the appearance of actual vehicles within Mycenae shaft graves, the chariot seems to have been associated with success in war and the hunt. By the time the image of the chariot appeared in Central Europe, as in Camonica Valley of Northern Italy, its image had come to function more as a sign represented schematically either with or without bovines or horses for traction and frequently accompanied by stick figures with raised arms, suggesting heroic figures of war divinities, causing the understanding that the chariot was a symbol of the warrior class of an aggressive culture.

In all cases, the chariot has been associated with horses. On some occasion, bovines are shown hauling the chariot, but these are often four wheeled vehicles, with two-wheeled chariots, pulled by horses, which are always associated with a warrior elite.

Artemis (Diana), Greek goddess of the Hunt, with her deer pulling her chariot


On the other hand, Peter Gelling and Christopher Hawkes both editors and authors, claim the distinction between wagons, carts, and chariots has too often been neglected; anything wheeled becomes referred to as a chariot and the chariot is associated with both worship and the warrior hero. Quite often, the chariot is associated with the gods, where one is riding with swift horses, representing a solar deity.

Unquestionably, these associations by which a wheel or wheeled vehicle becomes a chariot emblematic of a warrior class and a warlike culture depend heavily upon a number of assumptions, including an understanding that wheeled vehicles came into South Siberia from a western and Proto-Indo-European or Indo-European culture—that in that culture, wheeled vehicles were a sign of the warrior class and high status, and wheeled vehicles emblematic of the chariot.

With few exceptions, throughout central Asia and south Siberia, chariots are pulled by horses, along occasionally with a horse and a bovine, but rarely two bovines. And most often, the archer on the chariot is shown with bow and arrow shooting at a deer, usually a large deer of the type known from the Mongolian deer stones. Chariots are even shown being pulled through mountainous regions, tough scientists doubt such were real depictions; however, chariots in hills and mountains show up in numerous carvings and stone depictions, even crossing rugged and high mountain passes that experts in the field doubt the possibility of such actually occurring—though one might wonder why such drawings were depicted at all, if they were not real. Experts also look at light-bodied chariots of the two-wheeled variety for prestige and warfare since they could be pulled rapidly; however, solid wheels or four spikes suggest a much slower moving vehicle, one not suited for hunting or warfare.

Generally, in these petroglyphs, the use of bovines, according to Esther Jacobson, Professor Emeritus in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Oregon, typically represents pastoralism within the economic life of the people, the deer images refer to the figurative and literal source of being and sustenance, and are considered to represent a commonality of cultural reference throughout that region. While there are numerous drawings of chariots, horses and a few bovines, along with the hunter in all of the petroglyphs, while male and female deer, elk or reindeer are also shown numerous times pulling carts, wagons or chariots—but usually shown as the subject or target of hunting (Esther Jacobson-Tepfer, The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia, Brill, UK, 1993).

In fact, in almost every study where deer are associated with chariots, wagons or carts, it is in connection with gods and goddesses, nymphs, leprechauns, and the like, or as a symbol of something, like in the painting Triumph of Time, showing Father Time based on an allegorical poem, 14th century.

Nowhere in all of the work reviewed was an actual, realistic use of a deer pulling a cart of any kind found. The images located had to do with myths and legends, of gods and goddesses, of poems and verse. No doubt, such can be found somewhere, but the suggestion is simply that it would have been extremely rare, if at all, since the hundreds found show only a connection with deity.

A change in the chariot wheel


The earliest spoked-wheel chariots, allowed them to be built even lighter for agility in war, while not sacrificing stability and strength, and date to 2000 BC. Use of the chariot peaked around 1300 BC, and lost their military importance by the 1st century A.D.

(Image D – Approximate historical map of the spread of the spoke-wheeled chariot, 2000 to 500 B.C.

The earliest fully developed true spoke-wheel war chariots known are from the chariot burials of the Andronovo (Timber-Graves) sites of the Sintashta-Petrovka Proto-Indo-Iranian culture in modern Russia and Kazakhstan from around 2000 B.C. Chariots are also figure prominently in not only Indo-Iranian mythology, but are also an important part of both Hindo and Persian mythology, with most of the gods in their pantheon portrayed as riding them. Some argue that the chariot was most likely a product of the ancient Near East early in the 2nd millennium B.C. The oldest chariot warfare in the ancient Near East is the Old Hittite Anitta text of the 18th century BC, which mentions 40 teams of horses at the siege of Salatiwara, but the first actual word of chariots dates to the Hittite 17th century BC, and later a horse-training text attributed to Kikkuli the Mitanni of the 15th century B.C.

The Hittites were renowned charioteers, and developed a new chariot design that had lighter wheels, with four spokes rather than eight, and that held three rather than two warriors because the wheel was placed in the middle of the chariot and not at the back as in the Egyptian chariots. Hittite prosperity largely depended on Hittite control of trade routes and natural resources, specifically metals. As the Hittites gained dominion over Mesopotamia, tensions flared among the neighboring Assyrians, Hurrians, and Egyptians. Under Suppiluliuma I, the Hittites conquered Kadesh and, eventually, the whole of Syria in 1274 B.C., with the Battle of Kadesh likely to have been the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving some over five thousand chariots.

The point is, despite critics and historians claiming the Nepihtes would not have known about the chariot, it is definite that Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram would have known of such items. Definitely they would have been known and understood by both the Nephites and Lamanites—at least via defectors

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Was the Land of Promise Already Occupied?

 While we have addressed this issue several times in the past, it is an issue that is constantly bandied about by theorists who try to convince us that It seems highly probable that when Lehi and his family arrived in the Promised Land they found a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land.

The fact that this is not supported by the Book of Mormon, nor is there any mention by any of the ancient writers that would suggest such a thing, these theorists—especially those who promote Mesoamerica, the Heartland or Great Lakes theories—continue to make such claims. Many go so far as to say that “because other people are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon doesn’t meant they did not exist,” and go on to claim they did. This is because such beliefs and opinions in their location require the presence of earlier people in the land than when Lehi arrived, in order to align their location with the claimed historical understanding of the ancient past.

Such changes are critically important for the theories to find support among historians and scholars because it leads to the Book of Mormon agreeing with so-called historical “facts.” Thus, such approaches to the location of the Land of Promise is not only contrary to the written record, but is paramount to changing the meaning of the written record in order to find support to one’s opinions or beliefs.

Theorists claim the Land of Promise had a backward people there before Lehi landed


In addition, theorists claim these people “were without government, without religion, and perhaps with but minimum language skill. The core of their culture had been destroyed. While once a great and cultured people, by the time of Lehi's arrival they had been scattered and divided. Had they by that time degenerated to a level of mere subsistence? Our record gives us few clues.” Actually our record in the Book of Mormon gives no clues whatsoever to such a previous people.

John L. Sorenson claims that “A number of statements in the Book of Mormon text indicate the presence in Lehi’s promised land of peoples other than those descended from Lehi’s party. Reasons why the topic is not addressed more explicitly in the record include a focus on the Nephites (and not on other people), a generic treatment of Lamanites, and a desire not to waste space on something obvious or insignificant” (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Studies, (2016) "Journal of The Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture Volume 25," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: vol. 25, no. 1, Article 12, 2016).

However, Sorenson’s argument is flawed. As an example, while Momon does not give us the names of Nephi’s sisters in his abridgement, or how many there were, he does mention them. He also does not give us the names of Ishmael’s sons, but again, he does mention them. Thus, we know of their existence. He also does not tell us much about the people of Zarahemla who would not have been descended from Lehi, but again, he does mention them. Nephi doesn’t even tell us the name of his wife—but he does describe her presence. So if there were other people in the land, at least we could expect Nephi to tell us in his writing or Mormon in his abridgement—even if briefly.

Also, it is hard to believe other people in the land with whom the Nephites interacted with, and no doubt would have attempted to bring “into the fold,” would certainly have warranted a specific, if not brief, mention.

Mosiah I discovers Zarahemla


While it is true that four hundred years after Lehi landed, Mosiah I found Zarahemla, where the Mulekites had always been since their landing just after Lehi. They, of course, brought no records with them had no records, denied their God, and their Hebrew language had been so altered over time that it could not be understood—nor did they have any interaction with the Nephites. However, theorists claim that these unknown people had been “a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land.” Obviously, they were not the Mulekites—the only other people mentioned in the ancient record.

In fact, according to Lehi, there should have been no people in the land, for it was intended as an inheritance for his family and their descendants, “A land which the lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed, yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever” (2 Nephi 1:5, 3:2; 10:10). Lehi also stated: “covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever” (2 Nephi 1:8) and “that they may possess this land unto themselves” (2 Nephi 1:9).

It should also be noted, for those theorists who like to point out that others could be led to the Land of Promise, that the Lord covenanted with Lehi that the Land of Promise was for any “who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:8).

Note that the important phrase “should be” is a future tense statement. That is, the Lord was promising Lehi that the land would be reserved for him and his posterity because “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations” (2 Nephi 1:8, emphasis added)—again, a future tense statement.

Thus, there can be no question that shortly after Lehi landed, the Lord promised him that the land would be kept for his posterity free of others until such time as the Lord would lead others there. And the others the Lord was commenting about were the Gentiles coming to this land as Nephi saw in his vision—which was the coming of Columbus (1 Nephi 13:12), the Spanish conquistadors (1 Nephi 13:14), and the Gentiles (Europeans) coming out of England (1 Nephi 15-19) and the establishment of the Constitution of the United States and, in fine, the various groups would not utterly destroy the descendants of Lehi (1 Nephi 13:30).

Nephi requests to see all that his father had seen


All these things both Lehi and Nephi saw in their visions before ever setting sail for the Land of Promise. At that time there were no other people in the Land of Promise and would not be, other than Lehi’s combined family, for some 2000 years when Columbus discovered the Western Hemisphere and later the English, French and Spanish settled the land.

To claim that “It seems highly probable that when Lehi and his family arrived in the Promised Land they found a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land“ and to claim that the Land of Promise was covered or scattered with people when Lehi landed is neither “highly probable,” nor consistent with the Book of Mormon record of the Land of Promise, and certainly is in opposition to the several promises the Lord gave to Lehi for himself and his descendants.

Clear evidence for the presence of others in substantial populations is present in the Book of Mormon. The demographic or cultural history of Lehi’s literal descendants must take into account these other groups.” However, in his work, Sorenson gives no concrete evidence, stating only nebulous ideas that have no substantiation in the scriptural record.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

A Thought About DNA

Many readers of the Book of Mormon wonder about what effect it had upon the Lamanites when the Lord changed them from a white skin to a dark skin, and when a Nephite defected over and joined the Lamanites. Since DNA is involved in the determination of skin color, it seems logical that some changes in the Lamanite DNA took place, which they then passed on to their children. Thus, no DNA in the Western Hemisphere should be found to match anything from the Jerusalem area.

According to Shuai Chen, PhD, a research associate in the Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics at UW-Madison, “There isn't much genetic difference between Asians and Caucasians. In fact, at the DNA level, two Asians are often more different than an Asian and a Caucasian person” (Dr. Shuai Chen,Understanding Genetics: What percent of DNA is different between a Caucasian and an Asian?” The Tech Interactive, Museum of Innovation, Stanford University at the Tech, Department of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine, November 24, 2008)

People are far more alike than they are different


One might wonder how that can be when different groups look so diverfse. Shuai tells us that it is because those differences are only skin deep. And they don't need much DNA to happen—most of our DNA has nothing to do with how we look. It's used to make our hearts, internal organs, the body and its functions, including, two arms, two legs, height and hair on top of the head, etc. The DNA also makes sure that the eyes are at the top of the face, nose in the middle and mouth at the bottom. Also, the shape of  the chin, the length of the neck, the size of our ears.

Shuai also states that “All these things can be somewhat different between people. And many of these differences come from having slightly different DNA—for example, one person’s DNA will make a nose a different shape than another person. But most of these characteristics have nothing to do with whether or not someone is Asian or Caucasian. They have more to do with differences found between any two people. What this means is that most DNA differences are not specific to any ethnic group.”

There's only a small part of DNA that's involved in specific differences between Asians and Caucasians. Things like eye shape and color, skin color and hair texture take only the tiniest fraction of our DNA. In fact, skin color is determined only by a very, very, very small percentage of the DNA difference—specifically, a person’s genes are about 99.9% the same as the DNA in any other person’s genes—that is, in every other human being. These genes are the basic biological units that transmit characteristics from one generation to the next, though personality is not determined by any single gene. Instead it results from the actions of many genes working together. The differences among people are actually determined in part by the small amount (in humans, the 0.1%) of the differences in genes among the members of the species.

The nitrogen bases in DNA are the basic units of genetic code, and their correct ordering and pairing is essential to biological function


“We are all more similar than we are different,” she added. “And a tall Asian might actually be more similar genetically to a tall Caucasian person then he is to a short Asian person.”

As the saying goes in the DNA labs—the differences between people is only skin deep. Consider one trait that is different in Asian and Caucasian peoples—their skin color. There are only a couple of genes that determine the general color of a person's skin. These are the genes that explain why, for example, more people of African descent are darker than Europeans. Or why most Asians are lighter than native Australians.

But there are lots of other skin color genes that are not ethnic group specific. These are the genes that give slight shading variations between people of the same group. Not all Europeans are equally pale nor all Africans equally dark.

The differences in these genes are almost certainly shared between ethnic groups. A light skinned Asian may share certain genes with a light skinned European. Meaning that for skin color, the lighter Asian may have more in common genetically with the lighter European than with a darker Asian.

But skin color isn't all there is to skin. There are a ton of other genes that tell your skin cells to look the way they do or make it possible for skin cells to do their jobs. Almost none of these are specific to any ethnic group.

Everyone's skin cells need to cover their body; they form a protective barrier against diseases and other bad things. This means there are many genes that tell your skin cells to have strong connecting bonds with each other so nothing can sneak in between.

Other genes tell the skin cells where to grow—after all, a person would not want skin cells growing in their brains or their hearts, they have to be on the outside of the body, a fact directed by one’s DNA that is identical with every other person in that respect! As for the skin on your arms and compare it with the skin on a person’s face or the skin on the bottom of their feet—genes are needed to tell the skin to be softer on face and tougher on the feet.

Hands have different textures which can be felt when touching or shaking hands


When a person shakes hands with a random number of people, they notice that everyone's palms are different. Some people have softer skin, some have calluses and hard skins, some have wet sweaty palms, and some have super dry skin. These are another set of genetic traits of skin that aren't dependent on what one's ethnic background is.

So most of our skin differences aren't between ethnic groups. A dry-skinned darker Asian has a lot more in common with a dry-skinned darker Caucasian than with a sweaty, pale Asian.

According to Shuai, this is also found in eye differences between Asians and Caucasians. Eye color and shape can definitely be different between these two groups, though very few genes are involved. No matter what an eye looks like, it has to be able to see, and needs to be placed on the right spot on our heads; they need to be protected by eyelashes and eyebrows, etc. Everyone shares all of these genes and most differences aren't based on what ethnic group you come from.

For example, around three genes code for eye color. But there are at least six genes (and probably more) that code for whether your eyes are near-sighted. So, a brown-eyed near-sighted Asian person might have more genes in common with a blue-eyed near-sighted European than with a brown-eyed Asian with normal vision. In fact, this sort of thing can keep building as we consider more and more of our bodies. Putting hair on top of our heads and patterns of balding involve more genes than does hair texture or color. Foot size has nothing to do with ethnic groups. And so on.

So a tall, big footed, pale, near sighted, balding Caucasian may have much more in common with a tall, big footed, pale, near sighted, balding Asian than with a short, small footed, dark, Caucasian with 20/20 vision and a full head of hair. All of this boils down to the fact that the differences between ethnic groups are much less than the differences between people in general. Now having said this, there are of course differences. They are just not that significant genetically speaking.

Scientists have found that 85% of all human genetic variation exists within human populations while only 15% exists between all the different ethnic groups.

And most of these differences are not what you think they would be. A few are the obvious traits written above, and some others are like lactose intolerance. But most are in parts of one’s DNA that does not seem very important. This is because any DNA changes in these areas do not matter very much, they are free to build up over time. It is these differences that scientists use to trace someone's ancestry. Or to help identify a criminal's ethnic group to help solve a crime.

But these differences are minor compared to the wide range of differences we all share among different ethnic groups. Genetics has shown that we really are all more alike than we are different.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Questions About the Geography of the Book of Mormon – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the comments and questions from our readers about the geography of the Book of Mormon and Land of Promise:

• Comment: “At most there was only three days of changes to the land before the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend (3 Nephi 10:9) No other changes to the land were significant enough to report.”

Response: There were three hours of changes—quaking of the whole earth, whirlwinds, lightening and thundering and where the earth did cease to tremble (earthquake) and the rocks did cease to rend (aftershocks)—the three days had to do with the darkness that covered the Land of Promise—and probably elsewhere (Helaman 14:27, emphasis added).

There were more things to report, and both Samuel the Lamanite and Nephi reported their future occurrence, and the disciple Nephi reported their taking place: “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). 

Nephi saw the destruction of the future Land of Promise during a vision


 “I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof” (1 Nephi 12:4).

When one says: “No other changes to the land were significant enough to report,” there were some of significance:

 Many highways broken up (Helaman 14:24);

1) Opening of the earth (3 Nephi 10 :9);

2) Mountains laid low (Helaman14:23);

3) Valleys appear where mountains had been, mountains appear where valleys had been (Helaman 14:23);

4) Mountains buried cities (3 Nephi 8:10);

5) Cities were sunk into the sea (3 Nephi 8:14; 9:4);

6) Face of the whole earth was changed (3 Nephi 8:17; 9:7);

7) Cities sunk into the ground (3 Nephi 9:8);

8) Cities covered with earth (3 Nephi 9:5-6);

9) Cities covered with water (3 Nephi 9:7)

10) Cities sunk into the ground and hills and valleys covered the ground where they had been (3 Nephi 9:8);

Now these upheavals happened all over the entire Land of Promise. Samuel prophesied it was “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, emphasis added).

• Commenet: “Even after the destruction that came to the land after the Crucifixion, the River Sidon was still flowing in the same place, running by Zarahemla. Considering the river ran South to North, if there was a large mountain range that rose up out of the East (and North towards the narrow neck), then how was the river running in the same place? An elevation change would have changed the course of the river, yet there is no mention of this.”

The Waters of Mormon have been interpreted to mean a pool or standing body of water


Response: There is no mention of the “River Sidon” after the Crucifixion, only the “Waters of Sidon,” which may or not be significant. Likewise, there is no mention of the East Sea after this time. “Waters,” as used in the scriptural record would seem to be a word used for a body of water, such as a pool, lake, or pond, such as the “Waters of Mormon” (Alma 5:3). However, the “Waters of Sidon,” is also used in Alma where people were baptized (Alma 4:4) and both Lamanite and Amlicite dead were thrown into the Waters of Sidon (Alma 3:3) that had access to the sea (Alma 2:34)—whether this is a collected area of water, or a standing body of water such as a lake, lagoon or pool that feeds a tributary river to the Sidon is not known.

If it was, then the changes of mountains at the time of the crucifixion could well have sealed off the Sidon, or changed its course, leaving an area Mormon called the waters of Sidon. The point is, the Waters of Sidon mentioned in Mormon 1:10 is not mentioned in connection with a river, and therefore might suggest a different arrangement of the river or waters then called Sidon. The point is, we do not know and cannot arrive at a conclusion in either direction from the scant mention by Mormon.

• Comment: “The only mention of the river after the Crucifixion has it running in the same place. Mormon 1:10.”

Response: That is not what Mormon 1:10 states. “And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon” (Mormon 1:10). We don’t know that it ran in the same place, or in the same direction. After all, considering the river ran South to North, if there was a large mountain range that rose up out of the East (and North towards the narrow neck), then how was the would a river be running in the same place? Or, an elevation change could have changed the course of the river. There is no mention of this, negating any comment about it.

Comment: “We know that the Sidon River ran just to the east of the city of Zarahemla.”

Response: Fiorts, the Sidon River was evidently not near the City of Zarahemla, but ran near the borders of the Land of Zarahemla, and evidently marked the border with the land and that of the Land of Gideon, with the City of Gideon further to the east (Alma 6:7).

Second, when the mountains rose, we do not know exactly where that was in connection to the River Sidon, since all rivers that were once in the Land of Promise, after the rise of the Andes, would have been altered to some degree to then flow either west to the Pacific, or east to the Amazon (Amazonian Drainage Basin) and then to the Atlantic, or in a few cases, north to what is now the Caribbean Sea. It is difficult to start speculating on a particular mountain and how it was configured at this time to effect the River Sidon or any other river or body of water in the Land of Promise. The rising of the Andes effected Lake Titicaca in the time of man as evidenced by the fact Titicaca was once at sea level as is show by the water level markings on the cliff walls around the area, and as we have shown in these posts from time to time, specifically Puma Punku and Tiahuanacu, with Titicaca rising as the Andes came up and trapped parts of the sea amidst its rising peaks.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Questions About the Geography of the Book of Mormon – Part I

We have received the following comments and questions from our readers:

• Comment: The more I have studied the Book of Mormon, particularly about the geography, the more it has become clear that there were some significant clues. Just as obviously, however, these clues can be interpreted many ways—no one’s way is necessarily correct.

Response: There should be no difference of opinion based upon the scriptural record. As an example, when Lehi said to his sons: “And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:14, emphasis added), there are not two ways to interpret this—God created the earth and all things in it. 

Helaman teaching the Nephites who had gathered to listen to him


Or when Helaman taught: “And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free,” there is no different way to interpret that man is free to act for himself—the agency to choose right or wrong on his own.

The same can be said about the geography descriptions as well. After all, north is north and south is south despite John L. Sorenson’s attempt to claim a so-called “Nephite North” or “Mormon North” meaning “east and west,” not “north and south.” Mormon makes it clear with a lengthy description of the layout of the Land of Promise (Alma 22:27-35). Or that Nephi knew cardinal directions: “we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer” (1 Nephi 16:13, emphasis added).

Sometimes understanding is aided by a knowledge of Hebrew, and an understanding of ancient Hebrew/Jewish customs. Sometimes it is a knowledge of geologic facts and scientific principles. But in the end, it is not difficult to accurately interpret the meanings of the Book of Mormon geography.  The real issue is not to have a predetermined place or location in mind that clouds the true meaning of the writing.

• Comment: To clarify, are you saying that the entire Andes mountain range rose out of the water in only three hours?

Response: The Disciple Nephi, who experienced these events, makes it clear: “When the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for  about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land” (3 Nephi 8:19, emphasis added).

• Comment: How is it possible for mountains to become valleys and other valleys to become mountains of great height?” 

Tectonic Plate Movement showing subduction of the low density Oceanic Plate beneath the more density South American Plate


Response: It is a matter of tectonic plates moving beneath the oceans and continents, constantly moving into one another, forcing one plate down below another, called subducting—the sliding of one plate beneath another. Typically, an oceanic plate slides under a continental plate because of the difference in density, causing earthquakes at the surface and pushes up the land, forming mountains—causing dramatic changes to the earth’s surface. This is because the lithosphere is pretty thin, even though it contains all of the crust and a thin slice of the upper mantle.

The asthenosphere beneath it, which is much more massive, moves very slowly as it is roiled by the much hotter rock beneath it forming convective currents in the asthenosphere which rise up in some places, moves laterally, and sinks down in other places.

Typically, this is a long-term event and these changes occur slowly, except for an initial earthquake which occurs suddenly at the surface, causing a tsunami, which is the displacement of a large volume of water generally caused by the earthquake. Tsunamis hit suddenly, with little warning, sometimes catastrophically, but always in a few hours or a day or two and its gone and the aftermath forgotten (except for those in the near-destroyed areas); however, when the Lord’s hand is involved (“darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days” –Helaman 14:27), then the time frame is very quick by comparison (earth was divided in the days of Peleg) and the events can be quite noticeable (mountains rising from valleys “whose height is great” –Helaman 14:23).

• Comment: “How could an entire continent, or at least the area of Brazil, rise up out of the water as you say?”


Continental Crust or Plate is more dense than the Oceanic Crust or Plate, forcing the Oceanic Plate to subduct beneath the South American Plate


Response: Continental crust is less dense than oceanic crust. Older and colder oceanic crust is denser than younger oceanic crust. It is this difference in density that results in one plate sliding under the other as they are forced together. Subduction can occur between continental and oceanic crustal material, but also between two oceanic crusts of different density based on age. If the crust has the same density, the two plates pile up against one another. The Himalaya are an example of this, but the piling up effect also explains the massive Tibetan Plateau, which overall involves a much larger uplifted area, though not as massively high as the zone of collision at the Himalaya.

This is how Brazil, or more accurately the Amazonian Drainage Basin, which makes up about 35% of the present-day South American continent, rose up out of the water, resulting from this subduction of the Pacific Plate or the Nazca Plate beneath the South American Plate. As for mountains becoming valleys as Samuel the Lamanite prophesized (Helaman 14:23), subduction also involves a second element, which is down welling of the asthenosphere.

Although this is the vast change to the surface, and the raising of the Andes Mountains, such tectonic collision resulting from this collision on the surface, the motion of these two plates is also influenced by the asthenosphere beneath them, which is also in collision. This is where the downward leg of convective motion is taking place, and the earth above tends to flatten in places—such as the Amazonian Draining Basin.

When crust forms at the mid-ocean ridges it is somewhat hotter than the average that would be found on the sea floor. This is because it is thinner and the result is that it is also less dense than the average sea floor.

As the crust moves further from the mid-ocean ridges, it cools and thickens. As a result, the density increases. As it subducts beneath the Continental Plate, it pushes the Continental Plate upward, and in many cases, out of the water to form the land, as it did in both the Tibetan Plateau and South America.

(See the next post, “Questions About the Geography of the Book of Mormon – Part II,” for more questions about the geography and how certain areas were formed that cause a lot of difficulty for people to grasp or accept and reject South America as the location of Lehi’s landing in his Land of Promise)

Monday, April 26, 2021

Ancient Walls in North America? – Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding additional comments made by theorists regarding their interpretation of the information regarding claims that North America is the location of Lehi’s Land of Promise). The Third point regarding the hill in Manchester being the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, and the assertion that the Book of Mormon places a town or city nearby the hill, it should be note that such a claim is spurious since there is no mention of such in the scriptural record. 

In Book of Mormon times, there was no city around the Hill Cumorah


In fact, Mormon and Moroni make it clear there was no city around the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon—at least they never said there was one, or inferred that there was such.

The first mention of the Hill Cumorah in Lehi’s Land of Promise is found in Mormon 6: “And now I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites. And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle” (Mormon 6:1-2, emphasis added).

In addition, the best description of the Hill Cumorah in Lehi’s Land of Promise is also found in Mormon 6: “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, emphasis added).

Note there is no mention of any settlement, town or city around the Hill Cumorah. The hill is also mentioned in chronological events:

1. At the end of 80th year (Mormon 5:6)

2. Three hundred and eighty and four years had passed away, we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah” (Mormon 6:5, emphasis added);

Mormon burying the plates (all but those he gave to Moroni) before the final battle at Cumorah


3. “When we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old…therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Moromn 6:6, emphasis added).

4. “We having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down” (Mormon 6:11, emphasis added)

5. “After the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed” (Mormon 8:2, emphasis added)

Once again, note there is no mention of any development around the Hill Cumorah. In fact, if one thinks about it with any equitable manner, coming to a town, village or city at Cumorah with at least an army of 230,000 people (not to mention the extensive amount of non-combatants, i.e., the old, infirmed, children, and many women), a people in a city would be overwhelmed by the sudden arrival and unable to handle the requirements of a quarter of a million people.

It would not take long for the army to use up whatever natural resources or food supplies of the city that might exist. Scuffles would, obviously, break out, turmoil would exist and both military and civilian leaders would be hard-pressed to maintain control.

Not only is there no mention of a city, it is highly unlikely that any such development or city existed anywhere near the Hill Cumorah.

Sometimes the farmers did build a wall out of the rocks they took from their planting fields, but stacked them in pilescalled cairns


As mentioned earlier, the argument North American theorists (both Heartland and Great Lakes models) use to show their beliefs and opinions to be backed by the scriptural record and their claims, are erroneous. The one, though, that seems to have the most questionable talking points are the so-called stone walls found in New England and upstate New York, though mostly in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Theorists who have their opinions about North America being Lehi’s Land of Promise, often develop them from viewing maps, hearing someone state their opinion about an area, or just plain supposition. However, quite often if they would have “boots on the ground” regarding their claims, they would never make them.

As an example, North American theorists point to the many “rock walls” found in New England, and scattered close around that area. Despite Mormon stating that Capt. Moroni “had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8, emphasis added), they proceed to show a scattering of rocks, or low stacks of rocks, claiming this supports Mormon’s statement.

However, when one tarries long enough in New England, they find another story altogether. Now New England has really rocky soil. When European settlers arrived in New England, they set about clearing the land for agriculture. As they cleared it, however, they kept turning up rocks. What were they supposed to do with all these rocks? They built walls that served a variety of purposes, primarily as property lines and windbreaks. Sometimes they were also used to demarcate fields growing different crops, or to keep livestock in a given area. They also served as the foundations for settlers’ homes, and many old farmhouses and barns have sturdy fieldstone foundations to this day.

Some of the farm demarcation walls built after the Europeans arrived


In fact, New England has so many short stone walls, typically under three feet in height, though some are as high as 3½ feet, it is almost impossible to go anywhere outside a townhship and not see dozens in the first mile or so.

As for the stone walls in the middle of the woods? While there’s much talk by theorists that these walls could not have been borders or divisional lines, the outsider (not New Englander) has little knowledge of the area’s history as compared to its seemingly unchanged present. However, since the early 1800s, people have been leaving farming communities, which are losing populations, and old farms are often left abandoned—which have become overgrown and merged into part of the growing forests. This has resulted in there being almost no “old growth”—that is, current forests in the region, particularly in southern New England, especially Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, as well as elsewhere, were once fields, now thickly overgrown, and those walls were once what demarcated those fields. Sometimes the foundation of an old farmhouse will be stumbled over.

The point is, those rock walls that authors, theorists, historians and others have tried to place in an ancient time with an unknown people, simply have been around since the Europeans entered the land. After all, there is little history or factual data to suggest any of the indigenous “Indian” tribes that were known for clearing large fields and planting voluminous crops, which is why they did not have much in the way of stones for building—if building is what they intended to do, though that is questionable, given the state of their construction for many centuries.

Thus, it cannot be used by these theorists that stone walls are evidence that these were Nephite lands and were built at the direction of Capt. Moroni as many theorists claim.