Friday, December 31, 2010

Cities of the Land of Nephi – Part II

As shown in the last post, there were numerous lands and numerous villages and cities within the Land of Nephi. Among other examples of this, the Lamanites, after being defeated by the Nephites, “returned again to their own land” and then “many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael and the land of Nephi, and did join themselves to the people of God” (Alma 25:13).

Obviously, there were other lands within the Land of Nephi, which stretched from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27) and from the Land of Zarahemla on the north to the Lehi landing site along the west sea in the south (Alma 22:28,33). The entire Land of Nephi was surrounded by water, as was the Land of Zarahemla to the north, except for a small neck of land between the land and the Land of Desolation to the north of Bountiful (Alma 22:31).

The many cities within the Land of Nephi were built by the Nephites in their nearly 400 years occupying these lands. Somewhere around 200 B.C., Mosiah was warned of the Lord to flee out of the Land of Nephi “and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).

We are not told what percentage of the Nephites in the Land of Nephi went with Mosiah, and what percentage remained behind. We do know that those left behind were quite wicked for the Lord to warn Mosiah to flee from among them. Thus, the Land of Nephi was left in the hands of wicked Nephites, and soon the Lamanites overran that land and either subjugated the remaining wicked Nephites, absorbed them into their Lamanite culture, or killed them.

By the time of Benjamin, Mosiah’s son, the Lamanites who then occupied the Land of Nephi, evidenty had come down to battle with the Nephites in Zarahemla and conquered some of that Land, for king Benjamin and the Nephites of Zarahemla did eventually “contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance” (Words of Mormon 1:14).

Now there was a wilderness that divided the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 27:14), which was a narrow strip of land (Alma 22:27) that ran from the east sea clear to the west sea (Alma 22:27), with the Land of Nephi to the south running from the sea east to the sea west (Alma 22:27), and the Land of Zarahemla on the north of this wilderness (Alma 22:27). Now this narrow strip of wilderness could not have been too narrow, for Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies not only into this wilderness, but that they traveled a ways within the wilderness and “came over to the borders of the land” of Zarahemla where they stopped and waited while Ammon traveled “forth into the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 27:15).

Within the Land of Nephi there was a Land of Jerusalem (Alma 21:1) on the borders of the Land of Mormon where the Amalekites and Amulonites (Nephite outcasts who had joined with the Lamanites) built a great city which was called Jerusalem (Alma 21:2), so named after the Jerusalem in Palestine (Alma 21:1), which was near the borders of the Land of Mormon.

This city of Jerusalem is the only city within the Land of Nephi that is described as a “great city” other than the City of Nephi where Nephi built a temple and taught his people to build buildings of wood, iron and steel. Since this city was built after the Nephites left the Land of Nephi, yet was built by Nephite outcasts, the city might be identifiable today, though it would only be a guess—yet its size would tend to preclude most other sites. The only obstacle to identification is that the location of the Land of Jersualem is not spelled out in the record. We do not know, for instance, whether this land was in the west or the east or the south. Thus any identification must be made by other means.

(See the next post, “Cities of the Land of Nephi – Part III,” where the City of Jerusalem in the Land of Nephi was located)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cities of the Land of Nephi – Part I

Somewhere around 589 B.C., the Nephite colony made landfall after their 10,000 mile voyage across the “many waters.” The first thing they did after landing was pitch their tents (1 Nephi 18:23), then they planted their seeds “brought from the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 18:24). After that they did a little exploring of the land (1 Nephi 18:25). At this point it must have been a time of relaxing for Nephi was commanded to make plates and duplicate the writing already engraven on the plates of Lehi (1 Nephi 19:1-2), and then add to them what took place in the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 19:4).

Sometime over the next twenty years, Lehi died (2 Nephi 4:12), and the persecution against Nephi by his elder brothers and the sons of Ishmael increased until they threatened his life (2 Nephi 5:4) and the Lord warned Nephi to flee into the wilderness with all those who would go with him (2 Nephi 5:5). They took their tents and possessions (2 Nephi 5:7) and seeds (2 Nephi 5:11) and the records and the Liahona (2 Nephi 5:12).

Nephi and those with him traveled in the wilderness for “many days” until they came to a land where the Liahona would have guided them. There they settled down and those with him wanted to call the place the Land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8). They then built a city they called the City of Nephi (Alma 23:11), and they built buildings, using wood, iron, copper, steel, gold, and precious ores (2 Nephi 5:15). They also built a temple like the temple of Solomon (2 Nephi 5:16).

Nephi died about 544 B.C. (Jacob 1:1, 12), probably at the age of 75 to 80 years, with Jacob about 50. Over the next one hundred and fifty years, the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land (Jarom 1:5) and were scattered on much of the face of the Land (Jarom 1:6). Jarom also speaks of “sweeping the Lamanites out of our lands” and “began to fortify our cities” and that they “multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land” (Jarom 1:7-8). They built in wood, in iron, and in copper and brass, and in steel (Jarom 1:8).

Following Jarom’s time, there was his son, Omni, and then his son, Amaron, and about 311 B.C., in which the more wicked part of the Nephites had been destroyed by 279 B.C. The record then went to his brother, Chemish, who passed the record on to his son, Abinadom, who passed it on to his son, Amaleki. Now Amaleki was the grandson of Chemish, or the second generation, making the year somewhere around 200 B.C. when Amaleki records Mosiah being “warned of the Lord to flee out of the land of Nephi” (Omni 1:12) with as many as would “hearken unto the voice of the Lord” and go with him. They were “led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13).

Thus, in the nearly 400 years between 570 B.C. and about 200 B.C., the Nephites lived, waxed strong, and spread across the face of the land in the Land of Nephi. They built many cities, mined gold and silver, and worked in wood, iron, steel, and precious ores in their constructions. There were numerous cities and villages (Alma 23:14) in the Land of Nephi, as well as separate lands referred to as the Land of Ishmael, so named after the sons of Ishmael (Alma 17:19), and the Land of Middoni (Alma 20:2), the Land of Jerusalem (Alma 21:1) which was named after Jerusalem in Palestine, the Land of Mormon (Alma 21:1), the Land of Shilom (Alma 23:12), the Land of Shemlon (Alma 23:12), the Land of Amulon, the Land of Helam (Alma 24:1), and the Land of Midian (Alma 24:5).

There was also a city of Nephi (Alma 23:11), the city of Jerusalem (Alma 21:2), the city of Lemuel, and the city of Shimnilom (Alma 23:12), and there was a village named Ani-Anti (Alma 21:11), which was somewhere between the city of Jerusalem and the Land of Middoni (Alma 21:12). In addition, there were “regions round about” the Land of Middoni (Alma 21:13).

It is not known if there were other cities and lands within the Land of Nephi, for only these are mentioned in the record. The point is, however, that this Land of Nephi was a large area, with separte lands and numerous cities within its boders. It would appear from the record that the Land of Nephi encompassed many other lands, and even kingdoms, for the Land of Ishmael was a separate kingdom under king Lamoni, and the Land of Middoni under king Antiomno, yet all were in the Land of Nephi where Lamoni’s unnamed father “was king over all the land” (Alma 20:8).

(See the next post, “Cities of the Land of Nephi – Part II,” to see where the modern city of Tiwanaku fits into the Land of Nephi)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whose Height is Great – Part II

When the mountains came up in 33 A.D., “whose height is great.” as prophesied by Samuel the Lamanite forty years earlier (see last post), they came up along the east coast of the Land of Promise, pushing the east sea further to the east, and bringing a solid wall of mountains to block the eastern edge of the Land of Promise.

It should be kept in mind, that prior to the cataclysm of destruction that struck the Land of Promise in 33 A.D., at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion in Jerusalem, the “whole face of the land was changed” (3 Nephi 8:12) and “the face of the whole earth became deformed” (3 Nephi 8:17), the use of the term “narrow neck of land” was used to describe that narrowness of area between the Land Nothward and the Land Southward (Alma l22:32). But after the cataclysm, the term “narrow neck of land” was no longer used, but instead, the term “narrow pass” or “narrow passage” (Mormon 2:29; 3:5), suggesting a change in the topography of the narrow neck of land. It should also be mentioned that the terms narrow neck, small neck, narrow pass, and narrow passage, were all written by Mormon or Moroni, both living in the 4th century A.D., about 350 to 400 years after the cataclysm.

While some may find it hard to believe the Andes Mountains arose only two thousand years ago, there has to be some mountain range arising out of the ground as Samuel prophesied, and the disciple Nephi witnessed (3 Nephi 8:10). And since geologists claim the Andes are the youngest mountain range in the world, there seems little doubt that these self-same Andes were the mountains Samuel prophesied about, Nephi predicted (2 Nephi 26:5), Zenos saw in a vision (1 Nephi 19:11), and the disciple Nephi witnessed.

Another verificaton besides geologists (of the event) is Charles Darwin (of both the event and the timing) when he saw the east side of the Andes while crossing these mountains from Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza, Argentina, in the early 1830s, who saw sea shells, mollusks, and coastal trees high in the Andes and concluded that very recently, the Andes had been at sea level and the Atlantic Ocean had been hundreds of miles westward, covering much of South America.

It is also interesting to note that the area of Lake Titicaca, now 12,500 feet above sea level, and covering 22,400 square miles along the border between eastern Peru and western Bolivia, is considered by geologists, marine biologists, and oceanographers, it was once at sea level. Referred to as a fresh water lake today, Titicaca was a salt water lake in the past and fed Lake Poopo, a salt water lake, and the sale flats surrounding Titicaca’s drainage area. Salt water fish and marine life are still found in the lake, though its size has dwindled over time, having once encompassed the entire salt flats area and drainage lakes.

Ruins on the shore and on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas, antedating the Christian era. The chief site is at Tiahuanaco, Bolivia, at the southern end of the lake. Tiahuanaco, also called Tiwanaku, is one of the oldest sites in all of Peru and, except for Sacsahuaman and Pachacamac, has the largest and most intricately designed ancient cities of the Andes. Sometime around 200 A.D., the city was abandoned. When the Spaniards came, they asked the Inca about this city (whose ruins were still nearly completely standing). The Inca merely shrugged, claiming it was built by the ancient ones. Their myths and legends claim this area was the beginning or foundation of the ancient native civilization.

One interesting fact regarding the ruins of Tiwanaku. Archaeologists claim the design of the city, and many artifacts and large stone blocks found there, showed that the city was once a seaport. Two rows of blocks showing a wharf and docking facilities can still be seen. Now, of course, the ruins are at 12,500 feet high, yet this seaport once looked out into the Atlantic Ocean when the port was at sea level.

(See the next post, “The Ancient Nephite City of Tiahuanacu”)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Whose Height is Great

One of the more important aspects of the Land of Promise which neither the Great Lakes, Heartland nor Mesoamerica can compare, is in the height of the mountains described in the Book of Mormon.

It might be recalled that in about 6 B.C., Sauel the Lamanite preaches to the Nephites, his words covering 4 complete chapters, about nine and a half pages in the scriptures, starting with Chapter 13 and going to the end of the book of Helaman. The Nephites were in great wickedness while the Lamanites did strive to keep the commandments of God” (Helaman 13:1), which brought Samuel to preach in the land of Zarahemla. After many days, the wicked Nephites cast Samuel out of the city and he was about to return to his own land when the voice of the Lord came unto him to return and prophesy “whatsoever things should come into his heart” (Helaman 13:3.

Now, since the Nephites would not allow him back into the city, he climbed upon the city wall and cried out with a loud voice for the Nephites to repent. During that preaching, Samuel foretold the destruction of the Nephites in 400 years, and telling them they had procrastinated the day of their salvation until it was everlastingly too late. He also foretold the coming of the Savior in five years, his ministry and crucifixion, at which time he described the cataclysmic events that would befall the Land of Promise, including the earthquakes and the destruction of cities and the leveling of mountains. At this point, he added:

“And there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).

There are many mountains in the world whose height is great, however, in all but a couple, the mountains rise up slowly, such as the Rocky Mountains, so that when in them, they do not seem to have such a great height. I lived along the coast for most of my life in southern California, and now live in southern Utah at 6,000 feet. The mountain peak almost directly over us is at 11,000 feet. But because these heights are basically gradual, they do not seem to be so very high.

However, Samuel, speaking the words the Lord put into his heart (Helaman 13:5), said the low places would become mountains WHOSE HEIGHT IS GREAT! For mountains to appear as great heights, you need to have an observable view of the rise and prominance of the mountain peaks. In the Himalayas in China (the highest mountains in the world), there is such a rise. But there is also such a rise in the Andes in South America. In fact, the two Cordilleras that form the Andes to the north of about 30º south Latitude are continued in Peru. The Cordillera Blanca rises abruptly from the Pacific coast in shocking fashion, and are escorted by the Western range known as Cordillera Negra and the Eastern range called Cordillera Oriental. And between this ridge and the crystalline Andean axis, the "avenue of volcanoes," arises amidst majestic scenery to the great heights of 22,000 feet or more, the tallest at 22,831 feet.

These mountain peaks along the Andes are so high and along such a continuous line, that there are 69 peaks over 20,000 feet, and 115 more in the 19,000 foot range, for a total of 185 peaks over 19,000 feet. There are also numerous peaks ranging from 15,000 to 19,000 feet. On the other hand, Mesoamerica has only three peaks in the 13,000 foot range, with five more at 12,000 feet. Southern Mexico has one peak at 17,159 feet, with only a 5,000 foot prominence (Cedar City to Brian Head is 5,000 feet). The prominence along the Andes is typically 15,000 feet or more. In the eastern United States, the highest peak of the Appalachians is Mt. Mitchell at 6,684 feet. From Newfoundland to the north all the way to Georgia and Alabama, the highest peak is in the 6,000 foot range, with eight in the 5,000 foot range, and half a dozen at 4,000 feet. The highest point in the Adirondacks is 5,344 feet with all but two between 3,000 and 5,000 feet.

The point is, none of the other areas suggested as the location for the Land of Promise can even come close to having any mountains “whose height is great.” And since those words were given to Samuel the Lamanite to speak directly from the Lord, it must be important that mountains would be created during the hours following the crucifixion.

Only the Andes in the Western Hemisphere qualifies for matching Samuel's description.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nephite Monetary System – Part III

One more point needs to be made about the Nephite monetary system (see last two posts) and that is of the word “measure,” which, according to Mesoamerican scholars and theorists suggests that the Nephite system was based upon weights and measures.

While "measure" means quantity, such as the bulk or a portion, like in a measure of grain, our early system of coinage was based on weight of the metal included—the famous gold Double Eagle, as an example, was worth $20.00 in the minting period between 1877 and 1907, and were struck in 90% fine gold, containing a net weight of .9675 ounces of pure gold. This concept of weight in coins is not a measure, such as a bushel, peck or dry gallons, based upon the mass of a single seed of a cereal. In medieval times the average masses of wheat and barley grain were used to define units of mass, with the troy grain based on barley (troy weight is a system of units of mass customarily used for precious metals in which there are 12 troy ounces to the pound rather than 16 used in the more common avoirdupois system—meaning “goods of weight,” referring to a class of merchandise that were sold in bulk and weighed on large balances. However, the weight in coinage is quite different.

Today, when we carry coins around with us, the idea of a coin being a measure of something valuable is not involved. Prior to the last change in content, coins were thought of as containing so much silver or nickel, etc. And before that, of containing so much gold. We do not think of money as directly tied to some measurement of a product, such as wheat, barley or cloth. We think of it as a value in obtaining and paying for something we want. Money was always thought of in this manner. In Nephite times, the purchase of food (grain) was mighty important, and value was associated with that: “A shiblum is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for a half a measure of barley” (Alma 11:15) while “A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley and also for a measure of every kind of grain” (Alma 11:7).

Thus we might say today, “Five dollars is worth an hour of baby sitting,” ”Three dollars will buy a gallon of gas,” or “Two dollars for a loaf of bread.” This, of course, does not mean we are measuring anything because our purchasable goods are already packaged or dispensed in a different manner than anciently. But the concept is the same. A pound of ground beef, a gallon of ice cream, a ton of sand, all have a price. The produce is a measurement, and the price of it is fixed, and we buy it not with another measure (unless we are bartering), but with coin that has monetary value.

The ancient Nephites had numerous coins as Alma illustrates, and each had a different purchasing value. “A leah is the half of a shiblum” or “A fifty cent piece is half of a dollar.” And three dollars will buy a pound of flour, as a senum of silver would buy a measure of barley.”

In the case of Zeezrom (see last post), he earned an onti of silver for a week’s work as a judge, therefore, six onties of silver amounted to 42 days of work, or about a month and a half salary. When he offered Amulek six onties of silver, he was offering what to him was a significant amount of money. By today’s standards, for a person making $50,000 a year, he would be offering about 11% of his annual salary or $5,555.00. By Zeezrom’s comment, “all these” would suggest he thought the amount he was offering was an impressive amount of money.

It should be obvious to any reader that such an offer by Zeezrom amounted to coinage, money he had on him and was worth a lot. It did not represent a measurement of grain, or an ambiguous measurement of something, but actual money he thought would impress Amulek enough to sway him to his point of view. “Here are six onti, and all these will I give thee” (Alma 11:22). Sounds the same as saying “Here are six double gold eages, and all of them I will give you.” It would not be possible for Zeezrom to have had some type of measure on him, such as 3 pounds of silver ingots, two silver bars, etc. Whatever the coinage was, Zeezrom had it on his person and offered it to Amulek for all to see and, more importantly, for Amulek to see it. In fact, Amulek, seeing the coinage, replied “these six onties, which are of great worth” in repeating Zeezrom’s offer (Alma 11:25), again suggest a physical exchange of coinage.

But Amulek himself was a wealthy man, and not impressed by the sum. In fact, he was so appalled by the show of coinage meant to buy his integrity—and so appalled by the physical offer in front of others who saw such an amount that they probably would have considered worth selling their integrity for, Amulek found it offensive and reacted as such.

It might also be kept in mind that bribery was against the law (Exodus 23:8) and Amulek well understood the law and its purpose (Alma 10:27). Consequently, any bribe Zeezrom offered would have been obvious and blatant—not some ambiguous amount of grain. Nor would he have had that much weight in silver or gold on him, but he would have had coin as we carry cash with us in our monetary system. In addition, Zeezrom at least knew of Amulek and would have known him to be a wealthy man, therefore, it seems more likely he was playing as much to the audience as to Amulek to show his great wisdom and means as a judge, and offering a visible amount of money that would impress them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nephite Monetary System – Part II

As indicated in the last post, the Nephite monetary system as outlined in Alma, chapter 11, does not preclude that it was coinage. No indication is given for or against the use of coins by the Nephites. Alma’s introduction of these coins and their value could apply to any type of system, but one of coins seems most likely, despite Mesoamerican scholars and theorists claims to the contrary.

In trying to explain what the terms senine, seon, shum, limnah, senum, amnor, ezrom, onti, leah, shiblum, shiblon, antion meant, Alma launches into a system of values. To understand this, one might ask today, “If you were writing to a future people who would have no knowledge of your monetary system and its values, how would you describe your money?” Or stated differently, how would you explain in written form to a future reader what the words dollar, penny, quarter, dime, or nickel meant? How would you convey these terms so a future reader would grasp the meaning of them?

Obviously, you cannot compare your current monetary system with theirs, since you do not know what their system will be. And since Alma gives us no comparison, other than a measure of grain (which measure could be just about any quantity since he does not describe it), we do not know how to determine value in the time of the Nephites.

There are only two possible ways you can describe your monetary system to a future reader. First is to show how some of these coins were valued against one another. That is, ten pennies is the same as one dime; ten dimes is the same as one dollar; one quarter is the same as twenty-five pennies, five nickels is the same as one quarter, and one dollar is the same as twenty nickles etc., which is exactly what Alma did in his explanation of Nephite money (Alma 11:7-13) concluding with “an onti was as great as them all.” That is, a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and fifty-cent piece, but a dollar is as great as them all.

Second, is to show the value of the coinage in regard to its buying power. In colonial times, a cow was worth five pounds ($10), a pair of sheets was worth 50 shillings (which was more than 8 times the worth of a bed), a teacher earned 60 ponds annually, a pair of pistols sold for 3 pounds, 15 shillings and three pence, a double-barreled shotgun sold for 3 ponds, a saddle for 2 pounds, bushel of salt was 4 shillings, and a pound of butter for 4 pence. This is exactly how Alma described the Nephite monetary system, by comparing its purchasing power to items of importance at that time: “A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain” (Alma 11:8). A judge received a senine of gold for a day’s hire, as a school teacher in colonial times earned 60 pounds for a year’s teaching.

While the above does not prove there were coins, the following should. When Amulek confronted Zeezrom, the latter offered him money on the spot—which would only be possible if the money in question were coins, for surely, he would not have been carrying some type of measure with him to scoop out some grain from somewhere. First of all, Amulek said, “Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord.” At this point, Zeezrom answered saying, “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being” (Alma 11:22).

The words “here are” denotes something in Zeezrom’s immediate possession. His followup statement “all these” denotes observable possession, and “will I give thee” describes current action. Thus, Zeezrom, a wealthy judge, reached into his “pocket” and extracted six onties of silver and held them out in his hand toward Amulek to tempt him with money. Note that Zeezrom did not say “I HAVE six onties of silver that I will give thee” as a future action, but "HERE ARE six onties of silver and ALL THESE will I give thee--" His offer was current and obviously observable by Amulek and those around them, for Zeezrom was obviously playing to the audience as well.

Amulek’s reply is also significant for it shows that the offer of Zeezrom was immediate and of substantial temptation. Holding money in front of someone as an offer for wrongdoing is far more important than merely talking about a bribe. Amulek said, “O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me?” (Alma 11:23).

It seems disingenuous on the part of Mesoamerican scholars and theorists to deny the existence of coins in the Nephite monetary system Alma describes because it does not fit their model of the Land of Promise. It might also be noted that coinage and metal work has been found in the Andean area dating far back into B.C. times.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nephite Monetary System – Part I

Since coins of antiquity have never been found in Mesoamerica, nor metallurgy of any kind in B.C. times, they have concluded the early people of this land had no metal working capability during the first 500 years of the Nephites. This has prompted Mesoamerican scholars and theorists to come up with counter-answers since the Book of Mormon is quite clear that both the Jaredites and the Nephites had metal working capabilities from earliest times.

“And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work” (Ether 10:12).

“And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance. And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:15-16)

One of the responses of these theorists regarding coins is to claim the Nephite monetary system was based on weights and measures and not on coins. Their claim is that because the term “coin” is not specifically mentioned in the Book of Mormon, then there were no coins. As an example, a judge received wages of a senine of gold for a day’s work. This was the same as a senum of silver. Someone today might say “I will pay you twenty dollars for a four hour job” which would be the same as saying, “I will pay you five dollars per hour for four hours.” It is also the same as saying, “This double eagle gold coin is the same as these twenty silver dollars.”

The problem is that coins are not readily understood by people who call them by different names. An American “buck” is the same as an English “quid.” Dollars in the U.S. were also called “greenbacks” at one time, as well as “greenmail,” “green,” and “dead presidents.” A “single,” “buck,” “bone,” or “bean,” is $1.00; a “deuce,” “Tom,” “Jefferson,” or a “T.J.” is $2.00; a “fin,” “fiver,” or “five-spot” is $5.00; a “sawbuck,” a “ten-spot,” or “Hamilton,” is $10.00; a “double sawbuck,” “dub,” or “Jackson,” is $20.00; a “Benjamin,” “Benji,” or “Franklin,” “C-note,” “Century note,” or “bill,” is $100.00; with two bills ($200) three bills ($300) etc. And a “grand” is $1,000, with “10K” for $10000. Modern bills are referred to as “Big Face” or “Monopoly money,” along with general terms of “cha-chingers” and “smackers.” Did you know that U.S. coins of half-cent, 2-cent, 3-cent, half dime (not a nickel), 20-cent, Quarter Eagle, three dollar piece, Half Eagle, Eagle, Double Eagle coins have been produced every year since 1792? Or that an American Platinum Eagle is the same value as a Double Eagle? Or that a Gold Eagle is the same value as a Half Eagle? Or that a Half Union is the same value as two Double Eagles and an Eagle in U.S. coins?

At the same time, there are the Euro, Yen, Pound Sterling, Canadian Dollars, Krona, Franc, Peso, Yuan, Riel, Centavo, Balboa, Rand, Puta, and numerous other coinage around the world. In Britain, there is the schilling, pound, quid, five and ten pence, and the one pound and two pound coins—with a five pound sterling coin the same value as twenty-five pence coin. There is also the half crown, florin, and farthing. In earlier times, two hundred and forty pennies equaled a British pound. In fact, it could be said that a British “gold sovereign” is worth the same as a “Pound Sterling.” It could also be said that one British penny equals four farthing in value. Further, a Florin is the same as two shillings. In earlier times, British coinage was produced in silver, bronze and brass. In addition, British coinage also carried names of Bob, mag, joey, tanner, two-bob bit, two-and-a-kick, tuppence, twenty-three pee, and pee-piece.

It should also be kept in mind that the term “coin” is rarely used in the U.S. monetary system other than to separate it from paper money. There is no difference in purchasing power between a silver dollar and a paper dollar or a gold dollar—all are $1.00. We do not say a dollar bill or a dollar coin—we simply refer to both as one dollar.

All this suggests that any one today trying to interpret the Nephite monetary system would have no clue as to what senine, seon, shum, limnah, senum, amnor, ezrom, onti, leah, shiblum, shiblon, antion meant in terms of money any more than agora, agorot, shekel coins of Israel; the rouble, kopeks, kopeyki, polushka, denga, semishnik, altyn, pyatak, grivennik, pyatialtynny, dvugrivennypotupoltinnik, or poltina coins of Russia, which could also be described as one pyatialtynnyis worth fivealtyn; one diugrivenny is worth two grivenniks, or one polujpoltinnik is worth one-half of a poltinnik.

Obviously, without a way to interpret the values compared with known money, the above and numerous other named coinage of other countries, is meaningless. As an example, one diugrivenny is worth two grivenniks in Russian money—but if you do not know the value of Diugrivennys or grivenniks, the information is meaningless. As in “The amount of a seon of gold was twice the value of a senine” is meaningless unless we can tie it into known currency of our day or its purchasing power.

(See next post “Nephite Monetary System – Part II” on how Mormon showed us the value of their money)

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Crowded Land of Promise?

Someone sent me the following statement found on a website regarding the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon. Writing about the landing of the Lehi Colony, this article states:

“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. A people 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, they by the time of Lehi's arrival had been scattered and divided. Had they by that time degenerated to a level of mere subsistence? Our record gives us few clues.”

While it is true that four hundred years after Lehi landed, Mosiah I found Zarahemla, where the Mulekites had always been. They had no records, denied their God, and their Hebrew language had been altered until it could not be understood, But Lehi never found them and had no idea they even existed, nor were the Muleites in the Land of Promise prior to, or at the time of, Lehi’s arrival.

However, it seems the author of this website and article intended the information to be about another people who were “a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land.” Obviously, not the Mulekites. So who were these people to which this article draws our attention?

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. See also 3:2; 10:10). It was also “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 the important phrase “should be led” 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)—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 conquistadores (1 Nephi 13:14), and the Gentiles coming out of England (1 Nephi 15-19) and the establishment of the Constitution of the United States and, in fine, not utterly destroy the descendants of Lehi (1 Nephi 13:30).

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 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.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Sea of Galilee is Not a Sea

While we refer today to the lake Galilee in the biblical lands as a “sea,” it was not called that by those who lived in Palestine in B.C. times. This lake was known as Kinneret (which is the Old Testament and modern name), Lake of Gennesaret, and Lake Tiberias. It is referred to as the largest freshwater land-locked lake in Israel, and it is approximately 33 miles in circumference, about 13 miles long, and 8 miles wide. The lake has a total area of 64-square miles, and a maximum depth of approximately 141 feet, with an average depth of 84 feet. At 685 feet below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea, which is misnamed since it is a saltwater lake. Galilee is partly fed by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south.

For those scholars and theorists who like to point out the naming of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea as lakes referred to as seas in Hebrew—they were never called Seas in the Hebrew language, or among the Hebrews that lived in Palestine during the time of Lehi or the time of the Bible. The word “sea” in Sea of Galilee is a mis-translation in the Greek of the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “sea” is “yam,” but the Hebrew word for “lake” is “yamah”—a simple but critical mistake in the Greek translation, which makes up our King James version of the Bible.

It is interesting that “yamah” in Luke 5:1 is correctly translated as “lake,” but in Matthew 4:18 incorrectly translated as “sea.” Mark (1:16) for some reason uses the word “thalassa” that most Greek writers reserve for the much larger Mediterranean, which translates as “sea” while Luke (8:23-24, 33) uses the more proper term for lake, “limne” which translates as “lake.” A note on Mark’s usage of “sea” in “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39), suggests the word lake would not fit in this sentence structure, for it was the water in general being addressed, not the entire lake itself.

Christian religious texts call Galilee Lake of Gennesaret, “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret” (Luke 5:1). The Arabic name for the lake is Buhairet Tabariyya, meaning Lake Tiberias. Other names were Lake Ginnosar, Lake of Gennesar, Lake Chinneroth, and Lake Tiberias, though the Romans called it the Sea of Tiberius.

Flavius Josephus reported “a thriving fishing industry at this time, with 230 boats regularly working in the lake” and both historians and religious recorders refer to “Much of the ministry of Jesus occurred on the shores of Lake Galilee” and “one of Jesus' famous teaching episodes, the Sermon on the Mount, is supposed to have been given on a hill overlooking the lake.”

In the case of the Dead Sea, a different understanding is needed. First of all, it is never referred to as the Dead Sea in the Bible. Secondly, the word “sea” is used as an adjective, or description, of the lake in “Yam ha Melah,” which means “Sea of Salt” (Genesis 14:3). It is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world, being 8.6 times more salty than the ocean, which leads to its nickname of “Yam ha-Mavet” which means “sea of Death.” It is “al-Bahr al-Mayyit” in Arabic, sometimes called Bahr lut, “sea of Lot.” In Greek it is Lake Asphaltites, and in ancient times was called Lake Sodom, Lake Lisan, and Lake Gomorrah.

Consequently, those who try to claim the word “sea” was used to describe a lake in ancient Israel simply misunderstand the usage of the word and that the Greek translates the word inaccurately at times. The Israelites knew the difference between a lake “yamha” and a sea “yam” and did not call streams, rivers, small bodies of water, or even lakes by the term “sea” but by their appropriate designation. In the Land of Promise of the Book of Mormon, the word “sea” has reference to a “sea” or “ocean” and in Joseph Smith’s time, the word “sea” meant an ocean according to the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

One might do well to obtain a copy of Noah Webster’s dictionary, which he claims he was inspired of God to compile at the time that he did. It seems reasonable that this was because it is the language of the area in which Joseph Smith grew up, and contains the definitions of words that would have been known to the prophet who translated the plates according to “his language,” for it is his language we read in the Book of Mormon, not ancient Hebrew which, by the way, was not the language the ancient prophets used in writing the record (Mormon 9:32).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does the Word “Sea” Mean Other than Ocean?

The Book of Ether records the Jaredites as passing by a Sea in the Wilderness (Ether 2:7). Some have interpreted this to mean an inland sea and, as a result, claim that the word Sea in the Book of Mormon does not always mean an ocean. However, this is not an accurate understanding of the scripture involved.

As the Jaredites left the Valley of Nimrod, which was northward of their homeland, they were led toward "that quarter where there never had man been” (Ether 2:5). North of their homeland would be north of the basic area in Mesopotamia where the Great Tower had been built (Ether 1:33). In this area is a great, natural depression which now holds the man-made lake Tharthar, called Buhayrat ath Tharthar, about seventy-four miles north of Baghdad, situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This natural valley is about two hundred feet below the surrounding area and once known as Waddi Tharthar. A Waddi is a shallow, usually sharply defined depression in a desert region, the bed or valley of a stream that is usually dry except during the rainy season and often forms an oasis.

In this valley oasis, the Jaredites were commanded by the Lord “that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel” (Ether 2:5). Now, the following verses have been confusing to many Book of Mormon scholars when describing the “many waters” the Jaredites had to cross by building barges.

Hugh Nibley claims these bodies were left over lakes from the ice age stretching across the steppes of Asia heading toward the Pacific Ocean through China. However, as stated in the book “Who Really Settled Mesoamerica,” this is shown to be a direction of travel impossible for the Jaredites in 2200 B.C. In addition, others claim the waters the Jaredites crossed was the Caspian and Aral Seas, but again, such a requirement of building barges to cross several such seas would be totally unnecessary as pointed out in the above mentioned book.

The delta of the Tigris and Euphrates is a natural wetlands/marshland where numerous rivers, lakes, and waterways exist—"many waters" indeed. Today this area is occupied by the Marsh Arabs

The fact is, that in crossing over the shallow locations of the Tigris River near the Waddi Tharthar and then traveling down the northern banks toward the south, the Jaredites would have reached the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where they empty into the Persianl Gulf, in the area known as Shatt-al-Arab. At this confluence, miles of swamp and wetlands have always made up this delta. This marshland even today is crossed only by small boats, or barges, and cover numerous rivers, waterways, lakes, and marshes—truly, “many waters.”
Once this marshland is crossed, the Jaredites would have encountered, as they traveled southward, the Persian Gulf. While some refer to it as an inland sea, it is connected through the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf of Oman, which is an inlet of the Arabian Sea. Thus, this “sea in the wilderness” is actually part of the Arabian sea and an ocean, connected to the Indian Ocean and the southern Ocean which crosses the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The Lord commanded the Jaredites not to stop along this sea,” but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people” (Ether 2:7). And “the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands” (Ether 2:13), where “they dwelt along the seashore for the space of four years.”

Where scholars and theorists tend to go wrong in reading the Book of Mormon is their lack of understanding that the term “many waters” as used in the Book of Mormon, refers to a continuous flow of water, whether connected through rivers, lakes, fountains marshes and deltas, or through sea and oceans that run into one another, called by separate names for man’s convenience, but really one great body of ocean that covers most of the world.

In this case, the “sea in the wilderness” is really an extension inland of the Arabian Sea, which Lehi called Irreantum, when arriving on the southern Arabian coast of present-day Oman. Whether using the term “many waters” or using the name Irreantum, which means “many waters” the point is that this water was all connected. The idea that the word “sea” in the Book of Mormon did not always mean ocean is a misunderstanding of the terms used in Joseph Smith's translation--for in 1829, in the New England area, the word "sea" meant "ocean."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where the Jaredites Traveled

Recently, someone sent me the following from an internet site regarding the Jaredites who: “were directed by the Lord to "go forth into the wilderness, yea into that quarter where there never had man been" (Ether 2:5). They built barges on which to cross "many waters." They continued until they came to "that great sea which divideth the lands." They remained on the seashore for four years during which time they constructed eight vessels for crossing the sea. How far they traveled we can only guess. That guess places the terminus of their land journey on the Pacific shores of the Asian continent. From there the prevailing winds "never cease to blow towards the promised land."

First of all, a few comments on the above statement:

1. They did not build their barges during the four years they stayed on the seashore after reaching it. “And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him (Ether 2:14) and “And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built” (Ether 2:16). Obviously, they did not begin building the barges until after the four year period—which might have taken them another year to complete and ready all their supplies.

2. The “prevailing winds” do not blow out into the Pacific Ocean from the “Pacific shores of the Asian continent.” In fact, along the shore, those winds blow north into the Sea of Japan, or south into the Taiwan Straits. Out in the Pacific, they blow in toward land, moving all the way from the bulge of Peru westerly across the Pacific, then turn southward and blow toward Indonesia, then turn eastward in the Southern Ocean and blow toward South America in what is called the South Equatorial Current.

3. Winds that “never cease to blow towards the promised land” from the Pacific shores of the Asian continent would actually blow south in the South Equatorial Current gyre as mentioned in #2 above.

Nibley has the Jaredites crossing the Steppes (green) from Mesopotamia to the Pacific Ocean. Look how much more economically in time, effort, and travel it would have been to take them down the Persian Gulf shore, across the water hole trail, to where Lehi called Bountiful

4. The eastern Steppes of Asia, and down through China near present-day Beijing, which is the only way to get from the Mesopotamia to the Pacific Ocean, would not have been considered “that quarter where there never had man been” since those eastern lands along China’s eastern shore were occupied during the time of the Jaredites by Japheth's descendants.

5. By going across the Steppes, which the above would have to suggest, and the course Hugh Nibley suggested, would not have encountered “many waters” along the way. Nibley had to invent such waterways by saying that there were lakes along this route left over from the last ice age, but that is merely supposition, not provable by any modern knowledge.

6. There simply is no “sea in the wilderness” in the mid- to eastern portion of the Steppes along the path this direction would have had to go. A sea in the wilderness suggests a very large body of water, and since the word “yam” meaning sea in the Hebrew language (yamha means lake) was used specifically for salt water bodies of water, almost always attached to the ocean directly or through some narrow passage (Persian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea—the Sea of Galilee was actually called Lake Gennesaret, and the Sea of Death (Dead Sea) was a descriptive term orginally, not a name).

7. Such a route would have taken the Jaredites over a series of mountains at the eastern end of the Steppes that separate the Steppes from the Gobi Desert and the eastern lands of China. Those mountain passes (only two existed anciently) are higher than the pass Hannibal used to cross the Alps where he lost half his experienced soldiers and most of his elephants despite having engineers to make roads for him. No Jaredite colony of men, women, and children, as well as animals, bees, and fish, could have possibly made such a crossing that even today is so dangerous that even with modern clothing, warmers, maps, etc., usually proves fatal to many in the trek.

Thus, we can see that such flippant and arbitrary routes as some claim simply because they look at a map, are actually impossible routes, especially for the Jaredites to have taken with families and animal entourage.

(See the following post “Does the Word “Sea” Mean Other than Ocean?” for a clearer understanding of the usage of the Hebrew word “yam” or sea)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Tale of the Jaredite Bees

Moroni abridged Ether’s Jaredite record (Ether 1:2) and gave “not the full account, but a part of the account…from the tower down until they were destroyed” (Ether 1:5). Obviously, there would have been a lot that Moroni did not include, any more than Mormon included all of the record of the Nephites that were in his possession when he abridged that record (3 Nephi 5:8).

After Jared asked his brother to “Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance" (Ether 1:38). The Lord told the Brother of Jared to “Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families. And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth. And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me” (Ether 1:41-43).

So the Jaredites did as the Lord commanded, and as they started for the valley of Nimrod with all their belongings, animals, and provisions, “they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind” (Ether 2:3).

Thus, when the Jaredites finally reached the “great sea which divideth the lands” (Ether 2:13) they had with them, in addition to all else, honey bees. After four years (Ether 2:14), and the building of eight barges (Ether 3:1), they prepared to leave. “And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them -- and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God” (Ether 6:4).

After 344 days, “they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them” (Ether 6:12).

The question should be asked, but never is, what happened to all those bees during the four or five years at the seashore? Obviously, they would have migrated to other hives and spread out over the area, as opportunistic foragers, and gathering pollen from a variety of plants. Just as obviously, some of these bees, perhaps the majority of them, would have been left behind when the Jaredites took to their barges. And in being left behind, would have created vast honey hives and deposits over the centuries—and like honey, bee pollen is used as a food by the hive for its sustenance.

Caves above Khor Rori in Oman, less than three miles from where Nephi built his ship (top) and inside are ancient honeycomb beehives that were still producing honey as late as the 20th century (bottom)

When the Lehi Colony arrived at Bountiful, they found honey bees. In fact, they called the place Bountiful “because of its much fruit and also wild honey,” causing Nephi to add “and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish”(1 Nephi 17:5).

Honey bees have never been indigenous to southern Arabia, but was in Mesopotamia. In addition, the honey bee is still not considered indigenous in this area of Oman, considered to have been imported in ages past. Yet, even today, men harvest honey from wild bees in caves overlooking the Khor Rori inlet along the coast of Oman.

It seems likely that the Jaredites arrived at this self same inlet centuries earlier in preparation for building their barges to cross that “great sea which divideth the lands.” And in so doing, spent four years while they planted, harvested, and populated the area with plants, trees, animals, and foodstuff for themselves and for the future Nephites who would also reach this spot “and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reaching the Land of Promise from the West

As suggested in two earlier posts, reaching Mesoamerica from the east is fraught with problems, from opposing winds and currents, numerous islands, chains, and archipelagos strewn across the entrance to the Caribbean Sea, to passing such luxuriant islands of great size that any crew, after five weeks at sea, would have stopped and settled. On the other hand, approaching the Land of Promise from the west is an entirely different matter.

Leaving the southern coast of Arabia (Oman) and sailing into the Arabian Sea any ship driven by winds and currents would drop almost due south through the Indian Ocean where the currents would have swept the ship to the southeast and into the Southern Ocean and easterly along the West Wind Drift (largest volume current in the world) and the Prevailing Westerlies which flow at high speeds along the southern edge of the South Atlantic, South Pacific and south Indian Ocean gyres. Called the Southern Ocean, this route is the way the Portuguese eventually reached India, by sailing out from the African coast in a sweeping course across the Atlantic—a course out of sight of land for three months, then turning east around the tip of Africa (into the Southern Ocean) and whipping eastward, then turning up along the coast of Australia in the Trade Winds that took them to India.

According to Herodotus, when the Phoenicians sailed around Africa, it took two and a half years. When Vasco da Gama sailed to Calicut on his first voyage, it took ten months—almost seven of those months were spent fighting his way through opposing winds and currents in a dog-leg criss-cross of the winds up the east coast of Africa and across the Indian Ocean, a voyage of only 5,000 miles, while moving out into the Atlantic with the winds and currents to the tip of Africa, a journey of 8,000 miles, took only about 3 and a half months. By da Gama’s third voyage, he swung further out into the Atlantic and down, around Africa, and into the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift, then turned northward along Australia and picked up the Trade Wings that took him to India—a savings of about 4 months at sea crossing the Indian Ocean.

This usage of the Southern Ocean opened trade to the Spice Islands, the Moluccas, and China for Portugal, forcing Spain to eventually find a route across the Atlantic with Columbus to avoid a war with Portugal. As da Gama found, and later other Portuguese sailors, the winds and currents far south of Africa moved across the Indian Ocean at such speeds, it was a tremendous advantage to reaching the Spice Islands and India in record time.

A satellite photo of the lonely, open Southern Ocean (left) and the obvious movement of the fastest sea current on the planet (right)

These same fast moving winds and currents—called the Prevailing Westerlies and the West Wind Drift, are the self-same winds and currents used by the Lehi Colony to race across the Pacific Ocean. The strongest of these westerly winds come in the Roaring Forties, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude. These Westerlies play an important role in carrying the warm, equatorial waters and winds to the western coasts of continents, especially in the southern hemisphere because of its vast oceanic expanse. Consequently, when these currents and winds reach the southern shelf of South America, the Roaring Forties are turned northward along the continent and become the warmer Humboldt or Peruvian Current. The Furious Fifties and Screaming Sixties continue on south of the continent, through the Drake Passage, and on their circumnavigational course around the world.

In this Southern Ocean, from south of Africa to south of South America, there are no islands along the way, no landfall, no opposing currents or winds. It is clear sailing at high speeds, with nothing to do but hang on and watch the sun in the daytime and the stars at night march across the heavens. It is so uneventful that it led Nephi to write: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land; and it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land” (1 Npehi18:22-23).

There was nothing to see that would have tempted Lamnan, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to threaten the ship, Nephi or their parents. This passage is so furious with winds and currents lashing at the vessel, pushing it along at such high speeds, that Lamnan, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael would have been hanging on for dear life, fearful of the turbulent seas around them. As in other cases where they were threatened with death, these normally disruptive men would have been cowed and “began to see that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities” (1 Nephi 18:15).

Thus, the Lord in his wisdom, would have sent the Lehi Colony along this course to the Land of Promise where no further difficulties would arise and Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael might honestly repent and not be a torment to Nephi and his family. The opportunity was afforded them, but they did not take advantage of it once their father died in the Land of Promise (2 Nephi 2:3).

The point is, this western approach to the Land of Promise not only matches the scripture record in complete detail, but also makes sense in every way. It also makes sense that Mulek and his friends would have been led in this same path, reaping in Bountiful Nephite planting of some two years, as well as the Jaredite fruit and honey left centuries earlier which Nephi said had been provided for them by the Lord.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reaching Mesoamerica from the East – Part II

In a letter from Columbus on March 14th at Lisbon, to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain received in April 1493, it becomes quite evident that those crossing thousands of miles of ocean after five or more weeks at sea would likely not have continued on to the mainland—a land they would not be certain even existed. But the island lands they passed would have offered all that they could have wanted:

As Columbus wrote: “This island of Juana is exceedingly fertile, as indeed are all the others; it is surrounded with many bays, spacious, very secure, and surpassing any that I have ever seen; numerous large and healthful rivers intersect it, and it also contains many very lofty mountains. All these islands are very beautiful, and distinguished by a diversity of scenery; they are filled with great variety of trees of immense height and which I believe to retain their foliage in all seasons; for when I saw them they were as verdant and luxuriant as they usually are in Spain in the month of May—some of them were blossoming, some bearing fruit, and all flourishing in the greatest perfection, according to their respective stages of growth, and the nature and quality of each; yet the islands are not so thickly wooded as to be impassable.

It would have been hard to pass up landing on such an island

“The nightingale and various birds were singing in countless numbers, and that in November, the month in which I arrived there. There are besides herbs and fruits, trees that considerably surpass ours in height and beauty. The pines also are very handsome, and there are very extensive fields and meadows, a variety of birds, different kinds of honey, and many sorts of meals.

“In that island also which I have before said we named Espanola, there are mountains of very 
great size and beauty, vast plains, groves, and very fruitful fields, admirably adapted for tillage,
 pasture, and habitation. The convenience and excellence of the harbours in this island, and the
 abundance of the rivers, so indispensable to the health of man, surpass anything that would be 
believed by one who had not seen it. The trees, herbage, and fruits of Espanola are very different
 from those of Juana, and moreover it abounds in various kinds of spices, gold, and other metals, but not iron.”

Columbus, at this point in time, was convinced he had found Marco Polo's “Cinpangu” (Japan). He was puzzled, however, that there were no silk clad sages, or palaces tiled with gold to be seen anywhere. Accordingly, he decided to dispatch an embassy into the interior of the island, where he believed the cities were located. To lead the mission, he chose Luis de Torres. The interpreter was given a Latin passport, which he was to present to the chief of the natives ("the Great Khan"), as well as gifts. He also carried letters of credence from Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. An able-bodied seaman named Rodrigo de Jerez was chosen to accompany Torres. Two native Arawak Indian guides rounded out the embassy. But after three days, they returned to the ship, having seen numerous houses and natives, but not finding any great cities or emissaries of a government.

It would be hard to imagine how the Mulekites would have bypassed this large island which Columbus claimed was larger than England and also of Spain, which afforded, according to Columbus’ description, the most beautiful and amazing scenery, foods, and beauteous comfort, for a land further west. What would have propelled them ever forward after such a long time at sea? We know of no Liahona, of no day-to-day heavenly guidance—only that they were led by the hand of the Lord across the ocean.

It would seem more reasonable that the Mulekites would have stopped on this island--which is several times larger than today’s Haiti/Dominican Republic, and which today holds some 15 million people combined--than travel further to some unknown and unseen land.

It seems likely that if the Mulekites could have possibly come this way—somehow making their way against currents, winds and through countless difficult-to-navigate coastal waters—they would have stopped on the island of Cuba which Columbus called Juana and described so glowingly, and gone no further. After all, they would not have known there was any land beyond that and it certainly would have satisfied any dream of a promised land. Nor can we attribute any great religious fervor to those who brought Mulek out of Jerusalem, coming from the royal household of Zedekiah who time and again went against the prophet's counsel.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reaching Mesoamerica from the East – Part I

To reach the Bay of Campeche and the area of present day Veracruz and northward to Tampico in Mesoamerica, where the Jaredites and Mulekites are supposed to have landed according to Mesoamerican theorists, a complicated sailing venture through either these Straits or Channel would have to be achieved. For inexperienced sailors in the Mulek party, or even experienced ones if Phoenicians were aboard (which is doubtful—see early posts about the Phoenicians), they would have to know there was land to the west of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and San Juan islands, a stretch of land about 1300 miles long—about fifteen days of sailing (at the speed of Columbus’ voyages) to get around them, or even longer sailing in coastal waters (probably closer to three weeks or more).

The Caribbean Sea narrows from about 800 miles between Belize and Cuba to about 120 miles in the Yucatan Channel, a factor that discouraged Columbus from sailing north, and probably would any sailor in unknown waters looking at unknown land fall. The distance in the Straits of Florida, narrowing from thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean to about 125 miles with small islands is another difficult stretch for a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind.”

In the three approaches to the Strait of Florida, the distance between Key West and Havana is about 80 miles, between Key Largo and the Bahamas about 100 miles, and between the Bahamas and eastern Cuba about 90 miles. This may seem like a great distance, but in sailing a ship in B.C. times “before the wind,” or relying on wind to drive waves to push the Jaredite barges above and below the surface, such distances are very narrow indeed and allow very little room for error. Nor are the winds and currents in these waters simple, with “gusts and wave lengths considerably high,” moving in the direction from the Gulf out into the Atlantic (in the opposite direction of a voyage toward the Bay of Campeche) as an extension of the Loop Current coming out of the Gulf and the Gulf Stream current working northward up the east coasts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas before heading eastward out into the Atlantic.

Note the many islands that would be encountered before any vessel could reach Central America. It seems unlikely that any Phoenician voyage carrying the Mulekites would bypass these numerous islands and their lush verdure and enticing fruits, etc., to sail beyond to an unknown area.

In the Yucatan Channel, the winds can reach 100 miles per hour and the current moves through the channel northward, bending out through the Strait of Florida and into the Atlantic, or into northern Mexico. These currents would not take a ship “driven forth before the wind” or a barge dependent on current and wind flow, to the area of Veracruz along the southern coast of Mexico since these winds and currents move no further south than the Tropic of Cancer, some hundred miles north of Tampico and about 400 miles north of Veracruz. In fact, these currents actually flow into the southern coast of Texas from about Brownsville to Galveston.

A quick glance at any map of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea shows how crowded the area between these waters and the Atlantic Ocean are with islands, chains, and archipelagos. It is not that a ship could not find its way between them in open water, but it would take experienced mariners sailing in tight to coastal waters to make such progress through unknown areas. Columbus did this, but he lost one of his three ships doing it, which ran aground in such circumstances on an unknown and unseen reef.

It is rather flippant of scholars and theorists to point to this direction for a barge in 2200 B.C. and a ship in 587 B.C. to negotiate an approach to Mesoamerica and land along the coast in the area of Veracruz, along the southern coast of Mexico. The land mass obstacles that would have been encountered, the opposing winds and currents, and the inviting outer islands make this approach doubtful, almost impossible for a sailing ship in 587 B.C.

(See next post, “Reaching Mesoamerica from the East – Part II,” for an understanding of what those aboard a ship negotiating an east approach to Mesoamerica would have encountered)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Were the Zeniffites Mulekites?

To expand on an earlier post, Mesoamerican theorists like to point to Alma 22:30 showing that the People of Zarahemla, who discovered the bones scattered in the Land Northward, were Mulekites and it was the place of their first landing. While this is not a correct reading of that scripture as has been pointed out in earlier posts, the point here is that those involved in the 43-man expedition to find Zarahemla for king Limhi in the city of Lehi-Nephi were not Mulekites at all, but Nephites. Let us consider:

After Mosiah discovered the city of Zarahemla and the people of Zarahemla, he found that they were the descendants of Mulek and those who came out of Jerusalem with him around 587 B.C. After four hundred years of living in the land (Zarahemla) where Mosiah found them, having been brought across the great sea by the hand of the Lord to that spot (Omni 1:15-16), the Mulekites joined with the Nephites and were never again referred to as a separate group as were the Jacobites, Josephites, and Zoramites (4 Nephi 1:36).

In addition, the Mulekites would have had no knowledge of the Lamanites, no knowledge or any involvement or hereditary connection with the Land of Nephi or the city of Lehi-Nephi (Nephi’s City of Nephi). Thus, when it says that some of the Nephites wanted to go back to reclaim “the land of our fathers' first inheritance” (Mosiah 9:1), we need to understand that only Nephites would have had any connection to this land, where their fathers (ancestors) had lived for some 400 years. The Mulekites, the people of Zarahemla, would have had no knowledge other than what the Nephites of Mosiah told them, and certainly have no ancestry connection to the Land of Nephi or the city of Lehi-Nephi.

Zeniff, who gathered as many as would go with him to inherit the land, was the grandfather of “Limhi, the son of Noah, who was the son of Zeniff, who came up out of the land of Zarahemla to inherit this land, which was the land of their fathers, who was made a king by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 7:9). Thus we see that from Zeniff, the first to lead the descendants of earlier Nephites back to reclaim the land of their inheritance through two descendant kings, Noah and Limhi, the latter “being over-zealous to inherit the land of his father,” was obviously a Nephite.

It would also stand to reason that those who went with Zeniff would have been Nephites for they went to reclaim the land, and the leader of this first group avidly wanted to kill Lamanites (Mosiah 9:2). Obviously, no Mulekite would have had such an interest in destroying Lamanites since they were not their hereditary enemy as the Lamanites were to the Nephites.

In addition, Zeniff recounted the history of the Lamanites’ mis-treatment of the Nephites (Mosiah 10:13), something the Mulekites would not have known about or had any interest in, but after Zeniff “told all these things unto my people concerning the Lamanites, I did stimulate them to go to battle with their might, putting their trust in the Lord; therefore, we did contend with them, face to face” (Mosiah 10:19) and drove them out of the land.

Thus, it seems obvious that the people who left Zarahemla and went back to reclaim the city of Lehi-Nephi in the Land of Nephi were Nephites, not Mulekites. This can also be seen in the speech of Abinadi, who would have been a Nephite because of his great knowledge of Jewish history in countering Noah’s false priests, and in Israelite history in quoting the life and history of Moses (Mosiah 12:19-27), something the Mulekites would not have known much about since they had no knowledge of anything on the Brass Plates when Mosiah arrived among them (Omni 1:17).

Obviously, then as a result, two generations later when Zeniff’s grandson, Limhi was named king, he considered those of Zarahemla his brethren (Mosiah 21:24), he recounted the story of the 43-man expedition he sent to find Zarahemla but who became lost and discovered a land full of bones of those who had peopled the land and been destroyed (Mosiah 21:25-26). It is also noteworthy to recognize that “Ammon and his brethren were filled with sorrow because so many of their brethren had been slain” (Mosiah 21:29) believing Limhi was talking about the people of Zarahemla (Mosiah 21:26).

Thus, we can see that those who returned to Lehi-Nephi, and Limhi’s 43-man expedition from there later, whom Mormon refers to as the “people of Zarahemla” (Alma 22:30), were actually Nephites, not Mulekites, and that any reference to this group would be to Nephites.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Did Mulek Get to the Land of Promise? – Part III

Continuing on with the last post, the fourth way Mulek could have reached the Land of Promise:

4. He left the Arabian Peninsula and sailed in the same direction that the Lehi Colony took, down through the Indian Ocean and into the Southern Ocean, picking up the Prevailing Westerlies in the West Wind Drift and eastward across the southern Pacific Ocean to the west coast of South America to land on the west coast of the Land of Promise.

In this, the final of the four possible routes for Mulek to reach the Land of Proise, the seashore Mulek was led to would have been the same seashore where the Lehi Colony went. The bountiful fruit, honey, and other agriculture of the area, provided the Nephites by the earlier Jaredites, would have provided the later Mulekites with the food and means to live and build a ship as the Nephites had done. And as to why no mention is given, there is quite a bit about a lot of things not covered in the Book of Mormon. It may have been included, but abridged out by Mormon who could only retain 1/100th of what he had available to make his final record. But the point is, the course the Nephites took was likely the safest, quickest, and easiest method of getting to a shore where a ship could be launched and reach the Land of Promise. To consider that the Mulekites would have gone another direction, or the Jaredites long before them, seems unnecessarily difficult and unproductive, and serve no apparent purpose.

Once upon the currents, being blown toward the Land of Promise as had been the Lehi Colony a few years earlier, the Mulekite ship would have been swept across the southern Pacific within the Southern Ocean toward the southern tip of South America. Once reaching the continental shelf, the northern edge of that current is turned northward and becomes the Humboldt, or Peruvian, Current.

This current flows northward along the western coast of South America until it reaches the 30º South Latitude where the winds and current come to nearly a standstill in what is called the Tropic of Capricorn. At this point, the ship could have been steered out of the north flowing current and in toward land. But rather than land there at the Bay of Coquimbo as the Lehi Colony had, the ship could have been swept further north in the coastal waters toward the great bulge of Peru where all the currents are pushed back out to sea.

The ocean depth along this coastal area is very deep, causing the deep flowing cold, icy waters off the Antarctica Ocean to eventually surface, forming one of the great fishing areas of the world. As these cold waters rise to the surface, they warm, forcing the surface waters to submerge, creating a drag toward and along the bulge of Peru. At this point, about halfway up the bulge, to about the 13º South Latitude, the currents push outward, or westward, from the coast and enter back into the Humboldt Current which is pushed further out to sea and forms the northern counter-clockwise circle of the South Equatorial Current.

If a ship were to continue further north, it would be swept out to sea in this exchange of currents and curve downward toward Polynesia. If it stayed as far north as possible in this exchange of currents, it would be swept further westward in the South Equatorial Current and head back toward Indonesia. Either way, if a ship did not seek land at the point of about the 13º South Latitude, it would end up in Polynesia, or back in the circle of the South Equatorial Current.

Thus, this is where the Mulekite ship would have landed—at an area just south of present day Lima, Peru. This is the area called Pachacamac by present-day archaeologists and anthropologists, but in the day of the Mulekites, they called it Zarahemla, for the Lord did bring them “across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:16).

The Nephites and the Mulekites were both brought to the Land of Promise by the hand of the Lord. He guided both from Jerusalem to the sea, and then guided both across that sea, to the Western Hemisphere. Some four hundred years later, he guided Mosiah to Zarahemla where the Mulekites were so the latter could be taught the gospel, join with the Nephites and become believers in, and followers of, Christ. For whatever reason, it was the plan from the beginning, to bring to the Western Hemisphere not only the lineage of Ephraim (Ishmael) and the lineage of Menassah (Lehi), but also the lineage of Judah (Mulek) and whatever other lineages that might have been among those who brought Mulek out of Jerusalem and to the Land of Promise. The end result was, that both groups came from the same area, traveled the same way to the sea, and reached the Land of Promise in the same manner along the same route with Mulek traveling further north than Lehi and into present-day Peru before landing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Did Mulek Get to the Land of Promise? Part II

As mentioned in the past post, there are only four ways Mulek could have reached the Land of Promise by sea. The first way across the Mediterrean and out through the Pillars of Hercules was covered in the last post. Following are the the next two:

2. He left the Arabian Peninsula and sailed directly east, around India and through the Indonesia and then across the Pacific Ocean to land on the west coast of the Land of Promise.

In this second case, any passage eastward from the coast of Arabia would be impossible for an ocean vessel capable of sailing across deep water, a scenario thoroughly discussed in the book “Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica.” In short, the winds and currents would be against such a voyage the entire ten thousand miles to the Western Hemisphere. The winds and currents flow from the Pacific Ocean westward in the opposite direction the ship would have to sail, and when those currents and winds hit Indonesia, they continue to flow westward in many swirling and cross-current directions, creating dangerous waters among the thousands of islands that block this passage from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

While it is true that shallow-bottom Chinese junks and coastal vessels operated among the islands to India, these were ships not capable of sailing into deep water where they would have been smashed to pieces in high waves and storms. And contrary to popular myth, such ships never reached the Western Hemisphere, a voyage of about 7,000 miles across the Pacific against winds and currents.

In addition, to think that those carrying Mulek across the sea would not have stopped and probably stayed in one of the hundreds of lush islands they passed seems out of character for emigrants--Zedekiah's royal household was not particularly receptive to the word of the Lord. Again, this would not have been a viable course for Mulek to take simply because of the contrary winds and currents and the need for very experienced seamanship to even negotiate such a dangerous course.

3. He left the Arabian Peninsula and sailed down past Madagascar, around the horn of Africa and up the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean to land on the east coast of the Land of Promise.

In the third case above, such a course around Africa might seem possible when looking at a map, however, the currents around Madagascar along the African coastal waters flows northward at all times, blocking any southern voyage. In addition, the currents and winds flow in the opposite direction around the Horn of Africa, and in the southern Atlantic, all currents flow southeasterly and about halfway to the north, they flow southwesterly—constantly in the opposite direction of a voyage to the Western Hemisphere.

The problem, obviously, is that the currents which flow within the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, toward the southern tip of African, while so strong that early Portuguese ships found it almost impossible to sail against them and up the eastern shore of Africa, do not continue into the Atlantic. Instead, these winds and currents flatten out and are driven south by the southward flowing currents along the western coast of Africa, and into the eastward flowing Southern Ocean.

The early Portugeuse and later Spanish sailors found that sailing along the African coast was possible in a southerly direction, but a return trip required bucking headwinds and currents all the way unless they stayed within the coastal waters with their lateen sails, or swung far out into the Atlantic to pick up opposite winds and currents. Such an easterly course across the Indian Ocean and through Indonesia and then across the Pacific, always sailing into the teeth of opposing winds and currents, would not have been a possible course for Mulek's ship in 587 B.C.

(In the next post, the fourth possible way will be covered in “How Did Mulek Get to the Land of Promise? Part III” which shows the only route Mulek could have taken and where he landed in the Land of Promise)

Monday, December 6, 2010

How Did Mulek Get to the Land of Promise? Part I

There are only four ways Mulek could have reached the Land of Promise by sea. The first of these is covered below:

1. He sailed out of the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic Ocean to land on the east coast of the Land of Promise.

We have already discussed that if a course was taken across the Atlantic, the group with Mulek would have been stopped at one of the coastal ports along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, which were all under Babylonian control at that time, with the exception of Tyre, which was under Babylonian siege and did not fall until a few years after. But even if in some way Mulek and his friends were able to manage to gain a ship, the Mediterranean Sea during this period of time was busily involved in the merchant shipping and trading of the Phoenicians, the military movement of the Greek fleets, the military movement of the Egyptian fleets, and the trading and merchant shipping of the western powers situated along the east and southern coast of Spain, incuding the major city-state of Tertessia.
The Mediterranean Sea. White line shows a course from the eastern shore across the Sea to the Straits of Gibraltar. The yellow circles show areas where the ship could be spotted from shore. Any passage through this area would have drawn a lot of attention, especially in 600 B.C. when the entire Mediterranean was involved in conflict, trading, and protection of trading routes.

Situated on the southwestern shore of Spain, Tartessia at the time of Mulek dominated the Mediterranean trade with their direct route overland to “las islas Casitérides,” the British Isles, and the trade in tin. Often referred to as “La ruta del estaño,” the Tin Route, the valuable trade in tin was a commodity, when mixed with copper, that created bronze. Huge profits were realized by shipping bronze into the eastern interior, along Mesopotamia, Persia, and China. This control of the tin trade enabled Tartessia to reap great profits and grow to a major power in the Western Mediterranean.

Both suspicious and overly protective of their dominance in the Western Mediterranean, and their control of the tin trade from Pretainia (Britain), the Tartessia allowed no shipping to move up the western coast of Spain and France and to England and back. In fact, any vessel leaving the Mediterranean would have been under their direct observation and, obviously, followed to see where it went.

Now what many Mesoamerica scholars and theorists forget is that in leaving the Mediterranean Sea and heading out into the Atlantic, a ship had to pass through the Pillars of Hercules, what is today the Straits of Gibraltar. Not only does this mean passing by the observation from the island of Malta, passing between the narrow waters between Sicily and Tunisia, and also between Sardinia and Algeria, as well as passing through by the Balearic Islands, a ship then headed down the straits toward Gibraltar. Passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, which runs about ten miles before reaching the end of the strait between Tarifa and Ksar es Srhir and entering into the Atlantic, the ship would pass through a narrow strait barely nine miles wide where a person, ship or lookout on one shore could easily see across to the other shore, thus seeing any ship passing through the Strait and out into the Atlantic. This creates three very important problems:

a) Any ship large enough to breach the Atlantic would have been noticed more than once by those sailing the Mediterranean at the time—either to see where merchant traders might be going, or to keep ships from making contact with other powers that might prove a problem for Greece or Egypt. In addition, such a ship would certainly have been detected by the Tartessians who would have stopped any Phoenician ship passage through the straits and into the Atlantic because of their fierce competitive dominance and control of merchant trade routes.

b) Such a passage of a ship into the Atlantic would have aroused the curiosity of the other powers within the Mediterranean. Any ship large enough and designed for deep ocean sailing would certainly have brought the attention of other nations out to see where such a ship would be sailing. Certainly, once it left the Straits and headed out to sea, would have caused others to see where it might be going.

c) Other nations sailing the Mediterranean would have followed such a ship as mentioned above simply for their protective and security concerns. Ships did not simply sail the Mediterranean unobserved, nor did they sail without other shipping and ports becoming very curious because any oddity could signal war, an invasion, or attack. From about 1100 B.C. until the Romans completely dominated the Mediterranean and inland areas, this entire area was one of constant uprisings, unsettlement, and attacks.

To think that any ship could sail out through the narrow Pillars of Hercules without raising such concerns is simply without merit. In addition, for other nations to notice such a ship would run contrary to the Lord’s promise to Lehi that his Land of Promise would be kept from the knowledge of other nations. Thus, such a course would not have been the way Mulek reached the Land of Promise.

(See the next post, “How Did Mulek Get to the Land of Promise? – Part II” for the other three ways Mulek could have reached the Land of Promise)