Monday, May 31, 2010

An Island with Four Seas

What was the configuration of the Land of Promise? Mesoamerican Theorists try to tell us it was a stretch of Central America with no possibility of four accurately named seas; Great Lakes Theorists try to tell us it was an area of northeast United States, with no possibility of four correctly named seas; Baja California Theorists try to tell us it was a long Peninsula with no Sea North. However, the scriptures are quite explicit.
Mormon, in his abridgment of the Nephite record, again adds an interesting insight into the historical extent of the lands the Book of Mormon people occupied. He records that the people “did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8). This reference to four seas, each named for one of the four cardinal directions, defined the outer limits of the occupied Book of Mormon lands, which Mormon suggests was the “face of the whole earth.” And which Jacob called an island (2 Nephi 10:20).

During Nephi’s lifetime, probably when he was between 65 and 80 (559 and 545 B.C.), with Jacob being probably about 40 to 55 years of age, and a priest over the people, is preaching to the Nephites, which Nephi dutifully records in his record. This sermon, comprising chapters 6 through 33 of 2 Nephi, which also includes Nephi’s follow-up preaching, based on the writings of Isaiah, covers extensive doctrinal subjects. In the middle of Jacob’s sermon, he runs across Isaiah’s writings regarding some segments of the House of Israel were to be scattered on the isles of the sea, Jacob takes this opportunity to explain an issue to the Nephites that had been troubling them.

The issue was a concern to the Nephites over being cast off from the presence of the Lord because they were not in Jerusalem., where Lehi had originated, and the House of Israel dwelt.

Jacob says, “And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20).

Then, to make sure the people understand his meaning, again referring to Isaiah, he says, “But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the seas; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren” (2 Nephi 10:21).

In summing up his point, Jacob adds, “For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also” (2 Nephi 10:12).

As Jacob told the Nephites, they had been led away, and led to an island, and that there are other islands where others of the House of Israel had been led, and that God remembers them all. Thus, the Land of Promise was an island, as Jacob tells us, completely surrounded by water, with the land compressed somewhere in the middle into a narrow neck of land, thus creating a land to the north and a land to the south with a narrow pass in between. Since this pattern does not meet the Mesoamerian model, nor the Great Lakes model, nor the Baja California model, each of these theorists must try and explain away passages in the scriptures that disagree with their models.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Age of the Earth - Part III

In an official statement from ten First Presidency and Council of the Twelve we read: “The Creator is an Organizer. God created the earth as an organized sphere; but He certainly did not create, in the sense of bringing into primal existence, the ultimate elements of the materials of which the earth consists, for ‘the elements are eternal’ (D&C 93:33). So also life is eternal, and not created; but life, or the vital force, may be infused into organized matter.”

At the time of Adam’s fall, the earth itself—which originally was in a celestial condition, having been created spiritually in heaven—fell into its present telestial condition. Consequently, sometime after Adam was placed in the garden the earth’s reckoning of time was changed significantly from the same time schedule as that of Kolob to that which it now possesses, and it is implied that such change occurred at the fall (Abraham 5:13).

To change the reckoning of time on a given sphere requires that there be a change in its revolutions, as its schedule of time is determined by the speed of its revolutions. If, as implied, the earth’s reckoning of time was changed significantly, vital alterations would have had to be made concerning its place in the cosmos which may have necessitated a removal of the earth from near Kolob to this present solar system. Nowhere in our solar system do planets have a reckoning of time approaching that of Kolob.

As a consequence, we need to look more closely at the organizing of this earth, and how it was done. Obviously, to organize this sphere with “matter unorganized” would cause such matter to have previously been used or to previously exist. As such, this matter would have been, out of necessity, unequal in its previous existence, or age. Thus, parts of this planet would have come from different areas, which, in turn, would make different parts of the earth older than other parts—or to have undergone a difference in previous use.

Of course, one might ask to what importance is this issue in understanding the Book of Mormon and the Land of Promise. Since Mesoamerican Theorists rely so heavily on scientific understanding of the age of the earth to justify their models, including when the Flood happened (3100 BC) and that South America was not an island. Yet, when we understand the duration and method of the “creation” we begin to understand the world was much different in 600 BC than we might have thought.

In fact, the age of the earth is critical to the understanding of God, and the plan of salvation, for the time periods assigned to creation are clearly set in Moses’ writings, and once understanding them, we have a much better picture of the creation and all that unfolded after, including what animals did and did not exist on the earth as living creatures, that there was no death before the Fall, and that Adam and Eve knew exactly what they were doing to bring about the Father’s Plan—-they were neither misled nor fooled by Satan’s efforts. When we understand the full Plan and how it was brought about, such as organizing this earth rather than spontaneously creating it out of nothing, as science claims, we then get a better understanding of the Land of Promise and where it fit into this overall Plan.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Age of the Earth—How Old is it? – Part II

To determine the age of the earth, geologists point to the age of rocks, among other things, to date the earth. Dalrymple claims “that ancient rocks exceeding 3.5 billion years in age are found on all of Earth's continents.” In fact, the oldest rocks found on Earth so far are the Acasta Gneisses in northwestern Canada near Great Slave Lake (4.03 Ga) and the Isua Supracrustal rocks in West Greenland (3.7 to 3.8 Ga), but well-studied rocks nearly as old are also found in the Minnesota River Valley and northern Michigan (3.5-3.7 billion years), in Swaziland (3.4-3.5 billion years), and in Western Australia (3.4-3.6 billion years.

All right, earth rocks are billions of years old. So, what does this prove? No one is suggesting that earth rocks are not billions of years old. In fact, it would be silly to think otherwise. However, ages of rocks do not pinpoint the age of the organization of those rocks into what is called this earth.
Let’s take a young rural couple who find a country house just built by a contractor. The house, as it now stands, was completed the day they purchased it. Do they care that the wood was milled six months ago? Do they want to know when the nails were manufactured? Does it matter to them that the shingles were cut three years ago, or the rocks and sand used in the cement work are hundreds or thousands of years old? Nor, by the way, do they care that the barnwood used for certain decorative finishes was first used on a barn someone’s great-great grandfather built two hundred years ago. In fact, they are delighted that the builder used gnarled wood removed from the bed of the Great Salt Lake where it had weathered for five hundred years or more, as decorate pillars and supports.

The question is: Do they ask how old these parts of the house are? And even if they do, does that make the house older because the builder used older woods in its construction? Of course not. The house is dated to the time it was completed—not by the parts used in its manufacturer.

When Moses and Abraham spoke of the organization of this world, they did not bother with how old the parts were that the gods used to compile the planet. That these parts, referred to in LDS doctrine as "matter unorganized,” might have been once used in the creation of other worlds, or that it had remained unused prior to this time, did not matter to the prophets who wrote about its organization. The fact that the “unorganized matter” might have been millions or billions of years old by our calculable standards was never an issue.

The only thing that mattered to them in their writings was the fact that it happened, and the order in which it took place. That is, the earth was organized in six specific time periods, not necessarily of equal duration, but referred to by Moses as days. That the use of the word “day” in both Old and New Testament scripture can be shown to be 1,000 years, or a “day” to the Lord (or in the realm of God), suggests that the earth was formed over a period of time roughly amounting to six thousand years. And during the seventh “day” the Lord rested and Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, or that “innocent” state before becoming mortal. Were they in that state for a thousand years? Not very likely. The use of the term “day,” even in our own time, can refer to any portion of a day, whether hours or minutes, as long as it took place during some portion of that 24-hour period.

That man has felt compelled to try and determine the age of the earth, when it is stated clearly for us by the person who had it organized, but be unwilling to take the word of that God who both created them and the earth, is ludicrous. The question of “how old is the earth?” should never have been the question. If science wanted to know something, then the question should have always been, “How old are the parts of the earth used in its formation?” While science considers these two questions identical, the Lord never did.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Age of the Earth—How Old is it? – Part I

Anciently, in the pre-scientific world view, the issue of the age of the Earth was a theological question, and that of the Universe not addressed at all, unless combined with the Earth’s creation. The account in Genesis was not required to stand up under rational analysis because the theological perspective did not require physical agreement. It was simply not part of the attitude.

As science progressed, however, rational explanation was desirable. In 1640 Ussher developed his famous calculation that the Earth was created in 4004 BC, accepting the Biblical account at face value, relying on the Biblical genealogies and on extant historical records. He implicitly assumed that the world was created much as it is now. However, three years earlier, Descartes produced a cosmogony that was highly influential for more than a century by retaining the biblical dates, but attempted to discern a physical history of the Earth. His account was plausible by the standards of the Science of his times; however it quite definitely did not match the Biblical account of a completed creation in six days.

During the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Catholic Church dictated most aspects of life in Europe and European colonies, and had control of religious affairs and strongly influenced politics, science and most aspects of everyday life. However, as new discoveries were made in the fields of natural science, many people began to deviate from the standards that had been in place for centuries. In the 1700's belief in a 6000-year-old Earth began to crumble. Attempts to calculate the age of the Earth from physical considerations yielded estimates that ranged from Buffon’s 75,000 years to de Maillet’s several billion years.

The physical models of the time were open to question and somewhat naïve, but the geological evidence was gaining acceptance. In this new thinking, many areas of the Earth had alternated between being dry land and covered by seas, that there had been extensive slow sedimentation, that the mountains had not been created in situ as is, but had a long history of slow deformation, and that long periods of erosion had shaped the Earth everywhere.

However, all scientists did not agree with this thinking, and four years after Buffon’s reports, Jean de Luc, who today is considered a transitional between the armchair speculation of the seventeenth century and the hard-nosed empiricism of the nineteenth century, accepted the biblical account, including the Noachian flood—but importantly, he assumed that the six days of creation were six long periods of indefinite duration.

By the early 1800's it was generally accepted that the Earth had a long history. Its age, however, was scarcely settled. Uniformatarians believed the Earth to be very old while Catastrophists disagreed with the kind of change and the rate of change that had occurred over that long history. There was no single estimate of the Earth's age, despite various attempts establish sedimentation rates and other geophysical phenomena.

However, the question that was (and is) never asked about the age of the earth, and the only one that really has any bearing on the issue is this: “Is the earth itself very old, or are just the parts that make it up very old?” Upon the answer to this hangs the very balance of our religion and understanding of the earth’s organization. This will be answered in the next post.

Jaredite Animals Extinct in Moroni’s Time? Part II

Continuing with John L. Sorenson’s assertion that neither Moroni, Mormon, Joseph Smith, the Spirit, or the Urim and Thummim, could properly identify animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Sorenson in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” on page 298, writes:

“Without going into further detail we may note that other Pleistocene period animals also might have lasted down into times of Jaredite inhabitation. Perhaps the “cumom” and the “curelom” were such. The failure of Moroni, the Nephite translator of the Book of Ether, to translate these names from the original tongue of the Jaredites indicates that the animals were probably extinct by his day.“

For those who are not aware, according to scientists, he Pleistocene epoch was from 2.588 million years ago to 12,000 years ago, and followed the Pliocene Epoch which followed the Holocene Epoch. Evidently Sorenson is unaware of Noah’s Flood which occurred in 2344 B.C. (6,300 years ago), and killed all animals and fowls, that were not on the ark. Perhaps a more reasonable answer is that in Moroni’s time, these animals were not known by any other name. Or, that the words “curelom” and “cumom” were actually Nephite words that had no translatable name known to Joseph Smith. Either answer would seem more reliable than to claim these animals were extinct by Moroni’s time. However, it does fit into Sorenson’s Mesoamerican model since there are no two unknown animals there that fit the criteria mentioned.

However, that is not all. Sorenson then goes on to try and determine what could have been meant by other animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon. On page 299, he gives a response to what animals were meant by curelom and cummom the Jaredites had among them, by claiming they were probably, among other things, a “sloth” or a “tapir.”

To better understand the ridiculousness of Sorenson’s thinking, Moroni explains the relative value of these animals when he writes: “And they also had horses and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cummoms, all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms: (Ether 9:19). Now we know what horses, asses, and elephants are, and we know how they are helpful in carrying burdens and people, with elephants far more capable of this than the other two. So when Moroni likens the cummoms and cureloms to the value of the elephant, we get a pretty good picture of what these animals must have been like, including their size and purpose.

So what does Sorenson think these animals were? One page 299, he says they are probably sloths or tapirs (because a sloth bone was found in Mesoamerica). Now, really, in looking at a sloth (something like a monkey) or a tapir (something like a pig, though wild ones in Mesoamerica can reach 400 pounds, like a Great Dane dog), can anyone equate that to Moroni’s explanation of these animals? Hardly. Which leads one to wonder if Sorenson reads the scriptures or just tries to equate things to his Mesoamerican model thinking no one is going to know the difference?

Perhaps academics and theorists might do well to accept the Book of Mormon the way it is written and not try to think they are smarter than those who wrote it and translated it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Problems in Translating Ancient Hebrew

There is one major translating difficulty found in the biblical language of Israel, especially since Hebrew ceased to be a commonly spoken language no later than 200 A.D., though many believe much earlier. And regarding the Old Testament, the Hebrew language, as anciently written, was the most difficult of all languages to translate, since it was written from right to left; the words contained no written vowels; there were no intervening spaces between words, and no punctuation marks.

Even with the introduction of vowel points [dots or marks below the words that indicate vowel sounds] many words in Hebrew, as in English, have more than one meaning. Without these points, as originally written, the number is increased a hundred fold. The five English words, bag, beg, big, bog, and buy, are quite unlike and easily distinguished. However, omit the vowels, as the ancient Jews did, and we have five words exactly alike, or rather, one word with five different meanings.

The Hebrew language was thus largely composed of words with several meanings. Also, since there were no spaces between words, it was sometimes hard to tell where a word began or where it ended; and as there were no punctuation marks, and no spaces between sentences, paragraphs, or even sections, it was often difficult to determine the meaning of a writer after the words had been deciphered. As an example, one of the best known passages in the Bible is shown below in English as the Jews would have written it in Hebrew (that is, without vowels and spaces):


It is no wonder that Saint Jerome, who published the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible around 400 A.D., admitted: “When we translate the Hebrew into Latin, we are sometimes guided by conjecture.” Furthermore, Jean Le Clerc, a Swiss Protestant theologian and scholar of the 17th century, even went so far as to maintain that “the learned merely guess at the sense of the Old Testament in an infinity of places.” This is in large part because of the ancient Hebrews’ failure to write down their vowels and of the language subsequently falling into disuse—and also of the adding of the relatively modern vowel points, by a few belated Dark-Age rabbis, in order to make up for this deficit, naturally casts very great suspicion and doubts on how the Hebrew vowels were originally sounded and used.

Obviously, the problems in translating Ancient Hebrew are severe and numerous. Nobody today knows for sure how the original Hebrew was pronounced, regardless of the tales commonly propagated about the Jewish rabbis carrying on an accurate oral tradition for thousands of years. Modern knowledge of the evolution of languages would almost certainly deny the likely possibility of such. If old King Solomon were to walk through Jerusalem today and hear the Hebrew spoken there now, he would probably stop in astonishment, listen in amazement, shake his head in bewilderment, and finally conclude that he must be in a foreign country.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Introduction of the Caravel: Precursor to Discovering America

Medieval ships were powered by sail, or oar, or both. There were a large variety, mostly based in much older conservative design. Although wider and more frequent communications within Europe meant exposure to a variety of improvements, experimental failures were costly and rarely attempted. Ships in the north were influenced by Viking vessels, while those in the south by classical or Roman vessels.

In Europe, the Viking-style longship, which was clinker-built, was later replaed by the Knarr, a type of cargo vessel, which had no oars, but relied solely on a square-rigged sail. The Knarr was replaced by the Cog, which was in wide use by the 12th-century. Following the Cog came the Caravel Latina and then the Caravel Redondo. The uniqueness of the Caravel was that it could use the lateen sail (Latina) or square-rigged sailes (Redonda). Invented in Moorish Spain in the 13th century, the ship was the first to sail far off shore, the one the Portugeuse used to sailed around Africa, and the design of Columbus’ Nina and Pinta.
The reason for the caravel’s early dominance is simple. A square-rigged ship performs splendidly when running before a wind; its sails fill like a parachute and it is propelled forward with maximum efficiency. But the close coastal sailing demanded during Portugal’s African expeditions involved a good deal of sailing obliquely into the wind, or beating against adverse winds. Here is where square-rigged ships acquitted themselves dismally, and where lateen-rigged caravels excelled. While a square sail pushes a ship before the wind, a lateen sail pulls the vessel along. The lateen behaves more like a wing than a parachute.

When Nephi says he was blown forth before the wind, it is this exact principle of a square rigged sail that is blown forward, its sail filling like a parachute and running with the wind. Such would be possible where the wind blew toward the land of promise, such as in the Prevailing Westerlies south of Australia, New Zealand, and out into the Pacific. However, it would not be possible to be blown before the wind on a journey through Indonesia and then east across the Pacific against the wind currents.

In addition to other advantages of the Caravel, it had a shallow draft, six feet or less, in most cases, which is ideal for investigating or running close to a shoreline. With their fully rigged lateen sails, one fore and the other aft, they were ideal high-maneuverable vessels used for short mercantile runs along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and for the exploration of coastal waters along the Africa coast. However, when Dias experienced heavy buffeting when he got out into the deeper water off the coast of Africa, and when called upon to design ships for Vasco da Gama’s expedition, he chose three stout square rigged vessels, the flagship São Gabriel, the São Raphael, and a storeship whose name has been lost to history. These square-rigged ships were ideal to brave the deeper ocean and when Da Gama swung far west of the African coast to avoid coastal squalls and currents, he picked up the westerlies which propelled him around the Cape of Good Hope.

These are the same westerlies that would have propelled Nephi’s ship across the Pacific when it was driven forth before the wind. Obviously, it would have been square rigged, for square-rigged ships are far better design for sailing before a wind, as Nephi stated.

Not until the opening of long-distance trade routes begin to require lengthy, open-ocean voyages within predictable patterns of sustained winds, did these mixed fore-and-aft square rigging and lateen mixture sailing ships come into their own. Such square rigging was necessary for deep ocean sailing, as well as a deep hull design with ballast to keep the ship from toppling in high winds and waves. The typical coastal vessel often quoted by Mesoamerican Theorists using an Indonesian approach to the Pacific were much shallower vessels and would have been beaten to puplp sailing across the deep waters of the Pacific.

Monday, May 24, 2010

With Seeds of Neas and With Sheum

Around 200 B.C., when Zeniff and his people returned to reclaim the City of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 9:3), they planted corn, wheat, barley, neas and sheum (Mosiah 9:9). Since neas and sheum are included with the grains of corn, wheat and barley, and separated from “all manner of fruits,” we might conclude that neas and sheum were grains. For years scholars have tried to determine what these two crops were, obviously unknown to Joseph Smith in 1830. While there are no such unknown grain crops in Mesoameria, there are two found in the Andes that might be Zeniff’s neas and sheum.

They are “quinoa” and “kiwicha,” relatively obscure grains to most of the world, but cultivated since 3000 B.C., if not before, in the Andes of South America. Quinoa, pronounced Kee-Waa, the seed of the plant Chenopodium quinua, and kiwicha, Amaranthus caudatus, has been a vital part of the Andean diet, used as a grain in baking, as well as being served in numerous dishes prepared by Aymara, Quechua and other indigenous peoples found throughout the Andean region. Yet, in spite of its nutritious value—it is considered a supergrain—and hearty growth, in modern society quinoa has never enjoyed the mass appeal of grains such as rice or wheat because of its relative obscurity.

While no other food can, by itself, furnish all the essential nutrients for living, quinoa and kiwicha, which are 100% whole grains, and are as close to being a perfect food source in the balance of nutrition they provide, as any other foods from the vegetable and animal kingdoms. In the last ten years there has been an increasing interest in these grains as a healthy alternative to protein-rich foods such as beef or cheese. A growing export industry has developed as industrial countries begin to recognize the importance quinoa and kiwicha could play in providing a healthy and sustainable food source for centuries to come.

As word spreads of this "supergrain," an industry has begun to bloom, offering the promise of sustainable economic development for those regions in the Andean highlands in which quinoa and kiwicha may be found. The current value of this export market from Bolivia alone is approximately $1 million per year, and exports may expand even further with increased demand on the world market, particularly due to unsuccessful attempts to grow a desirable crop outside of the Andean highlands.

Perhaps more important than its economic potential is the incorporation or reincorporation of quinoa and kiwicha into the native diet of Andean peoples in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These once-revered highland plants—which, along with potatoes and corn formed a triumvirate of crops vital long before the Inca empire—is slowly working its way back onto the dinner tables of native Andean populations after a long period of waning popularity.

Following a visit to Colombia, the great geographer Alexander von Humboldt wrote that quinoa was to ancient Andean societies what "wine was to the Greeks, wheat to the Romans, and cotton to the Arabs." Although more prevalent in the neighboring countries of Peru and Bolivia, quinoa has played an important role in indigenous societies throughout the Andean region, including as far south as Salta, Argentina.

The origin of quinoa and kiwicha domestication appears to be located in the area around Lake Titicaca, where a high variation in cultivation is found between Cuzco, Perú, and Lake Poopó in Bolivia, thus this is where scientists believe the crop was first domesticated, long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

This area is where the city of Lehi-Nephi existed, where Nephi settled after leaving the land of first inheritance, and where Zeniff returned in 200 B.C. For a full explanation of this, see my book “Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Alpaca Brought to Mesoamerica from South America

It seems almost ludicruous that John L. Sorenson, in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” on page 295, writes:

“A pre-Spanish figurine from Guatemala looks like a laden cameloid. And on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the middle of the last century, alpaca were reported living wild, A few miles away were the Huave Indians, whose tradition says their ancestors had come anciently from South America, the home of the alpaca and llama.”

Isn’t this the same Sorenson who has written that South America was peopled by those from Mesoamerica, and that Peru held nothing of value to the Book of Mormon? Yet, here he states that Indians living around his narrow neck of land have legends of their ancient ancestors coming from South America and, obviously, bringing with them the alpaca. He also states that a “type of llama definitely lived in North America.”

Now since the llama and alpaca are indigenous to the Andean area of South America, that is, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, shouldn’t this suggest, even to the most cursory student, that if the llama and alpaca showed up north of the Andes, before the time of the Spanish, then they were taken there by emigrants? And to Book of Mormon readers, would that not suggest that these were Hagoth’s emigrants that went northward in his ships?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jaredite Animals Extinct in Moroni’s Time? Part II

Continuing with John L. Sorenson’s assertion that neither Moroni, Mormon, Joseph Smith, the Spirit, or the Urim and Thummim, could properly identify animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Sorenson in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” on page 298, writes:

“Without going into further detail we may note that other Pleistocene period animals also might have lasted down into times of Jaredite inhabitation. Perhaps the “cumom” and the “curelom” were such. The failure of Moroni, the Nephite translator of the Book of Ether, to translate these names from the original tongue of the Jaredites indicates that the animals were probably extinct by his day.“

For those who are not aware, according to scientists, the Pleistocene epoch was from 2.588 million years ago to 12,000 years ago, and followed the Pliocene Epoch which followed the Holocene Epoch. Evidently Sorenson is unaware of Noah’s Flood which occurred in 2344 B.C. (6,300 years ago), and killed all animals and fowls, that were not on the ark. Perhaps a more reasonable answer is that in Moroni’s time, these animals were not known by any other name. Or, that the words “curelom” and “cumom” were actually Nephite words that had no translatable name known to Joseph Smith. Either answer would seem more reliable than to claim these animals were extinct by Moroni’s time. However, it does fit into Sorenson’s Mesoamerican model since there are no two unknown animals there that fit the criteria mentioned.

However, that is not all. Sorenson then goes on to try and determine what could have been meant by other animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon. On page 299, he gives a response to what animals were meant by curelom and cummom the Jaredites had among them, by claiming they were probably, among other things, a “sloth” (left top) or a “tapir.” (left bottom)

To better understand the ridiculousness of Sorenson’s thinking, Moroni explains the relative value of these animals when he writes: “And they also had horses and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cummoms, all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms: (Ether 9:19). Now we know what horses, asses, and elephants are, and we know how they are helpful in carrying burdens and people, with elephants far more capable of this than the other two. So when Moroni likens the cummoms and cureloms to the elephant, we get a pretty good picture of what these animals must have been like, including their size and purpose.

So what does Sorenson think these animals were? One page 199, he says they are probably sloths or tapirs (because a sloth bone was found in Mesoamerica). Now, really, in looking at a sloth (something like a monkey) or a tapir (something like a pig), can anyone equate that to Moroni’s explanation of these animals? Hardly. Which leads one to wonder if Sorenson reads the scriptures or just tries to equate things to his Mesoamerican model, hoping no one is going to know the difference?

Perhaps academics and theorists might do well to accept the Book of Mormon the way it is written and not try to think they are smarter than those who wrote it, abridged it, and translated it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When is a Cow Not a Cow? Part I

Evidently, a cow is not a cow when John L. Sorenson says it’s not. Writing in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the book of Mormon, on page 294, he states:

“But isn’t it obvious that the “cow” of the Book of Mormon was our familiar bovine, straight out without all this hedging? No, it is not at all obvious. First, we are trying to find out what the Book of Mormon really means by the words we have in English translation: we are not trying either to simplify or to complicate the matter, but only to be correct. In an effort to learn the truth, nothing can be assumed obvious. Second, there is a lack of reliable evidence—historical, archaeological, zoological, or linguistic—that Old World cows were present in the Americas in pre-Columbian times.”

One can only wonder why something written in the Book of Mormon is not obvious when it was originally written by an ancient prophet, then translated by a modern prophet, who had the Spirit to assist him, as well as the Urim and Thummim, in the translation. Can we assume that Sorenson, without prophetic insights and without the Urim and Thummim, knows more than Joseph Smith in this translation?
Also, one might wonder what additional evidence one needs to the correctness of the translation than what is written? Does Sorenson think the Lord, the Spirit, and the prophets have all conspired to confuse, distort, and mystify the writings in the Book of Mormon, so an academic like him can come along and tell us what was really meant?

However, not finished, Sorenson adds, “So what might the Nephite term translated by Joseph Smith as cow actually have signified?” He then goes on to add, “In these cases we have to find another way to read the text in order to make sense of it.”

After wading through explanations of how others misnamed animals, like Cortez, DeSoto, Delaware Indians, Miami Indians, Father Landa, Mazahua Indians, and the Maya, and the various animals that confused them, we learn from Sorenson, “As we examine the writings about Mesoamerica’s large fauna, we find the linguistic problem assails us at every turn.”

Never the one to take the Book of Mormon as it is written, Sorenson spends several pages trying to confuse the issue by asserting that the words elephant, curelom, cummom, cow, horse, ox, ass, sheep, goat, and swine are not what we think they are, but were likely other animals that were misnamed in scripture, in order to justify his Mesoamerican model with “animals that were on the scene” in his Mesoamerica. He claims the cow was a deer or a bison, the horse a deer or tapir, the ox a tapir or bison, the ass a tapir, the goat a deer, and the swine a peccary. He at least admits that a dog was really a dog.

Now, tell me, does anyone reading the Book of Mormon think that Joseph Smith, living in New England in the early 1800s, a woodsman and farmer, did not know the difference between a cow and a deer? Or a horse and a deer? Or that Moroni would confuse an agouti (a rodent the size of a rat) or a Paca (the size of a cat), with a sheep?
Left: An Agouti; Right: A Paca

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Did Mormon Take Possession of the City?

Ever the Anthropologist, John L. Sorenson makes a ludicrously far-fetched conclusion in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” when he writes, on pages 337 and 338: “At Angola, a stopping place in the Nephite flight out of central Zarahemla, Mormon’s alliance of lineage militias found the locals unenthusiastic about getting involved. The Angola residents probably felt they would sooner avoid choosing sides in a quarrel that they thought they could ride out quietly. But of course, like it or not, they would have to provide great quantities of supplies. It is no wonder Mormon’s armies had to “take possession” of the city.”

It is hard to imagine that anyone having read the Book of Mormon could make such a ridiculously preposterous statement. First of all, Mormon and his army took possession of the city to make preparations to defend themselves against the Lamanites, and they “did fortify the city with our might” (Mormon 2:4). Taking possession in a military sense merely means the government, or control, or assemblage of manpower and material would be under the direction of the military leader(s) who were in charge of securing the safety and protection of the people. It does not imply that this was done against the wishes of the people in the city of Angola. With a sizable army approaching, which has threatened to annihilate the entire Nephite nation, it is far more likely the Angolans welcomed Mormon and his army, since “There was blood and carnage spread throughout all the face of the land, both on the part of the Nephites and also on the part of the Lamanites; it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land” (Mormon 2:8).

Second, this was not a time when there were any “avoiding choosing sides” since the Lamanites were burning every city they passed and putting to death every Nephite they could capture. “The day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually, for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land” (Mormon 2:15), and they were hunted and driven (Mormon 2:20).

Never the one to be bothered with scriptural information, however, Sorenson goes on to write: “As the Nephite forces retreated still farther, they repeated this process over and over, forcing local people to cast their lot with the retreating lineages and their armies. All the political and military means available to Mormon and his people they used to “gather in our people as fast as it were possible, that we might get them together on one body” (Mormon 2:7)

Mormon gives a perfectly clear explanation why he was gathering the Nephites into one body, “that perhaps we might save them from destruction” (Mormon 2:21) and that they would “stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes” (Mormon 2:23). This war and following two Lamanite defeats, led to their withdrawal from the Land Northward, and making a treaty with the Nephites in which they agreed to give up all the Land Northward to the Nephites while retaining all the Land Southward for the Lamanites (Mormon 2:28-29). Ten years later, the Lamanites were at it again, attacking the city of Desolation (Mormon 3:7).

While Sorenson would like to make this out to be some small fight between some lineages so he can justifyh his Mesoamerican model, the fact of the matter is it was a fight between all the Nehpites and the Lamanites, who eventually came in such numbers as to wipe out every Nephite man, woman and child (Mormon 8:7).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Island of Chile

According to Jacob, and as recorded by Nephi, both prophets, the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20). There are four main issues to consider in describing Chile, Peru and Ecuador (the Andes) as an island.

First, the fact that Panama did not always connect Central and South America; Second, the Andes mountains were not formed until what geologists call the Jurassic Period, or the third great Cordilleran formation period; third, the lowlands of Brazil, Argentina and most of South America east of the Andes were once under water; fourth, the early conquerors found antiquity only in the Andes in all South America; and fifth, Columbus believed the area of Venezuela to have been a brand new continent, undiscovered and unoccupied.

Panama: Geologists say that in the early period of the earth's formation, there was a natural channel connecting the two oceans of the Atlantic and Pacific. According to Dodd, Panama later knotted itself together by some gigantic effort, and the upheaval left the lowest point of the Continental Divide (Panama) 276 feet above sea level. Drilling work form the “Glomar Challenger,” deep-ocean drilling vessel, on both sides of Panama has confirmed this.

Andes Mountains: Mormon claims that a Nephite could walk from the west sea to the east sea in a day and a half (Alma 22:32). This would suggest that the land was comparatively flat at that time. So what of the Andes Mountains which rise to heights of 10,000 to 16,000 feet generally, and have peaks of over 23,000 feet? According to Carpenter, geologists claim that at one time the Andes Mountains were a flat plain, and that they were thrown up out of the sea at the west like a cork in recent times.

Brazilian Plateau: Geologists have determined that the Amazon Valley was originally a wide straight waterway joining the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. South America then consisted of two divisions, the highlands of Venezuela and the Guianas at the north, and another great island at the south. Carpenter says that when the Andes were thrown up, the bottom of the Amazon Valley was raised, the waters of the ocean rolled back, and the great plain of Brazil and most of South America east of the Andes was formed.

Argentina Submerged: Charles Darwin crossed the Andes through the Portillo Pass in March, 1835, from Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza, Argentina, and back. The round trip took 24 days and during that time he became convinced that Argentina had been submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean in very recent times. He saw fossil seashells as high as 14,000 feet, as well as petrified coastal trees on the Argentina slope and became convinced that the Andes had been upheaved in mass from sea level. He identified these coastal trees as once being on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, then 700 miles distant to the east.

According to Innes: In 1531, Francisco Pizarro set sail from Panama with three ships, 180 men and 27 horses, arms, ammunition and stores. He sailed down the west coast of South America. When these early Spanish conquistadors explored South America, they found very little east of the Andes. They saw a few headhunters in the Amazon forests and a few nomad wanderers in Argentina, but found antiquity only in the Andes, from Chile, through Peru to Ecuador. Even today, there is a complete lack of any sign of ancient civilizations in Argentina and Brazil. Not only do the Andes Mountains provide a formidable deterrent to eastern descent, but for most of the building time of the Nephites and their brethren's descendants, that area was under water.

Columbus: When Christopher Columbus arrived on his third voyage to the New World, according to Morison, he sailed from Trinidad Island across the gulf of Paria to the south coast of the Paria Peninsula in Venezuela. Columbus went ashore with some of his men and described the area in his journal as a very great continent, which until that day, he believed, had been unknown, suggesting it was relatively new in geologic terms.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Land of Many Waters and Sea North

Around 46 B.C., a large number of Nephites left the Land Southward and traveled “into the Land Northward to inherit the land” (Helaman 3:3), and they traveled “an exceeding great distance” and “came to large bodies of water and many rivers” (Helaman 3:4). Very likely, this is the same area of “many waters” in the Land Northward that Limhi’s 43-man rescue team wandered into (Mosiah 8:8). And undoubtedly, the same area Mormon describes in talking about the Land of Cumorah, as being in a “land of many waters, rivers and fountains” (Mormon 6:4).

This region was far to the north in the Land Northward (Mormon 2:29), and where the Nephites were driven after the Lamanites took possession of the Land of Desolation (Mormon 4:19), following their long flight from the Lamanite armies (Mormon 5:5-7). The mention of many waters, rivers and fountains is in contrast to the lands to the south which appear to be more arid and less watered than this northern land. In the lands to the south only a single river is mentioned, the river Sidon, and a few fountains. In the north these identical water features are described as “many.”

The Land of Cumorah, where the hill Cumorah is located (Mormon 6:4), which was called Ramah by the Jaredites (Ether 15:11), where the Nephite civilization was destroyed by the Lamanites in battles which killed 230,000 warriors (Mormon 6:11-13), and an unknown number of women and children (Mormon 6:7), was near the east sea coast, but west of a Jaredite city called Ablom, which was near the east seashore (Ether 9:3).

Far to the north was a body of water the Jaredites called Ripliancum, meaning large, or to exceed all (Ether 15:8), Just to the north of this Land of Many Waters was a place the Jaredites called Ogath (Ether 15:10). Between this area of Ogath and the hill Cumorah, the Jaredite nation fought their final battle with only 59 surviving to continue in a running battle (Ether 15:15-28), until only Coriantumr remained alive (Ether 15:30-31). Consequently, within this Land of Many Waters, millions of Jaredites perished (Ether 15:2), and some thousand years later, nearly a million Nephites were killed.

Some claim that the Waters of Ripliancum, because they are described as very large, was the West Sea, however, the two armies were fighting a battle toward the east—and went eastward to the east seashore (Ether 14:26), to two valleys, called Corihor and Shurr (Ether 15:28) and from there they fled to the Waters of Ripliancum (Ether 15:8). From there they went southward to an area called Ogath (Ether 15:10), which was within the area of the Land of Many Waters. Thus we might say that the Waters of Ripliancum were to the north of the Land of Many Waters, and very possibly was the Sea North described in Helaman 3:8.

Thus, the Land Northward, which was connected to the Land Southward (Ether 9:31;10:19), by a narrow neck (Ether 10:20), is stated as having an east sea (Ether 9:3;14:26), a west sea (Ether 14:12;15:26), and a north sea (Helaman 3:8). This completes the Land of Promise, with the Land Southward being nearly surrounded by water except for the narrow neck leading into the Land Northward, and the Land Northward as having a sea to the east, one to the west and one to the north, suggests once again, as Jacob stated, the Land of Promise was an island.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Narrow Neck of Land

There are three references to a land area called the “narrow neck of land” or “small neck of land,” located in the area between the land of Desolation—the Land Northward—and the Land of Bountiful—the Land Southward (Alma 22:32;63:5;Ether 10:20). Like the narrow strip of wilderness that divided the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, this narrow neck divided the Land of Bountiful from the Land of Desolation—both divisions stretching from the east sea to the west sea.

Obviously, this “narrow neck” was the result of a narrowing of the land between these two seas. It was also the location where Hagoth built and launched his ships—“on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation—into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5). And just as obviously, the lands of Bountiful and Desolation and the “narrow neck” of land all shared the same sea on the west.

Moroni, abridging Ether’s record, describing a place where the Jaredites built a city, referred to its location as “by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). For a sea to divide a land, both sides of the land divided must be able to be seen. Thus, this narrow neck was not only narrow east to west, but also north to south, for the Nephites to know of a land to the north.

His description of this body of water as a sea dividing the land would assume the Nephites were able to observe another land mass somewhere across from the “narrow neck of land.” The record does not indicate whether this dividing body of water was part of the sea east or the sea west, but if we assume that the sea west was the expansive ocean crossed by Lehi’s family (with no visible land mass to the west), it would follow that it was a narrower sea east that divided the Book of Mormon lands from another but visible land mass.

In addition, the term narrow pass or passage is used referring to this area. It should be kept in mind, that when narrow neck is used, it describes the land and the sea around it. When narrow pass or passage is used, it describes movement from one land to another. Thus, it should be understood that there was a narrow pass or passage through the narrow neck, allowing movement from the Land Southward into the Land Northward (and visa versa).

And for the Mesoamerican Theoritsts who like to claim the day and a half journey for a Nephite across this narrow neck (Alma 22:32) was not from sea to sea, but from a point in the east to the west sea, we need to point out that through this narrow pass across the narrow neck, “which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Almoa 50:34), there definitely was a sea on the east and on the west. To support this further, Lehi’s description in this passage, “they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward” he is describing some type of narrow pass, probably with steep-sided mountains on one side and the sea on the other, which would have directed and facilitated travel through the “narrow neck of land” into the land northward. This event involving Lehi’s army took place on the east sea by the narrow neck of land, suggesting that the narrow neck of land was bordered on the east by a sea coast where these and following events took place (Alma 51:26).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful

Before Mosiah encountered the people of Zarahemla, the area was called the Land of Zarahemla (Omni 1:13). There was an area to the south of Zarahemla and at a higher elevation called the Land of Minon, (Alma 2:24). There was also a narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the east sea to the west sea, dividing the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27).

This Land of Zarahemla is not specifically mentioned as stretching from the east to the west sea as is the Land of Nephi, the Land of Bountiful, and the narrow strip of wilderness, the Land of Zarahemla, like the Land of Nephi, was nearly surrounded by water (Alma 22:32-33), which should suggest that if a land is surrounded by water, it must stretch to that body of water on both sides—otherwise, the Land of Zarahemla would be bordered by another land, not water. Obviously, the Land of Zarahemla stretched to the west sea (Alma 50:11).

It should not be confused that Lamanites were along the west seashore of Zarahemla and along the east seashore of Zarahemla, causing some to suggest that Zarahemla was an interior land. The Lamanites were driven into the east seashore of the Land of Zarahemla since that was an occupied area at the time of the Land of Zarahemla, but later were driven out (Alma 50:7), and Nephites moved into the eastern borders or seashore (Alma 50:9). Thus Moroni drove the Lamanites out of the east and west wildnernesses of the Land of Zarahemla and reclaimed those areas for the Nephites (Alma 50:11). Later, King Ammoron stirred up the Lamanites to attack the west and east seashores of the Land of Zarahemla to harass the Nephites and take possession of these Nephite lands (Alma 52:13)

The land of Zarahemla was directly north of, and adjacent to the “narrow strip of wilderness,” and had a sea to the west and a sea to the east, as did the Land of Nephi and the narrow strip of wilderness. And according to Mormon’s description, the land of Zarahemla was bordered “on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful” (Alma 22:29). The land of Bountiful is described as being occupied by the Nephites “even from the east unto the west sea” (Alma 22:33). Obviously, this can only happen if the land of Bountiful had a sea on the west and a sea on the east, which as part of the land south of the narrow neck, was completely surrounded by water as was the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla except for this narrow neck.

North of this narrow neck was the land of Desolation. Thus, “the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful” (Alma 22:31). The width of this dividing line “was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32). This line was fortified “against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified” (Helaman 4:7).

These references indicate that the defense line extended from the sea west to the sea east, and suggests the Nephites used these two constricted or narrow sea coast boundaries to shorten their fortified line which was designed to stop the Lamanites who were trying to gain more territory in the land northward (Alma 22:32-34) and thus surround the Nephites.

Thus the land of Bountiful, bordered by a sea on the west and a sea on the east, was adjacent to the land of Desolation, which also extended from the sea west to the sea east. The fortified line between the land of Desolation on the north and the land of Bountiful on the south also extended between these same two seas on the west and the east. These are the same two seas that bordered the land of Zarahemla, including the surrounding Lamanite areas, the narrow strip of wilderness, the land of Nephi and the land of first inheritance on the west and on the east.

Or, as Jacob stated, “we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Lands of Nephi and Zarahemla

The Land of Nephi included the land of first inheritance, where the Lehi Colony first landed, and was bordered by a sea on the west and a sea on the east. Soon after Lehi died, Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Nephi’s younger siblings, Jacob and Joseph, at least two sisters, and possibly his mother and mother-in-law, were forced by the actions of his brothers Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to leave their “land of first inheritance,” and settle in another land after a journey of “many days” (2 Nephi 5:6). Based on the configuration of the land of promise being long (north to south) and narrow (east to west) this small group of outcasts would have traveled in a northward direction to their new home they called “the land of Nephi.”

For almost 400 years the Nephites occupied the land of Nephi as the center of their civilization. After “much war and contention,” the Nephites “who would hearken unto the voice of the Lord” were forced to flee from the land of Nephi. These expelled Nephites moved northward under the direction of a leader named Mosiah and encountered, then joined, with the people of Zarahemla in the land of Zarahemla (Omni 1:10-19). Their home in the land of Nephi was taken over by those Nephites who stayed behind, and by the Lamanites.

The land of Nephi is described as “bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west” (Alma 22:27). The sea on the west we assume to be the same sea west that bordered the adjacent “land of first inheritance” to the south in the Land of Nephi along the west seashore (Alma 22:28).

Mormon in his description of the land of Nephi includes the phrase—”the regions round about”—to describe part of the shape and extent of the land of Nephi. Mormon also records that the Lamanites who lived in the land of Nephi “could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about.” These two references to “round about” appear to describe a particular area with a circular-shaped boundary. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary describes “round about” as encircling. Thus, the Nephites' Land of Zarahemla was encircled along the south, west and east where they were "nearly surrounded by the Lamanites" (Alma22:29); however, the Lamanites were “hemmed in on the south where they could have no more possession on the north” (Alma 22:33).

Between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla was a narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27), and curved up (round about) along both seashores where there were Lamanites (Alma 22:28-29). There were no occupants living in this narrow strip since wilderness means “a tract of unoccupied land” (Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary).

Obviously, the Nephites “hemmed in” the Lamanites on the south to protect their northern lands—which should suggest that the southern boundary of the Land of Nephi had an end, called the “Sea South,” and that these three seas—the Sea West, the Sea East, and the Sea South, surrounded the Land of Nephi in the Land Southward. “Thus the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water” (Alma 22:32). In a drawing, it would look something like the map above.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Were the Nephites and Muleites Separated?

Sorenson, in his book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Momon,” on page 156, would have us believe the Mulekites and Nephites were separated. To do this, he writes, after stating that a large pyramid in Santa Rose (Yucatan) was recently found with a line dividing the area in two equal parts:

“Could these two groups have been the people of Zarahemla, and the people of Nephi? Mosiah 25:4 supports the possibility: “And now all the people of Nephi were assembled together, and also all the people of Zarahemla, and they were gathered together in two bodies.” Also, the ”churches” Alma organized (Alma 25:19-21) were probably based on ethnic-residential units. If two distinct peoples did live in separate sections within the city, the arrangement would agree with later Mesoamerican practice.”

However, Sorenson ignores two important points found between these two citings:

1. These events took place in 122 B.C., about three generations after the end of Omni 1:30, when Mosiah and the Nephites discovered the people of Zarahemla. At this time, these two peoples were indeed separated, both by numbers—-the Muleites considerably outnumbered the Nephites (Mosiah 25:2)—-and by linguistic background—-the Mulekites' corrupted language was not understood initially by the Nephites, though by this time they had been taught the Nephite language (Omni 1:17-18).

2. Alma had just returned to Zarahemla after his escape and lengthy journey from the city of Lehi-Nephi, as had Limhi with his group. Mosiah received both groups with joy (Mosiah 24:25) and called for all the people to gather together to hear their reports (Mosiah 25:1).

At this time, after Mosiah had read the records kept by Zeniff (Mosiah 25:5) and that of Alma (Mosiah 25:6), the people were perplexed, both in gratitude for the salvation of their brethren (both Nephites and Mulekites were among those returning), and also sorrowed at those who had been killed as well as their concern over the “polluted state” of the Lamanites, who were their brethren.

At this time the children of Amulon—King Noah’s evil priests who married Lamanite women—were displeased with the conduct of their fathers and “took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites” (Mosiah 25:12). In addition, “all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi” (Mosiah 25:13).

At this time Alma went among these two large bodies “preaching unto the people repentance and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 25:15), Limhi and all his people were baptized (Mosiah 25:17), and Mosiah authorized Alma to establish churches in the land. It took seven in all to accommodate the large number of Nephites-Zarahemlites-Amulonites that, from this point forward in the scriptures are never again mentioned as separate groups, but all were called Nephites. These churches, like churches of today, were undoubtedly organized by location and population size. Whether these church divisions “were probably based on ethnic-residential units” is not known nor implied. One can surmise that people lived together or near one another because of family relationships, friendships, and similar interests—but overall, there was one church (Mosiah 25:22) and all were called “the people of God” (Mosiah 25:24).

To try and create a division between these people as Mesoamerican Theorists do is nothing short of disingenuous. Wards and Stakes today are made up of all types of people with numerous ethnic backgrounds and various stages of wealth and poverty. While some members sometimes make issues out of this, the Lord does not and the membership in general does not. Only Mesoamerican Theorists want to create problems where none exist in order that “the arrangement would agree with later Mesoamerican practice.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Soul Delight in Plainness

Nephi makes it quite clear that his writing, and that which he commanded his subsequent Book of Mormon recorders to follow, was the plain and simple truth. “I will speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying, for my soul delighteth in plainness” (2 Nephi 31:2-3). And speaking how God speaks to us, Nephi wrote, “For He speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).

Nephi was also well aware that people in the latter-days would not pay attention to his plainness, when he wrote: “They will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as a word can be” (2 Nephi 32:7). He was also concerned about his lack of ability to write and was assured that his words would be made strong by God (2 Nephi 33:4). He wrote, “The power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of man. But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught” (2 Nephi 33:1-2).

The Book of Mormon is clear in all ways, but especially in the writing outlining the geography of the land. When Mormon inserts his description of the land of promise, he writes quite clearly that the Land of Nephi went from the west sea to the east sea (Alma 22:28), and that the Nephites were to the north of the Land of Nephi:

1. The Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land
2. This land, on the north, even until they came to the land, which they called Bountiful
3. And this Bountiful bordered upon the land, which they called Desolation
4. This Desolation was so far northward it came into the land that had been peopled and been destroyed (Jaredites).

Thus, in clear language, we get a picture of the Land Southward, with the Land of Nephi in the south, with the Land of Zarahemla to the north of that, the Land of Bountiful to the north of that, the Land of Desolation to the north of that, and the land where the bones of the Jaredites were located to the north of that. We also understand that the Land Southward was completely surrounded by water except for a narrow neck that led into the Land Northward (Alma 22:32). We also understand that the Land Bountiful stretched from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:33), thus effectively blocking any access of the Lamanites into the Land Northward (above the narrow neck of land).

Now, one might think this is pretty clear and straightforward. Even John L. Sorenson begins his book, “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” with his first four maps on pages 7, 11, 20 and 24, showing this easily understood north-south relationship. However, his map 5 on page 37, changes directions to an east-west orientation within his Mesoamerican model, stating on page 36, “Many features of south and Central Mexico and Guatemala seem to match up decisively with the requirements for the Book of Mormon territory.”

The fact of the matter is, none match up. To overcome this, Sorenson adds, “Except perhaps for one major anomaly. The Book of Mormon writers talk about their geography in terms of “north” or “northward” and “south” or “southward,” while Mesoamerica seems skewed from those standard compass directions. How is this problem to be solved?” He then spends the next several pages telling us why the Book of Mormon prophet-recorders did not understand the cardinal directions they wrote.

The problem lies in Mesoamerican being an east-west land and the Land of Promise being a north-south land. So, if Nephi tells us the Book of Mormon was written in the language of plainness, how can we justify saying these writers clouded the issue so thoroughly, they were off 90º in their constant comments about the geography of the land? Or is it that Sorenson and all other Mesoamerican Theorists are clouding the issue and removing the plainness from the record and inserting their own convoluted thinking in its place?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nephi’s Language

Nephi says that he wrote his record after the language of his father, and that this was called reformed Egyptian (1 Nephi 1:2). We have no understanding why Lehi knew Reformed Eqyptian, but the fact that the entire Book of Mormon record was written in it is well documented for over a thousand years, from Nephi to Moroni (Mormon 9:32).

Unlike English and many other western languages, Hebrew is very compact. A typical English sentence of fifteen words will often translate into seven to ten Hebrew words. As an example, 2 Nephi 5:20 through 2 Nephi 11:3 takes fifteen pages to write in English while a Hebrew translation is so compact, it covers only two pages.

We do not know what size the characters were that Nephi and other prophets engraved on the plates, but obviously they rejected Hebrew because it took up too much space. This means that reformed Egyptian must have been a language remarkable for its ability to convey a lot of information in a few symbols. It's compactness can be seen by the fact that, unlike Hebrew which had its base in alphabetical letters, reformed Egyptian was made up of characters, many individual symbols capable of expressing complete thoughts.

Why Reformed Egyptian? Since this language was difficult to convey meaning (3 Nephi 5:18), why was it used? The first, and most obvious answer, as stated above, was that it allowed more writing space on the small plates. But another, and perhaps more important reason, might lie in the fact that the Lord's intent for the Nephite record was to be written in a language which would be a dead tongue and script—a language that no man could translate in 1830 without divine aid. Joseph Smith said that no man knows the language of the gold plates, and Mormon wrote: “But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language, therefore, he hath prepared a means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34).

There was no Greek or Latin on the plates. It was written entirely in Reformed Egyptian (1 Nephi 1:2). While the Nephites in the land of promise spoke Hebrew, even down to the time of Moroni (Mormon 9:33), the plates themselves were engraved in the Egyptian.

Evidently, in Lehi’s business, while working with the Arabs early on as a broker-merchant, it appears he also had dealings with the Egyptians—at least his third and fourth sons had Egyptian names—and would probably have picked up his knowledge and understanding of the Egyptian language. What Reformed Egyptian was is not now known, but perhaps it was some type of condensed language—Moroni called it an altered language in his day (Mormon 9:32).
When Nephi said he began the record in reformed Egyptian in 600 BC, and Moroni says he concluded the record in 400 AD in reformed Egyptian, and that it had been altered by the Nephites, evidently over a 1000 year period, one can well understand why no Egyptologist today can read the hieroglyphics Joseph Smith noted in the so-called Anthon transcript.

What is amazing is that no Egyptologist can understand that such significant changes would be wrought over this one thousand year period (600 BC – 400 AD) as to make their understanding of the ancient hieroglyphics of Pharoah’s time not the same as an ancient script four thousand years later. Obviously, they cannot read the writing because it is not the same as that which they studied in antiquity because it was altered through a thousand years of use. And that alteration makes it unreadable to anyone unless they have a key in which to understand it. For the Egyptian language, the key was the Rosetta stone. For the Maya language it was a series of keys, and for Joseph Smith, it was the urim and thummim. For the modern Egyptologist who so quickly discredits the glyphs, there is no key.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where Did Hagoth’s Emigrants Land?

One of the controversial points Mesoamerican Theorists like to claim is that the emigrants sailing northward in Hagoth’s ships (Alma 63:6) in 56 B.C., landed in the Land Northward, somewhere in the general vicinity of those who went north overland in 46 B.C. through the narrow pass or neck of land (Helaman 3:3-4).

But is that fact substantiated by scripture?

First of all, those emigrants who traveled through the narrow pass into the land northward of the land of promise mentioned in Helaman went far to the north. The scriptural account says:

“There were an exceeding great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land. And they did travel to an exceeding great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers” (Helaman 3:3-4).

These were the old Jaredite lands, and as far north in the Land of Promise as anywhere in scripture indicated. Once there, these emigrants “did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land. And no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber, but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate” (Helaman 3:5-6).

Mormon, in his insertion into this account, writing some 430 years later, claims that those who went by ship “were never heard from more” (Alma 63:8), and assumed they were drowned in the sea. That is, none of the large cache of Nephite records (Helaman 3:13,15) available to Mormon (Mormon 1:3;6:6) during his abridgement (Words of Mormon 1:3), had any mention of the emigrants who went north in Hagoth’s ships, which may well have totaled 5,400 men, plus women and children—or as many as 20 to 25 thousand (Alma 63:4), were ever heard from again. And since at least one of the ships that went northward returned and went northward a second time (63:7), not all would have been lost at sea. Thus, we can only conclude, since none were heard from again as late as 385 A.D., they must have gone somewhere not within the Land Northward, since the Nephites spread across that land from the north to the south seas and from the east to the west seas (Helaman 3:5,8).

So where did these emigrants go?

Since Mormon was in possession of all the many records and books kept by the Nephites, and knew nothing of the Hagoth emigrants, it must be concluded that those emigrants did not settle in the same area that those mentioned in Helaman occupied, since this latter group spread throughout the entire face of the earth, "from the south sea to the north sea, from the west sea to the east sea," it can only be concluded that the Hagoth immigrants settled in an area not physically connected at all to the land northward.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Northward Course of Hagoth’s Ships

“And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward. And behold there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward” (Alma 63:5-6).

One would think that it would be impossible for anyone to read this statement in Alma and not accept the fact that the ship Hagoth built sailed NORTHWARD.

Yet, Mesoamerican Theorists, always ones to cloud the issue with unsupportable ideas, find that statement means something entirely different. The following map shows one of the interpretations of this clear and simple scripture actually having Hagoth’s ship sailing due west….that is DUE WEST. The course laid in is 500 miles due west, then 200 miles due north.
The other parts of this map show the Land of Zarahemla mostly west of the Land of Nephi, and the Land of Bountiful nowhere near the sight where Hagoth’s ships sailed. The map also shows that Hagoth’s ship sailed from a spot closer to the Land of Zarahemla than the Land of Desolation. All of this is contrary to the simple description set out in Alma 63. In addition, on his map, the Land of Desolation is due west of the Land of Bountiful, and mostly west of the Land of Zarahemla, which is contrary to Alma 22.

What is even more astounding than the Mesoamerican Theorists unsupportable model when looking at scripture, is the fact that so many Church members have bought into this Mesoamerican model. One would think that even the mot cursory reading of the Book of Mormon, especially Alma, would show the fallacy of such a map and model, and discredit the Mesoamerican area as the Land of Promise once and for all.

Once in a while, one has to wonder if these Mesoamerican Theorists have actually read the Book of Mormon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jacob and Sherem: Who Was Sherem?

As stated in our last post, by the time Jacob begins his record, it was 55 years after Lehi left Jerusalem (Jacob 1:7), Nephi was about 80 and there were four Nephite tribes: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, and Zoramites, and three Lamanite tribes: Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites (Jacob 1:13). Altogether, there would have been over 200 Nephites and maybe as many as 250 or more Lamanites as shown in the last post.

After Nephi dies (Jacob 1:12), he is replaced by a king, who, in turn, is replaced by the second king, during which time the people began to be hard-hearted and indulged in wicked practices, such as desiring many wives and concubines (Jacob 1:15), and hunted gold and silver and were lifted up in pride (Jacob 1:16). Consequently, in the second generation after Nephi, during the reign of the second king, there would have been between 400 and 500 Nephites (four generations from Lehi—Jacob was actually by age, a second generation from Lehi).

At this time, the Nephites being about the size of an average Ward in our day, would have had unmarried women and widows among their group (especially since some men would have been killed during the wars and contentions with the Lamanites), which other men desired to have as additional wives and concubines. When Sorenson asks “who were thses extra women,” look around your Ward and ask yourself, are there single women of unmarried age among the members?

During these years, Jacob had seen angels, been ministered to by them, and had heard the voice of the Lord from time to time (Jacob 7:5). He had seen much evil among the Nephites and was burdened by it (Jacob 2:9). In about 523 B.C., about 77 years after Lehi left Jerusalem, with Jacob being born about 598 B.C., making him 75 years old, a certain event occurred when “After some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem” (Jacob 7:1).

Sorenson and others claim Sherem was not a Nephite for “he came among them” and because “he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people” (Jacob 7:4), and that “he sought much opportunity that he might come unto” Jacob (Jacob 7:3). Yet, none of this suggests he was not a Nephite. Obviously, in a community of some 400 to 500 people, with obviously some of these Nephites living in separate villages, “coming among “ Jacob’s people would not denote a non-Nephite, nor would having “a perfect knowledge” of the language of the people mean anything other than he spoke very fluently, and with “much flattery” and with “much power of speech.” He was, in fact, a con man whose soul purpose was to “lead away much of the people that they pervert the right way of God and keep not the law of Moses” (Jacob 7:7)
It is also interesting that when Sharem was finally granted an audience with the Prophet Jacob, he addressed him as “brother Jacob” (Jacob 2:6), a term that would not be used by someone not a Nephite. In addition, Sherem had a knowledge of the scriptures (Jacob 7:10), knew of the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels (Jacob 7:17), and also knew of God and Christ (Jacob 7:19). Obviously, Sherem was a Nephite and had lived among the Nephites and knew of all things Nephite.

About five years after this, Jacob dies, being about 80 years old. This is based on Nephi’s age at death, and the fact that Enos would have died around 421 B.C., (Enos 1:25); Jarom died some time after 362 B.C. (Jarom 1:13), probably in 360 B.C. when the plates were given to Omni (Jarom 1:15); Omni died about 318 B.C. (Omni 1:3); Amaron died after 280 B.C. (Omni 1:5,8); Chemish (Amaron’s brother) died after 230 B.C., and Abinadom would have died around 180 B.C., and Amaleki, the last of these prophets, entered Zarahemla with Mosiah I (Omni 1:13-14), and dies at the close of his record in 130 B.C. (Omni1:30).

It should be noted that 200 years after Lehi left Jerusalem (just after Enos’ death), the Nephites had “multiplied exceedingly and spread upon the face of the land” (Jarom 1:8). And there is mention of “many wars” (Jarom 1:7) about which Enos had prophesied (Enos 1:23).

However, Sorenson and other Mesoamerican Theorists must find indigenous people in the Land of Promise to justify their Mesoamerican model, and go to great lengths to alter the simple plainness of the scriptures. With somewhere around 400 to 500 Nephites living during the time of Jacob, it is not necessary to invent indigenous people.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Another Look at Numbers

Since Mesoamerican Theorists place such an importance on the numbers in the Book of Mormon, and use that as the basis for their placing indigenous people in the Land of Promise, let us take another look at Nephite numbers by Jacob’s time—which is a major issue among these Theorists who claim, contrary to scriptural evidence, that indigenous peoples roamed the Land of Promise.

To people like Sorenson, who continually discredits the natural growth among the Nephites and Lamanites in order to insert his indigenous people in the land of promise, my wife and I have been married 47 years. At present we have 7 children with an average of 5 children each, with two still planning to have more. With 35 grandchildren and possibly another two in the next three years, we could have 37 grandchildren within 50 years of our marriage, a few already of marrying age.

If each of those 37 grandchildren had an average of five children each, that would be 185 great grandchildren, or 229 people overall within 75 years of our marriage. If we were to multiply that number by 7 (Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Jacob, Joseph, 2 sisters), that would be 1603 people within 100 years. Considering that Jacob encountered Sherem around 520 B.C., 80 years after Lehi left Jerusalem (making Jacob between 70 and 78 years old), we can suggest that it is very likely that the Nephite count over whom Jacob was the Prophet, would have totaled at least 1000 and probably closer to 1500 people.

If we were to use the type of numbers Lehi and Ishmael had, we would be dealing with at least 8 children per family. Which means the numbers would be 8x8=64x8=512x8=4096 people in 100 years. Or, if we used the numbers more common among the Jews in the 600 to 500 B.C. era, that figure would be ten children per adult couple, which makes the figures 10x10=100x8=800x8=6400 people in 100 years.

It should also be kept in mind, that since there is almost a generation span between the oldest and youngest in an eight to ten children ratio, we are looking at some of these numbers creating another generation of children much earlier than others, which results in the long run of much larger numbers. And these do not include any servants that probably were among both Lehi’s and Ishmael’s house that they would have taken with them.

While Sorenson is adament about not paying attention to manufactured numbers such as these, the reality is, that such generational numbers today among Latter-day Saints is not uncommon. Just in my circle of friends, one couple has thirteen children, another ten, another nine, and three have eight. Sorenson may want to ignore such numbers, but they exist all around us.

Obviously, then, it would not take long for such numbers to grow making any need for indigenous people unnecessary to equate to the stated Nephite and Lamanite numbers. So why create indigenous people when none are mentioned or implied, and none are needed?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Was There a Need for Indigenous People?

Mesoamerican Theorists continually tout the need for indigenous people in the Land of Promise to equate to the numbers of Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Mormon.

However, when Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., there were four married families: Lehi (6), Ishmael (7), and Ishmael’s two sons (about 10), for a total of about 23 people. Along the way were added Zoram, Jacob, Joseph, Nephi’s 2 sisters, and children born to five new married couples (one each per every two years) for a total 25 additional children, plus 10 more for the two sons of Ishmael, for a total of 35 additional, or overall total of 62 (less Ishmael who died) by the time the colony left Bountiful.

If there were servants included, and most likely there would have been since it was common for wealthy families to have live-in servants in that period of time—and Nephi specifically mentions “All the house of Ishmael” (1 Nephi 7:22), suggesting those of his household, which, had there been servants there, would have been included. And it would be likely they would have been taken with the family since they did not want to leave anyone behind who might tell the Jews where they had gone (1 Nephi 4:36)

It should also be considered, that since Lehi had “seeds of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1;16:11;18:6) which he took with him when he left the land of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 18:24), we can expect him to have had extensive planted fields, not only to feed his own family, but also to sell in Jerusalem. Thus, servants would have been needed to till the fields, especially when he was gone on his business—and since he was such a wealthy man, it is unlikely he tilled his own fields.

As a result, we can expect Lehi to have had at least four servants, with their families, when leaving Jerusalem. If each family had four children, that would be an additional 24 people—if he had more servants, the numbers would be greater. In addition, if we extrapolate these numbers to Ishmael’s household, we can add a total of at least 48 people to the colony, making the grand total of 110 people leaving by ship from Bountiful, and possibly as much as 120.

Assuming the colony spent two years in the land of first inheritance before Lehi died, then it is likely that each couple might have had another child each, for a total of at least 7 more people, plus the 8 servant families having one to two more children, making that additional total as much as 23. And when Nephi fled with “those who would go with him,” he would have taken about 68 people with him, leaving about 76 people behind. And it should be considered, that while Jacob, Joseph, Nephi’s two sisters, were unmarried, all of those older adults among left behind were married.

Nephi lived about 50 years in the land of promise, which means, if families had ten children each (Lehi had 8 to 10 children; Ishmael 7 to 8), with Jacob, Joseph, and Nephi’s two sisters now married, that would be 7 couples or a total of 77 Nephites (plus another 60 or so from the servants, or a total of 137 Nephites) at the start of the Book of Jacob. Keep in mind that Jacob and Joseph, and possibly the two sisters, were about 25 years younger than Nephi, providing three generations, not two. Thus, the numbers might have been greater, since Nephi, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Zoram would have had marrid children by Jacob 1:1.

In addition, the Lamanites would have had more children faster since Ishmael’s two sons already had children in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:6), which means by the time they reached the Land of Promise, some of those children would have been near marrying age. Thus, over time, the Lamanites would have outnumbered the Nephites by greater and greater numbers as each generation grew.

Thus, in the course of living, by the time Nephi died, the numbers of both groups could have been in the 200s. And much contention could have developed between them, especially between the original brothers, with Laman and Lemuel fostering the attitude among their children and grandchildren, that remained down through the ages in the Land of Promise that Laman should have been the one to rule over all the people (2 Nephi 5:3).