Friday, December 30, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Barley and Wheat

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, critics write:

Wheat was domesticated in the Old World and was introduced on the American continent by Europeans. Barley is mentioned three times in the Book of Mormon narrative dating to the 1st and 2nd century B.C. Wheat is mentioned once in the Book of Mormon narrative dating to the same time period. The introduction of domesticated modern barley and wheat to the New World was made by Europeans after 1492, many centuries after the time in which the Book of Mormon is set.”

It is always interesting how adamant critics are about what they do not know. First of all, barley was a grain known to both the Jaredites and the Nephites. Consider the fact that barley and wheat were both grown in Mesopotamia prior to the time the Jaredites left that area. In addition, the wild ancestor of domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum, is abundant in grasslands and woodlands throughout the Fertile Crescent and is abundant in disturbed habitats, roadsides and orchards. Outside of this region the wild barley is less common and is usually found in disturbed habitats. Barley has been found in ancient Syria and around the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. According to Deuteronomy 8:8, barley is one of the “Seven Species” of crops that characterize the fertility of the Promised Land of Canaan, and barley has a prominent role in the Israelite sacrifices described in the Pentateuch (Numbers 5:15). Thus, we know that domesticated barley was available to Lehi before he left Jerusalem.

In addition, wild barley, which has a brittle spike, and upon maturity, the spikelets separate, facilitating seed dispersal. Domesticated barley has non-shattering spikes, making it much easier to harvest the mature ears. The non-shattering condition is caused by a mutation in one of two tightly-linked genes known as Bt1 and Bt2; many cultivars (a cultivated variety of a plant that has been deliberately selected for specific desirable characteristics) possess both mutations. The non-shattering condition is recessive so varieties of barley that exhibit this condition are homozygous for the mutant allele.

A recent discovery in Arizona by Arizona State University and Eastern New Mexico University, on a site pre-dating Christ finds barley grains entombed with other artifacts, perhaps as early as 300 B.C. Unfortunately, New World archaeology has always maintained that barley was not available in the New World.

There are two reasons for this: 1) Barley was not found in the New World at the time of European contact. Archaeologists thought that if it had been in the New World previously it certainly would not have disappeared before European contact. Since New World archaeologists "knew" that barley did not exist they did not look for it. This would help account for why it has not been discovered until now; 2) Barley undoubtedly had not been cultivated and grown in the Land of Promise of the Western Hemisphere since the close of the 4th century A.D.

It is always amazing how critics of the Book of Mormon seem to righteously indignant and amusingly positive about situations they know nothing about in the scriptural record. Clearly, the grains of wheat and barley were grown by the Nephites. Whether they were brought with the Lehi colony and planted, or by the Jaredites that, over time, became uncultivated and wild, later domesticated by the Nephites, is not known. However, the knowledge and ability to sow and harvest plants that had previous been gathered in the wild was known in Mesopotamia and Canaan before Jaredite times.

However, the fact that the Nephites were annihilated around 385 A.D., and had been at constant war for 50 years before that, might suggest, even to the most critical, that grain ceased to be grown by the Nephites before 400 A.D. In the eleven hundred years before the Spaniards arrived, there was no wheat or barley grown—even in that time, any wild variety would have ceased to survive.

(See the next post, So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Barley and Wheat – Part II,” for how the LDS apologists cloud the issue when they try to find some other answer than the scriptural record)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Coins

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, critics write:

“The Book of Mormon describes in detail a system of weights and measures used by the Nephite society. However, the archaeological record shows that the overall use of metal in ancient America appears to have been extremely limited. A more common exchange medium in Mesoamerica were cacao beans.”

The cacao bean, also cocoa bean, called kakaw in Mayan, cacaua in Nahuatl, and baba de cacao in South America, is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted—which is the basis of chocolate as well as many Mesoamerican foods. The cocoa tree is native to the Americas and may have originated in the foothills of the Andes, the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America. It was cultivated by the Olmecs in 1500 B.C. in Central America.

Cocoa is said to have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago, around 2000 B.C., and the chocolate, derived from the seed of the cocoa tree, was used by the Maya Culture, as early as the Sixth Century AD. Maya called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl… "tree," and the word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water. To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility... nothing could be more important! Stones from their palaces and temples revealed many carved pictures of cocoa pods. The Mayan territory stretched from the Yucatán Peninsula to the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, and in the Yucatán, the Mayas cultivated the earliest known cocoa plantations.

The cocoa pod was often represented in religious rituals, and the texts their literature refer to cocoa as the god’s food, and the Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and also that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma drank thick chocolate dyed red. The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use. He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day, and 2000 more by the nobles of his court! The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl who, descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called xocoatl… believed to be a health elixir. Since sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, different spices were used to add flavor, even hot chili peppers and corn meal.

The cocoa bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest. Columbus took back to Spain from his first voyage several cocoa beans, which did not elicit much attention, and on his fourth voyage in 1502, he landed on what is today Nicaragua and discovered that cocoa beans were used for currency. Records show that 400 cocoa beans equaled one Zontli, while 8000 beans equaled one Xiquipilli. When the Aztecs conquered tribes, they demanded their payment in cocoa! By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from 1200 show details of cocoa deliveries, imposed on all conquered tribes.

In 1513, Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez, who went to America in 1513 as a member of Pedrarias Avila's expedition, reports that he bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans. According to Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez 10 cocoa beans bought the services of a woman, and 4 cocoa beans got you a rabbit for dinner. Hernando Cortez, who conquered part of Mexico in 1519, had a vision of converting these beans to golden doubloons and was much intrigued by the beans’ value as currency.

The Spanish chroniclers who followed the conquistadors to Mexico noted with amazement when they saw that cocoa beans were used as currency. At that time there were three major cocoa-producing regions: Chontalpa and Soconusco in Mexico, and the Ulua basin in Honduras—and production, circulation and consumption of the precious beans were tightly controlled by the nobles and merchants of the Valley of Mexico and Yucatin.

Cocoa was a primitive form of exchange and could not perform all the functions of money. It was widely used as a medium of exchange, but to measure value the Aztecs and Mayas tended to use quachtli, pieces of cotton fabric, which represented a given amount of work. In Yucatan, one quachtli was equivalent to 450 hours of work. Each of the pieces of cloth, which formed part of the tribute raised by the Aztec emperors, was worth almost 100 cocoa beans. Thus, it seems certain that the value of most of the goods in circulation could be expressed in cocoa, but was actually assessed in pieces of cloth at constant value. Obviously, cocoa was the medium of exchange because, unlike the pieces of cloth, it could be divided up as required.

While all this is interesting in regard to Mexico and Central America, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Andean area of South America where there is no record that any kind of natural product, cocoa beans or otherwise, was used for money. Metal coins have been found by archaeologists in South America, and metallurgy there was well known far into B.C. times. Once again, the point is made that when people look to Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, error after error is unearthed and provides fodder for critics, but is inaccurate from the start and has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon writings.

It might also be of interest to note, that today people use all sorts of items for trade or exchange of services or products, yet it is not considered money, though each has its own value. In the early pioneer days, rabbits, potatoes, melons, even barn animals, would be used for trade. However, it was never looked upon as money, even when given in exchange of services to doctors. For something to really be considered “money,” it had to be made of something durable, otherwise if it broke, deteriorated, fell apart, dissolved, etc., and did not last, it could not be of long term value—called “money.”
Ancient money of bone, iron, precious metal

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Hebrew and Egyptian

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, critics write:

“Archaeological evidence shows that the only people known to have developed written languages in America were the Olmecs and Mayans whose written languages have no resemblance to Hebrew or Egyptian hieroglyphs. Additionally, professional linguists and Egyptologists do not consider the Anthon Transcript document to contain any legitimate ancient writing. Klaus Baer, Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, called the characters of the transcript nothing but "doodlings.”

The problem with dealing in such an area is that if you do not know a language that uses hieroglyphics or symbols, it is hard to imagine that it means anything. As an example, take a look at the following and determine which are legitimate languages and which ones are just “doodlings.”
In this particular case, all are actual languages: Line 1—Early Chinese; 2—Egyptian; 3—Phoenician; 4—Egyptian; 5—Meoitic; 6—Sanskrit. The point is, that unless you know these symbols or hieroglyphics, they do not appear to have any meaning or that they could as well be “doodlings” as real. Here are four more ancient languages that are less known to the linguist—or are they real?

An interesting display that might cause most linguists some problems. The first language is Klingon—a completely made up language of the 20th century, but one that can be spoken and has all the ingredients of a real language. Line 2 is Rongo Rongo, a language found on Easter Island that has never been deciphered, yet early islanders claim they came from Peru anciently and this is the language they brought with them. Line 3 is Hieratic, a form of abbreviated Egyptian hieroglyphic, and Line 4 is completely made up though it uses so-called authentic Egyptian symbols (mostly found in tattoos).

The above is meant to suggest that if a person, no matter how brilliant a linguist, does not know the characters, the alphabet, the meaning, etc., such symbols would definitely appear as mere “doodlings.” This, in fact, was the problem with Egyptian hieroglyphics until the Rosetta Stone was found and interpreted which gave linguists the ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphics.

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 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 (Mormon 9:33). This means that reformed Egyptian must have been a language remarkable for its ability to convey a lot of information in a few symbols or characters. 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.

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).

Obviously, then, no linguist, Egyptologist, or expert in dead languages, would be able to read the reformed Egyptian on the Anthon characters and would, therefore, out of his sectarian nature, claim it was a fake, fraud, or just plain “doodlings.” But to the Lord, who created all languages, reformed Egyptian is a language known to him and was made known to Joseph Smith when he translated the plates.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: People in Americas

Continuing with these posts regarding the so-called anachronisms of the Book of Mormon, critics write that:

“Additionally, linguistic studies on the evolution of the spoken languages of the Americas agree with the widely held model that homo sapiens arrived in America between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C. According to the Book of Mormon, immigrants first arrived on the American continent about 2500 BC (the presumed time period of the biblical Tower of Babel).”

Thus, to these critics, the fact that people arrived in the Western Hemisphere prior to the accepted time frame of the sectarian world, this is an anachronism—something out of place with the normal flow of historical time.

It is always interesting that, no matter how much evidence is uncovered by numerous archaeologists and anthropologists, that civilization in the Western Hemisphere settled first in the south and then moved northward, they continue to claim the opposite. First of all, there is absolutely no proof of any kind, no structures, no cities, no anything, to suggest that Alaska, Canada, or the northern United States, was settled by anyone of any skills, abilities, or achievements.

It is also interesting to hear about linguistic studies that try to date peoples and places between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C. One must wonder what these archaeologists and anthropologists, along with their linguists, use to determine such things. As everyone knows, the only languages of antiquity that have survived to modern man’s knowledge, is that of Central and South America. There is no language remnants, linguistics, etc., of anything within the area of today’s United States or Canada to suggest a written language pre-dating the period of time of the Maya, Aztecs and pre-Inca.

There are even some well-known linguists, of course, that claim the Mayan symbols are not really a language at all. However, the point is, there is nothing northward of Central America showing any movement southward. Yet, despite this, there are those professionals who stick stubbornly to the belief that man settled the Western Hemisphere by coming across a so-called land bridge (see below) between Siberia and Alaska (covered in earlier posts on this subject).

However, we have numerous scientists who have studied the development in the south, beginning in South America, and man’s movement into Central America and finally into North America—as the Book of Mormon suggests.

Thus it cannot be considered an anachronism to have man in the Western Hemisphere prior to some belief that he came across Beringia. In fact, the new results of geologic studies, which appeared in the October issue of the journal “Geology,” shows a growing body of research that challenges the idea that the only route to the Americas was a single land bridge from Asia. According to a new study, this long-gone land bridge between Asia and Alaska flooded about 12,000 years ago, which is about a thousand years earlier than previously believed. "I think we're on the verge of rewriting the whole history of the region," said study leader Lloyd Keigwin of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. The new evidence from the Arctic also suggests that the thousand-mile-wide bridge was available for a much shorter time than previously believed.

The point of all these items and the last several posts, is to show that sooner or later, science will come around to understanding what they have not known before—and as they do, the Book of Mormon is again and again shown to be accurate despite all the critical rhetoric to the opposite.

Monday, December 26, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Silk – Part II

Continuing from the last post, the key to understanding the great mystery and magic of silk, and China's domination of its production and promotion, lies with blind, flightless moth, species which lays 500 or more eggs in four to six days and dies soon after. The eggs are like pinpoints—one hundred of them weigh only one gram. From one ounce of eggs come about 30,000 worms which eat a ton of mulberry leaves and produce twelve pounds of raw silk.

Today, all silkworm moths live only in captivity, having been domesticated so that they can no longer survive independently in nature. All wild populations are extinct, although presumably old relatives exist in Asia.

In addition, silks are produced by several other insects, but only the silk of moth caterpillars produces the finest silk that is used for textile manufacturing. There has been some research into other silks, which differ at the molecular level. Silks are mainly produced by the larvae of insects undergoing complete metamorphosis but also by some adult insects such as webspinners (embioptera). Silk production is especially common in the Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants), and is sometimes used in nest construction. Other types of arthropods produce silk, most notably various arachnids, such as spiders. In the last post, we discussed other silk worms that have been used, even in China, to produce silk.

Thus, while it can be said that Chinese silk from the Bombyx mori was not known outside China until 600 A.D., it cannot be said that silk was not made from other sources such as the commonly known examples above and in the last post. Nor can it be said that “it is a foregone conclusion that this material was unknown to the Americas before their discovery,” for much existed here that awed the Spaniards, and much else that was lost to the Lehi’s descendants called the Lamanites after they annihilated the Nephites.

Today, we understand, as the critics claim, that “silk is commonly understood to mean the material that is created from the cocoon of the Asian moth Bombyx mori.” However, in Book of Mormon times, silk was a cloth or fabric made from other sources. The Nephites, of course, did not know of the silk worm Bombyx mori, but may well have known of the Bombycidae and wild Saturniidae (see last post). From such, they were able to develop the finest fabrics and in some of the vicuna woolen goods the yarn was so fine and the weaving so exquisite that, according to Alfred Joseph Deberle and Edward P. Lanning, the cloth had the appearance of silk so that when some were sent back to the Spanish court they were pronounced finer than silk.

In addition, in Ecuador, the unique Kapok tree and its fibrous material obtained from the silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra of the order Malvales and the family Malvaceae), which is native to Mexico, Central America, northern South America, and numerous other tropical areas), which can grow to 230 feet tall or more, with a straight, largely branchless trunk that culminates in a huge, spreading canopy, and buttress roots that can be taller than a grown person. These trees have a silky down that invests the seeds, which harvested today, is used for stuffing pillows, life jackets and acoustical insulation—but before the silkworm was known in the Western Hemisphere, was used for making silk threat and weaving into silk cloth.

The Ceiba species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including the leaf-miner Bucculatrix ceibae which feeds exclusively on the genus.

It is disingenuous of critics, or anyone else, to believe they know everything simply because of what is “common knowledge” of the day. Common knowledge, of course, changes from time to time as new and greater understandings of antiquity become known. Today, we have Chiffon, China silk (habutai, ponagee), Crepe de Chine, Charmeuse, Jacquard, Douppioni, Noil, Raw silk, Tussah, and Shantung—and obviously in antiquity, they had different silks, though known only by that name, thus silk from China was the most highly prized. That is why when the Spaniards brought back silk from the Western Hemisphere, not made from silkworms, it was considered “finer than silk by the Spanish court.”

Naturally, like the other items in previous posts, silk was not an anachronism found in the Book of Mormon as critics want people to believe.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Silk

Continuing with the critics’ claim that silk as mentioned in the Book of Mormon is an anachronism and was not known in the Western Hemisphere in the first century B.C. These critics write:

"The Book of Mormon mentions the use of silk six times.“Silk” is commonly understood to mean the material that is created from the cocoon of the Asian moth Bombyx mori.

“It is a foregone conclusion that this material was unknown to the Americas before their discovery. Apologists argue the following to deal with this anachronism: ‘Mormon apologist John Sorenson believes that there are several other materials which were used in Mesoamerica anciently which could be the "silk" referred to in the Book of Mormon, including material spun from the hair of rabbit's bellies, the pods of the ceiba tree, or an unidentified wild silkworm.”

The term, “Fine-twined linen” is found in 1 Nephi 13:7-8; Alma 1:29; 4:6; Helaman 6:13; and Ether 10:24. In the Andean area, specifically Peru, textiles were well known and highly developed in B.C. times. Edward P. Lanning in “Peru Before the Incas,” wrote: “The most spectacular development of the early Peruvians was in the field of textiles. After the simple beginnings of the heddle loom, a growing artistry emerged in a profusion of styles and techniques. Gauze, tapestry, painted cloth, double cloth, embroidery, and pattern weaves were all being made on a basic loom that was not much different from that used by Andean weavers today.”

Practically all the aboriginal techniques of weaving were known in ancient Peru, and both cotton and the wool of the llama and the alpaca were extensively used. Textiles are better preserved in the south coast than they are in the north, and it appears that elaborate weaving was a specialty of the south coast at all times, and part of the south coast tradition. Tapestry, brocade, double cloth, gauze, warp stripes and weft stripes are all common, and twill was known, but the embroidery so characteristic of Paracas Necropolis was out of fashion. No textiles of this time have been preserved in the wet climate of the highlands, but spindle whorls and statues representing clothed figures give indirect evidence of their manufacture.

Silk is mentioned only four times in the eras of the Jaredites and Nephites, not six. It is used twice among the Jaredites regarding the people’s prosperity (Ether 9:17; 10:24). There are only two uses of “silk” described among the Nephites. The first is made about 90 B.C., “they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need -- an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth (Alma 1:29). The second is six years later when Alma discusses the prideful people of the Church (Alma 4:6).

The other two uses of “silk” are mentioned regarding that found among the “nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles” in Nephi’s vision (1 Nephi 13:7-8). Thus, if one is going to be a critic, one should be accurate in his use of the scriptural record.

First of all, There are many indigenous varieties of wild silk moths found in a number of different countries. Silk, as a product, was first discovered by the Chinese around 3000 B.C., and over thousands of years, they practiced sericulture (the production of raw silk by raising silkworms) utilizing all the different types of silk moths known to them. Eventually, they settled on the Bombyx mandarina Moore, a silk moth living on the white mulberry tree and unique to China. The silkworm of this particular moth produces a thread whose filament is smoother, finer and rounder than that of other silk moths. Finally, the Bombyx mori evolved into the specialized silk producer it is today—a moth which has lost its power to fly, only capable of mating and producing eggs for the next generation of silk producers

When critics writes that: “’Silk’ is commonly understood to mean the material that is created from the cocoon of the Asian moth Bombyx mori, is strictly an opinion adopted currently because that is the development of this silk in China. However, “a variety of wild silks produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry silkworm, have been known and used in china, South Asia, and Europe since ancient times.” In addition, Silk was produced year round in Thailand by two types of silkworms, the cultured Bombycidae and wild Saturniidae (shown below). Today we know there are numerous types of silk moths.

We do not know which silk worm (moth) was used by the Jaredites or Nephites. We only know that the word translated from both languages by Joseph Smith and confirmed by the Spirit was the word “silk.”

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Silk – Part II,” for more on the Nephite silk and how it was obtained)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Cement

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms that critics claim are sprinkled throughout the Book of Mormon, they write:

“Helaman chapter 3, verse 7 in the Book of Mormon states: "And there being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell." There is evidence of cement being used in the ancient Americas around the times of Christ. Joseph Smith described the Book of Mormon plates as being deposited in a stone box in a New York hillside. The box was described as “formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement.”

The Nabataeans, a nomadic culture that existed in the times of Lehi in the desert just to the south of Jerusalem of which Lehi was most familiar, knew cement mortar and plaster. In fact, these “played an important role in Nabataean life, using this essential technology from their very earliest years in the desert. Without their special knowledge of cement, the Nabataeans would never have conquered the desert, and would never have risen to the status of a civilization.” Nor did they remain in one place. “Without this knowledge of waterproof cement, the Nabataeans would not have become the far ranging merchants of the Middle East, who easily traversed deserts and inhospitable, barren mountains.”

In modern times, cement and concrete are often thought of as the same thing; however, they are by nature very different. Cement is an ultra-fine gray powder that binds sand and rocks into a mass,which is called concrete. Cement is the key ingredient of concrete, but concrete contains other substances like sand and rocks. Cement has become one of the world's most widely used building materials, and is produced from some of the world's most abundant resources.

The Romans are generally credited as being the first concrete engineers, but archaeological evidence shows that a type of concrete dating to 6500 B.C., was used in Syria in permanent fire pits for heating and cooking. In Europe, Archaeological evidence for early use of concrete is found along the banks of the Danube River in Yugoslavia, where in approximately 5600 B.C. it was used to make floors for huts. And in China, as far back as 3000 BC, there is evidence of a type of cement used in the Gansu Province, and Egypt was using cement as early as 2500 B.C. The Egyptian stone mason Irtysen claims he did not carve his statues from rock, but cast it in molds in 2000 B.C.

The Syrian fire pits, built from area limestone, showed a primitive form of calcining on the exterior faces of the limestone rocks that lined the fire pits and lead to the accidental discovery of lime as a fundamental building material. The newly discovered technology was widely used in Syria beginning in the fifth millennium, as central lime-burning kilns were constructed to supply mortar for rubble-wall house construction, concrete floors, and waterproofing cisterns.

Lime, quicklime, and burnt lime are the common names for calcium oxide, CaO, a grayish-white powder. Today over 150 important industrial chemicals requires the use of lime in order to be manufactured. In fact, only five other raw materials (salt, coal, sulfur, air, and water) are used in greater amounts. Lime is used in glass, cement, brick, and other building materials; as well as in the manufacture of steel, aluminum, and magnesium, poultry feed; and in the processing of cane and sugar beet juices. Thus, the discovery of lime as a building material opened the door for many other improvements as well.

Before the time of Moses, people of the Middle East made walls for their fortifications and homes by pounding moist clay between forms, often called pise work. To protect the surfaces of the clay from erosion, the ancients discovered that a moist coating of thin, white, burnt limestone would chemically combine with the gases in the air to give a hard protecting shied.

In examining the atomic structure of these elements it is found that common plaster was made with wet lime and plain sand. This sand has a crystalline atomic structure whereby the silica is so condensed there are no atom holes in the molecular network to allow the calcium hydroxide molecule from the lime to enter and react. The opposite is true with the wet lime-pozzolan contact. The pozzolan has an amorphous silica atomic structure with many holes in the molecular network. Upon mixing the wet lime with the pozzolan, the calcium hydroxide enters the atomic holes to make a concrete gel that expands, bonding pieces of rock together. The fine powder condition of the pozzolan provides a large surface area to enhance chemical reaction. This same complex chemistry of the ancient concrete is found in modern concrete bonding gel. The pozzolan-wet lime gel gave permanence to the ancient concrete.

All of these uses was well known in the Middle East long before Lehi’s time and would have been known to Lehi when he left Jerusalem. Obviouisly, this knowledge would have carried over to Nephi, who taught his people how to build buildings and work with all types of metals (2 Nephi 5:15).

The idea of cement, then, as mentioned in the Book of Mormon, is certainly within its appropriate time frame in history, and not an anachronism as critics claim.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords Part IV

Critics often find it difficult to understand that what went on in the Andean area of South America was in no wise linked to that of Central America. That is, because metallurgy did not develop in Mesoamerican until somewhere between 200 and 900 A.D., they link the same understanding with the Andean area. However, metallurgy in Ecuador and Peru reached such high levels of achievement that archaeologists and historians have written volumes about their ancient accomplishments—most dating that to the first and second millennium B.C.
According to Burland, “the Peruvians had a long heritage as metallurgists, stating “we come to an understanding that the quality of preciousness attributed to these metals was something quite different and superior in Peru from what is in the civilized world of today, and the quantity of metal was quite considerable and it is quite probable that the long-continued use of charcoal for smelting accounted for the greater part of the deforestation of the Andes. The earliest metallurgy in the Americas was practiced in Peru about 900 B.C., and over the intervening centuries a variety of techniques were developed, like that of an almost incredible skill in welding copper objects.”

But while the critics claim no metallurgy was practiced in South America before 800 A.D., and that iron and steel has never been found there (see the last post), LDS apologists take the unbelievable approach of saying, that the word "steel", as used in the Book of Mormon, likely refers to a hardened metal other than iron. This argument follows from the fact that the Book of Mormon refers to certain Old World articles made of “steel”. Similar “steel” articles mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible are actually hardened copper. It has been amply demonstrated that much of the terminology of the English Book of Mormon, parallels the Authorized King James Bible. It is pointed out that copper and its alloys have the ability to rust, thus satisfying the description of “blades” which had “cankered with rust.”

This approach to dealing with the scriptural record is totally improper and inaccurate in dealing with the Book of Mormon, which stands on its own because the words are accurate, and the terms correct. Nephi wrote “steel” for his bow and Laban’s sword, both made in Jerusalem by 7th-century metal smiths—a process that began in the 10th century B.C. in the eastern Mediterranean according to Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly, and Tamara S. Wheeler, "How the Iron Age Began," Scientific American volume 237 No. 4, October 1977, pp 127-131. These blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron through deliberate carburization, a process that was well known to blacksmiths, as was quenching—another method of steeling iron, both of which made iron a useful material for tools and weapons in the 7th century B.C.

Thus, Nephi knew what iron and steel were—as did Joseph Smith in his translation. When the Lord showed Nephi where to go to get ore and smelt it for the tools to make the ship, he used his metal smith knowledge to do so. And once in the Land of Promise, he again smelted ore to make tools and to teach his people how to do so with iron and steel (2 Npehi 5:15). Nephi also mentioned iron, steel, copper and brass in the same sentence, obviously showing he knew the difference between them, as did Joseph Smith in his translation.

The problem always lies in what archaeologists have found in the ground and what the sectarian world accepts. The problem with metal is that it rusts and cankers. Rusting is a chemical procedure that takes place in metals of antiquity that are uncovered to the environment. While not all metals rust, which is a general term for a series of iron (red) oxides formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture, it is extremely common with iron, and its alloys, such as steel, when a brown substance forms known as iron oxide, which is a slow chemical reaction that takes place over a period of time. If salt is present, as in saltwater or ocean spray, it tends to rust more quickly as a result of electro-chemical reactions.

This happens because metal is an element that readily loses electrons to form positively charged ions known as cations. Metals can form ionic bonds with non-metallic elements when positively charged ions are arranged into a lattice surrounded by a cloud of delocalized electrons. In addition, metals can be combined with other substances to form alloys to give them better properties. Steel is such an alloy, which is a combination of iron and carbon—bronze is copper and tin, brass is copper and zinc.

Modern man has found that rust can be prevented with the help of the common methods like painting, greasing, electroplating and galvanizing. But in antiquity, all metals rusted and cankered as these iron compounds formed and flaked off from the surface. Which, in turn exposed fresh iron, and the corrosion process continued until all of the iron was consumed and simply disappeared over time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords Part III

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms critics’ claim are in the book of Mormon (see last several posts), and specifically that of iron and steel swords, one critic wrote:

“Even though ancient Andean people smelted some metals, such as copper, they never smelted iron like they did in the Old World...Metals were used for a variety of tools in the Old World, such as weapons, while in the Americas, metals were used as prestige goods for the wealthy elite."

Such dribble is that of archaeologists and anthropologists who make claims about ancient man that cannot be countered or contested, since no records of any sort exist in the sectarian world to suggest otherwise. The only understanding they have of antiquity is what they find in the ground and, more importantly, how they interpret what they find.

Most archaeology, other than actual ruins such as found in South and Central America, is based upon two basic things: 1) a stubborn and unalterable belief in diffusion, and 2) pottery shards found in the ground.

It is critically important for anyone trying to understand pre-history that the concept of diffusion is clearly understood. Archaeologists use the word "diffusion" to mean the movement of ideas over space and time. Clearly this is not the easiest thing to track archaeologically. Most of the really brilliant human innovations such as agriculture, writing, and government-style were transmitted long distances.

The word also refers to minor cultural characteristics such as pottery styles, and may represent the results of trade networks or population movement, called diaspora—the movement or migration of a group of people, such as those sharing a national or ethnic identity, away from an established or ancestral homeland.

In a nutshell, diffusion is the belief that ALL cultures, people, and groups follow the exact same pattern of development, from hunter-gathers, to agriculture, to city dwellers, etc., and that ideas, accomplishments, and events follow a known and well-understood pattern. Thus, iron could not have been smelted by a hunter-gathered type people, nor even by an agricultural-level people. Naturally, this leads to the understanding that since they do not smelt iron and make steel at that level, any metalwork had to have come much later than a hunter-gatherer or agricultural society.

While this might have been true when applied to Europe and the so-called “Old World,” it is categorically inaccurate and disingenuous to apply it to the Western Hemisphere, which developed entirely different than the Old World. As an example, when the Jaredites first arrived in the Western Hemisphere as its first occupants after the Flood, they brought with them a technology far beyond hunters and gatherers. They left Mesopotamia at a time when their counterparts were building a great Tower, hanging gardens, and a life-style that would spread across the world. They knew how to smelt ore, make iron and steel, build buildings (the constructions of ancient Mesopotamia stands as proof of their abilities), and accomplish far beyond a “new” and “diffused” culture. When the Nephites arrived, they brought with them a much-improved technology of accomplishments that had built a Temple in Jerusalem that was so magnificent its fame spread throughout the known world, a fleet of ships that rivaled any in the world, and smelting achievements as great as known anywhere.

In addition, because artifacts are found in tombs and burial sites more frequently than just laying around in the ground, these are considered what was available in any given era. Thus, the comment that “metals were used as prestige goods for the wealthy elite” is what would be expected in an ancient burial chamber. Only warriors and warrior societies took weapons to their graves—and those, made of iron would have disappeared over the millennia while other artifacts are generally made of material that survives time.

The Nephites, different than the Jaredites and Lamanites, were not a warrior society, but a peaceful, religious and God-fearing culture that, though had its righteous ups and downs, survived as a favored people by the Lord until “the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually” (Mormon 2:15) around 345 A.D. Before that time, burials would undoubtedly not contained warrior weapons, and after that time, it is doubtful that much burial took place, for the wars were fierce and moved swiftly across the land (Mormon 5:5).

So because archaeologists have not found iron and steel swords in Central or South America before the coming of the Spaniards, does not mean much at all. It was 3500 years after the Jaredites arrived, and 1800 years after their demise; it was 1800 years after Lehi arrived, and 1000 years after the Nephite demise. Iron simply does not last that long left out in the open or buried loosely in the ground (covered over by nature).

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part III,” for the rusting of metals and the evidence of smelting iron into steel in B.C. times in the Western Hemisphere)

Monday, December 19, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part II

Critics write that: “Steel and iron are mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon. No evidence has been found in North, Central, or South America of iron being hardened anciently to make “steel”. Though researchers have shown that primitive metallurgy existed in South America, metal production was only used for adornment purposes. The very earliest metal working there dates to 200 AD with the Moche culture. This dates thousands of years after the Jaredite civilization and 800 years after the beginning of the Nephite civilization in the Book of Mormon. Metallurgy spread to Central America by 800 AD (long after the Book of Mormon record closes).”

A critic can say that there was no advanced metallurgy found in South America anciently, however, archaeologists in the field have found plenty of evidence of such throughout Ecuador and Peru in B.C. times. Even recently, Purdue University archaeologist Kevin J. Vaughn, discovered a 2000 year old hematite iron-ore mine near Nazca, Peru. While Vaughn believes that the hematite was then being mined for use as red pigment, there was evidence of numerous excavations that included iron minerals.

What archaeologists find and what they think are two entirely different things. One may “think” there was no iron being mined in an ancient iron deposit area, but that does not change the fact that such a mine existed 2000 years ago. To the contrary, according to publications in 2001 and 2004, there is evidence that the earliest metallurgy in the Americas was practiced in Peru about 900 B.C., and this technology spread into Mesoamerica from South America, after about 900 A.D. Over the intervening centuries a variety of techniques developed, among them alloying, gilding, casting, the lost-wax process, soldering, and filigree work.. According to David and Ruth Whitehouse, “The Peruvians practiced a more advanced technology than those of Mesoamerica in mastery of gold, silver, copper, and alloy metallurgy. Smiths in Peru worked gold, silver, and copper, demonstrating a very fine workmanship.” And according to Cothe A. Burland, “A united separate culture arose on the northern half of the Peruvian coast, and it was within this culture that the use of metals really developed beyond the gold-working of the old cupisnique people.”

According to archaeological findings, architecture and urban living developed between 1500 and 1200 BC in the Andean area, and that weaving and pottery making was developed to an extraordinary degree during that period. By 600 BC metal working techniques such as casting, hammering, repoussé, riveting, wire drawing, and cire perdue had been mastered in Peru, and metallurgical techniques continued to evolve over the centuries after that time. In fact, the processes of working metals of all types is well documented, especially in Peru, including gold, silver, platinum and copper expertly used in creating some of the finest metal art in existence. These highly advanced techniques have been used for centuries in the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Africa, China, and Greece as well as in the Andes of South America. Obviously, it is the gold, silver, copper and brass that survived because such items are free from the problems of rust, cankering, and corrosion.

Iron, on the other hand, is highly corrosive, and over time does not last, and as useful as Iron was compared to other materials, it had extreme disadvantages. The quality of the tools made from it was highly variable, depending on the region from which the iron ore was taken and the method used to extract the iron. The chemical nature of the changes taking place during the extraction were not understood; in particular, the importance of carbon to the metal's hardness. Practices varied widely in different parts of the world. There is evidence, for example, that the Chinese were able to melt and cast iron implements very early, and that the Japanese produced amazing results with steel in small amounts, as evidenced by heirloom swords dating back centuries. Similar breakthroughs were made in the Middle East and India, but the processes never emerged into Europe, which lacked methods for heating iron to the melting point.

To produce iron, the ancients slowly burned iron ore with wood in a clay-lined oven. The iron separated from the surrounding rock but never quite melted. Instead, it formed a crusty slag, which was removed by hammering. This repeated heating and hammering process mixed oxygen with the iron oxide to produce iron, and removed the carbon from the metal. The result was nearly pure iron, easily shaped with hammers and tongs but too soft to take and keep a good edge. Because the metal was shaped, or wrought, by hammering, it came to be called wrought iron.

The different varieties of iron and steel do not oxidize in dry air, or when wholly immersed in fresh water free from air, but they all rust when exposed to the action of water or moisture and air alternately. And very thin iron, such as used in swords anciently, oxidises more rapidly than thick iron. Thus, finding any iron swords would be a rarity in an area covering several thousands of square miles.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part III,” for the reason why no iron or steel swords have been found in the Western Hemisphere before the arrival of the Spaniards)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords

Continuing with the idea that the Book of Mormon contains Anachonisms according to the critics, we come to their concern over the use of “metal swords.” According to their criticism: “The Book of Mormon makes numerous references to swords and their use in battle. When the remnants of the Jaredites' final battle were discovered, the Book of Mormon narrative states that "the blades thereof were cankered with rust."

Apologists counter that most references to swords do not speak of the material they were made of, and that they may refer to a number of weapons such as the Macuahuitl a "sword" made of obsidian of blades that was used by the Aztecs. It was very sharp and could decapitate a man or horse. However obsidian (volcanic glass), cannot rust.”

Nephi tells us that he had a steel bow (1 Nephi 16:18), and that Laban’s sword was made of “the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9), and that he taught his people to work in iron, copper, brass and steel (2 Nephi 5:15). When he was ready to begin the ship the Lord instructed him to build, he asked where to go “to find ore, that I might make tools” (1 Nephi 17:10), and that he made “tools of the ore” which he “did molten out of rock” (1 Nephi 117:16). He also made a bellows to heat the fire (1 Nephi 17:11). All of this suggests that Nephi knew how to dig for ore, smelt it, and mold tools and other items from it. He also used Laban’s steel sword as a template and made many swords (2 Nephi 5:14). Jarom, the grandson of Jacob, tells us that the Nephites had “fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery,” and that they worked “iron, copper, brass and steel, and made all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground and weapons of war” (Jarom 1:8).

Thus it can be said that the Nephites knew, understood, and worked iron, and from it made steel. Even the Jaredites before them knew steel (Ether 7:9). Now critics claim this has to be incorrect, and apologists claim that it must have been something else. However, Joseph Smith knew the different between iron and steel and translated both words on more than one occasion with the spirit acknowledging that they were the correct words. So let’s take a look at what is involved in the use of iron and steel.

First of all, iron is one of the most common elements on earth and is also one of the oldest metals and was first fashioned into useful and ornamental objects at least 3,500 years ago. It, of course, is not a product, but like most metals, it is found in the Earth’s crust in the form of an ore, and is combined with other elements such as oxygen or sulfur. The iron is then refined, that is, it is extracted from ore by removing oxygen and combining the ore with a preferred chemical partner such as carbon—a process known as smelting, which was first applied to metals with lower melting points, such as tin, which melts at about 250º, and copper which melts at about 1100º. These temperatures could be reached with ancient methods that have been used since the Bronze Age, about 3000 B.C.

At this point the iron ore is heated and carbon (coal) added, which binds to the oxygen and eventually creates carbon dioxide gas which is expelled, leaving behind the iron. When some of the oxygen and carbon are left, pig iron is the result; pure or nearly pure iron (which is almost never found in nature except in meteorites) is called “wrought iron,” which is strong, but heavy, hard to melt or mold, and can grow brittle, heavily rusting—thus, the iron is blended with a small amount of other metals to make steel, which is easier to mold into useful items, is a little lighter, and is more resistant to rust.

Steel is produced by taking ‘pig iron” (iron with higher carbon content) by reducing the carbon content and adding other elements, such as manganese and nickel. It is believed that the Egyptians were the first to work with small amounts of iron, some five or six thousand years ago. Evidence of what is believed to be the first example of iron mining and smelting points to the ancient Hittite culture in what is now Turkey around 1500 B.C. Because iron was a far superior material for the manufacture of weapons and tools than any other known metal, its production was a closely guarded secret. However, the basic technique was simple, and the use of iron gradually spread. The Hittities, of course, were just to the west of Mesopotamia and the Jaredites, and just to the north of Canaan and the later Israelites.

Thus, there is no reason to believe that neither the Jaredites nor Nephites would not have know how to smelt ore, extract iron, and blend with other elements to form steel, for such had been done close to the time the Jaredites left Mesopotamia and about a thousand years before Lehi left Jerusalem. But the ability to make steel by achieving the temperatures needed, was first established in 3000 B.C., 800 years before the Jaredites left, and 1500 years before Lehi left.

Then, too, the “cankered with rust” would also be applicable to the time frame of both the Jaredites and the Nephites.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part II,” for the ancient working of metals in the Western Hemisphere)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Cimiter Swords – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding critic’s claims of there being anachronisms in the Book of Mormom, the use of “cimiter” was begun, ending with “So the question arises, why use the term “cimiter” in the Book of Mormon?” In this post we will answer that question.

First, however, that question begs another question. If you were translating a foreign language that had no educated examples, dictionaries, etc., and came across a word that you saw as describing a “curved sword,” but no name was given it, what would you call it? You can’t just call it a sword, since that term in 1829 meant “a weapon worn at the side for either cutting or slashing,” and is not descriptive of the more unusual curved sword intended.

Secondly, let’s take a look at what scimitar is. The word is pronounced “simiter,” and is defined as a backsword with a curved blade. The name can be used to refer almost any Asian sword with a curved blade. However, in the 1828, “American Dictionary of the English Language,” there is no such word as Scimitar. The word used is “cimiter.” Just as Joseph Smith used it in his translation.

Cimiter is defined as a “short sword with a convex edge, or recurvated edge,” which is a “smoothly rounded bend that is backward in a regular form.” Consequently, any sword so shaped today bears the name cimiter, cimeter, cimetar, etc., and used to refer to almost any curved blade, which is often thought of as having a ridge near the end. Such weapons include the Arabic saif, Indian talwar, Persian shamshir, Moroccan nimcha, Afghan pulwar, and Turkish kilij and yatagan among others (see last post). The term as we know it in English is derived from the Middle French cimeterre, or from the Italian scimitarra. The Persian Shamshir, it spread throughout the area now referred to as the old Ottoman Empire, as well as beyond into India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Its strongly curved blade was enduringly popular and absolutely ideal for delivering a devastating cutting stroke. And, contrary to popular belief, it was very effective at delivering rising, descending and hooking style thrusts.

In addition, we need to remember that the purpose of translation is to render an idea that is readily understood, not to translate word for word, since this can become both laborious in translating, and convey words that lead to ambiguity in translation. As an example, when the term “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) was being translated into a language among the South Sea islands where snow had never been known or seen, the translation was changed to “as white” as a local bird that had snowy white plumage. The meaning was the same and the idea conveyed was the same, but it was not a word for word translation. The same happened when translators changed the word “dove,” where there was no word in the Ulithian language for dove, to “gigi,” a local bird of the same appearance. Some people dislike such translation technique, but at times it is necessary. At other times, using the original word, where a word (and not a symbol) appears, is necessary, such as when Joseph Smith used “neas” and “sheum” (Mosiah 9:9) for two grains of which he had no knowledge, or “cureloms” and “cumoms” (Ether 9:19) for animals he had never seen or could picture.

This is because, as Nephi said, “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 3:3). That is, the Lord speaks to us at the level of our understanding and in the language we know. Thus, when Joseph Smith translated the ancient writings, he did so in the language known to him in his day, using words we would understand. It is not a difficult principle to understand, for why would the Lord speak to us in a language we did not know, or at a level beyond our understanding?

Consequently, when Isaiah wrote: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD,” he was showing us that we needed to use reason in understanding what the Lord has spoken to us. That is, reason tells us that when Joseph Smith came to the word in reformed Egyptian on the plates describing the curved swords, he could picture the sword in his mind’s eye, and called it a “cimiter,” which was the current name for it. The fact that other men had not “coined” or used that word at the time and in the historical frame of that he was translating is not the point—it was the correct word to use for the word he was translating. What the reformed Egyptian word actually was, like all other words in the Book of Mormon, we do not know—nor do we need to know. We only need to know the translation that was inspired by the Spirit, so God could speak to us in our day in our language according to our understanding.

It is interesting that one apologist wrote: “the word was chosen by Joseph Smith as the closest workable English word for a short curved weapon used by the Nephites. This assumes an unofficial view on the method of translation by Joseph Smith, where he had the liberty to choose the best suited word.”

Cimiter was not the “best suited word.” It was the only English word known to the vast majority of readers, that described the Nephite weapon. After all, if he had used: saif, shamshir, kilij, yatagan, talwar, toor, nimcha, pulwar, or handzar, would that have been better understood by the reader? So, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Cimiter Swords

Continuing from the last two posts, another issue critics claim is out of place in the historical time frame—an anachronism—is the use of the term “cimiter.” According to the critics, “Cimiters are mentioned about ten times in the Book of Mormon as existing hundreds of years before the term was first coined. And that the word "cimiter" was never used by the Hebrews (from which the Book of Mormon peoples came) or any other civilization prior to 450 AD.

Forgetting the word itself, the curved sword, and its use, did not originate with the coining of the word. Curved swords originated where horse warfare existed because of their relatively light weight when compared to larger swords—and their curved design was excellent for slashing opponents while on horseback. The Mongols used curved swords as early as the first century B.C., and some claim were traced back to the Iron Age production in China as early as 1200 B.C., and certainly were in use by the third century B.C. Curved swords have been used in warfare, among many peoples, and were part of the army of Alexander the Great.

There is no way of knowing at what historical stage a curved sword was first invented, but since its use has been tied to Egypt, Asia and Mesopotamia of antiquity, all in the area of Noah’s immediate descendants, and certainly coming down to the Arabs in the time of Lehi, as well as found in Egypt of that day, the knowledge of curved swords would have been known to the Nephites. The Khopesh, an Egyptian name of the Canaanite curved or sickle sword, dates to the third millennium B.C. and was called a Sappara in Assyria. A crescent-shaped 18th-century B.C. khopesh was found in shechem, Israel, showing such a curved weapon was known to the Jews—a weapon used for slashing, like a saber. The weapon has been traced back to the third millennium in Sumer (Mesopotamia) and many pharaohs were depicted with a khopesh, and one was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (1330 B.C.).

Obviously, Lehi and Nephi would have had some knowledge of the weapon as it was found among the ancient Jews. It cannot be said, then, that a curved sword would have been unknown to the Nephites. Thus, the claim of an anachronism has to do with the name “cimiter” and not the curved weapon itself. It should be noted that the word “cimiter” is not mentioned in the Jaredite record—but they did have steel swords: “he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him” (Ether 7:9)—all other mentioning of “swords” is without description. Thus, the curved sword was evidently not used or known among the Jaredites.

Before delving into the name, let’s consider what a “cimiter” actually is. First of all, swords have always been with man from as ancient a time as has been recorded or found. Spears, swords, slings, and bows have long been in existence. So let us take a look at the sword itself. For simplicity sake, we might suggest that swords fall into two catagories—straight blades and curved blades.

Straight blades encompass such things as the golok and klewang, both machete-style broadswords; the Persian akinaka; the Philippine leaf-shaped Barong; the Chinese Dao; the single-edged Hwanduadaedo; Chinese Jian; Moro Kampilan; Indian Khanda; the Japanese Tsurugi; the Indian Pata; Visayan Pinuti; Korean Saingeom; the Roman Gladius, and, of course, the 62-varieties of straight swords of medieval Europe.

In curved swords, you have the kukri (khukuri), a curved long-knife sword; the 8th-century B.C. Xiongnu Kilij of Asia; the katana, tachi, wakizashi, tsurugi, odachi and nodachi, all Japanese curved swords, the Dha (Dhaw), a slightly curved Indonesian sword; the waved Kalis; the Ceylon Kastane; the Thailand krabi; the Indonesia wave-sword Keris, sabers around the world; the Philippine panabas; Afghan pulouar; Arab saif (sayf); the radically curved Shamshir; Indian talwar; and the flexible-blade Urumi.

In addition, swords varied in width from the cutlass and broadswords to rapiers and urumi, and in length from the Europe mercenary Landesknechte Flamberge to the Spanish Cogatas. There simply is no end to the number and types of swords that have graced the annals of history from ealiest times to the present.

Thus, we can see that the curved sword was a very common weapon, dating from earliest times (as early as 2000 B.C.), and over the centuries taken on various shapes. The problem is, that today we think of swords as being straight (like those of Medieval knights), and any curved blades as all being scimitars from Persia. However, the curved blade, referred to as a backsword, originated in the Middle East, and has been found in all countries where Middle Eastern influence progressed. The U.S. Army saber is actually a curved scimitar-stype backsword.

So the question arises, why use the term “cimiter” in the Book of Mormon?

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Cimiter Swords – Part II,” for the answer to that question and why Joseph chose “cimiter,” and why it was not spelled “scimitar”)

Monday, December 12, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Glass Windows – Part II

As discussed in the last post, critics of the Book of Mormon, and the so-called LDS Apologists’ views of the Book of Mormon often miss the mark by a great distance. In the last post, the word “compass” was covered. The next item critics challenge is “windows.”

These critics write that “Transparent window panes are a more recent invention. The earliest known production of glass dates to 3500 BC. in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though the specimens are non-transparent beads. The earliest known production of transparent glass panes is much more recent - dating to the 11th century AD in Germany which is many hundreds of years after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon record.”

This disingenuous approach at demeaning the scriptural record has to do with the Brother of Jared who approached the Lord about not having light in the barges, the Lord told him: “ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces” (Ether 2:23). There is no mention of glass, or of glass shattering, but of some type of wood frame the Jaredites knew about and used in their houses in Mesopotamia, and would have been consistent with a surface vessel—like the wood window of Noah’s Ark only a couple of hundred years before the Jaredites—being dashed under the weight of the sea.

Obviously, when critics talk about glass before it was invented, they are inserting something into the discussion that has no support in the scriptural record. The word “glass” or “transparent glass” is not mentioned in the record in connection with windows. The only mention of glass in all Ether’s record is in describing the stones the Brother of Jaredite molted out of a rock, in which it is written: “and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass” (Ether 3:1). Whether this was Ether’s words or a description Moroni placed into the record in 420 A.D., is not known.

Glass bowl blown in Mesopotamia and Glass Bead of Syria in 3100 BC--neither are clear glass or transparent glass

However, the idea that glass was not known to the Jaredites is also in error, for glass was first invented by the Sumerian Civilization in Mesopotamia, where the Jaredites lived, around 3000 B.C. (some claim as early as 3500 B.C.) They prepared a mixture mixing silica and sand in very hot forms. After cooling, what remained was glass. They also added various other chemicals to impart color to the glass (actually, the sand particles had to be separated first—if sand was just melted it would produce a dark, non-transparent glass; once the clear crystals in the sand were separated, they were melted and either blown or molded into the desired shape). Glass was also known to the Phoenicians and the Egyptians as early as 2500 B.C., but in the case of the Egyptians, their use of glass was in producing beads—whether they made glass in any other form, like the Sumarians, is not known.

In addition, glassblowing was being performed during the 1st century B.C. by the glassmakers of Syria—glass blowing is a process of transparency, though it was often slightly tinted to yellow or greenish color originating from the iron oxide impurities in its earliest stages. So when these critics write “The earliest known production of transparent glass panes is much more recent, dating to the 11th century AD in Germany which is many hundreds of years after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon record,” they are mistaken. It was clear glass that was invented—that is, glass without bubbles and streaks that, in poor workmanship, extended into the 19th century in the American Old West. So, in this case, the critics are wrong on both counts. On the other hand, truly clear glass as we know it today, called cristallo, which is totally clear (like rock crystal), without iron oxide impurities, an effect that was achieved by adding small amounts of manganese oxide . The invention of cristallo is attributed to Angelo Barovier around 1450, however, the Baroviers of Venice were glassmakers as early as 1324.

The point is, however, that there is no mention in the scriptural record that the Jaredites were considering, or that the Lord was remarking about, clear or transparent glass, or glass of any type, for windows in the barges. The Brother of Jared was asking about light (Ether 2:22)—not windows;--for he was “fearful that they should “cross the great water in darkness.” The Lord then asked him, like a patient but teaching parent, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”

Wood windows, actually openings that were closed off with wood shutters, date back to the beginning of house construction and would have been the type of window on Noah's Ark

The Lord then described the two sources known to the Brother of Jared that would eliminate darkness—windows to let in light, and fire. Neither of which would have been practical in a vessel that would be submerged at times in the ocean (Ether 2:23). The Lord, ever the instructor, finished by saying: “And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25).

To claim that the Lord was talking about, or that the Brother of Jared was thinking about, glass window panes is both foolhardy and disingenuous—as are nearly all arguments raised by these critics.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Cimeter Swords – Part III,” to see more of this issue and the simple answers to critics’ uneducated complaints about the scriptural record)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: the Compass – Part I

Critics of the Book of Mormon, and the so-called LDS Apologists’ views of the Book of Mormon often miss the mark by a great distance in 1) trying to show why certain objects or animals did not exist during the era, and 2) trying to find some other answer than the actual scriptural record to explain away these “out-of-order” introductions.

First, the critics take the singular view of history, that it began in cave-dwelling man which progressed step-by-step through to hunters and gatherers, to an agricultural level, then to mechanism, and to modern man. In so doing, the inventive genius of mankind progressed in a similar fashion, that is, certain things were invented in the order we now know them to have happened, with nothing out of place and no giant leaps in the process. Anything not in this order, is referred to as an anachronism. These critics use certain ideas in the Book of Mormon to show that Joseph Smith inserted later known objects or inventions into a much earlier time frame, thus negating the correctness and authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Second, the “LDS Apologists” try to explain away such “anachronisms” by using sectarian knowledge and understanding. Neither of these approaches is on track to understand what was written originally, and what was translated in modern times.

By way of explanation, an anachronism, a word taken from the Greek “ana” and “chronos,” referring to moving something backward in time, is defined as an accidental or deliberate inconsistency in the arrangement of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. The item is often an object, but may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a custom, or anything else so closely associated with a particular period in time that it would be incorrect to place it outside its proper domain. A representation of something as existing or occurring at other than its proper time in history—such as stating that the United States of America existed in 1200 A.D., or that Martin Luther was a contemporary with Charlemagne.

According to such critics, there are a variety of words and phrases in the Book of Mormon that are at odds with archaeological findings regarding an artifact, animal, plant, or technology that they and some archaeologists believe did not exist in the Americas during this time period. Thus, they claim, the use of “compass” regarding the Liahona is an anachronisms since history does not show the invention of a compass until 1100 A.D. by the Chinese—which is true for the world in general.

The problem with this type of thinking is it disregards the Creator of all things, the Inventor of all things, and the Inspirer of mankind to develop such things according to His time frame. It also limits the Creator from stepping outside man’s small box of knowledge to do something without man’s knowledge of the fact. Thus, for a small moment in time, the Lord provided Lehi with a Liahona, which Joseph called a compass according to how it was depicted in the ancient writing—a compass which existed in man’s hands for a short period of time, then was placed in sacred holding under the direction of the Lord, and eventually sealed up from man’s knowledge all together.

Nobody needs to explain that away. The Lord operates under His own time frame, in His own manner, for the benefit of His plans for His children. It is always interesting that man, with his extremely limited knowledge and even more limited understanding of the ways of God, who created all things, that they will limit His knowledge and efforts to fit within their tiny little “box” of knowledge.

Whether the compass worked on a north basis as modern compasses, is not the question. We do know that it pointed in the direction, according to man’s faith, the Lord wanted Lehi and later Nephi to travel. We can also understand that it had some reference to cardinal compass points since Nephi described Lehi’s direction of travel, after obtaining the Liahona, as south-southeast (1 Nephi 16:10-13) and later as east (1 Nephi 17:1).

In addition, the “Apologists’” view that “There is no indication in the Book of Mormon that the Liahona was copied or used by the Nephite civilization for anything other than a sacred relic, and as such it is not unreasonable that the ancient American peoples did not have compass technology,” is of no importance whatsoever. In fact, we do not know that the Liahona was ever used again once Nephi reached the land they called after him and where the city of Nephi was eventually built. It is understood that Mosiah I had that instrument, along with the sacred records, Urim and Thummim, etc., when he reached Zarahemla. But how the Liahona was used, it at all, is of little import, since it was designed by the Lord to show the way, and teach the necessity of faith on the part of Lehi’s family, to reach the Land of Promise.

It had a purpose and the purpose was served. Which is typically the case with all things the Lord shows man when there is a short-duration objective to reach—such as Nephi’s ship he built. The compass would not be needed again in the Lord’s time frame until it came time for Columbus to discover the Americas.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Glass Windows – Part II,” to see more of this issue and the simple answers to critics’ uneducated complaints about the scriptural record)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Were There Surviving Nephites After Cumorah? Part II

Continuing from the last post, Sorenson’s continual belief in there being Nephite survivors of the last, great battle with the Lamanites at Cumorah, the first 3 points were covered. Here point number 4 continues:

4. “Were there Nephites left after that battle? Some, yes. The scripture makes that clear.”

In fact, the scriptures as Sorenson uses and as listed in the previous post, make it abundantly clear that there were NO Nephites left after that battle. Moroni tells us they all died and that he was the last alive, and as a result, he was alone (Mormon 8:3).

5. Mormon observed to his son that "many of our brethren have dissented over unto the Lamanites" (Mormon 9:24).”

This is an inaccurate reference. In one instance, Mormon wrote: "And a few who had dissented over unto the Lamanites, had fallen; and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth." (Mormon 6:15). Sorenson is referring to Moroni 9:24, which does state that many Nephites had and would dissent over to the Lamanites. But nowhere does it say "large numbers" and some, if not all of these were killed in that final battle (Mormon 6:15) or were hunted down and killed (Mormon 8:2). Moroni makes this perfectly clear: "I say no more concerning them, for there are none save it be the Lamanites and robbers that do exist upon the face of the land." (Mormon 8:9)

To further this, we find in Alma that Mormon knew exactly what the Lord had in mind for the Nephites. Mormon wrote: "But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled" (Alma 45:14). Later, we find Moroni, finishing his father's record, adding: "The Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more; and great has been their fall; yea, great and marvelous is the destruction of my people, the Nephites" (Mormon 8:7).

6. On this subject, Sorenson also wrote: “The Doctrine and Covenants says that modern descendants of not only the Nephites but also the major lineages allied with them, the Jacobites, Josephites, and Zoramites, will yet be identified (D&C 3:17-20; 10:48).”

Were there Nephite survivors of this last great battle? No! Were there Nephite survivors of the Nephite nation? No. Then how will the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants be fulfilled? They will be fulfilled because there had been Nephite dissenters throughout the history of the land of promise and no doubt there was Nephite blood mingled among the Lamanites. Then, too, the final split (4 Nephi 1:35) between the Nephites and the Lamanites around 231 A.D. was not over descent from the original brothers, but between those who were followers of Christ (4 Nephi 1:36) and those who were followers of evil (4 Nephi 1:38). Thus, there would be descendant lineages of all the tribes among the descendants of the surviving "Lamanite" forces which successfully annihilated the Nephite nation.

In addition, and most importantly, some 20,000 to 25,000 men, women and children, both Nephite and converted Lamanite, joined forces in about 46 B.C. and sailed “to a land which was northward” aboard the ships built by Hagoth (Alma 63:6-7) These individuals settled in the land now called Mesoamerica in the first century B .C. and there built cities, palaces and temples rivaling those of the Land of Promise. From there they evidently migrated northward, through Mexico and into the United States. Joseph Smith found a “white Lamanite” named Zelph in the Illinois area, and described the prophet Onandagus known from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains.

Obviously, through this source, Nephites and Lamanites survived for many centuries. But no Nephites survived in the Land of Promise described in the scriptural record as Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists continually want to claim contrary to the record.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Were There Surviving Nephites After Cumorah? Part I

In an interesting display of ignoring the scriptural record, John L. Sorenson makes several claims about surviving Nephites:

“Were there Nephites left after that battle? Some, yes. The scripture makes that clear. Only they were no longer called Nephites. Mormon noted that "a few...had escaped into the south countries, and a few...had dissented over unto the Lamanites" (Mormon 6:15). Naturally, large numbers of people of Nephite descent had never consented to flee their lands in the first place (Mormon 2:7-8), but had switched their allegiance rather than move out (Moroni 1:2). Mormon observed to his son that "many of our brethren have dissented over unto the Lamanites" (Mormon 9:24).”

Let’s take these points one at a time:

1. Mormon noted that "a few...had escaped into the south countries.”

This statement is given by Mormon in 384 A.D. after stating that his 23 units of 10,000 each had been destroyed. At this point, just before his death as one of the last 24 Nephites alive. However, around 400 A.D., Moroni tells us that after the last battle had taken place, and he was the last Nephite alive (Mormon 8:3), that those who had escaped into the south countries were hunted down by the Lamanites and killed (Mormon 8:2). This is just another example of Sorenson’s attempt to create survivors in the Land of Promise when there were none as the scriptural record shows.

2. Naturally, large numbers of people of Nephite descent had never consented to flee their lands in the first place (Mormon 2:7-8).

As the Lamanites, with their numberless armies march northward, the Nephites were frightened and ran before them. During this swift retreat, Mormon tells us that “we did gather in our people as fast as it were possible, that we might get them together in one body” (Mormon 2:7). As the retreat toward Cumorah continued, Mormon tells us “whatsoever lands we had passed by, and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns and villages and cities were burned with fire (Mormon 5:5).

This flight continued each time the Lamanites came down to battle “and we did again take to flight, and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites were swept down and destroyed” (Mormon 5:7). The blood and carnage wrought by the Lamanites against all Nephites they encountered was so extensive, that Mormon refused to write more about it (Mormon 5:8-9). There is certainly nothing in the record to suggest that any Nephites “never consented to flee their lands in the first place.” The opposite picture seems quite clear—the Lamanites were bent on destroying all the Nephites, and those who did not escape with Mormon and his army, were killed.

3. but had switched their allegiance rather than move out.

What Sorenson describes as “switching their allegiance,” Moroni describes as “denying the Christ.” Those that did throughout the scriptural record became known as Lamanites and took upon themselves the curse the Lord placed upon the Lamanites from the beginning. However, in the specific case he quotes, this description is an overall statement by Moroni about 421 A.D., about 37 years after the final battle where the last of the Nephites, including his father, had been killed, and about 21 years after his earlier statement that all the Nephites that escaped into the south countries were hunted down by the Lamanites and killed.

At this time, he is surprised that he is still alive (Moroni 1:1), and that he is in hiding knowing the Lamanites would kill him if they found him. Why? Because he would not deny the Christ (Moroni 1:3). In this same vein, Moroni is describing how vicious the Lamanites were, for their wars were exceedingly fierce among themselves” (Moroni 1:2), and because of their age-old hatred toward the Nephites, they had killed all that would not deny the Christ (Moroni 1:2) and join them. There were none left earlier when the last were tracked down. How many denied the Christ earlier in those final days is not known nor even implied. Nor is there any indication that Nephites did this in large numbers rather than leave their towns and villages as Sorenson implies.

(See the next post, “Were There Surviving Nephites After Cumorah? Part II,” for the continuation of these points)