Monday, July 18, 2011

Additional Clues to the Land of Promise Location-Part II First of Nephite Coins

Besides the Land of Promise location matching scriptural clues such as winds and currents moving Nephi’s ship that was “driven forth before the wind,” the temperature and climate needed to grow seeds from Jerusalem exceedingly and provide an abundant climate, locating ore deposits in abundance and contain gold, silver and copper in a single unit, finding two unknown animals that were as “useful to man” as the elephant, two unknown grains on a par with corn, wheat and barley, and natural herbs to cure deadly fever, roads, buildings, resorts, area of many waters, volcanoes and earthquakes, fortified walls, and slings used as weapons, there are other clues in the scriptural record that also needs to be found in the Land of Promise.

One of these would be the use of coins for monetary exchange. While this issue is not agreed upon by Mesoamerican Theorists (no doubt because no ancient coins were ever found in Central America), the simple truth is that the Nephite money was a series of gold and silver coin as the scriptural account suggests.

Early in Alma, the subject of money is broached: “he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money” (Alma 1:5), and again, “they did persecute them, and afflict them with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price” (Alma 1:20).

The judges are described in somewhat the same light: “Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek” (Alma 11:20).

Now, having introduced the concept of money used for purchasing and for earning wages (even through nefarious means), the scriptural account covers the bribe Zeesrom offered to Amulek (Alma 11:22). At this point, Mormon inserts an understanding of the Nephite monetary system in connection with this bribe of “six onties of silver” so we can understand its value—for it was no small amount of money.

In the gold side of the Nephite reckoning, one senine of gold was equivalent to one senum of silver. While our American system of money is based on fives and tens, the English system on sixes and twelve’s, the Nephite system was based on sevens, which Hugh Nibley claims to be a better system overall, “using the least coins for any necessary transaction.”

To begin with, the description or amount of an “onti of silver,” is described by Mormon to be worth 7 senums of silver, therefore, six onties of silver were worth 42 senums of silver, 84 shiblons of silver, 168 Shiblums, and 336 leahs of silver.

Now the important statement made by Mormon is, “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being” Alma 11:22). Consider that in this discussion, held between Zeezrom and a crowd of Nephites (Alma 11:35, 46) was a public debate with large crowds in attendance, in which Zeezrom is trying to humuliate Alma and Amulek with his wit and reason to further his reputation as a great lawyer and increase his clientele. In doing so, his comments are for show, thus, at this crucial moment, Zeezrom reaches into his pocket pouch and pulls out six silver coins—six onties of silver. This is shown in his words: “Here are six onties of silver—“ The word “here” indicates this money was present, and that is logical for it it was not, it would not have been as impressive to the crowd.

Thus, we can envision Zeezrom, the lawyer and showman he was that obviously reflected his courtroom skills, taking out the coins and holding them aloft for all to see, and offering them to Amulek to deny the existence of God.

If an onti of silver was simply a measurement as John L. Sorenson and other Mesoamerican Theorists claim, it would not make sense for Zeesrom to say what he did for it is extremely doubtful Zeezrom had access to barrels of barley or other grains in the public square where this debate took place.

Thus, for show, Zeezrom reached in his pocket or pouch and took out what coins he had on his possession—which turned out to be six onties of silver, which was equivalent to six weeks salary for a Nephite. We can envision that if the lawyer had five or seven or eight onties of silver in his pocket, he would have offered that for the bribe--but as it were, he had six onties in his pocket and that was his offer.

Thus we can conclude that the Nephite monetary system was based on coins, not grain as Mesoamericanists claim.

(See the next post for the second part of this three-part post on Nephite Coins in the Land of Promise)

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