Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Painting With a Broad Brush—Written Language – Part II

Continuing with John L. Sorenson’s claim that: “The inhabitants of Book of Mormon lands knew and used formal writing systems and compiled numerous books (see Helaman 3:15) restricts the possible real-world location to Mesoamerica (central and southern Mexico and northern Central America),” suggests another comparison to be made.

First of all, the writing the Nephites knew was very specific. Around 400 A.D., Moroni, completing his father’s record, tells us: “And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.
And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record” (Mormon 9:32-33).

Thus, we can correctly understand that the Nephites, even a thousand years after leaving Jerusalem, still spoke and wrote in Hebrew, though modified or altered over the years from its original Jerusalem Hebrew (even the Hebrews of today speak and write slightly different from the Hebrew spoken and written during Old Testament times). We can also correctly understand that the Nephite prophets and keepers of the sacred records, wrote in Reformed Egyptian, that was also modified or altered somewhat over the thousand years of its use when Nephi first began using it “I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2), and Mosiah wrote around 130 B.C., “For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time” (Mosiah 1:4).

We can also correctly understand from Moroni’s next statement: “the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34), that it would be the Lord’s instruments, not that of science or the interpretation of trained linguists, that would correctly interpret the writing.

From these two understandings, we can correctly conclude that 1) the Nephites wrote and spoke an altered form of Hebrew at the time of their demise, and 2) the Nephite record (the gold plates interpreted by Joseph Smith) were written in an altered form of Reformed Egyptian—a type of Egyptian shorthand, so to speak. A short writing in Reformed Egyptian is shown in the Anton transcript.

In addition, we know that Hebrew was an alphabetic language, that is, based upon individual letter symbols and combination of letter sounds.

Now with that understanding, let us consider the writing symbols found in Mesoamerica. In looking at the visual construction of Maya glyphs is very interesting. At first inspection, the glyphs appear to be very intricate squares laid out in a gridlike pattern. In fact, each square is a glyph block that actually contain one to five glyphs, often forming a word or even a phrase. However, these glyphs are not based upon an alphabet, but word meanings or phrases.

One look should show anyone that the language of the Maya is not an outgrowth over centuries of either Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian. So why would we conclude, unless trying to force the issue, that the Maya language proves that “The inhabitants of Book of Mormon lands knew and used formal writing systems and compiled numerous books (see Helaman 3:15) restricts the possible real-world location to Mesoamerica”?

In addition, while rarely mentioned and never by Mesoamerica Theorists, the people of Peru had a written language that was transported to Easter Island from the mainland prior to the complete annihilation of the Nephites. This language, referred to as Rongo Rongo, has never been translated, and certainly fits the parameters Sorenson points out for his Maya language, in matching Book of Mormon times. This also shows that while the Lamanties destroyed all written matter of the Nephites after eliminating them from the land, the language survived on a nearby island where Peruvians are known to have traveled in B.C. times.

Thus we can conclude that Sorenson’s conclusion is based on erroneous information—the ancient Peruvian people had a written language, and two, the Maya hieroglyphics have no semblance in appearance or meaning to ancient Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian.

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