Monday, October 31, 2011

What Was the Population in Jacob’s Time When He Confronted Sherem? Part II

Continuing from the last post with Sorenson’s attempt to show that there were other people in the Land of Promise besides Nephites, Lamanites and Mulekites, in which he tries to use the confrontation between Sherem and Jacob, he writes:

2. Sorenson goes on to write: “Yet Sherem had never met Jacob, the chief Nephite priest (see Jacob 7:1-26), and he had come from some other settlement.

Jacob wrote: “And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem. And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ. And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me” (Jacob 7:1-3).

First of all in this, there is no indication in the record that Sherem and Jacob had never met. All we know is that Sherem was unable to gain an audience with Jacob for some time. It is very possible Jacob did not want to meet with Sherem, knowing the man’s attitude and his false preaching, or he wanted to delay any confrontation until after Sherem had placed himself outside the “law” of the Christ, or it could be that the Lord told Jacob not to meet with him until after the man had placed himself outside the forgiveness area by denying the Holy Spirit. We simply do not know why it took some time for Jacob to finally meet with Shrem—nor do we know how much time is meant in “sought much opportunity.” Or it could have been none of those—Jacob obviously would have been a busy man as prophet. There could have been many needs far greater than to satisfy a dissenter’s invitation to meet, such as administering to the people and conducting the affairs of his office.
Second, we do not know he came from some other settlement. All we know is that he “came among the people.” Abinadi “came among them” in disguise for they knew him and he had been among them before (Mosiah 12:1). Prophets “came among” the people to declare their iniquities (Alma 37:30). Then, too, “came” is the past tense of “come,” which means that Sharem went among the people—which means he could have come from his house, the outskirts, another village or settlement, or from the rank and file, or from the dissenters. “Came” does not necessarily mean he “came from another settlement, or from a far distance.” All we know is that in this case, it merely means he went among the people.

Third, a community of about 1300 people would be of some size in that era, and likely lead to some families living a little distance away from others. Take for example a present-day Ward, which is about 500 people, then add two more Wards of nearly 500 people each, which would be about the size of the colony Jacob oversaw as Prophet. Does one person know everyone else in their Ward? Typically not, let alone another Ward in their community. Even in Salt Lake where a Ward can be made up of a few square blocks, people do not normally know those of another Ward next to them.

In any event, Sorenson’s “few dozen adults” is obviously a misleading term and concept. Common sense tells us that very few people would know everyone in such a community—they would know those with shared interests, business, and hobbies, or, in this case, religion—but not necessarily those of another group with different shared interests, business, hobbies or religion. We also find that prophets are busy people and not always available to just anyone. And throughout the Nephite history we find that dissenters typically separated themselves from the rest of the group.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Was the Population in Jacob’s Time When He Confronted Sherem? Part I

John L. Sorenson, forever trying to show that there were other people in the Land of Promise besides Nephites, Lamanites and Mulekites, has written of the confrontation between Sherem and Jacob:

1. “By the time Sherem showed up in the first Nephite settlement, the maximum population that could have resulted from the most rapid conceivable natural descent from Nephi and his fellow settlers would not have exceeded a few dozen adults.”

In looking at the dates, we know that Enos was old in 420 B.C., probably just before his death, 179 years after Lehi left Jerusalem (Enos 1:25). If he lived to 100, then he was born in 520 B.C., making Jacob about 60 at that time. To determine this, Jacob was born sometime between 597 B.C. and 589 B.C., while Lehi was in the wilderness (1 Nephi 18:7) after leaving Jerusalem in 597 B.C., in the first year of Zedekiah’s reign (1 Nephi 1:4). From the time Lehi left, he spent some time in a valley he called Lemuel (1 Nephi 2:6;16:6). During that time, Nephi and his brothers went back to get the plates (1 Nephi 3:9), then later went back to get Ishmael’s family (1 Nephi 7:2-3). Also, while there, there were 5 weddings (1 Nephi 16:7). Some scholars, like Lynn and Hope Hilton, have placed this time as about two years. From there they wandered along the Red Sea, then turned east into the desert (1 Nephi 17:1) where babies were born and they spent 8 years (1 Nephi 17:4) before reaching Bountiful. Thus, it might be concluded they spent 10 years “in the wilderness,” where at some point, Jacob was born and later Joseph (1 Nephi 18:7)

Now, if Jacob was born toward the end of that ten year period before reaching Bountiful, he would have been born around 588 B.C., making him 68 years old when his son, Enos, was born. On the other hand, if Enos lived beyond 100 years, to say 110, then he would have been born when Jacob was 58 years old—a more reasonable figure.

In any event, if Jacob lived to be 100 years old, he would have been somewhere between 70 and 80 years old (or possibly older) when he confronted Sherem (Jacob 7:7-23), for it is the last entry in his record before his death (Jacob 7:27). Thus, we can conclude that Jacob was pretty well along in years by the time Sherem gained an audience with him (Jacob 7:6).

So we need to take a look at what occurred between 597 B.C., when they left Jerusalem and about 520 to 500 B.C. when Sherem confronts Jacob.

• There were 3 families involved in the desert that later became Nephites: Nephi, Sam, and Zoram. Since the ages of Nephi’s sisters (at least 2) are unknown (2 Nephi 5:6), we cannot include them at this point.

• If three families had the same number of children that Lehi had, which is 8 that we know of for certain (Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and 2 sisters), and 10 if we accept Lorenzo Snow’s statement that Lehi’s daughters married the sons of Ishmael before leaving Jerusalem, and was why the two families were connected. That would make (3x8) twenty-four children who, by 520 B.C. would be around 60 years old if born by 580 B.C.

• If those 24 intermarried, that would be 12 couples having children around 560 B.C., and if each couple had 8 children, that would be 96 more people who were adults, or about 40 by 520 B.C. If those 40 intermarried, that would be 20 couples having 160 children who would be adults (20 years old) around 520 B.C. That makes a total of about 286 adults by 520 B.C. between the ages of 20 and 60 years of age. If we use the figure of 10 children, which Lehi may have had, then those figures become 936 adults between 20 and 60 years of age.

• Including Jacob, Joseph and 2 sisters marrying around 565 B.C., they would have 20 children who intermarried in 545 B.C. for a total of 100 more adults by 520 B.C. Or a combined total of 1,136 adults by the time Sherem confronted Jacob.

• With multiple wives (Jacob 1:15) toward the last generation, those numbers would be increased. In addition, with about 193 couples in 520 B.C., we can see that there would probably be about 200 children at the time, making an overall community of about 1,336 people.

• In addition, we do not know who was included when Nephi said, “and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 5:5). If that included others (Lehi’s or Ishmael’s servants who came out of Jerusalem, or some of the Ishmaelitish children, etc.), then the numbers would even be greater.

Even in his own book, Sorenson claims that “the Nephites—would reach a far higher population level than a people characterized as hunters.”

Thus, Sorenson’s “the maximum population that could have resulted from the most rapid conceivable natural descent,” would be at least 1336 people, not "a few dozen adults."

(See the next post, “What Was the Population in Jacob’s Time When He Confronted Sherem? Part II” for the rest of Sorenson’s comments about Jacob and Sherem in trying to prove there were other people in the land of Promise)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part IV

Continuing with the last post regarding John L. Sorenson’s article about the abilities of ancient man to sail across the oceans. The first seven comments were covered in the last three posts.

8. “We now know that the first settlers of Australia crossed open sea from the north as early as 60,000 years ago. While others reached islands east and north of New Guinea nearly 30,000 years ago.”

Now, let’s be realistic. There is no way for anyone to know what happened 60,000 years ago, or 30,000 years ago. That is foolishness. We can only guess who the first settlers of Australia were, nor can we know where they came from, whether north, east or west. All of this is simply archaeological and anthropological guesswork. The most ancient historical writing we have is that of Moses, who wrote about matters some 6,000 years ago because the Lord showed him the information. Moses himself lived around 1450 B.C., less than 3500 years ago. Yet, ever the anthropologist, Sorenson basis his understanding on secular guesswork rather than the scriptural records.

In addition, the comment of 60,000 and 30,000 years ago is an interesting one, since Sorenson claims in his book that the Flood occurred in the 3rd millanium B.C., no more than 5,000 years ago (it actually occurred according to Moses 4,400 years ago). But the point is, Sorenson knows there was no movement of people to which we would now “know” 60,000 or 30,000 years ago, but it does not keep him from making such outlandish statements.

9. “These observations have tended to pull the teeth out of old objections about ancient nautical technology being too crude to allow sailing out of sight of land.”

Again, not to slight the great achievements of ancient or primitive mariners, we need to be realistic and not give them more credit than what they achieved. They did not sail from Europe to America. They did not sail from America to Japan or China. They did not sail around Africa. They did not sail from the Indian Ocean to the Western Hemisphere. By 600 B.C., it is doubtful they had sailed very far in any direction. Marco Polo in the 13th century A.D. was astonished at what he saw on the east coast of China; however, none of those ships had ever ventured into the vast oceans of the Pacific other than some island hopping into Micronesia, and possibly Melonesia—no one voyage more than a few hundred miles in distance, at best. Contrary to popular scientific beliefs, Polynesia had not been populated from the east, but rather from the west, very possibly in the ships Hagoth built, but certainly off the west coast of South America as Thor Heyerdahl showed in his Kon Tiki voyage.

10. “Nowadays it is acceptable for an established archaeologist like E. James Dixon to assume that navigators would have been able to come from Asia to America around the North Pacific by "perhaps 13,000 years ago.”

The key word here is “assume.” Yes, archaeologists assume a lot. We do not know what might have taken place 13,000 years ago. To believe in the oft-quoted Siberian crossing of migration that peopled the Western Hemisphere is totally nonsense and runs contrary to the revealed word of the Book of Mormon and also contrary to the promises the Lord made to Lehi and Nephi. Let us not get carried away with secular history that is more assumptions than facts!

11. “These changing opinions do not imply that the Jaredite or Lehite voyages would have been easy, but at least those trips as described in the Book of Mormon now look quite feasible.”

We do not need secular guesswork to verify the Book of Mormon. But more importantly, secular “changing opinions” have never provided anyone with the last word on anything—it changes from time to time as man becomes a little smarter, or more taken with his own inventive genius in ideas and facts.

It is always interesting to see how academic minds work. As an example, if sailing across the Pacific was so prevalent, as scholars now insist, why on earth did the Lord have the Jaredites build submarine type barges that took 344 days to cross the ocean? Why not ships like others evidently were using to cross the oceans? And, why did Nephi have to build a ship not “after the manner which was learned by men” but “after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2), if man’s ability to build ships that crossed the oceans was so prevalent?

In the days in question, the Lord’s comment is most incisive: “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” (Ether 2:25).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part III

Continuing with the last post regarding John L. Sorenson’s article about the abilities of ancient man to sail across the oceans. The first two comments were covered in the first post, and three and four in the last post.

5. “He concluded that ‘seaworthiness has little to do with size; little ships are often safest’.”

The key word here is “seaworthiness.” It is not the size of the ship we discuss in able to sail into deep ocean, but one that is seaworthy. In his book, Borden writes extensively about a ship needing to be seaworthy. The entire point of earlier writings on this subject is that the ships designed in 600 B.C. and as late as the 1300s A.D., were not seaworthy for deep ocean sailing. Obviously, the ship the Lord designed for Nephi to build would have been—but sailing in 600 B.C. required far more than the frail craft Sorenson continually points out sailed the trade routes from Arabia to China, etc.

6. “Two phenomena have changed attitudes in this regard over the past 50 years. First, many hundreds of persons have crossed the oceans in or on all sorts of craft—log rafts, rubber boats, replicas of Polynesian canoes, rowboats, and, more recently, personal watercraft and sailboards, not to mention numerous kinds of small boats.”

Let’s keep in mind that these boats that cross the oceans, regardless of size, are seaworthy for deep sea sailing. In addition, the “log rafts, canoes, and rowboats” are all drift-voyages. That is, they move only with the winds and currents, not against them. In addition, the “personal watercraft” are motor-driven craft like WaveRunners and Sea-Doos, while “sailboards” are for windsurfing—they move only with the wind.
Also, the “numerous kinds of small boats” are designed to tack, sail close to the wind and run close hauled—they are either built to do this, or modified to do so by those who sail them into deep water. This is because the phenomena that has “changed attitudes in this regard over the past 50 years” is due to the knowledge of winds and currents, sailing routes that run before the wind, tacking abilities, and ships and sails designed to run close hauled. Without these inventions and extensive knowledge, sailing into the wind would not be possible now, as it was not in the past. Even the slightest understanding of sailing into the wind was unknown in the 1200s through the 1400s when ships were being built to sail into the Atlantic on coastal voyages to Britain for tin or around Africa for trade and exploration.

7. “A second reason for the change in atmosphere, especially among scholars, has been recent recognition that ancient (or, as critics were wont to say, "primitive") sailors ages ago were already making remarkable voyages.”

Those remarkable voyages, like the Polynesians from their islands to Hawaii and back, ran with winds and currents or across winds (abeam), which are easy to navigate in small craft. Taking nothing away from these early voyages, they did not cross thousands of miles across the deep ocean, but had the northern, central and southern Line Islands (Teraina or Equatorial islands) in the central Pacific Ocean, south of Hawaii that stretch for 1460 miles into Polynesia—a voyage that is only 1600 miles in total. When Captain James Cook first saw the Polynesian double-hulled sailing canoes in the 18th century, he could not believe they could sail across the deep ocean. But given the numerous islands and atolls along the route, such voyages were successfully undertaken.

(See the next post, “Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s comments compared to the reality of the times)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part II

Continuing with the last post regarding John L. Sorenson’s article about the abilities of ancient man to sail across the oceans. The first two comments were covered in the last post.

3. “For instance, Hannes Lindemann, who made three solo voyages from West Africa to the West Indies, said that he and fellow sailors scoff at nonsailors' view of the "dangers" at sea. He felt that it takes "a damn fool to sink a boat on the high seas."

To keep the record straight, Dr. Hannes Lindemann (b.1922) made two solo transatlantic crossings, one in a sailing dugout canoe, and the other in a production model, a 17-foot Klepper, the Aerius II, sailing double folding kayak, modified to carry two masts and an outrigger. The important thing is, “He had his boat delivered to the Canary Islands, before sailing and paddling to the Caribbean.” This is the route Columbus took on the west-bound southern leg of the North Atlantic gyre, continually moving with the winds and currents. While Lindmann’s efforts are to be lauded, they show nothing of sailing in deep ocean waters against winds and currents as Sorenson has his Lehi colony doing to reach Mesoamerica from the Arabian Peninsula. Using Lindemann as a reference either shows Sorenson’s lack of knowledge, or is used to deliberately suggest something that cannot be done—sail against winds and currents in the time of Lehi and prior to the 14th century.

4. “Charles A. Borden recounts stories of all sorts of unlikely craft that have crossed the ocean.”

Borden, wrote “Sea Quest: Global Blue-Water Adventuring in Small Craft” in 1967. The exact quote is: “Many other craft, some of them remarkably small and ‘primitive,’ have been sailed in modern times across various ocean routes.” Again, the key phrase here is “sailed in modern times across various ocean routes.” This leads to two distinct understandings: 1) “Modern times” means a person knows and understands sea routes, has a vessel adapted for such a voyage, and knows tacking, and sailing close hauled [against the wind]; 2) “Various ocean routes” means that winds and currents, usually in drift voyages, are comparatively safe and extremely possible. This has nothing to do with Sorenson’s bringing the Lehi Colony across the vast Pacific against winds and currents.

In his book, Borden quoted commodore John Pflieger who pointed out in “Spray, the journal of The Slocum Society,” that a long keel is harder to tack or go about in, and that a boat similar to the one mentioned earlier foundered [filled with water and sank] on a lee shore. Regarding this account, Peter Tangvald, competent ocean sailor who circumnavigated the globe in his 32-foot cutter, Dorothea I, promptly replied, "How much more should Slocum have done to demonstrate that the boat was seaworthy? I would not hesitate to claim that if one was wrecked on a lee shore it was because her crew needed a few more hours of sailing lessons.” This suggests that a boat designed to sail into the wind, tack and maneuver close-hauled would not have been driven into a lee shore (wind blowing into shore) unless the crew were quite inexperienced.

Also quoted in Borden’s book is the comment by the experienced seaman Joshua Slocum, who said of his ship “One of the most remarkable things was her ability to run before the wind under her regular fore-and-aft rig with the helm lashed, and hold her course for hours or days on end.” Borden claimed that if his ship did not have this ability, Slocum's performance would have been a physical impossibility. Slocum added, "I didn't touch the helm, for with the current and heave of the sea the sloop found herself at the end of the run absolutely in the fairway of the channel. ... Then I trimmed her sails by the wind, took the helm, and flogged her up the couple of miles or so abreast the harbour landing, where I cast anchor at 3.30 pm, July 17, 1897, twenty-three days from Thursday Island. The distance run was twenty-seven hundred miles as the crow flies. ... During those twenty-three days I had not spent altogether more than three hours at the helm, including the time occupied in beating into Keeling harbour. I just lashed the helm and let her go."

It might be interesting to know that the path of Slocum’s voyage was from Thursday Island in the Torres Straits just north of Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, westward across the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea to the Cocos (Keeling) island group. This voyage was with the wind and currents at such a speed through Indonesia from east to west, that he covered about 118 miles a day. These are the same winds and currents that head westward through Indonesia that Sorenson claims Lehi’s ship sailed AGAINST—from west to east INTO those remarkably strong winds and currents.

One can only wonder how that could have been accomplished. This would be like someone coasting DOWN a very steep hill in a soap box vehicle gathering speed as he went and reaching a high speed, and Sorenson saying he accomplished the same high speed coasting UP the steep hill. It defies all understanding of physics and gravity. It is the same thing as taking a ship designed to "sail before the wind" and sailing it INTO the wind. You are simply ignoring sailing capability of the ship and claiming something happened that defies the nature of the thing.

As a footnote to this, it might be added that when the Lord showed Nephi how to build his ship, He obviously would have included uniqueness in this design that has only been learned in modern times how a ship can be “driven before the wind” (called today “run before the wind) in such a manner as to require very little seamanship.

(See the next post, “Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s comments compared to the reality of the times)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part I

In a recent FARMS website, John L. Sorenson’s article of a discussion about crossing the sea in a small boat was discussed, along with numerous comments from experienced seamen. The problem is, the comments are often taken out of context to make it appear that someone, at any time, could have sailed across the oceans wherever they wanted, under any circumstances.

Such was simply not the case.

Let’s take a look at Sorenson’s comments, and then the reality of life at sea:

1. “This classic question (of crossing the sea anciently) used to be answered by scholars with the a priori response, ‘Of course it is unrealistic!’ Nearly all who gave that answer were landlubbers. Their response has reflected their own psychology rather than real-world experience. One scholar has referred to this attitude as ‘intellectual mal de mer when archaeologists look seaward.’ Others have called this isolationist opinion ‘thalassophobia,’ or fear of the sea.”

While it is true that many types of people have scoffed at ancient seafaring capabilities, the idea of deep ocean sailing and sailing in coastal waters are two entirely different things. In the time of the Jaredites, the Lord said that man could not cross the great deep without the Lord’s specific help (Ether 2:25). And when the Lord wanted the Jaredites to cross the deep waters, he showed them how to build their vessels (Ether 2:16), and unique they were for they could move both upon and beneath the water (Ether 6:6,10).

When the Lord led Lehi and his family into the seas of Irreantum to cross the ocean to the Land of Promise, he did so in a ship Nephi had carefully been instructed in building (1 Nephi 17:8). So let us not make too light of the scoffing of ancient vessels crossing the oceans.

2. “Old hands at small-boat sailing have never voiced such qualms. Experience has shown that while some voyagers may indeed be lost at sea, there is still a reasonable chance for a successful passage along certain routes.”

These “small-boat” sailors who never voiced such qualms are those of the modern era—who took up sailing small boats into deep, or blue, water after enormous knowledge had been gained about currents and winds, tacking, and sailing close-hauled. However, the key phrase here is “along certain routes.” We cannot neglect this most important point. The routes provided by winds and currents with square-rigged, deep-sea, ocean going vessels is the only way sailing “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8-9) could be accomplished in ancient times. The exception to that was sailing across the calm seas of the Mediterranean under oar-powered boats with mean rowing, as all such Phoenician, Greek, and Roman vessels were—some with two and even three tiers of oars. In the Red, Persian and Arabian seas, the lateen sails of the Arab dows allowed them to sail the coastal waters, but always in sight of land.

These are the "small boats" mentioned above. Almost always these boats sail either within sight of land or not far from it and almost never go way out into deep waters, such as a cruise from North or South America out to Hawaii, let alone cross the entire Pacific without island hopping. On rare occasions a very knowledgeable and adventurous sailor has gone into deep water in a small boat, but seldom without a motor as backup. Others, who sailed deep water, did so from island to island, such as in the south Pacific. Also note that these boats are modern in design, have full tacking capabilities, and are made of modern materials that are strong enough to handle the pounding of blue water.

The famed trading ship routes so flippantly mentioned by Sorenson in other works, were nothing more than light-weight, weakly hulled, shallow-draft vessels—called “cockleshells manned by maniacs,” by an 1881 author of “The Tiny Craft Mania” in “American Magazine Vol 12,” in which he begins his lengthy article with “There is a crank among seafaring men at this present writing that is likely to develop in to a novel but royal road to suicide—namely the (attempt at) crossing of boundless oceans in boats scarcely fitted for fishing excursions to adjacent islands.”

In the article he describes the flimsy and early vessels of the ancients: there were such craft as the Lisbon Beanpod, the Scanpavia and the Felucca of the Mediterranean, the Greek Mystico, the Balanza of Scicily, and numerous other coastal ships. In Asia, along the Arabian Sea and in the gulfs through India and Indonesia, there were the Ceylon Dow, shaped like a Dutch Dogger; the Pattomar or Pottamach of the Malabar coast; the catamaran or surf boat of the Madras; the Budgerose and Dingy used on the Ganges; the Burmese boats; the chop or cargo boats of the Chinese, the Mandaria and the Junk; the Japanese cedar junk, and others. It is said that the wine boats of the Douro, the Cotria, was one of the finest sea-boats afloat—these wine boats were remarkable constructions, but could never hope to cross the deep ocean and would only be seen in the Western Hemisphere if brought here piece-meal.

(See the next post, “Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s comments compared to the reality of the times)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What We Need to Know About Translation – Part III

Continuing from the last post regarding how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, and the language known to him at the time as recorded in Noah Webster’s 1828 “American Dictionary of the English Language,” we find that certain words as we understand them today had different or clearer meanings in 1829 when Joseph accomplished the translation, and is the key to understanding the Book of Mormon language.

As an example, understanding certain words as used by Mesoamerican or Great Lakes/Heartland theorists are quite simple when comparing them to Joseph’s language of his day, rather than trying to complicate matters by trying to see what such words meant in ancient Hebrew, for the Lord speaks to us in our language for our understanding—and that language in Joseph Smith’s time was well understood.

Take the word “sea.” It matters little what the ancient Hebrew word “yam” meant because 1) the record was not written in Hebrew but reformed Egyptian, and 2) Joseph knew only the word as the Spirit directed him to know, and he used the English equivalent in the translation, and 3) the Spirit verified the word, or it was to be re-translated into another word (see last post).

• SEA. Thus, the word “sea” in Joseph’s language meant “Ocean; a large body of water that is a branch of the ocean and upon the same level.” Webster also wrote: “Large bodies of water inland, and situated above the level of the ocean are lakes.” Thus, we cannot try and make Joseph’s word “sea” as used in the translation into something else like a lake, no matter how large it might be—such as Lake Erie. This means that 2 Nephi 10:20, could just as easily be translated as “The Lord has made the ocean our path, and we are upon an isle in the midst of the ocean.”

• ISLE. The word “isle.” This means “a tract of land surrounded by water, embosomed in the ocean, lake or river.” Embosomed means “enclosed or surrounded,” thus an “isle surrounded by water.” Webster also says that the word “island” is: “an absurd compound of isle and land—“land-in-water land,” or “ieland-land.” Naturally, we see why Joseph used “isle,” when today we would use “island,” for the word “island” was simply not an appropriate word in Joseph’s time. Thus, we could say “The Lord has made the ocean our path, and we are upon an isle surrounded by the ocean.”

• WILDERNESS. The word “wilderness” means “a tract of land uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings.” Also, “In America, the term ‘wilderness’ is only applied to forests.” Thus we see that when Mormon describes a “narrow strip of wilderness” (which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore) between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27), it does not necessarily mean a mountainous area—it could have been a flat plain, desert, or forest. Obviously, when that narrow strip reached the seashore, it was not mountainous.

• SEASHORE. The word “seashore” literally means “shore of the sea,” and is defined as “the coast of the sea—the land that lies adjacent to the ocean.” Thus, again, we cannot say that “they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore” (Alma 22:28), means that they were along Lake Erie or some other inland waterway—but adjacent to the ocean. Nor can we say that “in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.” (Alma 22:28) means that the area of First Inheritance was on a lake shore, such as Lake Erie, but rather it was adjacent to an ocean.

• LAKE. The word “lake” means a “large and extensive collection of water contained in a cavity or hollow of the earth—it differs from a pond in size.” Webster also goes on to say “North America contains some of the largest lakes on the globe, particularly the lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior.” Thus, it would be impossible to say that the West Sea was Lake Erie as the Great Lakes’ theorists do, for Joseph knew the different between a sea (ocean) and a lake, for the Great Lakes were well known in New England in 1829.

• UP. The word “up” as used today can mean up in elevation or up the block or in a northerly direction as "up to Salt Lake" from Cedar City (which is actually downward in elevation). But as used in the record “they would go up to battle against their enemies” (Mormon 3:10), referring to going up to the Land of Nephi to battle the Lamanites in their own land, is defined In Joseph's day as “in a state of climbing or ascending, such as in ‘we went up to the city or town’ which was at a higher elevation.”

• DOWN. The word “down” as used in the record “the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them” (Alma 51:13), referring to the Lamanites coming down from the Land of Nephi to battle the Nephites in the Land of Zarahemla is defined as “From a higher to a lower place; a descending direction.”

Since Noah Webster gave us an inspired dictionary of the meaning of words in New England in Joseph's day, it seems that before someone wants to tell us what a word or phrase means in the scriptural record, they ought to make sure what the words meant to Joseph Smith when he used them to translate the unknown reformed Egyptian into English.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What We Need to Know About Translation – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts said that “it should not be supposed that this translation, though accomplished by means of the Interpreters and Seer Stone, was merely a mechanical procedure; that no faith, or mental or spiritual effort was required on the Prophet's part; that the instruments did all, while he who used them did nothing but look and repeat mechanically what he saw there reflected. It required the utmost concentration of mental and spiritual force possessed by the Prophet, in order to exercise the gift of translation through the means of the sacred instruments provided for that work.”

Regarding this, David Whitmer said: "At times when brother Joseph would attempt to translate he would look into the hat in which the stone was placed to exclude the light, he found he was spiritually blind and could not translate. He told us that his mind dwelt too much on earthly things, and various causes would make him incapable of proceeding with the translation. When in this condition he would go out and pray, and when he became sufficiently humble before God, he could then proceed with the translation. Now we see how very strict the Lord is, and how he requires the heart of man to be just right in his sight before he can receive revelation from him."

Thus, we can understand that any attempt by scholars and theorists to conclude that what is written in the Book of Mormon is in error, is not interpreted correctly, is in a language other than what we use today (that is, in era of 1829 when translated and the local in which it was translated), or meant something entirely different than what we know and understand is completely without merit.

It would do well for those scholars who like to claim certain statements were only political, that had meaning then but not now, that the scriptures were merely a text written by scribes, etc., or that original Hebrew meanings must be understood today, to take into account who wrote the various books of the Book of Mormon, under what condition they were written, who translated the writings, and under what conditions that translation took place. To try and alter those sacred writings to agree with personal views, or to detract from the purpose and intent of the writing, or to suggest the writers were satisfying a personal, narrow view of their land of promise is, again, totally without merit.

There can be no doubt, either, that the interpretation thus obtained was expressed in such language as the Prophet could command, in such phraseology as he was master of and common to the time and locality where he lived; modified, of course, by the application of that phraseology to facts and ideas new to him in many respects, and above the ordinary level of the Prophet's thoughts and language, because of the inspiration of God that was upon him. This view of the translation of the Nephite record accounts for the fact that the Book of Mormon, though a translation of an ancient record, is, nevertheless, given in English idiom of the period and locality in which the Prophet lived; and in the faulty English, moreover, both as to composition, phraseology, and grammar, of a person of Joseph Smith's limited education; and also accounts for the general sameness of phraseology and literary style which runs through the whole translated volume.

This, then leaves us to understand the language known to Joseph Smith in 1829, when he translated the record. What language was that? It was the English language of New England as spoken by Americans of the day. So when Joseph used a word, it is important that we understand what that word meant to him at that time, not what it means to us 181 years later, or might have meant thousands of years earlier.

And it is very fortunate for us that the language of his day was recorded in an “American Dictionary of the English Language” published by Noah Webster in 1828. Webster, who claimed inspiration guiding him in his work, grew up about 112 miles from where Joseph Smith grew up in New England. As Webster, who had mastered ten languages, put it, “the keynote of this work is the identification of an American language as distinct from that of England.” He also said that “the New England style of pronunciation was preferred by Americans, and that the daily language of the yeomanry, or common man, was the preferred manner of speech.

Thus, it can be seen, that an understanding of Webster’s dictionary of the American language in 1828 is a fundamental requirement in the interpretation or understanding of the words Joseph used in his translation.

(See the next post, “What We Need to Know About Translation – Part III,” for the final segment on the meaning of the worlds known to Joseph at the time of translation)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What We Need to Know About Translation – Part I

There has been much discussion about what ancient Hebrew words meant and their effect on the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. As an example, the word “yam” in Hebrew means “sea,” but historians and scholars, and especially theorists, have debated continually over whether or not a use of the word “yam” signifies a fresh water lake, saltwater sea, ocean or some other type of waters.

The Great Lakes and Heartland theorists, using mid- to eastern U.S. models for the Land of Promise, have presented this word and its meaning to prove that the Nephites did not live along a saltwater West Sea, but one of the fresh water Great Lakes—specifically Lake Erie, and to define surrounded by seas, many waters, etc.

The problem lies in how they see the Book of Mormon being translated. As most secular scholars would approach this problem by trying to see what the original words used meant in the time of writing, the Book of Mormon scholar must come to grips with how the ancient record was translated, not what the original words meant.

In addition, one must come to fully understand what language the original writings were in, rather than assume they were in Hebrew because those who wrote that record originally came from Jerusalem. And in so doing, realize that no one outside of the Spirit can interpret that original language the Nephites called Reformed Egyptian. As Moroni, the last Nephi prophet, said:

“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. But 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 9:32-34).

Several things should be realized from this passage:
1. The records were written anciently in reformed Egyptian;
2. That reformed Egyptian language had been altered over time by the Nephites;
3. The language of Hebrew, which they knew, had been altered by them and was no longer the same ancient Hebrew known to the world;
4. Their writing was in a language unknown to anyone else and, therefore, could not be interpreted or understood by anyone else;
5. Their writing in the reformed Egyptian language could be interpreted only by the means the Lord had prepared for that purpose.

This alone should cause all Book of Mormon scholars and theorists to cease from trying to define the ancient Hebrew in order to prove what a passage or word means in the scriptural record. This then leaves only one way to scholarly understand what was written and that is to understand how the record was translated.

Of the translation process, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God." B.H. Roberts added, "For convenience he sometimes used the Seer Stone. Martin said that the Seer Stone differed in appearance from the Urim and Thummim, and was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone.” Of the actual translation, David Whitmer said: "In the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.

Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God and not by any power of man.'' Martin Harris added: "By aid of the Seer Stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say 'written;' and if correctly written, the sentence would disappear and another appear in its place; but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates.”

(See the next post, “What We Need to Know About Translation – Part II,” for more on the language we need to know to undertand what was written)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part V

Continuing with the questionable FARMS website comments about the Land of Promise and the people there, the sixth through eoghth point was covered in the last post and the following starts with their ninth point.

9. “Jaredite survivors also must have been around, and they too could have been blessed under the heading of "Lamanites" according to the prophetic ethnology.”

No, Jaredite survivors could not have been around for they were all wiped out save Coriantumr and Ether who saw the progression of the Jaredites across time and their total demise as a people and nation (Ether 13:20-21,31;15:14,33), who died after nine months among the Mulekites (Omni 1:21). This is the type of disingenuous writing Mesoamerican and other theorists employ. They make a totally inaccurate statement that has no support whatsoever in the scriptural record, and passes it off as “must have been.” The Jaredites were gone, never to be heard from again, and despite Hugh Nibley, Sorenson, and others view to the contrary, there is no record, hint, or suggest about any Jaredites surviving their last battle, but a lot is recorded to verify they were wiped out to the man—with Coriantumr being the last man standing besides Ether who recorded the events.

10. “Lehi saw from the beginning that Nephites and Lamanites were labels that would include a variety of groups that could have differing biological origins, cultures, and ethnic heritages.”

Nowhere in the scriptural record does Lehi see these labels. In his time, there were his six sons (Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph) and the sons of Ishmael. There was also Zoram. But at no time in the record are these people divided into any groupsduring Lehi’s lifetime. While it is true that Laman, Lemuel and Ishmael’s sons were aligned against Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph and Zoram, they were all in the same community, living with one another in tents along by the seashore where they landed. Not until after Lehi died (2 Nephi 4:12) did Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael rise up against Nephi (2 Nephi 4:13) and seek to kill him (2 Nephi 5:2). When Nephi and those who would go with him left and eventually reached an area they called Nephi and became known as Nephites (2 Nephi 5:9), were there alignment designations (Jacob 1:13).

In addition, nowhere in the scriptural record does it suggest that Lehi or anyone else saw that the term Lamanite “would include a variety of groups that could have differing biological origins, cultures, and ethnic heritages.” It is true that the term Nephite included non-biological people in the family of Zoram, and of the Mulekites. But nowhere do we find any mixture of Lamanites with anyone not of Lehi’s biological descendants.

What Lehi saw in his vision was that Laman and Lemuel might be cast off from the Lord (1 Nephi 8:36), and based upon what Nephi saw in the same vision, was the coming of Columbus (1 Nephi 13:12), and the Spanish conquistadores who scattered the seed of Nephi’s brethren (1 Nephi 13:14), and the Europeans who defeated the other nations (1 Nephi 13:18-20). Now as far as the record is concerned, these are the only people that came to the Land of Promise.

11. “According to the title page of the Book of Mormon, the generic term ‘Lamanite’ was applied by Moroni to all the amalgamated groups whose descendants would survive right down to Restoration times as "the [American] remnant of the house of Israel." There is no indication anywhere in the Book of Mormon that "the Lamanites" were to be a genetically exclusive line descending only from the two oldest sons in Lehi's family.”

This is another inaccurate statement. The title page written by Moroni states: “Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites -- Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.” Obviously, there is no suggestion or hint that the term “Lamanite” here has reference to any “amalgamated [merged] groups whose descendants would survive right down to Restoration times as "the [American] remnant of the house of Israel." The Jew and Gentile are listed separately in this title page and not included in the category of Lamanite.

The Lamanites, of course, were a remnant of the House of Israel, as were the Nephites and Mulekites. Only the Jaredites were not of those mentioned in the scriptural record. In addition, we do not know if there were others of the House of Israel that were led by the Lord to other areas of the Western Hemisphere of which we have no record that might also be called “American remanant” of the House of Israel. Those in the Book of Mormon ma y be called “a” American remnant, but not “the” American remnant.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part IV

Continuing with the questionable FARMS website comments about the Land of Promise and the people there, the fourth, fifth and part of the sixth point was covered in the last post and the following starts with the continuation of the sixth point.

Stated in the last post: 6. “No one, Lehi added in pronouncing his blessings, would come into his promised land unless they were "brought by the hand of the Lord" (v. 6), so "this land [would be] consecrated unto him [everybody] whom he shall bring" (v. 7).

In addition to the previous answers in the last post, the following is added.

Obviously, Lehi is concerned about his children and his future descendants. He is not concerned about some future Gentile group. He is blessing his (wayward) children and their children and warning them of what will befall them if they continue on their present path. The promise was made to him and he is telling them the promise of a land free of others and one of liberty will extend to them and their descendants, where “they shall never be brought down into captivity” (2 Nephi 1:7), as long as they are righteous!

In addition, Lehi knows that the Europeans will eventually come, because he knows his descendants will fall away and lose their promise. But in the meantime, he is telling his children that “this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8), and all they have to do to keep it so is to be righteous.

7. “This last expression refers not only to the eventual Gentile (European) settlers of the 16th through 21st centuries but also to those ancient peoples whom the Lord brought as well (see vv. 10-11).”

Again, this is not accurate. Lehi is not referring to those who came before him—we do not even know if he knew about the Jaredites. He is talking to his sons about their descendants, for if “the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief” (2 Nephi 1:10) after so great a blessing they had been given, that if they fall away, “the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them” (2 Nephi 1:10). At that time, the Lord “will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (2 Nephi 1:11). This is all a fact borne out by history—the Spanish conquerors did exactly as Lehi and seen and warned his sons about.

Note that Lehi says “when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord…I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them. Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (2 Nephi 1:10-11)—not before or during, but AFTER, which would have been after 421 A.D.

8. “By the time Lehi pronounced his blessings, the vessel that brought Mulek from Jerusalem either had already landed or at least was en route to the promised land (see Omni 1:15-16), and some of that party's descendants, called "the people of Zarahemla," eventually became Nephites (Omni 1:19; Mosiah 25:13).”

Exactly. The Lord was bringing others out of Jerusalem who would unite with Nephi’s descendants and become known as Nephites—therefore, they were part of Lehi’s prophesying as to what would become of his descendants.

(See the next post, “Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part V,” for more of these comments and responses)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part III

Continuing with the questionable FARMS website comments about the Land of Promise and the people there, the third point was covered in the last post and the following starts with their fourth point.

4. “The broadest societal category in the Book of Mormon is Lamanite, treated in the prophecies as including the "remnant" seed of Laman, Lemuel, and Ishmael, to whom particular promises had been made. Yet those same promises were extended also to others besides direct descendants.”

First, the “broadest societal category” would be the Nephites for they involved more groups than the Lamanites. However, this statement is meant to include all those who would come to the Land of Promise at any time and lumping them into the category of Lamanite. Thus, Columbus, the Spanish conquerors, the Europeans, the “Americans” who founded the U.S., are all being lumped into the category of Lamanite according to this statement (see #5 below).

Second. The Lord did not promise all these groups simultaneously as this suggests. The key phrase in any covenant between man and God is “IF.” In this case, the “if” had to do with Lehi’s descendants remaining faithful and righteous. “Inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land” (2 Nephi 1:9). Now who did the Lord bring out of Jerusalem? Lehi and his family, Ishmael and his family, Zoram, and the Mulekites who were probably on the way. At the particular moment Lehi is speaking to his extended family, he is primarily addressing Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael—all of whom the Lord brought out of Jerusalem and who Lehi had seen in a vision would fall away and eventually destroy the rest of his posterity. By inference, he is also referring to the future “Nephites” made up of Nephi’s, Sam’s, and Zoram’s descendants (all called Nephites), and the Mulekites who later joined with, and became known as, Nephites, all of whom Lehi knew their descendants would fall away and be destroyed by his (Lamanite) posterity. Like any righteous parent, he is trying to keep all that from happening by prophesying a warning to his and Ishmael’s wayward sons.

5. “The words of Lehi's promise in 2 Nephi 1:5 refer not only to his elder sons' literal biological descendants but also to "all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord."

This is a (self-serving) misunderstanding. Lehi is not talking about some other people besides those he had seen in a vision and Nephi later saw, which were Columbus, the Spanish and the Europeans (1 Nephi 13:12-13). The point here is that Lehi, having already seen that his descendants would fight one another (1 Nephi 12:14-15) and all fall away and dwindle in unbelief, is trying to stem that tide in the beginning by talking to Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to warn them of the path they are taking and its long-term result. Lehi already knows that the Gentiles will eventually come to his Land of Promise and that his descendants will become “scattered and smitten” by them. This is the same vision Nephi later saw (1 Nephi 11:1) when he wanted to see what his father had seen (1 Nephi 11:3), using the same language Lehi had used of “scattered and smitten” (1 Nephi 13:14).

6. “No one, Lehi added in pronouncing his blessings, would come into his promised land unless they were "brought by the hand of the Lord" (v. 6), so "this land [would be] consecrated unto him [everybody] whom he shall bring" (v. 7).

Again, this is not the meaning of the verses quoted. Lehi is verifying his earlier statement about the Lord’s promise to him, saying once again that “there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:6), meaning those of his and Ishmael’s family, Zoram, and the Mulekites. To all of these, the land is consecrated. Now, “if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them” (2 Nephi 1:7)—that is, if those present and their descendants serve the Lord and keep his commandments, the land will remain a place of liberty to them. Again, Lehi knows they will not—so he tells them that the land will not remain a land of liberty for them “because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7).

(See the next post, “Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part IV,” for more of these comments and responses)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part II

Continuing with the questionable FARMS website comments about the Land of Promise and the people there, the second point was partially covered in the last post regarding the names Nephite and Lamanite. The following is continuing with the answer to that point:

Fourth. In Jacob 3, Jacob is quoting a parable of Zenos given to the House of Israel, and is prefaced by Jacob saying: “And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation” (Jacob 4:15), then he goes on to say: “do ye not remember to have read the words of the prophet Zenos, which he spake unto the house of Israel, saying:” (Jacob 5:1) which then covers the parable. After repeating the parable, Jacob concludes with: “And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy -- that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive-tree, must surely come to pass” (Jacob 6:1).

Jacob then warns the Nephites, to whom he is speaking, to repent of their evil ways, deny not the good works of Christ, and not to mock the great plan of redemption. Then he says: “Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God?” (Jacob 6:9).

The parable of Zenos was not about the people who were called Nephites—it was about the House of Israel, wherever they may be, who reject Christ and become cut off from God because of their evil ways. Jacob preaches this sermon, in which he quotes Zenos in great length, as a warning to the Nephites that 1) they are not cut off, 2) the Lord knows who they are, and 3) if they continue in their evil ways, they will be cut off and will stand before God at some point in “awful shame” (Jacob 6:2-10).

He then concludes with the statement: “O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life. O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:11-12).

This theme of Jacob’s, that the Nephites were not cast off and forgotten of the Lord, is the same used earlier as recorded in 2 Nephi in which Jacob says: “The Lord has made the sea out path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20), following up with: “For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also” (2 Nephi 10:22). Evidently, this idea of being cast off and not remembered was a great concern of the Nephites at that time.

3. “Most of the same principles of naming applied to the Lamanites. One could be called by that term on several bases, such as direct descent (e.g., Alma 55:4, 8), political choice (e.g., Alma 54:24; Moroni 9:24), or a combination of political, religious, and other factors (e.g., 3 Nephi 2:12, 14-16; D&C 10:48). Note that people could choose to change their affiliation by adoption or formal transfer of allegiance (see, e.g., Mosiah 25:13; Alma 43:4; Alma 45:13-14).

The Lamanites were 1) Descendants of Laman, 2) descendants of Lemuel, 3) descendants of Ishmael through his sons, 4) Nephite defectors. The idea of a “formal transfer of allegiance” above using Mosiah 25:13 is inaccurate. This has to do with the Mulekites accepting the name “Nephite” as a religious heritage—prior to this time, the Mulekites had no known allegiance to anyone or anything. The reference in Alma 43:4 has to do with the Zoramites rejecting the religious heritage of the Nephites and joining the Nephite enemy—the Lamanites. This was because they would “dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge” (Alma 45:12). Other Nephites joined the Lamanites for political purposes, and to gain power and control, as in the case of Amalickiah (Alma 47:1,8,16).

(See the next post, “Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part III,” for more of these comments and responses)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part I

In a FARMS website, the following questionable statements were made about the Land of Promise and the people there, that need some further discussion and, in some cases, correction. The article’s comments are listed here as eleven numbered items:

1. “At many points Mormon's record states or clearly implies that the terms Nephite and Lamanite bore multiple meanings during the Book of Mormon period.”

We know who the Nephites were: 1) Nephi’s biological descendants, 2) Sam’s descendants, 3) Jacob’s descendants, 4) Joseph’s descendants, 5) Zoram’s descendants, 6) Nephi’s sisters descendants, 7) Mulekites, and 8) the Ammonites and other Lamanite converts (3 Nephi 2:14;6:14). After the resurrection of Christ, and his visit to the Nephites, those who later continued to be followers of Christ were called Nephites (4 Nephi 1:36).

2. “At least six senses of the term “Nephite” can be identified: The term sometimes referred to (1) those belonging to the relatively small lineage consisting of direct descendants from Lehi's son Nephi (compare Mormon 1:5; 3 Nephi 5:20); (2) a larger "noble" group consisting of the descendants of the kings who succeeded Nephi, each of whom bore Nephi as a royal title (see Jacob 1:11); (3) those descended from, as well as all those who were ruled by, any of the monarchs bearing the title Nephi; (4) believers in a particular set of religious practices and ideas (compare Jacob 4: 4-6; 4 Nephi 1:36-38); (5) participants in a particular cultural tradition (see 2 Nephi 5: 6, 9-18); and (6) an ethnic or "racial" group (see Jacob 3:5, 8-9).”

First, “Participants in a particular cultural tradition” is academic jargon meaning: “a distinctive tool kit or technology that lasts a long time—longer than the duration of one culture—at one locality or several localities” particularly used in archaeology, and is “a cultural tradition is knowledge handed down from generation to generation concerning the values, norms, attitudes, and predispositions of a given culture.” In the above sense, the author’s “cultural tradition” would be described by the rest of us as “believers in Christ.” As Nephi wrote in the quoted verse above: “And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words” (2 Nephi 5:6).

Nephites throughout the record were those who believed in and followed Christ

Second. Bringing into the explanation the kings that were called Nephi is unnecessary and overlaps the main understanding of who the Nephites were—the descendants of Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph, Nephi’s sisters, and Zoram. We know of no others involved in the Nephite category until Mosiah (who was not a king in the Land of Nephi, but probably a prophet or religious leader) left and discovered the Mulekites who joined with and became known as Nephites.

What happened to that line of kings called Nephi in Mosiah’s time is unknown; however, Omni seems to make it clear that all the unrighteous Nephites were wiped out (Omni 1:6-7), and Amaleki tells us that when the Lord told Mosiah to leave the City of Nephi, "as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him" (Omni 1:12) This is the same term used by Nephi, and who might have been involved in the term “and all those who would go with me,” is unknown. This might have been some of Ishmael’s descendants, it might have been some of Lehi’s and/or Ishmael’s servants who might have come with the families out of Jerusalem—or it might have been some of the younger Lamanite group. Nor do we know all those who went with Mosiah--but it seems reasomable that they were those who believed in the Lord.

Third. The term “a larger ‘noble’ group consisting of the descendants of the kings who succeeded Nephi,” seems out of place. In a secular society, this would undoubtedly be true, but in a “theocratic” society, we find many instances of kings, like Benjamin, who did not consider themselves “noble” or above others, since humility is a major concern of followers of Christ.

(See the next post, “Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part II,” for more of these comments and responses)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Precious Things of Solomon’s Temple

There seems to be a considerable disagreement among some historians and scholars about the simple language of the Book of Mormon regarding Nephi building a Temple “like unto Solomon’s.”

Many claim that when Nephi said, “iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” that when he turned around in the next statement and said, “it was not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land,” that he was contradicting himself.

Gold: Precious Ore (left); Ark of the Covenant: Precious Thing (right)

However, “precious ores,” and “precious things,” are two entirely different meanings. Ore, of course, means “metal,” and “precious ore” means “gold and silver (or any rare metal, such as platinum, palladium, etc.) But the word “things” means “any substance, that which is created.” So what were the precious things of Solomon’s temple “were not to be found upon the land”?

Solomon’s temple was built of huge blocks of the choicest stone, overlaid with olive wood and vast amounts of cedar (from Lebanon—the city of Tyre). Stone, of course, was available to Nephi, as was wood, but not olive wood or cedar, which did not exist in either Mesoamerica or the Andean area.

The walls were lined with cedar, on which were carved figures of cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers; the roof was of cedar and the ceiling was supported with cedar beams; the door-posts, of olive-wood, supported folding-doors of fir, and the doors of the Holy of Holies were of olive-wood; and the walls of stone were covered with fir-wood. Two brass pillars named Boaz and Jachin stood in the porch of the Temple (brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and the chief ore of zinc is spalerite—neither of which is mentioned in the record nor found in Mexico, Central America, or the Andean area of South America).

There were also things like brazen (bronze) lavers, bronze alters, the brazen sea that could hold 24 to 36 thousand gallons of water resting on the backs of 12 oxen cast in brass, portable bronze holders, lions and cherubim ornaments, many vessels of orichalcum (copper and bronze, or copper and tin—not found in Mesoamerica but may be similar to Peruvian tumbaga). And, of course, the Nephite temple did not contain the most precious twin tablets of Moses or the Ark of the Covenant.

“For they were not to be found upon the land,” would certainly refer to olive wood, cedar, bronze of any kind for the many items in the temple, including the lavers, sea, and 12 oxen. Bronze is made from copper and tin and there was no tin in Mesoamerica or the Andean area

“The workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.” Nephi taught his people "to build buildings,” and obviously their skill was up to the task of building a temple like unto that of Solomon.

Thus it can be said that the temple “like unto Solomon’s” which Nephi built was made of stone and wood—the finest that could be found in the Land of Promise, but not the same fine stone, wood and bronze as Solomon had in Jerusalem, Lebanon, or the country round about. And there were numerous brazen or bronze objects (precious things to the Jews) in the temple. Nor would they likely have been able to cast the life-sized oxen, and certainly not in bronze, or made the huge “sea” out of bronze, for they had no tin to mix with copper. In addition, at this early stage, probably not able to make fine, huge tapestries that hung on the walls and over openings.

But they would have had plenty of gold, silver and copper to adorn the temple, as had Solomon, so Nephi, who had seen Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem before leaving, could say, “But the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.”

It is a shame that so many historians, scholars, and theorists spend so much time “looking beyond the mark” in order to prove their beliefs or disprove those of others. The Book of Mormon was written for us in our language for our understanding. And Nephi, as well as Mormon’s abridgement, was written in plain and simple language.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Could The Great Lakes People Have Built Great Cities?

The Jaredites in the Land Northward left the remains of their magnificent cities, described as “covered with ruins of buildings of every kind” (Mosiah 8:8). In addition, great cities were built among the Nephites and Lamanites. “Now the Lamanites and the Amalekites and the people of Amulon had built a great city, which was called Jerusalem” (Alma 21:2). Zarahemla is referred to as a great city (3 Nephi 8:24), the city of Ammonihah was called a great city (Alma 9:4), and Moronihah was called a great city (3 Nephi 8:25). The Lord himself used the term great cities, describing Zarahemla (3 Nephi 9:3), Moroni (3 Nephi 9:4), Moronihah (3 Nephi 9:5), and Jacobugath (3 Nephi 9:9).

In defining the term “great city” as used by Joseph Smith in the translation, the word “great” means “large in bulk or dimensions, beyond what is usual, extended in length or breadth.” The word “city” is defined as “a large number of houses and inhabitants.” Thus, we might say many of the cities in the Land of Promise were “large, beyond what is usual, houses and inhabitants extending across a great length and breadth” of the land.

In addition, from the very beginning, Nephi taught his people “to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15). About 400 years later, king Noah “built him a spacious palace“ (Mosiah 11:9) among other buildings and towers in the same city area. Nephi also built ”a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16).

Note that the manner of construction was the same, and the temple of Solomon was built out of hewn stone.

“Thus is seems only reasonable to believe that wherever the Land of Promise was, remnants of buildings and cities of great size, would still be evident. And such ruins of cities, temples and palaces are found in both Mesoamerica and the Andean area of South America. However, no such construction of any similar kind is found anywhere in the eastern United States, the Great Lakes or Heartland areas. In fact, from a Book written in 1915 about the dawn of history and the chronicles of aboriginal development in the Great Lakes Region, comes this description of the indigenous Indian of that area.

“The great red race which inhabited what is now the Great Lakes region, spent a primitive existence, living thinly scattered along the sea-coast, and in the forests and open glades of the district of the Great Lakes, or wandering over the prairies of the west. In hardly any case had they any settled abode or fixed dwelling-places. The Iroquois and some Algonquins built Long Houses of wood and made stockade forts of heavy timber. But not even these tribes, who represented the furthest advance towards civilization among the savages of North America, made settlements in the real sense. They knew nothing of the use of metals. Such poor weapons and tools as they had were made of stone, of wood, and of bone.”

Compare that with the highly advanced indigenous “Indians” of Mesoamerica—the Aztecs, of Mexico and the Mayan of Guatemala—and the Inca of the Andean area, at the time of the European arrival. Their achievements in construction, roads and cities are among some of the finest pre-history developments in the world. What we find in the Great Lakes region are burial mounds, trenches, and earthen bulwarks.

The question asked originally, “Could The Great Lakes people have built great cities?” seems obviously answered. The evidence of remains and noticeable lack of such accomplishment seems overwhelming against such an ability.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What About the Phoenicians?

With a rather flippant approach to history, many Mesoamerican and Great Lakes Theorists claim the Mulekites simply were ferried to the Land of Promise by Phoenician seamen in 600 B.C.

Phoenician Ship authentically reproduced. Note the shallow draft in the left photo and the limited size in the right photo. In addition, most Phoenician ships in 600 B.C. were oar driven and were coastal ships outside the Mediterranean

Perhaps a little understanding of history and seamanship might be of benefit in trying to decide if Pheonician seamen had the ability in 600 B.C. to make such a voyage across the Atlantic.

Babylonian Map of the World 600 B.C. First of all, the maritime compass was not invented until sometime in the 12th or 13th century—both Chinese and Europeans take claim for such invention. However, wherever the compass came from, and however sailors began to adopt it, its practical uses were immediately obvious. Consider the situation in 1270 that confronted Louis IX, King of France, in launching the 8th Crusade, when he and his crew were blown off course while sailing southeast in the Mediterranean toward the Holy Land.

When the storm passed, their vessel sat at the center of a featureless circle of ocean the circumference of which was the horizon. With clouds still overhead, no sun or stars visible, he had no idea in which direction to sail. Anyone who has ever found himself in the middle of a large ocean with no features visible, may well understand Louis’ predicament.

Even the most rudimentary of magnetic needles would have allowed his ship’s navigator to determine the direction of the winds that had blown the ship off course, and thus to turn it back where he knew land would be. And once Sardinia came into view, they would have been able to compare its coastal features with what appeared on their chart, and then with the compass and their wind rose (cardinal points), would have been able to chart the course for the port of Cagliari.

Unfortunately, Louis did not have a compass on board. Consequently, he floundered for several days until a land feature just happened to come into view. Eventually, he was able to conclude his voyage to the Holy Land. However, had Louis been in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean—a far larger ocean than the Mediterranean—he might never have found his way, sailing endlessly into the vast open ocean until his water and food was depleted.

It was during this decade that European merchants had begun slipping through Muslim shipping lanes in the Straits of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic on trading voyages to Portugal, Spain, England the Netherlands—all contiguous land masses. These voyages in the 1270s skirted the western edge of the known world, opening new oceanic horizons for European sailors and others from the Middle East who plied the waters of the Mediterranean.

Vilvaldi’s Fleet

In 1291, prompted by the lure of the open ocean that had not yet been conquered, two Genoese brothers, Ugolino and Vadino Vivaldi, came up with an ambitious plan. They fitted out eight galleys—provided by Pope Nicholas IV of the Papal empire—with food, water, and supplies; gathered up a crew, including two Franciscan monks, and in May set sail from Genoa for the open ocean. An entry in the Genoese Annals of that year describing their eventual destination in which they planned to sail “through the Ocean Sea to parts of India and to bring back useful merchandise.” Were they emboldened by their compasses and intending to reach India by sailing across the ocean to the west? Nobody knows, because the brothers never came home.

In the thirteenth century, the ship building abilities were expanded to include Carracks and Caravels, sturdy deep-hulled ships capable of moving out of coastal waters and into the deep ocean. With the advent of the compass, and later the astrolabe, such voyages were undertaken, first around Africa, and eventually with Columbus across the westward sea—the Ocean Sea.

To believe that 600 B.C. Phoenicians, with their coastal vessels and their limited experience in sailing back and forth across the Mediterranean, were capable of deep sea voyages is beyond the concept of any experienced seaman. There were no charts prior to about the 1200s, and as has been pointed out in previous posts, the world map consisted of a simple T-O model.

In addition, to think that any such accomplishment would have gone unnoticed within the sailing community of Europe and the Mediterranean nations is foolhardy. Even under penalty of death, early 16th century maps of Columbus’ and Vespucci’s voyages were smuggled out of Seville and Lisbon and could be purchased on the “black market” where seamen paid a very high price to obtain.

It is one of the reasons why landings along the east coast of places like Mesoamerica and the Great Lakes, etc., cannot be considered as locations for the land of Promise—the winds and currents which drove all shipping even into the 14th century A.D., determined where ships sailed and where they made landfall. The manner and route that all these Theorists claim brought the Lehi Colony to their supposed area of the Land of Promise simply was not possible in that era—1800 years later, man was still subject to sail “before the wind” and go where the winds and currents too him.

To find the location of the Land of Promise, we must first find out where a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” would have gone, leaving the south coast of Arabia and heading to the Western Hemisphere. That is the first step—the only step—to first locate the place where Nephi’s ship landed!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ocean Sea

There seems to be a lot of discussion among Great Lakes and other Heartland Theorists about what the word “sea” means when written by Joseph Smith regarding the waters surrounding the Land of Promise. Perhaps a discussion of the words “sea” and “ocean” might be in order.

First of all, the word “ocean,” from the Greek “okeanos” or “oceanus,” is a major body of saline water and a principal component of the hydrosphere, which is approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.

The word “sea” generally refers to a large body of salt water, but the term is used in other contexts as well. Most commonly, it refers to a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, and is commonly used as a synonym for ocean.

Daniel Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language states that the word “ocean” is described as “the vast body of water which covers more than three fifths of the surface of the globe, called also the sea or great sea.” The word “sea” is described as “The ocean, sea, or high seas.”

Clearly, these two terms are synonymous, separated by map makers today to illustrate smaller bodies of the ocean, such as the Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and Sea of Japan, all part of the overall Pacific Ocean; or the Bismark Sea, Solomon Sea, Coral Sea, all part of the south Pacific Ocean. Actually, there are 35 “seas” that are part of the Pacific Ocean; 10 seas part of the Indian Ocean; 19 seas that are part of the Southern Ocean; 17 seas as part of the Arctic Ocean; 17 seas as part of the Mediterranean Sea which, in turn, is part of the Atlantic Ocean, as is the Baltic Sea, which has 9 seas attached.

The point is, the use of the word “sea” by any standard refers to a saline area that is part of a large ocean which, in turn, is divided into basically five oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Southern, and Indian.

It also might be of interest to know, that in the 13th to 16th centuries, on the first maps that truly suggested a world map similar to what we know today, the term “ocean sea” was a singular expression of the sea to the west that we know today as the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1291, the Vivaldi Brothers, wrote of their pending voyage, “plan to sail through the ocean Sea to parts of India and to bring back useful merchandise from there.”

Poggio Bracciolini, the Florentine, in a letter to Prince Henry in 1488, referred to the sea to the west as the Ocean Sea.

In his copy of the Book of Marco Polo, when the author wrote about the islands and sea of Cathay, Columbus added in the margin the words “Ocean sea.”

In a letter from Isabella and Ferdinand to Columbus on April 30, 1492, Columbus was “to set forth on a mission to discover and acquire certain islands and mainland in the Ocean sea.”

In a preamble to his journal addressed to Isabella and Ferdinand, Columbus wrote of his journey across the Ocean Sea.

Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain and King Joao of Portugal, signed an agreement in the fall of 1494 dividing the Western Ocean between them, referring to it as the Ocean Sea.

Columbus himself called it the Ocean Sea in a letter to the king on October 18, 1498.

Amerigo Vespucci in a letter to Lorenzo de Pierfrancesco de’Medici of Florence, called it the Ocean Sea.

In the first decade of the 16th century, Bartolome de Las Casas, a 16th century historian, called it the Ocean Sea.

Thus, it should be understood that the words “ocean” and “sea” referred to throughout history as a saline body of water, connected to the world ocean that makes up three-fifths of the earth’s surface. Stating it any differently, as some Theorists do to try and prove their isolated or land-locked area, is simply erroneous and often plain disingenuous.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Sea Did Lehi Cross? – Part III

Continuing with the list of inaccurate items written by a Heartland/Great Lakes theorists, we find:

8. “Clark’s broad oceanic reference frame(s) seems inconsistent with the clearly local designation of “the sea on the west and on the east” of a terrestrial location “by the narrow pass…”. It can only be concluded, based on LDS scripture, that the American land of “first inheritance” extended to and included a place by the shore of a sea that situated west relative to the land of Nephi.”

Let’s not get complicated. The Land of promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20). That means it was a “tract of land surrounded by water.” Since the Lord made the sea their path, they landed on the west coast of the island (evidently a long, narrow island) where Mormon placed them (Alma 22:28). It is no more complicated than that. As for local designations, we have to keep in mind that anciently, when places and waters had no names, people referred to them in rather simple terms—often by their compass direction.

In addition, the word “Irreantum” meant “many waters,” a term used by the Nephites and Jaredites when standing upon land and looking out into the great sea fronting Bountiful. However, when talking about crossing, or upon, the ocean, it was called “the great deep” or “the great waters,” which was simply a difference in viewpoint. Where the word Irreantum came from we are not told, nor do we know what language the word came from—perhaps even from the Lord to Lehi. The point is, seas, oceans, waterways, lakes, etc., seldom had names in the beginning when first confronted.

Nephi’s ship sailed across the many waters, “driven forth before the wind” until it reached the Land of Promise: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land. And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22-23). It is kind of hard to make anything more of this than what is said—they sailed across the sea and landed on the coast of their island.

Since the Nephites were on an island and there was a sea all around them, they very well might have chosen simple cardinal directions to designate which area of the sea to which they referred. Thus, they called the sea to the west the “West Sea,” the sea to the east, “The East Sea,” etc.

9. “To allege that all Book of Mormon seas are oceans is to make extrapolations beyond what the scripture actually states.”

And to try and limit the size of seas mentioned, and their location, and to ignore that they were on an island in the midst of the sea over which they traveled, is to try and change the meaning and content of the scriptural record—which is far more of an extrapolation than what Clark wrote.

10. “The logic that sea = ocean, fails in the case of many biblical verses that refer to a “sea” or “the sea.” Even “the great sea” (the Mediterranean, Numbers 34:6) bordering the biblical Promise Land, is essentially an inland body of water.”

Here again, the ideas presented are inaccurate, stated by someone with limited knowledge on the subject, or intended to mislead. While the Mediterranean may be considered an “inland sea,” it is not landlocked, therefore, is actually part of the Atlantic Ocean. The same is true with the Persian Gulf (anciently called the Arabian Sea), the Red Sea, as well as any Gulf, bay, or inlet that opens to the ocean. It should also be noted that the Hebrew word “yam” is far more often referred to and reserved for a saltwater sea/ocean than any other meaning. However, what a Hebrew word meant is not important when discussing the Book of Mormon, which was originally written on plates in Reformed Egyptian and translated directly into English by Joseph Smith with the aid of the Spirit.

The problem is, people get so carried away with their own beliefs and ideas, they simply ignore the facts against their argument. After all, facts cannot be discredited by changing the basis of those facts, nor even by adding or introducing other facts. The issue at hand is the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. This is not something to trifle with in bending, altering, changing, ignoring, or adding to the record. We must use the record as it was written, understanding that no matter what language it was originally written in (Reformed Egyptian), it was translated by Joseph Smith, under the direction of the Spirit, using the language known to him in 1829 New England. The fact that the Lord inspired the first-ever American dictionary to be published during the time of the translation merely provides for us with an understanding of what the words Joseph used actually meant.