Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Where Are the Highways? Part I

In Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the following terms are listed:

• A highway is defined as “a public road; a way open to all passengers; so called, because it is a great or public road

• A road is defined as “an open way or public passage; generally applied to highways"

• A path is defined as “a way beaten or trodden by the feet of man or beast—applied to the ground only, never to a paved street in a city"

• A trail is defined as “a track followed by a hunter; to tread down grass by walking through it"

It is interesting in Joseph Smith’s translation of the plates, he chose the word “highway” rather than road when referring to the routes between cities in the Land of Promise. The word “road” in Joseph’s era tended to describe dirt streets through towns and country lanes. However, the word “highway” referred to a major artery, generally one between cities, with a high level of traffic, and typically paved in one manner or another.

Roman Roads  Left: Ancient Highway in Thessalonica, Greece; Right: Ancient highway in the Middle East in the time of Lehi, from Egypt through the Sinai to the Gulf of Aqaba, and then north of Syria

Perhaps this is because the highways built in the Land of Promise by the Nephites were extensive and connected all parts of the nation, including the different lands, the different cities, and many places together in one major, highway system.  These highways were not just between cities, but within the cities as well.  Helaman's son Nephi "...had a tower in his garden, which was by the highway which led to the chief market which was in the city of Zarahemla" (Helaman 7:10).

In fact, these highways were very extensive. As late as 29 A.D., the highway system had reached a peak of building and connecting the various parts of the nation together:  "And there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city and from land to land, and from place to place” (3 Nephi 6:8). Since they were highways, they were obviously more than merely leveled earthen tracks.

It is not difficult to understand that this effective and efficient highway system, when coupled with the Nephite ability in building and commerce, that the importance of these highways, especially in a land that was as extensive as the scriptures indicate, were critical and important arteries connecting the nation. These were not trails, dirt roads, paths or lanes, but a system of highways connecting the entire Nephite nation as indicated in 3 Nephi, both before and after the catastrophic events at the Savior’s death. Helaman predicted this event when he wrote of this coming destruction: “And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate" (Helaman 14:4).

Then, about five years later the terrible destruction came and the roads and highways were destroyed:  "And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough" (3 Nephi 8:13). Sometime during the last half of the first century A.D., the Nephites rebuilt the cities that could be renewed (4 Nephi 1:7-9) which, obviously would have included their highway system that enabled the Nephites during their two hundred year golden age from 33 A.D. to 231 A.D. to flourish in such a magnificent manner.

This highway system, “which led from city to city and from land to land, and from place to place” throughout the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful and, no doubt, in the Land Northward, would have been one of the most magnificent building achievements the Nephites accomplished.

Yet, the question begs: “Where are the remnants of that magnificent highway system evident today.

Roman Roads: Left: Horvat Hanut along the ancient road ascending from the Elah valley, a part of the Roman road from the coast city of Ashkelon, via Beit-Guvrin, to Bethlehem and Jerusalem; Right: The ancient rock-cut Roman road Ma'ale-Akrabim, one of the spice route passes in the Negev desert 

It is interesting that the famed Roman Roads, which spanned about 250,000 miles across Italy and around the Mediterranean, built from 500 B.C. to about 400 A.D.—about the same time of the Nephite roads—and are still in evidence today in numerous areas. Obviously, then, some evidence of the Nephite roads would be found in the Land of Promise today.

Where are they in the Western Hemisphere? Only two places can roads of any type dating to the time frame involved be found, and only in one place are those roads equal to the building capability described in the Book of Mormon.

And they are not in the United States!

(See the next post, “Where Are the Highways? Part II,” to see where the Nephite highway system is found—and first discovered by the Spaniards who saw them when they first arrived in the New World)

Monday, June 25, 2012

The City Where Lehi Lived and Land of Promise Construction – Part II

Could the Mound Builders of the Eastern United States possibly have been the Nephites in the Land of Promise? Many today think so. However, take a look at a little rational thinking.

Left Cahokia Mound, oldest in North America, dated to 700 A.D.-1400 A.D.; Right: Typical Cahokia Mound Builder house, 700 A.D.-1400 A.D.

While the Mound Builders piled up dirt and built homes of sticks and grass, Nephi tells us he 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. And I, Nephi, did build 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 5:15-16). Solomon's Temple, of course, was  built out of stone.

Left: Solomon’s Temple about 950 B.C.; Right: Typical Jerusalem House, about 750 B.C.

The building ability of Israel hundreds of years before Lehi left Jersualem was astounding, which we might conclude Nephi, who was quite familiar with it, carried over to some degree, having received tutelage in building directly from the Lord, to show some type of similar construction in the Land of Promise. However the ability of the Mound Builders never developed higher than stick and grass houses or piling dirt up to make mounds for burial purposes, but seems to serve little or no other purpose. Thus, the difference between the Mound Builders in ancient America and those of the Nephites, as shown cannot even be compared.

Left: Rendition of Solomon’s Temple and Palace in Jerusalem 900 B.C.; Right: Rendition of a typical Cahokia village from 700 A.D. to 1400 A.D.

In addition, the Nephites, for almost all of their existence in the Land of Promise, were continually being attacked by the Lamanites, causing the Nephites to build extensive fortifications—usually that astounded the Lamanites because of their impenetrable construction. In fact, Moroni strengthened "the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land" (Alma 48:8). Walls of stone! Such evidence is scattered all over (all round about) the land in the Andean area of South America, both as defensive walls of impressive stature and "round about" the cities. However, such is not found in the Mound Builder locations.
Top: Palisade construction similar to the Mound Builders; Bottom: Stone Walls built for defense against a savage enemy. Compare the different images—which seems to  match the Nephite building ability? The wood construction, or the stone walls and buildings?

Does it seem likely that the Nephites would build their houses in the manner shown for the Mound Builders in the Eastern United States as shown below? Compare it to houses built in South America more than 1000 years earlier by skilled stone workers.

Left: Mound Builder home construction 700 A.D.; Right: Houses built of stone inside the ancient walled city of Kuelap in Peru 1st century B.C.

When we start looking for evidence of Nephite existence in the Western Hemisphere, we ought to use a little common sense and rationale. We ought to look at the type of people they were, and how they would have lived, coming from Jerusalem in 600 BC., hundreds of years after David and Solomon and all the accomplishments that were achieved there. Accomplishments that Nephi and Sam would have been well aware of before leaving Jerusalem. No doubt, when Nephi tells us that he taught his people how to build, it might have been due, in part, to his knowledge of such magnificent building capability that they would not have personally seen. Certainly, he would have wanted his people to know how to accomplish mighty works—especially after receiving special building instructions from the Lord.

The building accomplished in the Andean area of South America is truly magnificent, and is certainly in keeping with knowledge the Lord imparted to Nephi in the development of his building ability.

Walls of Ancient Peruvian cities that were built for defense against an enemy from the south                       

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The City Where Lehi Lived and Land of Promise Construction -- Part I

There has been much discussion lately by Great Lakes, Hill Cumorah, Zarahemla in Iowa, Eastern U.S., Heartland, and numerous other Land of Promise Theorists that ignore one simple fact about locating the Nephite homeland in 580 B.C. to 400 A.D., and that is the buildings they would have left behind.

Numerous U.S. theorists claim the Hopewell Indian mounds, and mounds of other Indians, from the Mississippi Valley to Ohio and the Great Lakes region, were the remains of the magnificent building capability of the Nephite nation. They ignore the building materials and ability that Nephi, who had been taught directly by the Lord, achieved in the building of his Temple and city in the Land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:15-16) along with the numerous other temples, synagogues, and sanctuaries built over a thousand years throughout the Land of Promise.

Consider what Nephi and Sam had been exposed to before they left the area of Jerusalem:

1. A 230-foot long, 20-foot high stone wall complex containing an inner gatehouse for access into the royal quarter of the city and a corner tower that overlooks a substantial section of the Kidron valley recently discovered was built 400 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

2.  Solomon’s stone Temple built over 350 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

3.  Solomon built his palace and several other important buildings in Jerusalem about 330 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

4  Jersualem had 5,000 inhabitants 325 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

5.  Jerusalem had 25,000 inhabitants 125 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

6. The stone outer walls of Jerusalem were strengthened and enlarged 122 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

7.  Jerusalem covered 150 acres 120 years before Lehi left Jerusalem.

8.  Kings and Queens and other world leaders had made pilgrimages to Israel to see Solomon’s temple and other edifices built in this city that became the religious capital of the entire area long before Lehi left Jerusalem..

Now, consider that these two young men were responsible to design and build a city in the Land of Nephi, to build a temple to the Lord, and to build other edifices that any city required. Also, since they had escaped with their lives, consider that they would have built tall and strong defensive walls around their city to protect them against their brothers who threatened to kill them—walls that would have resembled in some degree those they had known around Jerusalem.

When Samuel the Lamanite returned to the city of Zrahemla to preach to the wicked Nephites, he climbed upon the city wall where Nephite soldiers tired to kill him with arrow shots. Obviously, these walls had to be made of something solid, with a top capable of standing upon, which would eliminate any type of wood palisade of the type found in the Hopewell Indian mounds and defensive wood walls.

Now the question begs—would we not expect to find some evidence of these strong stone walls, stone buildings, stone temples, synagogues, palaces, and sanctuaries somewhere in a land claimed to be where the Book of Mormon Land of Promise took place? After all, stone structures last for thousands of years. And while there are no such structures found anywhere in North America, two places in the Western Hemisphere have such ancient building sites in abundance—the Andean area of Peru, Ecuador and northern Chile in South America, and also the area of Mesoamerica in Central America.

Cities constructed of stone throughout Peru in the Andean area of South America, similar to the city of Jerusalem in construction, with temple centers and vast structures                       

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beware of the Experts—They Often Have an Axe to Grind Part VIII

Continuing with Sorenson’s presentation to students at Brigham Young University at the Second Biennial Willes Center Book of Mormon Lecture, Sept 8, 2011, in the BYU Hinckley Center Assembly Hall, Sorenson’s statements follow his name, and our comments follow “Response."

Sorenson: “Source of information (the person reporting) always unidentified."

Response:  It is hard to imagine what is meant by this. Nephi, Jacob and Enos, through Amaleki in Omni and the Words of Mormon, are all written by the first person who is completely identified. From that point on, the record is written in the third person since it is the abridgement made by Mormon. On the other hand, the record is shown to be the record of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, the Disciple Nephi, and Ether. Mormon and Moroni, of course, are in the first person again and completely identified.

On occasion, like with the Disciple Nephi, those years following his death are not that clear, though Mormon does inject himself into that part of the record, and on a few occasions injects his words into his abridgement, as Moroni did a few times when abridging Ether. But in almost all cases, the person being covered is completely identified, such as Alma and Helaman and most of Mosiah. In the Ether record, the beginning is quite clearly taken from the writings of the Brother of Jared. The rest of Ether is not known, it may have been written by other prophets during that time and abridged by Ether later on, but the record does not tell us.

Sorenson: “Lamanites didn't keep many records."

Response:  We are unaware of any records kept by the Lamanites, though they were once taught to keep one (Mosiah 24:6). We do know that their hatred of the Nephites and what Laman and Lemuel claimed they did to them was handed down through traditions from generation to generation (Mosiah 10:17; Alma 60:32; Helaman 5:51) and that if they ever got their hands on the Nephite records they would destroy them (Mormon 2:17; 6:6).

We have only one instance where the Lamanites wrote anything at all as a people and that is in the period where Amulon, the chief priest of King Noah, taught them how to read and write the Nephite language (Mosiah 24:4,6-7). Also on a smaller scale, those converted Lamanites, called the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and no more Lamanites (Alma 23:17) opened up a correspondence with the Nephites (Alma 23:18; 24:8-9).

Sorenson: “Some records were on perishable materials."

Response:  This was likely true—Helaman wrote: “there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites” (Helaman 3:15), and it is hard to image these numerous records and books would have all been on metal plates—however, there is no record or mention of perishable materials used for writing and the word papyrus does not appear in the entire record. On the other hand, certainly no sacred records would have been on perishable materials or they would not have survived, and since they were buried by Ammaron and Mormon to keep them from being destroyed, they obviously were meant to last over time.

Sorenson: “Mormon had limited time." 

Response:  We do not know this. Mormon was not always in command of the army, and there were some years when there was no war. Plus there was a time when he says he was among them, but constrained from preaching (Mormon 1:17). About 23 years before his death, Mormon refused to lead the Nephite army, and did not take up the leadership again for thirteen years. He lived until the age of 75. Surely, Mormon had time to abridge the entire record.

Sorenson:  “Some data has no sources that can be identified."

Response:  Another unsupportable statement that was answered above in the material he drew upon to write his abridgement.

It should be kept in mind in reading or hearing all that Sorenson says about the Book of Mormon, that Mormon himself wrote what the Lord and Spirit commanded him, and was restrained occasionally from writing or preaching more. In his words, “Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me” (3 Nephi 26:12).

There can certainly be no occasion to say, as Sorenson often does, that there were mistakes in the record, or that those who wrote did so from their tiny perspective, or that it was anything other than the word of the Lord. There is also no occasion where the Book of Mormon writing can be compared with layman writing now or anciently.