Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part VII

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “Why does the Book of Mormon imply a seven day week (Mosiah 13:18) when it was not known to Ancient Americans? The Mesoamericans used a variety of calendars, none of which match the Old World calendar. The Maya seemed to be oversupplied in the calendar department. One calendar consisted of a 260-day cycle divided into 13 'months' of twenty days. (This calendar was used by most of the ancient Mesoamericans). Each day was presided over by it's own god. Another consists of a 365-day cycle, also divided into 'months' of twenty days, eighteen of them in fact. The five leftover days were called the 'resting, or sleep of the year'. Another consists of a 3276-day cycle divided into four quadrants of 819 days (the product of 7*9*13, all sacred numbers to the Maya). And then, of course, there was the so-called 'long count' calendar, which simply counted days from the creation of the world (August 11, 3114 BC, if anyone wants to know). (Linda Schele, 'A Forest of Kings', pg. 78)” Lindsey
Response: First of all, the scripture quoted is about a prophet named Abinadi, who an evil king named Noah was trying to find reason to kill. In the course of the discussion in which he is calling the Nephites in the city of Lehi-Nephi, and especially the King and his priests to repentance, Abinadi is recounting the Commandments of God, and specifically repeats the Law of Moses “ten commandments” (see Mosiah 12:27-37). As he reaches the commandment about keeping the Sabbath day holy, he says and it is recorded in Mosiah 13:17-19): “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates, for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Abinadi is talking about worshipping the Lord, that it should be one day in every week. This is also found in Mosiah 18:25 where “one day in every week was set apart,” and also in Alma 31:12 and Alma 32:11, both referring to the Zoramites worshipping one day in every week, and Alma telling them they should worship God more than only once a week. However, none of these three references give any suggestion, hint, or information regarding how many days a week held, or how many weeks were in a month.
Secondly, there is no scriptural proof that the Land of Promise was in Mesoamerica, as we have written numerous posts about. Some LDS believe that and others consider one of numerous other suggested locations to be the correct location. Personally, I find matches to every geographical scripture (65) present in the Andean area of South America, and not another location matching more than a handful of references. It should also be noted, that while the Maya and Aztec used calendars of days, the Jews and at least the Mulekites used lunar calendars, which would require a shortened thirteenth month. We know the Nephites had a month calendar (Alma 10:6; 14:23; 16:1; 49:1; 52:1; 56:15,27,42;  58:7; 3 Nephi 3:8; 4:7,11; 8:5), and specifically, months 1 through 11 are shown. Whether they had a 12th month, or an additional 13th month or more, is not known from the scriptural record.
The earliest Mesoamerican calendar believed to be in use was the 260-day calendar, which was strictly a ritual calendar with no correlation to astronomical or agriculture cycles, and dated to 500-400 B.C. There was also a 365-day, vague year, calendar that approximated the tropical year—however, that type calendar, “precession of the equinoxes,” or year, was introduced by Hipparchus in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. in Greece, and the date of the origination of the Mesoamerican calendar is unknown. The next Mesoamerican calendar was the Long Count found on Mayan inscriptions, and dates to 200 to 900 A.D. Thus we are left with only a 260-day confirmed ritual calendar, and neither the length nor the purpose is consistent with the Book of Mormon, nor would it be expected to since the Land of Promise was not in Mesoamerica.
Comment #2: “Why didn’t Nephi compare and contrast the New World with Jerusalem? These were two vastly different places” Guilford D.
Response: I might ask, why don’t you read the book you are critiquing? Nephi made it quite clear: “For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations” (2 Nephi 25:2), and “But behold, I, Nephi, have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews; but behold, I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about; and I have made mention unto my children concerning the judgments of God, which hath come to pass among the Jews, unto my children, according to all that which Isaiah hath spoken, and I do not write them” (2 Nephi 25:6).
Comment #3: “Your Book of Mormon purports to be the most perfect book, and if "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16), then Scripture cannot err, since God cannot breathe or speak error. If, as Jesus Himself taught, not the smallest letter or part of a letter will pass away from the OT until it has all been fulfilled (Matt. 5:18), then the OT at least must be without error. And if the OT is inerrant, any future Scripture will have to meet that standard of truth, and your book does not!” Channing G.
Response: If you are going to quote the Bible, then quote it correctly and understand its meaning. First of all, jot and tittle in this scriptural sense do not mean letters and words (in typography, jot is an “i” and “tittle” is the dot or original slash over the “i”), but refer to tiny quantities in the Lord’s message. The phrase passed into English via William Tindale’s translation of the New Testament in 1526, and in the language of 1611 (KJV), the verse is rendered: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). These words are uttered by Christ during his mortal ministry in which he came to earth to bring his gospel (Good News), surrounding the atonement and resurrection, which he carried out. His mission was to fulfill the Law of Moses, and create a new law, or doctrine, in which, to the Jewish mind to which he was addressing his comment, was tied into law. He said, in effect, “Not one tiny part of my law, or the tiniest part of my law, will be ignored (is to be ignored) from now until everything I have said shall be fulfilled.” It is not the letters that Jesus was referring to, but the law they spelled out. And as far as errors in the Old and New Testament, there are more than can be counted and have been documented by numerous bible scholars. The Book of Mormon has never purported to be perfect in its typesetting, spelling, or even its grammar. It is said to be perfect in its description of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as Joseph Smith stated, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book,” referring to its religious correction and perfection.

Friday, August 30, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part VI

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: While the King James Version uses the word "celestial" and "terrestrial" in referring to two different kinds of bodies, it never mentions the word "telestial." Not only does Mormonism twist the context of First Corinthians 15, it also adds another "kingdom" to make it fit their theology” Heather.
Response: The scripture quoted about the third glory uses the Greek word telos, which means end. Or the end glory. The word Telestial means last, having the same connotation. Thus, the three kingdoms are Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial. It might also be noted, that Celestial is from the Greek word, epouranlos, which literally means “above the sky,” or the “the expanse of heaven,” that is, beyond the atmosphere of the earth, and in this case, is larger than the moon or the stars, or the highest degree of glory, likened to the sun, which makes up 99% of our Solar System, and is the brightest light in the heavens. Epouranlos is also translated “heavenly” in various scriptures and is the word that is associated with Father in the name “Heavenly Father” as in Matthew 18:35. Epouranlos is also the word used in 2 Timothy 4:18, wherein Paul is assured the Lord will deliver him from evil so he might participate with Jesus in the “heavenly” kingdom—obviously, the highest or greatest kingdom in heaven. Finely, Paul tells us that we may be exalted to the “divine nature,” that is, to be like God (2 Peter 1:4).
In addition, terrestrial means “of the earth,” and separates the two kingdoms in heaven, that of the glory of heaven (symbolized by the sun), and that of earth, since Paul makes it clear that earth life and heavenly life are very distinctly different. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), and the scriptures overall emphasize that there is a great distinction between the heavenly nature and the earthly nature, that the two are in no way blended into one, as erroneously supposed by so many. Man was in no sense whatever a heavenly, or spiritual, being once organized, nor will the nature of mortal man ever change, but that nature of heaven is far higher and much different. Thus, the second degree of glory, or kingdom, is called the Terrestrial as opposed to the Celestial.
Comment #2: The Bible always uses the word "kingdom" (singular), not "kingdoms" (plural) in referring to heaven. Although I could quote hundreds of verses, here are just a few: Daniel taught there is only one kingdom. "And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:14). Jesus taught there is only one kingdom. "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). Notice that Jesus only refers to 2 groups of people, "good seed" and the "tares" (Matt. 13:38). Paul taught there is only one kingdom. "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). James taught there is only one kingdom. "Listen my beloved brethren; did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" (James 2:5) Mormonism teaches there are three kingdoms, a doctrine that is foreign to Scripture. In fact, the word "kingdoms" is only used 3 times in the entire New Testament (Matt. 4:8, Luke 4:5, and Heb. 11:33), all referring to kingdoms of THIS world” Ingrid E.
Response: The term “kingdom” is defined as “territory or country subject to a king” or “The inhabitants or population subject to a king.” Obviously, the “kingdoms” referred to in Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5, and Hebrews 11:33, all refer to several earthly kingdoms, each subject to a separate king. On the other hand, there is only one kingdom in heaven, with only one king. However, within God’s realm or overall kingdom, of which he is the overall and only king, there are separate places, called mansions by the Lord, named the Celestial and Terrestrial and End or Last (Telestial) by Paul. In fact, the Lord made it clear, “In my Father’s house  (kingdom) there are many mansions (separate areas, or minor kingdoms)” (John 14:2). That is, there is the Celestial Mansion, Terrestrial Mansion, and End/Last (Telestial) Mansion. Each of these mansions have separate and very different glories—one of the sun, one of the moon, and one of the stars.
Now, to put this in a different light, the question is: “Do you feel you should inherit the same glory as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Adam, etc.? Do you feel you have earned the same glory as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Madam Curie, Helen Keller, Jonas Salk, Florence Nightingale, Henry Ford, Mother Teresa, Hippocrates, Galileo, Archimedes, Claudius Plotemy, Albert Einstein, Christopher Columbus, etc., etc., etc.? Or more importantly, would you feel comfortable around these great people who have done so much, sacrificed so much, and achieved so much?
What about the other side. Do you feel you deserve greater glory, or a more comfortable after-life than Alolph Hitler, Genghis Khan, Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro, Sadam Hussein, Charles Manson, Benito Mussolini, Mao Tse-tung, Attila the Hun, Maximilien Robespierre, Ruhollah Khomeini, Pol Pot, or Caligula?
It is not logical to think that a kind and loving heavenly father would place murderers in the same eternal sphere as those who have lived a righteous, law-abiding life. Should Martin Luther share the same eternal fate as Kublai Khan, or Winston Churchill with Heinrich Himmler, Hirohito or Hideki Tojo?
The point is, there are many mansions, many divisions, many separations within the eternal world, and each of us will inherit that type of resurrection and glory, or mansion, as we have earned through our life here on earth. No other arrangement would be fair and could exist with a kind and loving heavenly father.
Comment #3: God rejected the fig leaf aprons which Adam and Eve made (Gen. 3:21). Why do Mormons memorialize the fall by using fig leaf aprons in the secret temple ceremonies?”
Response: First of all, LDS Temple ceremonies are not secret, they are sacred, and as such, are private. As for the apron, by its very nature, is truly not a covering for nakedness—it covers only the bare essentials of a man and not all of a woman. The Lord in the scripture quoted made coats of skin. In fact, one of the definitions of “coat” is “an external covering, as the fur or hair of a beast or the wool of sheep, etc.,” and “a cover.” Obviously, the coats of skin were made to cover Adam and Eve’s bodies, showing the Lord’s interest in modesty—something that modern people might consider when they choose clothing to wear. As for the purpose of the temple ceremony, either a person attends such ceremony and understands the symbolism of the apron, or one has no knowledge of, nor understanding of, its purpose. However, it should be understood, that God did not reject the fig leaf aprons Adam and Eve donned once they discovered their nakedness. One should fully understand they had nothing else to use at the time. It could also be understood that as the Lord made the coasts of skin, he was teaching Adam how to kill and skin an animal so he would be able to make his own clothes in the future.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part V

Here are some additional comments or questions, some not on geography or the Land of Promise, sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “Why did the angel take the Nephi Plates back to heaven? Do they not belong with man? Would not their existence prove once for all that Mormonism is truth? God allowed the Jews to carry the 10 commandments for several centuries in their original physical form, written by the finger of God Himself!” Gerard N.
Response: Things of heaven belong to God, not to man. The Plates were here on loan to man for their translation and the future edifying of the entire human race. Once that purpose was accomplished, They were returned back into his realm. As for the tablets of Moses called the Ten Commandments, they were immediately placed into what is called the Ark of the Covenant and were not directly seen after that time;  however, on one occasion, in the area of Bethshemesh, the city of Joshua, fifty thousand and seventy men were slaughtered by the Lord because they, knowing better, looked into the Ark (1 Samuel 6:19), for the Lord had commanded no one to even touch the Ark, other than those he assigned, “or they will die” (Numbers 4:15).
Left: David leading the procession that brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, singing and playing instruments along the way; Right: Uzzah was struck dead for touching the Ark when it titled
This was clearly shown in the story of Uzzah, the son of Abinadab (2 Samuel 6:1-7). In fact, the Lord commanded that the Ark was to be borne upon men’s shoulders, and carried by the poles provided, and only by Levites, and those of the family of Kohath (Exodus 25:12-14; Numbers 7:9). Even they could not touch the Ark, but only the poles that carried it. It is interesting to note that Abinadab, who was a Levite and a Kohathite, was responsible to transport the Ark. But David went down to Abinadab’s house in Gibeah to retrieve the Ark himself after it had been in Gibeah for seventy years (2 Samuel 6:1-2), and bring it to Jerusalem, and had it placed on a cart (2 Samuel 6:3), where it never should have been, which led to the stumbling oxen, the tilting of the ark, and the grasping of the hand by Uzzah.
For those who have little faith, or little understanding, the workings of God are beyond comprehension. As Job asked: “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?” (Job 11:7). “His greatness no-one can fathom” (Psalm 145:3). “His understanding no-one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28). Moses lost his right to enter the promised land because he felt his intervention was needed when he struck the rock, instead of speaking to it as God had commanded (Numbers 20:7-12). We need to listen carefully to what God has to say to us, and in obedience strive to do all He commands. Yes, God is loving and merciful, but He is also holy and He defends His holiness with His power, and affronts to His holiness sometimes bring about His holy wrath. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
Thus, when God retrieved the Plates after Joseph Smith translated them, the matter is not to be trifled with, nor, it would seem, even questioned. What God chooses to do is far beyond the knowledge and understanding of mortal men.
Comment #2: “If Moroni devoutly practiced the Mormon Gospel, why is he an angel now rather than a God? (Doc. & Cov. 132:17,37)” Constance B.
Moroni has had many assignments and responsibilities assigned by the Lord, Left: Preparing Joseph Smith to receive and translate the Plates; Center: See to the protection and security of the Plates and their delivery to Joseph Smith; Right: Looking over the Church and this nation
Response: With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, many spirits came out of the grave and were resurrected (Matthew 27:52-53). We are also told that all people will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:22). We also understand that all those who lived righteously and are destined to receive a full inheritance in the kingdom of God, will be resurrected at the time of Christ's second coming. They shall be caught up to meet the Lord at this time and will descend with him to reign during the millennial era (D&C 88:97-98). Thus there is an assurance that Moroni will be resurrected, if he has not been already. On the other hand, angels are of various types and perform a variety of functions to implement the work of the Lord on the earth. Even Christ himself spoke of angels (Matthew 13:36-39), as did his apostles (Luke 1:123; 2:25; John 20:12). The angel Gabriel, whom we know to be Noah, was called an angel when he delivered his message of John the Baptist’s pending birth (Luke 1:18-19). Angels, according to Paul, are part of the whole family in Heaven (Ephesians 3:15). When the two angels visited Lot’s home (Genesis 19:1), the people, having seen them, asked “Where are the men which came in to thee this night?” (Genesis 19:5) showing us that angels, like spirits, are in the form of men.
As for the verses in the Doctrine & Covenants, the description has to do with the different levels of beings in the eternities. Those who marry, sealed in the temples, for time and all eternity, are both resurrected beings and gods, but this verse deals with those who do not so marry on earth, that when they are resurrected, they are servants to God and those of the Celestial realm. Christ told his apostles “In my Father’s house are many mansion,” (John 14:2); and those mansions are divided into different “kingdoms,” called Celestial and Terrestrial, and that each has a different glory, i.e., sun and moon (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). It is also mentioned that there is a lesser third glory, that of the stars, which LDS know is called the Telestial. Of the kingdom, or glory of the sun, the apostle said, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43), and concludes his remark with an admonition for us all: “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
It should be plain that there are various different areas in Heaven, and people earn their place by what they do: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). That we are resurrected with different bodies is also clear in 1 Corinthians 15:35): “But some man will say, how are they dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” to which the answer is given: “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the son, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:40-42).
Consequently, those who are resurrected, but not sealed in earth life, are told that there is no marrying in heaven, meaning after death, and that those individuals are servants (D&C 132:17) within a kingdom of lesser glory, and will remain such throughout all eternity. This is why LDS place such emphasis on the Temples, are sealed for time and all eternity (married) by ones with priesthood authority, and then return to the Temple often to do proxy work for their dead ancestors. The work has to be done here in earth life. As for the other quote, the verse has reference of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose work is done, and “have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods” (D&C 132:37). However, Moroni has not finished his work. He still is involved in looking after this land and, it is understood, will until the second coming. After that time he will receive his exaltation and sit upon his throne, as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part IV

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “I understand that in the "Zarahemla” article printed in the Times and Seasons 3 (1 October 1842), page 927, an editorial stated: “We are not agoing to declare positively, that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion,” which I believe infers that this site in Guatemala must be “one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon” the article concluded.” How does that stack up against your model?” Culver O.
Response: At the time of this article, Joseph Smith was the editor of the Times and Seasons. Some claim he was in hiding at the time, and others say he was traveling, etc., and not present in Nauvoo when the article was written and printed. While we can’t say for certain, let’s assume Joseph Smith was present and knew about and approved the article. We need to keep in mind the attitude and circumstances of that period.
First of all, in 1842, the church leaders were presented with a newly published book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, written by the explorer and adventurer, John Lloyd Stephens (printed in London by John Murray publishers in 1841). The Book of Mormon had been in publication only about 11 years, and had met with an enormous amount of ridicule by critics and those opposed to the Mormons. Thus, Stephens book seemed to validate the existence of an ancient civilization in the Americas and, to members of the church and its leaders, had to have been the ruins of ancient Nephite cities.
One of the passages in the book read: “Here were the remains of a cultivated, polished, and peculiar people, who had passed through all the stages incident to the rise and fall of nations; reached their golden age, and perished, entirely unknown. The links which connected them with the human family were severed and lost, and these were the only memorials of their footsteps upon earth.‎” To early Latter-day Saints, eager to find worldly verification of the Nephite nation in the Americas, this was fodder for great joy. No doubt, leaders and members alike thought they had found Lehi’s promised land.
Numerous articles, discussions and, no doubt, sermons, flew about Nauvoo and the early Church. I personally remember in the 1960s when Jakeman’s interpretation of the so-called “Lehi Stone” (Izapa Stela #5) caused a great fervor in the church among the members. My ward in Southern California at that time, and many others, ordered numerous replicas of the engraven stone and they sold like hotcakes. Who doesn’t want to see verification of the very heart of the church—the Book of Mormon—from non-church, archaeological sources?
However, the “Tree of Life” stone (left) proved to be a hoax in the long run with numerous scientists claiming Jakeman’s interpretation was in error. In 1841 and over the following years, the ruins of Mesoamerica, were not supported by the church officially as the home of the Nephites, and subsequent investigation have failed to turn up any scientific proof from the ground that this area was, in fact, Nephite.
As for my personal opinion, when 5,400 Nephites and their families emigrated to a land “which was northward,” and were never heard from again (Alma 63:4-8), ended up in what is today called Mesoamerica. There they built fantastic cities and a civilization to match the Peruvian Andean area from which they came. The ruins in Mesoamerica are Nephite, but the cities are not those of the scriptural record.
Comment #2: “I heard somewhere that Quechua (Andean language) means “Robber.” If this is true, does this relate to the Gadianton Robbers of the Book of Mormon?” Herrera G.
Response:  The word kkechuwa, in the Quechua (Qheswa, Qichwa) language, means “plunderer” or “robber.” The so-called Quechua people were from central Peru and the dominant element of the Inca empire. Their language was also called Quechua, which was spoken widely by other Indian peoples of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. However, the original name, and what the Quechua people call their language, is Runa Simi, which literally means “the mouth or tongue of the people.” The Inca themselves referred to their language as Qhapaq Runasimi, meaning “The great language of the people.” The word Quechua was given by Dominican priest Pedro Aparicio in the times of the conquest in 1540 misundestanding the meaning. The root of the word 'quechua' means, taken away by force,"quechuanchis" were called the Spaniards by the Incas an expression that means all together, killers, thieves. Consequently, there can be no connection in the Runa Simi language of the indigenous people of the “robber” idea, since that was a name applied by the Spanish priest to a people “who were taken from their land by force,” while the Inca called the conquerors quechuanchis, which was saying that the Spanish were killers and thieves. In Runa Simi, the actual word “robber” would appear something like qichuqkuna. The problem is, since Spanish has long been a major language in the Andes, it has altered some of the words, sounds and spelling of original Runa Simi words.
Comment #3: I have some serious objections to the last chapter of your BoM where the reader is encouraged to “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the Name of Christ, if these things are not true” etc. This approach to validating the inspiration of the Book of Mormon is fallacious. Some people I know have followed this prescription of Moroni 10:4 and concluded that the Book of Mormon is not true. That is, they have read the Book of Mormon, asking God to show them whether it is true or not, and have not received a testimony of its truth but have instead become convinced that it is false. All you people can really say to such persons is that they must not have prayed "with a sincere heart" or "real intent." But on what basis can this judgment be made? Only on the assumption that the Book of Mormon is true — that is, only by assuming the very thing in question” Dallin M.
Response: If life was that simple, then we would all be perfect. First of all, I know numerous people who have taken that approach and found a testimony in the Book of Mormon, but of course, some do not. Perhaps it boils down to real intent, perhaps it boils down to how much effort did a person really put forth toward reading and trying to understand or allowing the spirit to work on him. James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17-18). I cannot look into a man’s heart and see what his real intent is or was. The spirit works on people who will receive that inspiration. The world is full of people who will attest and testify to that. The offer made by Moroni is meant to show a person, if he wants, how he can come to know the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many, many people in the world want to know that, but never come to an understanding of it—it is really interesting that you would choose to point a finger at something people have struggled with for millennia. Then, too, is the question of real intent. How interested, truly interested, are you or a person in wanting to really, truly know, the mind of God? Who really wants to learn that he must repent of his sins, strip himself before God in all humility, baring his soul to the Father who created him, and spill out all the vile, wicked, and evil things he has done in life, knowing he is talking to a perfect being? Real intent cannot be measured by any one of us. Some manage it, some do not. Some read the Book of Mormon as a curiosity, some as a means to find error, some to scoff and insult those who believe, and others to learn, to know, to seek the truth. Only God knows the intent of one’s heart and the purposes of his actions. It is not a simple manner, Moroni did not intend it to be, nor does God. We have to earn our place in his kingdom through our efforts, or as James said, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” and also, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21, 24). While most of the Christian world believe that they will earn the same rewards as the Saint, the martyr, the apostle, the prophet, etc., I am not so sure any of us who achieve a much lesser level of humility and faith in God would be comfortable living in an eternity at the same level as those who far exceeded our efforts.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part III

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “When it says that Moroni or Moronihah foritifed lands and cities, what makes you think this means more than just he beefed up the troops that guarded these areas?” Erich P.
Response: There are several scriptures that suggest this was more than just adding and stationing more troops. Such as, “Yea, he had been strengthening 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). “For they knew not that Moroni had fortified, or had built forts of security, for every city in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13).
A fort overlooking the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley
“And he also placed armies on the south, in the borders of their possessions, and caused them to erect fortifications that they might secure their armies and their people from the hands of their enemies” (Alma 50:10). “And it came to pass that he did no more attempt a battle with the Lamanites in that year, but he did employ his men in preparing for war, yea, and in making fortifications to guard against the Lamanites, yea, and also delivering their women and their children from famine and affliction, and providing food for their armies” (Alma 53:7). “And it came to pass that he did cause the Lamanites, whom he had taken prisoners, that they should commence a labor in strengthening the fortifications round about the city Gid” (Alma 55:25). Even Lachoneus got into the act: “And he caused that fortifications should be built round about them, and the strength thereof should be exceedingly great. And he caused that armies, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites, or of all them who were numbered among the Nephites, should be placed as guards round about to watch them, and to guard them from the robbers day and night” (3 Nephi 3:14).
Comment #2: “What about the mention of steel that Nephi mentions in the items he lists as what he taught his people. Is there any other mention of steel among the Nephites?” Julio.
Response: “And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war” (Jarom 1:8). As the saying goes, you can take whatever is mentioned in the Book of Mormon to the bank.
Comment #3: “If the land bridge between Central America and South America was not there... Assuming that the land was underwater... Just like the entire eastern part of South America was.. Could we not also assume that that this east to west running neck of land could have been shorter than 144 miles back then? Still this land runs in the wrong direction... But it could have been a bit more narrow back then... No?” Mr.M
A Paleogeographic reconstruction of Central America in Geology Times shows the study of Kirby, Jones and MacFadden of the Atrato Seaway, an opening between South and Central America, later joined through tectonic plate movement
Response: Anything is possible, however, while there is geologic evidence, and most geologists studying the area have agreed, and that the deep ocean drilling ship Glomar Challenger has verified that Panama was once submerged, and some feel even the Caribbean was more raised around the islands, there is no geologic evidence yet uncovered, and no geologic discoveries yet show that North America, Mexico or Mesoamerica were different than we now basically see them, except that the Gulf of California did not exist and Mexico and Baja California were once one land mass—at least all the geologic models show it this way.
Comment #4: “It appears from reading the record, that most of the Nephite-Lamanite wars occurred in the last century B.C., and then continued after the 200-plus years of peace, with Mormon battling the Lamanites all the way to the Nephite annihilation. I find it interesting that not much is mentioned of the time prior to Mosiah. It appears that times were more peaceful then. Do you know why?” Justin Mark.
Response: Actually, the scriptural record shows that there was as much fighting before Mosiah’s time as there was afterward. From the very beginning following the separation of Nephi from his older brothers, that he knew there would be wars with the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:14), and that before Nephi’s death, they “had wars and contentions” with the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:34). Nephi also predicted that “there shall be great wars and contentions among my people” (2 Nephi 26:2). Jacob tells us that Nephi wielded the sword of Laban in their defense before his death (Jacob 1:120), and that the Nephite wars were listed on the large plates (Jacob 3:13). Enos “saw wars between the Nephites and Lamanites” in his time (Enos 1:24), Jarom tells us they made weapons of war and defeated the Lamanites in wars (Jarom 1:8-9) during much of the first two hundred and thirty years (Jarom 1:13), and Omni says that there were many seasons of serious war and bloodshed (Omni 1:3) and the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed in his days (Omni 1:5), with Abinadom telling us there was “much war and contention” between the Nephites and Lamanites (Omni 1:10). These wars covered a period from soon after Nephi separated from his older brothers and the time of Abinadom, about 200 B.C. From there we pick up Mosiah in 130 B.C.
Wars were constant between the Lamanites and Nephites for most of their 1000 year history
Obviously, then, the Nephites and Lamanites fought numerous battles during those 350 years. The reason we don’t know much about them was because the details of those wars were recorded on the large plates, which other than the first 116 pages that were lost, have not been translated, till we reach the book of Mosiah. The earlier time was not more peaceful, we just don’t have much information about the wars and contentions that occurred during that time.
Comment #5: I had a gospel doctrine teacher who said the most stupid things, like "If you have not gotten your food storage by now, it is already to late to start. There is not enough time left," and "Before Adam fell, the earth was in orbit around Kolob. When Adam fell, the earth flew across space into its current orbit.” I called BS on him a couple of times in class. Unable to handle all of the BS and deceptive practices of the church, I had to leave it. His reward for teaching the most absurd falsehoods I have ever heard? He was put into the bishopric” F.M.
Response: We have all had people tell us things that are not accurate—after all, people are people with their own opinions, feelings and attitudes. Your inability to differentiate between a person’s comments and the doctrines of the Church are unfortunate. However, there are numerous things that we think we know and do not. First of all, why anyone would say that about food storage is difficult to answer. On the other hand, the Earth was organized elsewhere than in its present position. President John Taylor in 1857 made this statement (Origin and Destiny of Woman), which also appeared in the Liahona the Elders’ Journal (March 7, 1908), when he said, “Thou longed, thou sighed and thou prayed to thy Father in heaven for the time to arrive when thou couldst come to this earth, which had fled and fallen from where it was first organized, near the planet Kolob.” Charles D. Evans said the same in 1894 (Matter and Spirit), and in the Millennial Star 56, 49 p 778), said, “The earth doubtless fell also an immeasurable distance from the presence of its Maker, from the mansion or abode of Kolob.” Also David B. Timmins “Free Agency, Determinism, and Chaos Theory,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (1995). The idea is not one your teacher pulled out of a hat, but has been part of LDS thinking and teaching for more than a century that I know about.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part II

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “You Mormons cite James 1:5 in support of your beginning. However, James 1:5 is speaking about believers asking God for wisdom to overcome temptation (James 1:2-18), not about unbelievers asking God to reveal to them whether a particular book is Scripture. The Bible tells us to apply objective tests to alleged revelations (Deut. 13:1-5; Matt. 7:15-23; 1 John 4:1-6), not to seek a purely subjective revelation of the truth of a written revelation” Laurin M.
Response: Hmmm. I read this as “God giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not,” and then adds, “and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). All men. I don’t read “just to believers.” And if you ask sincerely, the Lord will not upbraideth—give no reproach. But that is not all. James says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). And when he does, and receives an answer, as Joseph Smith did, James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness” (James 1:17). Matthew also tells us along this line: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7), and to make sure we do not fall into your type of thinking, he adds, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:8). And to make sure that we understand that God will respond when we so seek, ask, and knock, Matthew adds, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will be give him a serpent? …how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11). It seems to me that Joseph asked, with real intent and sincere heart, and received as promised. Why you and others want to deny what the scriptures promise us, is beyond me.
Comment #2:Thanks for the excellent information on engravings on metal plates!” Alex D.
Response: Thank you. I remember a time when no one believed people wrote on gold or metal plates, but now we know that it was very prevalent during the time of Lehi.
Comment #3: “I read somewhere that in the ancient past, the Earth rotated quicker than today, and had only 290 days rather than our 365 ¼ days like now. Doesn’t this throw out the ancient calendars you claim existed in South America?” Dylan G.
Response: The Lord told Abraham that each planet belonged to an order, and each order had a set time of its rotation (Abraham Ch 3). This would seem that the Earth would have always had the same rotational period as it has today.
Comment #3: “Another term that Wellington and Potter examine to help determine both the path to and the location of the Valley of Lemuel is “borders.” They make a distinction between "the borders near the shore of the Red Sea" and “the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (2:5). Concluding that “borders” actually means “mountains,” they surmise that Nephi is speaking of two mountain ranges, one near and the other nearer the Red Sea. There are multiple Hebrew terms translated as “borders” in the King James version of the Bible that relate to geography, the most common being gĕbûl, which term Wellington and Potter equate with “mountain” Ernestine.
Response: First of all, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon states that the Hebrew word gĕbûl actually means territory or boundary. Secondly, Nephi uses the word borders (1 Nephi 2:5, 8; 16:14) and mountains (1 Nephi 11:1; 16:30; 17:7) without difficulty elsewhere in his writing, so there is no reason to believe he meant mountains instead of borders in 1 Nephi 2:5.
In addition, there are two separate areas of the Red Sea along Lehi’s path. One is the Gulf of Aqaba (located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai Peninsula), which is the northern extension of the Red Sea. The trail south from Jerusalem, through the Wadi Rum, would have passed along by that area—or stated differently, the Lehi Colony “came down by the borders of the Red Sea” (i.e., the Gulf of Aqaba off the Red Sea), “and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (along the Red Sea itself). It is always amazing to me how people writing about the Book of Mormon like to inject superfluous ideas into the simple statements of the scriptural record.
Comment #4: “There are several places where tents are mentioned in the Book of Mormon, used by both Nephites and Lamanites both at different times. I saw in a painting of Lehi finding the Liahona after emerging from what looked like an old style army tent. Weren’t the tents of Lehi’s day different from that?” Jill Y.
The Army style tents some artists use in their artwork of Lehi finding the Liahona in 1 Nephi 16:10
Response:  In the time period indicated, tents were usually used by nomadic people who followed their flocks to pasture and water, and moved around according to the seasons—these were mostly Bedouins (Arabs). There were also semi-nomadic people, who were based in a village but lived part of the year in upper or lower pasture areas. On the other hand, Lehi, who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem in a regular home, also had tents (1 Nephi 2:4), though such would have been unusual for the Jews living inside the walls of Jerusalem to own.
Tents of the day were large, typically having two separate sections. The front section was used for work, and was the public area of the tent, open to visitors. The men of the family lived here, ate their meals here, gathered here with family members or friends, and conducted business here if necessary, and was left open in warm weather. The second or rear part of the tent was private, and was divided from the front by a curtain. This is where the women, children and babies lived and slept. 
Tents were large, with at least two sections, and rooms divided by curtains. It took three donkeys or camels to carry a single tent: one for the poles and ropes, a second for the tent itself, and a third for the curtains and interior rugs, etc.
These tents were made from goats' hair or dark sheep's wool, woven in rectangular strips on large looms. Women wove the fabric for the tents, stitched them together, and kept them in good repair. They also made the ropes that tethered the tents to the ground. In effect, they were the craftspeople who produced the housing. 
Women also set up the tents each time the family or group moved to a new site, selected by the women and usually situated on hilltops in summer to capture the breeze, and in winter on the leeward side of valleys, just above the base where flash floods could occur. They used wooden mallets and tent pegs they hoisted up and secured the unwieldy tents. When it was time to move on, they took down the tents, folded them and stowed them for the journey. While this might seem heavy work to us, the Hebrew women were sturdy and skilled, and they worked as a group. In the case of Lehi’s family, we know of at least two daughters mentioned only once when Nephi is explaining who went with him when leaving their first landing site after Lehi died: “...and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 5:6), there would only have been Sariah and the two daughters, so undoubtedly the four sons helped set up the tents during their early sojourn in the wilderness. However, after all were married, no doubt the five wives and Sariah and Ishmael’s wife set up the tents during the many years in the wilderness to Bountiful.
Left: Tents were set up by the women, and (Right) it took three donkeys or camels to carry one tent
Generally, in a family such as Lehi’s, there would be a tent for the parents, with each adult son having his own tent. This is shown in Lehi’s case when Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem after the brass plates. “I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 3:9). Nor were these tents the one Lehi and Sariah stayed in, for when Nephi and his brothers returned with the plates, Lehi was living in his own tent: “And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted” (1 Nephi 45:7).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part I

Sometimes we are inundated with comments and questions regarding the Book of Mormon Land of Promise and the meaning of various ideas expressed within the scriptural record. Following are some more of these emails recently received:
Comment #1: “According to Richard Wellington and George D. Potter in their book “Lehi in the Wilderness,” they expand the phrase "into the wilderness" in 1 Nephi 2:2 to "into the Way of the Wilderness," implying that the family took a specific trail of that name, that is, a trail called “Into the Wilderness.” Have you heard of this idea, and if so, what do you think?” Ernestine.
Response: First of all, the Bible tells us that such a trail did exist in ancient times (Exodus 13:18; Deuteronomy 2:8; Joshua 8:15; Judges 20:42; and 2 Samuel 2:24; 15:23). On the other hand, this trail is not mentioned after Samuel, or after the time of David. The problem is, this trail was near Jerusalem, not one on the other side of the Dead Sea. Bible atlases do confirm that there was something called "The Way of the Wilderness of Moab" and "The Way of the Wilderness of Edom" before and during the Israelite conquest of Canaan but that after that period the trail called "The Way of the Wilderness" went from Bethel to Jericho, well east and north of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem, and obviously not a trail the Lehi colony would have taken.
Nephi’s comment in the second verse of the second chapter states: “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness,” which is no different than numerous other comments which tell us the same thing about traveling through the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:4–6; 3:4, 9, 14–15, 27; 5:22; 7:1–3, 5–6; 8:2; 16:9–12, 14, 35; 17:1–4, 44), where the term is used as a general reference to the type of land the colony traveled through. Obviously, Nephi’s writing does not relate to a trail, for the term wilderness appears prominently in his description of every part of the journey from Jerusalem to Bountiful. Nor can it be suggested that Nephi's use of wilderness in 1 Nephi 2:2 differs from the way he uses the term elsewhere. In fact, there is no expression more common in the East than “into the wilderness.”
Comment #2: “What makes you think the Sea South mentioned in Helaman 3:8 is not as Peter Covino says, to the south of the Land Northward, instead of south of the Land of Nephi?” Quinn R.
Response: In Helaman, Mormon seems to be inserting this information (see Helaman 3:17). This insertion describes the growth of the entire Land of Promise after telling us of the movement into the Land Northward of “an exceedingly great many” who “went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land” (Helaman 3:3). After describing the land northward where these people went, the insertion starts with “And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8). So let’s look at this statement in detail:
“they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward…”
Here he tells us he is talking about the entire Land of Promise…
“…and did spread…”
The Nephites did spread in the entire Land of Promise, in the Land Southward and the Land Northward…
“…insomuch that they…”
The Nephites in all the Land of Promise…
“…began to cover the face of the whole earth…”
The term “whole earth” is not used to isolate a portion of a land, but the entire area, i.e., in this case, the entire area of the Land of Promise. The “whole earth” is basically an idiom applying to all the land the Nephites occupied…
“…from the sea south…”
This parallels the earlier description of the “from the land southward”…
“…to the sea north…”
Again, paralleling his earlier description of “to the land northward”…
“…from the sea west to the sea east.”
At this point, Mormon changes his emphasis from the Nephites in the entire Land of Promise, and specifically refers to the land northward…
“And the people who were in the land northward did dwell in tents and in houses of cement.”
Mormon talks about scarce timber and shipping cement northward (verses 10 and 11, then parenthetically adds about Lamanites who also went into the land northward (verse 12), then switches again to talk about the Nephites in the overall Land of Promise and the many records they kept  (verses 13-16), before returning to Helaman’s record in verse 17.
It is clear from this that the four seas were as we have herein stated numerous times, and that the Sea South is obviously south of the Land of Nephi. The only mention of sea between the Land Northward and the Land Southward is found in Ether “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20)-- (an example of a sea dividing the land is shown above)
Peter Covino talks about his H38 virus, etc., and tries to show where everyone is wrong but him by their not having his model for their own. However, his statement about the Sea South to the south of the Land Northward is not supported by Helaman 3:8. I wonder why he never quotes 2 Nephi 10:20 where Jacob says they were on an island—perhaps it is because his model does not support an island.
Comment #3: “You claim that the East Sea disappeared and the Andes Mountains came up in the place of the sea; however, the city of Moroni, which was on the east coast, was sunk and all the people drowned. It seems your model doesn’t fit the scripture” Eduard W.
Response: First of all, when the Andes rose “whose height is great” as Samuel the Lamanite prophesied (Helaman 14:23), the east sea was pushed back to the east as the land to the east of the Andes rose from the subduction of the South American tectonic plate beneath the Nazca Plate. Secondly, an interesting thing happened to the city of Tiwanaku and the adjoining area called Puma Punku, now found to the south of Lake Titicaca, which is suggested was once at sea level because of the various ocean level markings on surrounding hills, the fact that it had a dock that could handle a hundred ships, and that it was considered a port city by archaeologists. The interesting thing is that the city is covered with residue showing that it was once under water.
So violent was this sinking and rising action that solid rock walls, docks, and all other stone buildings were tumbled around like matchsticks
Now, when the Andes mountains came up, a great suction was caused to the East Sea which rushed to fill the void of a temporarily sinking land mass, then retreated back eastward to its present location as the Atlantic Ocean, as the land moved upward, buckling the subterranean rock mass (Helaman 14:21), causing it to rise over the eastern encroaching land mass and moving upward into mountains “whose height is great.” This action flooded the city now called Tiwanaku, and would have drowned its inhabitants, before pushing upward in the rise of the mountains.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Manipulating the Scriptural Record for Mesoamerica – Part II

Continuing with the last post regarding the manipulation of the scriptural record to meet the Mesoamerican model, rather than find a model that fits the scripture. The first two match requirements stated by John E. Clark on the Neal A. Maxwell website were covered in the last post. This post covers the next two.
3) Its lands were flanked by "seas." First of all, the word “flanked” means “a lateral part or side,” “the right or left side,” “something on each side.” Consequently, as Mesoamerican Theorists always do, they try to make something agree with their model, even if it means changing the meaning or even substituting words for those in the scriptural record, as this one does. Secondly, the scriptures make no comment about the Land of Promise being flanked by seas. In Helaman we find that there were four seas, “they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8). It is obvious in this scriptural statement that the purpose is to show that the entire Land of Promise was inhabited "from sea to sea" which can only mean that these seas were at the "four corners" or completely around the Land of Promise. As for Clark's statement, at best, one might suggest he is ignorant of the meaning of that word, at worst, Clark is deliberately changing the meaning of the scriptural record to agree with his Mesoamerican model, which only has water on the right and left--or only flanked.
Mesoamerica has only two seas around it, one on the north and one on the south, thus it is “flanked” by seas; however, the Land of Promise has four seas, one on each of the four sides
4) Its lands were small. This is another of the Mesoamerican Theorists pet points. To match their model, the area of the Land of Promise has to be small. John L. Sorenson trumpeted that point; however, nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say the land area was small. In fact, Mormon in his comment about the distance to the northern part of the Land of Desolation, “And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken” (Alma 22:30--emphasis mine). He also indicated a land to the north of that area, which he called the “Land of Many Waters,” which included the Land of Cumorah and the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:4). Consequently, it does not sound “small.” However, we have no ability from the scriptural record to say it was small, large, or in between.
Thus we see that the four points Clark states simply cannot be supported by the Book of Mormon—though they obviously agree with his model of Mesoamerica, since that is what drove these four points. This merely shows the problems that exists with Mesoamerican Theorists—they are willing to state their model’s requirements and force the scriptural record to agree with it, by either changing, altering, or ignoring it in order for their model to appear as a match.
As an example:
1. The idea of a warm Land of Promise is driven by the fact that Mesoamerica is a tropical and sub-tropical land; however, the Land of Promise is not so described, nor is any specific climate attached to it other than the need for a Mediterranean climate for the seeds of Jersualem to have grown exceedingly;
2. The idea of the Land of Promise being narrow in at least one place is driven by the scriptural record; however, Mesoamerica, though its promoters claim it to have this narrow area, simply does not—140 miles is not even close to matching Mormon’s narrow description. In fact, Mesoamericanists claim that the narrow neck of land in the Land of Promise was an isthmus, but it was not so called—and that is driven by the fact that Mesoamerica has an isthmus (as shown in Joseph Allen’s comment: “The geographic configuration of the area must resemble an hourglass as a reflection of two land masses and a narrow neck of land (an isthmus) dividing the two);
3. The idea that the Land of Promise is flanked by seas is driven by the fact that Mesoamerica has water only on two sides, and is flanked by seas; however, the land of Promise is described in Helaman as have seas to the north and south to the east and west—not flanked, but surrounded by seas;
An example of a Land of Promise with four seas (Helaman 3:8), having a narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32), a sea that divides the land (Ether 10:20), and being an island (2 Nephi 10:20) is shown here,  not as an hourglass
4. The idea of a small Land of Promise is driven by the fact that Mesoamerica is a small area—it is not driven by any description in the scriptural record.
The real problem lies in the fact that non-members and critics, as well as many members, are not persuaded by the flimsy and unsupported Mesoamerican model since it simply does not agree with the scriptural record. Consequently, the Mesoamerican Theorists, including FARMS and their implementing their model into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and the Internet dictionary Wikipedia, so that the uninformed thinks that is the factual and supported location of the Land of Promise. This is neither scholarly nor honest. Nor does FARMS (now Neal A. Mawell Institute) give any credence to any model other than their own, though they claim to be interested in “American research for Mormon studies,” and were a foundation originally titled as such.
Another problem lies in self-serving Mesoamerican matching points that, while they might be stated or inferred in the Book of Mormon, are not realistic based on other scriptural record criteria. One such area is Joseph Allen’s point that: “The area must show evidence of a high-level written language that was in use during the Book of Mormon time period for the Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites.” First of all, the Mulekites did not have a written language; secondly, the Lamanites written language would have been the same as the Nephites, since that was what was taught to them around 130 B.C. (Mosiah 24:4), and as late as 374 A.D., Mormon and the Lamanite king were exchanging written epistles (Mormon 6:2-3); thirdly, Mormon tells us that the Lamanites would destroy any of their records, and since the records were written in Reformed Egyptian, unreadable to the Lamanites, they would have destroyed anything written by the Nephites, therefore, for any written record to have survived the final destruction of the Nephites and the terrible wrath of the Lamanites toward anything Nephite, it would be unlikely any “high-level written language” survived.
Left: Mayan glyphs; Middle: Hebrew writing; Right: Reformed Egyptian. The Mayan language cannot be said it was a growth from either the Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian
And most importantly, the Mayan hieroglyphics and the Aztec codices, which were simply pictures, that survived the Spanish burnings, have absolutely no relationship to the Nephite language in any way, consequently, the Mayan and Aztec writings simply cannot be claimed as carryovers from the Nephites. As a result, it is not possible to use the hieroglyphics of Mesoamerica as a proof of Nephite writing, and it is very disingenuous to do so!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Manipulating the Scriptural Record in Favor of Mesoamerica – Part I

Since FARMS was brought into BYU and renamed the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, and on its website continues to promote the Mesoamerican theory of the Land of Promise, many members understandably believe that Mesoamerica is the place where the Nephite nation lived. Unfortunately, those promoting Mesoamerica under the guise of official sponsorship, are doing a disservice because Mesoamerica really does not match the scriptural record and anyone not pre-determined toward Mesoamerica can easily see there are no matches unless one distorts, changes, or ignores much of the descriptive information Mormon left us.
Archaeologists and anthropologists, both LDS and not, have stated numerous times that there is no evidence in Mesoamerica of the Book of Mormon. This is not merely an uninformed attitude or anti-church belief—it is a factual examination of the area that has had more scientific study and excavation work than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, yet other than awesome ruins, there is little else to recommend the location.
As an example, and just to name a few:
1. Mesoamerica land runs east and west where the scriptural record shows the land runs north and south. This is simply something than cannot be explained away as Mesoamerican Theorists try to do. (Sorenson’s map below showing east-west alignment)
2. There is no narrow neck of land in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that matches the description of a day and a half journey distance as Mormon states. Mesoamerican Theorists can state how some special people have run long distances in short time frames, but that does not match Mormon’s statement.
3. The Mesoamerican Land Southward—Land of Zarahemla and Land of Nephi, is not nearly surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of land as Mormon states.
4. There is no Sea North, Sea East, Sea West, and Sea South around the Land of Promise as Helaman states (3:8).
5. Mesoamerica is not now, and never was, an island as Jacob states.
6. There are not two kinds of animals in Mesoamerica that are likened unto an elephant in their use and value as is stated in Ether (and unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829).
7. There are not two kinds of important grains in Mesoamerica besides corn, wheat and barley, as stated in Mosiah (and unknown to Joseph Smith in 1829).
8. There is no herb or plant indigenous to Mesoamerica that cures fever as stated in Alma (cinchona plant [only source of quinine] exists only in Andean Peru)
9. Metallurgy did not exist in Mesoamerica before about 600 to 900 A.D.
10. Mesoamerica, contrary to popular opinion, has limited gold reserves. As an example, in 2006, Mexico produced 39 ton, while Peru produced 224 ton. Most of Mexico’s gold comes from Sonora in the northwest, not in Mesoamerica at all, and the Spanish in a century, took out only 154 ton from Mexico. Yet the Book of Mormon describes gold existing in abundance throughout the entire time of the Nephite period. In addition, Guatemala produced only 5.5 ton of gold in 2006, while Chile produced 46.5 ton; all of Mesoamerica (including all of Mexico) produced only 49 ton, while the area of Andean South America produced 302.5 ton (all in the Land of Promise area).
As one of our readers has written in: “It is said that the Book of Mormon communicates clearly four fundamentals about its setting: its lands were warm, narrow in at least one place, flanked by "seas," and small. Yet, I do not seem to think this is accurate, what do you think?” Ridley E.
Response: You probably got that information from John E. Clark on one of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute posted pages. Like many Mesoamerican Theorists, Clark pushes the idea that the Land of Promise was “small.” In the early days of the Church, many read the writing and had the impression that the Land of Promise was the entire Western Hemisphere, that is, that North America was the Land Northward, South America was the Land Southward, and Central America was the Narrow land in between. When studious people began reading the book specifically for geographical information, they realized that the Land of Promise could not possibly have been that large, so the idea of a Limited Geography Theory emerged. About that time word came of the many ruins in Mesoamerica, and members began to think of Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, which has been promoted by FARMS and now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU, which they have placed into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and the Internet dictionary Wikipedia, as though this idea of Mesoamerica being the Land of Promise is the standard belief among members of the Church, and even appears as the Church’s stand, as attested to by the numerous critics using Mesoamerica as the Lehi’s Land of Promise—which critics, and rightly so, claim is in error.
Thus, it is well known among members and non-members alike, who are not pre-disposed to believe in Mesoamerica, that this area in Central America simply does not match the scriptural record. This lack of scriptural support has been written about here on numerous occasions, so we’ll just deal with the four points John Clark listed on the Neal A. Maxwell (FARMS) website regarding four criteria that had to be matched for any location to be the Land of Prolmise:
1) Its lands were warm. The only comment in the Book of Mormon about weather is: And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land -- but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40). This might suggest a warm climate, but not necessarily. Many cold areas, such as Minnesota in the U.S, because of the lakes, and Illinois, because of the Mississippi, are plagued with mosquitoes, which are the cause of most fevers, especially ones where herbs are used for cures. In fact, Mediterranean climates, like Rome, Greece, and the middle of Chile were centers for mosquitoes before swamps were drained, etc. Consequently, it cannot be said that the climate of the Land of Promise was “warm.” 
Sorenson’s Mesoamerica map showing the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, his narrow neck of land to be 140 miles across—such a small narrowing, no one on foot could ever have known it was a narrow neck of land as Mormon tells us. Only from a map such as this, an aerial shot, or a satellite image could you tell this was a narrow area, and certainly not as narrow as Mormon describes
2) It’s lands were narrow in at least one place. While this is true, narrow is not just a word, it is defined as beingonly the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite” (Alma 22:32). That distance is defined as about 20 miles a day, or about 30 miles in width. There is no place in all of Mesoamerica that comes anywhere near that, with the narrowest point, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, at 140 miles across.
(See the next post, “Manipulating the Scriptural Record in Favor of Mesoamerica – Part II,” for more of Clark’s match requirements that are not scripturally based and show the Mesoamerican model to be inaccurate according to Mormon’s descriptions of the Land of Promise)