Friday, January 31, 2014

More Comments Answered Part II

Continuing with more comments on our website and our responses:
    Comment #1: I understand that Stephen E. Thompson, in his work, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham" (Dialogue, 28, no. 1 (Spring 1995): pp 143-162), states that there was no connection between Egypt and Mesopotamia as your Joseph Smith claimed in his so-called Book of Abraham, with an Egyptian priest and as you have also discussed on your blog” Maxine O.
    Response: While it is true that the interaction between ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia was essentially unknown to scholars until many decades after Joseph Smith's time, an understanding of that interaction became more clear in 1971, when Egyptologist, Georges Posener, published a study showing that Egyptian influence in Syria and Palestine had been significant. 
Since Mesopotamia culture bordered on Egyptian culture and both controlled most of the fertile crescent, it is hard to imagine why archaeologists never put the two together until the latter half of the 20th century
    Earlier, in the famous 1912 anti-Mormon crusade against the Book of Abraham, John Peters, in a letter to the Reverend Franklin S. Spalding, asserted that it could not be true because Joseph Smith had "Chaldeans and Egyptians hopelessly mixed together, although as dissimilar and remote in language, religion and locality as are American and Chinese." Spalding, of course, had asked the foremost scholars in Egyptology to examine the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham and provide comments—their responses resound even today, and although disagreeing amongst themselves as to the precise meaning of the vignettes, they were united in attacking the official interpretations appended to the facsimiles. Reverend Samuel A. B. Mercer was one of those agreeing with Peters, saying: "I challenge any intelligent person who knows Chaldean and Egyptian history to read the first chapter [Book of Abraham] without experiencing the same feeling. Chaldea and Egypt are hopelessly mixed. . . . No one can believe that Abraham made such a blunder in his geography."
Unfortunately, in Mercer's day, scholars studied both Mesopotamian and Egyptian disciplines, but knew nothing of the interactions between the two cultures. However, in 1971, Egyptologist Georges Posener (left) completed a lengthy and detailed 70 page survey of the available evidence and concluded that cultural interactions and interference of Egypt in the area of Syria and Palestine were extensive, even though the precise nature of the "domination by the pharaohs" during the Middle Kingdom "still eludes us; fifty years ago it was barely suspected,” (Georges Posener, J. Bottero, Kathleen M. Kenyon, "Syria and Palestine c. 2160-1780 B.C.," Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1965).
    Another unfortunate issue here, is that, according to Stephen E. Thompson, some critics who clearly should know better are still using the same arguments as Mercer and Peters (Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham," Dialogue 28/1 (Spring 1995), pp 156-60).
    Confirmation of the connections that Posener discovered can be seen in recent archaeological evidence found at Ebla, such as temple building and commemorative scarabs. According to Jürgen von Beckerath, the cult of the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek flourished during the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 B.C.), as is attested by royal and personal names during the twelfth (1991-1783 B.C.) and thirteenth dynasties (1783-1600? B.C.) (A Papyrus of the Late Middle Kingdom in the Brooklyn Museum (1955), 23-4; Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen (1984), 67-73, 159-61, 200-11, 220-2; among others). According to the Matthiae and Pinnock the archaeological site of Ebla in Syria, also known as Tell Mardikh, were found several images of Egyptian gods stylistically datable to the Middle Kingdom, and dated by the archaeologists (1750-1650 B.C.), the time period to which most scholars who believe Abraham existed date him. Among these gods were Osiris, Hathor, Horus, and Sobek. This provides concrete archaeological evidence that Egyptian cults existed in Mesopotamia, Abraham's homeland. Thus the book of Abraham accurately describes an aspect of the ancient world about which Joseph Smith could have known little or nothing, and could not even be verified until archaeological work accomplished over 100 years later.
    Comment #2: “Don’t you consider it strange that no mention has ever been found of any Book of Mormon village, city, or land anywhere in the Western Hemisphere?” Carney.
Response: You may not know this, but the little Jewish village of Nazareth (left) is not mentioned in Jewish scripture, nor in the writings of the first century Jewish general Josephus, nor in the Talmud of later times. One might ask, how it was possible for the town to exist and yet to evade mention for so many centuries? But the fact that a city or settlement is not found, or is not mentioned, under archaeologist’s “Absence of evidence Reasoning,” that is, it is well known among archaeologists that “an absence of evidence” does not indicate “an absence of settlement,” and does nothing to provide positive evidence that it did not exist. 
    In this case, one could easily respond that the New Testament documents do, in fact, mention the city of Nazareth and those documents happen to be among the best-attested and most historically accurate ancient literature available, but only if one accepts them. The same could be said about the Book of Mormon, however, few outside the LDS community would claim that. In addition, the New Testament testimony about the city reveals that it was most likely small and possibly despised at the time. As has been noted: “Although the city name of Nazareth might not have been known in antiquity, it is also possible that Nazareth is simply not mentioned in these other writings because it was a small, out of the way village.” It should also be noted, that while this is accepted in the archaeological world dealing with the Bible lands, if this same statement were to be made abut the Book of Mormon, people would label it an “Apologists” answer and blatantly unacceptable.
    Comment #3: “Mormons believe that God restored the church in the nineteenth century through Joseph Smith. What was to prevent God from restoring the church in the second century, or in the third? Nothing, so far as I can see. If the Mormons are right, God could have restored the church and reopened the canon at any time. Since he did not, it seems reasonable to conclude that for about eighteen centuries the canon of Scripture was de facto closed, and that God approved of that situation…which sounds rather ridiculous to me” Ethan W.
Respond: I love what Einstein is thought to have said early in his life, “I am not interested in this phenomenon or that phenomenon. I want to know God's thoughts – the rest are mere details.” I would love to have an answer for you, my friend, but I have learned long ago that I do not know God’s thoughts, His reasoning, or His overall Plan. Consequently, I accept the fact that he chose to restore the “canon of scripture,” as you call it, when he did, in the 1820s. Why not before? Why not after? Well,first of all there had to be a falling away first, or an apostasy from the truthfulness of his gospel. Paul, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, made that quite clear when he wrote regarding the second coming: “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This “falling away” comes before the day of Christ’s return. Deception is intimately involved with the “falling away” because this is what Paul warns the Thessalonians about when he says, “Let no man deceive you …” The timing of God’s Plan is his own and he is in charge. Let us not quibble over his choices of when he does things. There was an apostasy, and now there has been a restoration. Let us rejoice in this last fact.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Comments and Questions from Readers Part I

Here are some additional comments or questions (some not on geography or the Land of Promise) that have been sent in by readers of this website:
     Comment #1: ”The fact that King Limhi’s group of men traveling to Zarahemla ended up in the Land Northward and found the remnants of bones and rust-covered swords, tells me that the Jaredite final battle took place maybe 50 to a maximum of 100 years before Limhi’s time” Samuel.
    Response: It is interesting how uninformed people are about bone and metal deterioration. You might be interested in a recent (1996) find by a pair of Italian archaeologists investigating near Siwa in Egypt. They uncovered hundreds of bleached bones, Bronze age weapons, arrowheads, jewelry, water pots and other artifacts dating to the 6th century B.C., right around the time Herodutus told us that the Persian king Cambyses II lost himself an army of 50,000 trying to destroy an oracle denying his right to rule a conquered Egypt.
Bleached bones found by the Italian archaeologists as reported bhy Alfredo Castiglioni, director of the Eastern Desert Reasearch Center in Varese that appeared in "Discovery News." These bones date to 525 B.C., over 2500 years old, laying on the ground
The rusted, and cankered remains of a 2500 year old sword once used by a soldier in the Persian army of 525 B.C., and the “hilt thereof had perished” as Limhi’s people reported
    There is no reason to believe that the Jaredite bones and swords, etc., were not visible in the condition reported two, three, or four hundred years before Limhi’s people found them. As has been reported here in these posts in the past, bones and swords have been found around the world that were 1000 years and more old that have been found and are now located in museums.
    Comment #2: The most important feature in the Land of Promise was probably the location of a strip of wilderness which ran all the way from the East Sea to the West Sea, that is, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. At about 100 BC, this strip separated the Nephites and Mulekites on the north from the Lamanites on the south. It was important strategically for the Nephites to close off their south border to keep the Lamanites from overrunning their land. Captain Moroni had seven cities fortified along this strip for that purpose. It is fortunate for us that the strip had strategic military importance to the Nephites because that likely caused this important clue to be included in the record. What was the nature of the "wilderness"? Does that only refer to uninhabited jungle areas? One clue is that Moroni only had to fortify cities at certain locations on the strip in order to secure it, so it must have been difficult to cross at other places” LeGrand W.
    Response: It is uncertain if this strip was an important strategic area for the Nephites, and we certainly can’t say it ran from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean from any scriptural reference. And we don’t know if this narrow strip closed off the Nephite south border, and there is no way we can call this wilderness a jungle, any more than the wilderness around Jerusalem is a jungle (1 Nephi 2:2,4,27) or the wilderness across the Empty Quarter desert could be called a jungle (1 Nephi 17:1) or the wilderness along the Red Sea could be called a jungle (1 Nephi 2:5-6,9).
    For those who have never been in the jungle, they might find it very difficult to drive flocks and herds of animals, with women and children, through a jungle where Ammon took the people of Limhi (Alma 27:14); it also would have been difficult in a jungle for all the thousands of the children of Israel to look up and see Moses holding up the serpent (Numbers 21:8-9,11; Alma 33:19; Helaman 8:14); it is also extremely difficult to march an army through a jungle in the fashion Moroni marched his army with their tents into the wilderness (46:31-32).
All these areas are designated “wilderness areas” by their various state or federal governments. Not a jungle, mountain or desert among them
    The point of all this is that a “wilderness” is not particularly a jungle, and certainly not a jungle in the verses under discussion here. In fact, the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines a wilderness as “an unoccupied tract of land.” In fact, an area not occupied by permanent dwellings, cities, or development of any kind, is called a wilderness. That was not only true in 1828, but also today in dictionaries. Despite Hugh Nibley and John L. Sorenson both claiming a wilderness was a mountainous area, or others claiming it was a jungle. A wilderness can be any type of topography, including a desert, forest, plain, and a mountainous area or a jungle. Any place that has not been developed and where people are not living in a permanent fashion.
    In addition, as we have stated elsewhere, perhaps no other expression to the Jews was more familiar than the expression “into the wilderness,” when talking about going on a journey.
    As for the other comment, about building seven cities across this narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, is entirely unfounded. After Moroni had driven out of the east wilderness and the west wilderness the Lamanites who lived there in tents, and forcing them back into the Land of Nephi, he caused that the inhabitants who were in the land of Zarahemla and in the land round about should go forth into the east wilderness, even to the borders by the seashore, and possess the land” (Alma 50:9). There they built cities, along the east seashore, including the city of Moroni (Alms 50:13), the city of Nephihah (Alma 50:14), and the city of Lehi (Alma 50:15). The city of Aaron was also along this east seashore (Alma 50:14).
    In addition, Moroni “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), but these were not cities, merely fortifications, which might have been forts or resorts, nor do we know how many there were, or if they were strung clear across the narrow strip area. But certainly, nothing suggests that part of this narrow strip was inaccessible for the Lamanites to cross.
    What Moroni accomplished by all this was that he “cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon -- the Nephites possessing all the land northward” (Alma 50:11), meaning all the Land of Zarahemla, including those areas in the east and west wildernesses that the Lamanites had previously occupied. In addition, the description is that not only in the Land of Zarahemla, but “even all the land which was northward of the land Bountiful, according to their pleasure.”
    The thing about all these opinions being stated on the internet, in books, writings, journals and papers, about the Book of Mormon, we need to be careful we are not trying to force the scriptural record into an agreement with our predetermined beliefs, ideas or models, as so many theorists do. We need to accept the written words as they are written and not try to make them say, mean, or appear as something else.
    Comment #3: “My idea of the Land of Promise would not include Mosiah shoveling snow off the temple walkway. Nephi’s description in 1 Nephi 18:23-25, does not sound like a snow and ice climate around the Great Lakes” Jalon.
Salt Lake City in winter. Snow, ice and freezing temperatures everywhere
    Response: I certainly agree that the Book of Mormon Land of Promise was not in the Great Lakes. However, the climate of a land of promise does not seem to be the main issue to the Lord. The Utah Rockies is hardly a tropical paradise, nor is Missouri where Adam-ondi-Ahman is located. We don't know if Mosiah or others shoveled snow, but the Saints have often been led to areas where snow is prevalent.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More of Mormon’s Views as Described by Hender—Part II

Continuing from the last posts regarding the articles of Don R. Hender’s website that one of our readers sent us asking for an evaluation: 
    Article: “Who were the Aztecs? From the pages of the Book of Mormon, we can understand that all those beyond the date of 385 AD, must need be of the Lamanite group. But by that date, who are the Lamanites?”
    Response: First of all, the Aztecs (now more commonly referred to as the Nahua [Nāhuatlācah] peoples) were in central Mexico in the post classic period following the period of the Toltecs, and dominate from the 14th to the 16th centuries A.D. 
The location and expansion of the Aztec empire following the Teotihuacan and Toltec empires, after migrating into the Valley of Mexico about 1300 A.D., showing the areas conquered by the rulers following the reign of Itzcoatl 1440 A.D. onward, beginning with Motecuzoma (1440-1469 AD)
    Archaeological, historical and linguistic evidence suggest that they originally came from the deserts of the southern United States and northwestern Mexico, later migrating to central Mexico around 500 A.D., though a branch, the Pochutec, migrated to the Pacific coast of Oaxaca perhaps as early as 400 A.D.
    Whether they were Lamanites or Lamanite descendants is simply not known. There is no way to determine today if all early native Americans were descended from the Lamanites following their annihilation of the Nephites, though many LDS believe they were.
As for the Lamanites, by about 36 A.D., all Nephites and Lamanites were converted unto the Lord (4 Nephi 1:2), and by about 72 A.D., there were no Lamanites, or any other –ites, all were children of Christ (4 Nephi 1:17); in fact there were no Lamanites for about 167 years. However, by about 194 A.D., we find there were Lamanites once again (4 Nephi 1:21), and around 231 A.D. Nephites arose in the land who were true believers of Christ, and among them were those who were called Jacobites, Josephites and Zoramites (4 Nephi 1:36), and those who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites (4 Nephi 1:38).
    By around 301 A.D., both the Nephites and the Lamanites had become exceedingly wicked, one like unto the other (4 Nephi 1:45). Several battles between the two took place in 322 A.D., and after four years of peace, the wars began again (Mormon 1:15-2:2).
Thus, in 385 A.D., at the conclusion of the war and the annihilation of the Nephite people, any Nephites who escaped into the south “were hunted by the Lamanites until they were all destroyed” (Mormon 8:2). Consequently, the Lamanites were those who denied the Christ, had the mark and curse upon them, including the dark skin, and any and all who  had defected over to them and joined them, became Lamanites and inherited the curse and mark (Alma 3:6-9).
    Article: “Dissenting Nephites had long since been numbered amongst the Lamanites, Zoramites had joined them, and all those 'Nephites' including Mulekites, Samites, Jacobites, and Josephites, who would deny Christ would become numbered with them.”
    Response: At no time are we to understand from the scriptural record that these were large numbers, except where indicated that a complete group defected over to the Lamanites, such as the Amlicites (Alma 2:11), Zoramites (Alma 35:10-11), etc. Moroni tells us that the Lamanites put to death all those Nephites that were captured or defected that would not deny the Christ, but does not tell us there were any who did deny the Christ (Moroni 1:2). If there were those who denied the Christ, we are not told who or from what tribes those Nephites were. To start naming tribes from which people defected is simply without support in the scriptural record.
    Article: “[These defectors were in addition to] the Ishmaelites, the Lamanites, and Lemuelites who already where a part of them. But, for sure they were no longer 'true Christians' and if they followed the practices of the Lamanite nation who destroyed the Nephites, they where idol worshippers and believers in human sacrifice.”
    Response: It should be stated they were not Christian at all! Once defecting, these Nephites became as bad or worse than the Lamanites they joined, for “there were dissenters who went up from the Nephites unto the Lamanites; and they succeeded with those others in stirring them up to anger against the Nephites; and they were all that year preparing for war” (Helaman 4:4). Nephite defectors were always at the forefront of leading attacks on the Nephites from whom they separated. “they did come down against the Nephites to battle, and they did commence the work of death; yea, insomuch that in the fifty and eighth year of the reign of the judges they succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful” (Helaman 4:5).
    Obviously, when one denies the Christ, they are no longer Christian.
    Article: “And that pretty much is what the Aztecs where from the perspective of the Spanish in the days of Cortez. They where worshippers of 'idol' gods and they would practice human sacrifice and reportedly worse.”
Response: It would seem likely that there would have been Lamanites among all the southern tribes of western South America, central America and Mexico—in 385 A.D., and very possibly all would have been Lamanites. And just as obviously, they were idol worshippers, and certainly involved in human sacrifice handed down since the days of the Lamanites in Mormon’s time (Mormon 4:14).
    It is also obvious that Hender, a Mesoamericanist, singles out the Aztecs as his point of interest; however, the three main advanced civilizations in the Western Hemisphere at the time of the Spanish conquest of Central and South America—Aztec, Mayan, and Inca—were all of equal achievements and were devil worshippers. All obvious were to some, mostly or totally of Lamanite descent.
    Article: “Now as to their 'legendary' origin [of the Aztec] you can take your pick. They were born of 'springs of water,' their race was that of the gods, or they came from the 'seven' caves where their ancestors dwelt. A couple of these could have a tie into corruption of gospel ideas, but who is to say? Since it seems to mimic the 'caveman' evolutionist, today's preferred portrayal is of course that they came from cave dwellers. Convenient but not without a possible Book of Mormon tie when one considers that the favorite hide outs of the 'Gadiantons' where caves.”
    Response: Interesting that a cave was the favorite hideout of Ether (Ether 13:13-14, 18). It was also the hideout of Nephi and his brothers (1 Nephi 3:27). The reason it was a place for the Gadiantons is simply because murderers, robbers and thieves and less industrious to build for the future, and most likely to take what was available to them. In the time frame in which the Book of Mormon covered, caves were readily available to protection against the elements. It might also be of interest to know that during Israel’s B.C. time, travel from north to south in their land occasioned travelers to spend nights in caves since few Jews owned or had access to tents.
    It is also interesting to know that the word cave appears only once in the scriptural record, and that is a quote from Isaiah and not referenced to anything Nephite, Lamanite or Gadianton Robbers; and the term “cavity of a rock,” appears only in two sequences, once in Nephite and three times in Ether, which are referenced above. We know that the Gadianton Robbers lived in the wilderness and the mountains, but any specific dwelling place, like a cave, is never mention or implied.
    It is also difficult to try and tie in any single American Indian group to the Lamanites. To do so is merely speculation, since there is no clue in any of the scriptural record regarding this.
    While there is more written on Hender’s website, these several posts should show to those who have asked about his view since he does claim a portion of South America, along with Central America, for the Land of Promise, that most of his writing is not consistent with the scriptural record, and in many cases completely misleading and quite inaccurate.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More of Mormon’s Views as Described by Hender

Continuing from the last posts regarding the articles of Don R. Hender’s website that one of our readers sent us asking for an evaluation: 
    Article: “Mormon's description was of the land of 90 BC, before the destruction at the Savior's death. A lot of twisting and turning of words with fallacious manipulations would have to be used to get the Book of Mormon lands to exactly fit a map today.” 
Before the Andes rose, the Pebasian, Paranan, Paranense, and Amazon Seas, covered much of present day South America, in effect, bringing the Atlantic Ocean up to the eastern edge of the Andean Thrust Front, isolating the western coastal area and making it into an isolated island
    Response: This is not true. All that is needed is to show what geologists have claimed existed in South America prior to this change. The Andes did not exist above the ocean level, a portion of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia and northern Chile existed, and most of the rest of South America (east of the Andes) was submerged beneath the sea. The only change is the tectonic action that lifted the Andes, and brought up the eastern portion of South America.”
    Article: “Lastly, but not least, Mormon says that it is a neck of land not a waist.”
    Response: In the English language, there is no such thing as a “waist of land,” while a “neck of land” is a common phrase. In 1828, a “neck of land” was defined as “A long narrow tract of land projecting from the main body,” or “a narrow tract connecting two larger tracts.” Today, it is defined as “a narrow piece of land.”
Two examples of a narrow or small neck of land separating two larger land masses. It is not a waist or even an isthmus, but truly a “narrow neck of land”
    Article: “A neck is elongated and in verse 30 it said that Bountiful 'came into the land' of Desolation.”
    Response: First, a neck of land is not necessarily elongated. In the two images above, these necks are not elongated. Secondly, the scriptural record does not say “Bountiful came into the land of Desolation.” Referenced actually states: “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, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla.” That is, the Land of Desolation was so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed (Alma 22:30). The Land of Bountiful did not extend into or past the Land of Desolation, for “the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful” (Alma 22:31). You cannot make a scripture say something it does not.
Two more examples of short, narrow, necks of land connecting two larger land masses. None of these four are elongated
    Article: Bountiful reached from south of the nap of the neck where it had sealed off the Lamanites up into the neck until it reached the lowest regions of the Jaredite remains, the Jaredite City that was by the narrow neck of land. And the “neck” was at least as tall as it was wide.”
    Response: First of all, nap or nape of the neck means the back of the neck, or backside of the neck, more commonly referred to today as the “nape” of the neck, not ”nap”—which does not make sense as used by Hender. Secondly, we do not know how long the narrow neck of land was, though it seems about 25-30 miles wide—there is no indication to its length. Overall, Mormon states it is small and also that it is narrow. Third, we do not know that the territory of Bountiful extended into the narrow neck, anymore than we know that the territory of the Land of Desolation extended south into the narrow neck—neither is mentioned. The way Mormon wrote this, it would seem that the narrow neck was not considered the territory of either of these two lands, but a separate corridor. However, the major point here is that the scriptural record does not say that the Land of Bountiful extended northward through the neck of land. The closest we can come to determine this is found in “built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5-emphasis mine).
    Article: There any number of points to consider in Mormon's 'Time Capsule' abridged description of the geography of the lands in 90-77 BC. One is that Mormon lived some 300-400 years removed and after this time and the destruction at the time of the Savior's death.”
    Response: Consequently, better than anyone else writing in the scriptural record, Mormon had a clear view of the Land of Promise prior to the destruction in 3 Nephi since he had all the records and could see and read what others said about the land before that event, and he personally walked/marched/retreated across the Land Southward and the Land Northward, including spending some time in the narrow neck area, all the way to the north in the Land of Many Waters (Land of Cumorah). He obviously would have known more about what he was talking about than any modern theorists.
    Article: “Another is, Mormon lived over 1600 years before today. While Mormon is trying to remain true to the description of the land in 90 BC, he also faces the likelihood that it may not be the same hundreds of years from his time.”
    Response: Therefore, and this is very important, when Mormon inserts a description, he knows he is writing to a future reader and uses examples, such as a journeying Nephite, that would be clearly understood in that future day—not some remarkable man as Sorenson claims who can run a 100 miles in a day, etc. Mormon's purpose in his writing and his many inserts in the record is to try and make it more clear and understandable to his future reader, which he succeeds extremely well while keeping his writing simple and understandable (not convoluted, confusing and theoretical as most modern-day historians try to claim).
    Article: “Another point is in Mormon's abridged record, not all times and descriptions are to scale as he is condensing. One tool of this condensation that Mormon uses is the phase, 'And it came to pass.' It usually means that time has passed and removes what he is about to say from what has been said by an indefinite distinction.”
    Response: It is not a removal to another thought, but simply a completion of that earlier thought. First of all, “It came to pass” is an archaic term meaning “to take place,” or in the past tense, “it took place.” Also “came about,” “came forward,” “came off.” It’s basic meaning is that whatever was being mentioned happened—it took place. When Mormon uses this term, we need to understand that in his narrative, he is skipping ahead, probably over some of the detail of the event he is writing about, in his abridgement. As an example, “But the king stood forth among them and administered unto them. And they were pacified towards Aaron and those who were with him. And it came to pass that when the king saw that the people were pacified, he caused that Aaron and his brethren should stand forth in the midst of the multitude, and that they should preach the word unto them” (Alma 22:25-26-emphasis mine). Mormon wrote about the result of Aaron’s conversion of the Lamanite king, and following that the king sent a proclamation to all his people—that is, the events Aaron asked for or wanted (opportunity to convert all the Lamanites) took place with the proclamation. In Alma 23:16, it came to pass after the conversion that they should acquire a new name, and it came to pass that they acquired a new name (Anti-Nephi-Lehies) and were no more called Lamanites. Three events following each other with a skipping between, but a continuation of the same thought.
(See the next post, “More of Mormon’s Views as Described by Hender—Part II,” from Don R. Hender’s website articles sent to us by one of our readers who asked for an evaluation)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hender’s Narrow Neck and Bountiful

Continuing from the last posts regarding the articles of Don R. Hender’s website that one of our readers sent us asking for an evaluation: 
    Article: The 'Narrow Neck' was a day and a half's journey for a Nephite on the line Bountiful and Desolation “from the East to the West Sea.” Much is discussed about the size of this width. Depending on mode and ease of travel it could well range from 45 to well over 100 miles and that was a 90 BC measurement.”
    Response: Actually, it was not a 90 B.C. measurement, but a measurement Mormon gave us around 350 to 380 A.D., that would make sense and be useable at any time since he was writing to a future reader. Thus, a person could walk in a day and a half is the measurement for a Nephite—not a Lamanite, or any special type of person, just a Nephite. And 45 to 100 miles is simply not possible for the average person. We have written numerous articles about this previously in these posts.
The narrow neck of land in coastal South America is about 26 miles from sea to sheer Andes mountains, creating a passable narrow neck of land; anciently, before the Andes rose, this area was a sea, named the Pebasian Sea by geologists. When the Andes mountains rose “whose height is great” as Samuel the Lamanite foretold, the Pebasian Sea was pushed eastward into what is now the Amazon Basin
    As an example, Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary stated that a man could walk at 3 mph, though that figure is for short distances of only a couple or so hours at a time; a camel can cover 20 miles in a day (30 miles in a day and a half); a horse can travel about 50 miles in a day (75 miles in a day and a half). A man in a day and a half, as has been shown here in numerous past posts, can travel about 1.5 miles per hour in a sustained walk, covering several hours (in a day and a half that would be about 27 miles in a day and a half). This all suggests that Mormon’s day and a half journey across his small or narrow neck of land would be between 25 and 30 miles
    Article: “But there are more telling matters about the 'small neck of land' than its measured width. First is what is next said, if Mormon is taken at his word with no ifs, ands, or buts. The land of Zarahemla was nearly surrounded by the Lamanites on the south, east, and west except the Land of Bountiful which” led into” the narrow neck of land.”
Response: First of all, Bountiful did not lead into the narrow neck of land. Bountiful was south of this neck, and Desolation was north of it, the narrow neck being the border between both major lands as we discuss these separations. For a political border, a line is generally drawn across a map, but in reality, ancient borders were determined by topography—a physical area that was easily seen and understood, i.e., a river, a ridge, a canyon, or some other noticeable break in the landscape. While we do not know the length of the small neck of land, it might be assumed it was at least as long (north-south) as it was wide (east-west). This would defeat a “line,” though it might be understood that “on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32) ran east and west, and that the small neck was between the “line Bountiful” and the “land Desolation.”
    It is much like the narrow strip of wilderness that separatged the Land of Nephi (south) and the Land of Zarahemla (north). We do not know what that north-south distance was, but it was not considered part of either land by Mormon. But to be fair, both Bounltiful and Desolation could have claimed the narrow neck or a portion of it—we are simply not told.
    However, another point is that there was an unnamed land between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful. Mormon explains this land this way: “And the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land Zarahemla and the land Bountiful, yea, to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation” (3 Nephi 3:23). This unnamed land is never named throughout the scriptural record. Yet, it does show that Hender’s statement above “The land of Zarahemla was nearly surrounded by the Lamanites on the south, east, and west except the Land of Bountiful which” led into the narrow neck of land“ is not accurate in any way.
    It should also be noted, that though one website ( claims “The land Bountiful was southward and eastward of the land Desolation, eastward of the narrow pass, and westward of the land of Morianton, land of Gid, and land of Mulek,” we need to keep in mind that the scriptural record tells us differently, And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea” (Alma 22:33). The Land Bountiful lay to the north in the Land Southward, bordering on the narrow neck of land (and Desolation north of that), ran to the West Sea, and far to the east (elsewhere we find that Bountiful was separated from Mulek, which was on the east seashore by a plain).
Finally, then, we should recognize that this “surrounding” had to do with the people in the Land of Zarahemla, not all of the Land Southward—and in reality, we are talking about some Lamanites who were camped in tents along both seashores “round about” or northward from the narrow strip of wilderness.
    In addition, this “nearly surrounded” by the Lamanites lasted less than 100 years—from the time Mosiah settled in Zarahemla to when Moroni ub 72 B.C. drove the Lamanites out of the east and west wilderness and back into their own lands (Alma 50:7, 9, 11).
    The phrase “nearly surrounded” is better applied to the entire Land Southward (Zarahemla to Bountiful) being nearly surrounded by water except for “a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
    Article: “Mormon knew what being nearly surrounded meant! The lands of Nephi and Zarahmela were nearly surrounded by water. There was water to the east of them, there was water to the west of them, and there was water to the south of them. Only in the north was this not the case. That is what being surrounded means! The only exception was the 'small neck of land' between the land northward and the land southward.”
    Response: We could go further and say the Land Northward was also nearly surrounded by water except for this narrow neck, since Jacob tells us the entire Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Article: “Second, no land today in America fits the description as it is currently mapped. South America is too wide as mapped today to be the Lands of the Book of Mormon. MesoAmerica is attached in the south by the Isthmus of Panama as mapped today. Whatever you conceive as the Lands of the Book of Mormon, they will be significantly different from how the lands of America map today in 2001 AD.”
    Response: We want to be careful how far we go with this. That is, ancient geology, though there being a huge difference between geology’s 4.55 billion years in age to Moses account of there being only thousands, the point is not every land has been so altered. The alteration or major changes have taken place between what is now coastal South America, i.e., to the west of the Andes range, has undergone significant change from tectonic plate movement that formed the Andes in recent times. The basic change in Central America was the rising of the Panamanian Isthmus to block the previous sea passage between the Atlantic and Pacific, forming the connection between Panama and Colombia. Few other changes have been recorded by geologists that so altered land and brought about the vast changes described in 3 Nephi, including the raisinbg of mountains “whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
(See the next post, “More of Mormon’s Views as Described by Hender,” from Don R. Hender’s website articles sent to us by one of our readers who asked for an evaluation)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Was the Land Northward Skewed? Part III

Continuing from the last post regarding the articles of Don R. Hender’s website that one of our readers sent us: 
    Article: “While stated in conjunction with a report that was being historically given from the 4th century AD about the time around 90-77 BC, it is Mormon who states the reasoning of holding the Lamanites back from occupying the land to the north.”
Response: Mormon states this in hindsight, which is not a difficult thing to do given the history Mormon later lived through before writing this. On the other hand, at the time, it wasn’t so much that the Nephites were concerned about the Lamanites gaining access to the Land Northward, since they were bottled up in the Land of Nephi, but the concern was for defectors who were able to gather large numbers of defectors that could take over the Land Northward and, being Nephites themselves, talk the Nephites in the Land Northward to join them in their rebellion against the government in Zarahemla.
    Article: Mormon in his abridged work has so attempted to give a relevant historical setting, an 'internal mapping' of the Book of Momorn lands as far as is needed to frame the action of the Book of Mormon within. The end of the twenty-second chapter of the book of Alma is one such attempt. And there are further items, 'hints' if you will, which add to that concrete picture of the Book of Mormon lands.”
    Response: Mormon’s comments may appear as hints, however, they are not. They are merely points along the way that he clearly understands, and expects his reader at this point in his abridgement to understand, since he has, in his mind, given us a clear understanding of the Land of Promise.
Mormon’s Internal Map of the Land of Promise as outlined in his writings in the scriptural record
    No doubt he feels this way, and feels no further understanding is required than he has given, because the Land of Promise is such a simple concept to him, and in Alma 22:27-34, he outlines that simple concept clearly. No doubt, in his wildest dreams, he did not expect there to be so much controversy, misunderstanding, and fallacious writings and teachings about the layout of the land he knew so well and simply described for us. After all, north-east-south-and-west to him probably seemed like simple terms and certainly would have been had not John L. Sorenson spent so much effort first teaching about, and then writing about, his belief that Hebrew north was different than European north in the most casual unbelievable manner, creating a support for his Mesoamerican model against all concepts found within the scriptural base.
In John L. Sorenson’s book, he starts out with three maps that show a north-south direction (left), then claims “if you turn it on its side” it would look like Mesoamerica, and then spends some time defending his turning of the map
    This ridiculous idea, unsupported by any scriptural record writing, suggestion, or intimation, and is completely in opposition to all that was written by Mormon and others, has become the standard view of many members and non-members alike when they read about Lehi’s Land of Promise.
    The problem is, instead of a north-south orientation of the land as Mormon so clearly outlines in Alma 22:27-34—and all his other writings verify these directions and placements. Yet, when you lay Sorenson’s sideways Land of Promise map beside the scriptural record, it shows an completely erroneous east-west orientation.
 Note that the Land Northward is to the west of Sorenson’s narrow neck of land (Isthmus of Tehuantepec), and his Land Southward is to the east. That is because Mesoamerica runs east and west
    What is even more of an unwarranted treatment of Mormon’s simple outline is that so many people believe Sorenson’s convoluted and unsupportable explanations without further study or comparison to the scriptural record and Mormon’s so careful and simple explanation. In addition, his directions are not even challenged by most members, though they are far off from Mormon’s alignment, and most don’t even bother to look up the area under discussion to see how it runs east and west. Nor do they actually spend any effort on checking other explanations of the scriptural Land of Promise and compare it with Mesoamerica, such as the two unknown animals that were as much help to man as the elephant (Ether 9:19), the two unknown grains (Mosiah 9:9), a like climate to Jersualem where seeds from there would grow exceedingly and produce an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:24), since wheat and barley would not have grown anywhere in Mesoamerica in 600 BC. Also, what sea and wind currents blew Nephi’s ship “driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8), and while silver, gold and copper are found in northern Mexico, and sparsely in Mexico and the Yucatan that are part of Mesoamerica (Sorenson’s Land of Promise), they are scarcely found in Guatemala and the rest of Mesoamerica, yet we find these precious metals were found in great abundance throughout the Land of Promise. It should also be kept in mind that
    There are numerous other points that should be compared with any suggested Land of Promise location. Recently we posted ten such post on this blog covering 21 items, and listing several more ("So Where is the Land of Promise--Part I," December 26,2013 through Part XII, January 7,2014) —few of which are found in Mesoamerica, and almost none in the eastern United States or the other land of promise models of Baja California and Nicaragua.
    For Mormon to state that the land position from south to north in the Land of Promise, so extensively shown in the previous post of this blog, so that we could grasp a better understanding and picture about that which he wrote, not only could not have been more clear, simple and uncontroversial—before Sorenson’s so deceptive effort to change the entire alignment of the Land of Promise and, therefore, draw so many interested people away from the truth—it was meant to present the sincere and serious student of the Book of Mormon an insight into how the following numerous events he describes all fit together, where they took place, and allows for a better understanding of the overall appearance of the scriptural record and its events.
    To have taken Mormon’s simple and clearly stated description and twist it so badly is such a direct insult to that great prophet, it troubles the mind that the area of Mexico plundered by the Spanish conquistadors and following occupation was not in what is called Mesoamerica, but lay to the west, mostly around Mexico City and beyond. Sorenson’s Land Southward, east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (narrow neck of land), where all the gold, silver and copper was found in the Nephite lands, is in the area of Mesoamerica where almost no such precious ores were found or even today mined (see previous posts on this issue).
(See the next post, “Was the Land Northward Skewed? Part II,” for more of Hender’s views on the Land of Promise from his articles on his website)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Was the Land Northward Skewed? Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the articles of Don R. Hender’s website that one of our readers sent us:  
    Article: “Another point is the particular term or phase 'round about'…In relation to the City of Zarahemla and the immediate land of that city and the Land of Bountiful, the Nephites would travel 'round about' the wilderness. This wilderness's name was Hermounts which was both west and north of Zarahemla the locally regional land about the city Zarahemla proper.”
Response: “Round about” is used 40 times in Alma, and 84 times in the entire scriptural record overall, and only 4 of those have to do with travel—two about Alma traveling around to teach the people (Alma 30:32) and (Mosiah 27:32), the other 2 were about the armies traveling about in the east (Alma 43:22, 24). In all, there is not a single incident mentioned of traveling round about to avoid a wilderness, nor about the wilderness of Hermounts, nor the Nephites doing so in any way—the term “round about” in the record has to do with such things as “casting eyes/looking,” “regions/countries/lands/vineyards,” “camped/pitching tents,” “guards/people/children/spies/siege,” and “fortifications/armies.”
There is no indication that anyone had to travel around a wilderness from Zarahemla to Bountiful, since “wilderness” simply means an unoccupied area. Consequently, where wilderness is mentioned, people could travel through such areas, except perhaps for Hermounts because of the wild beasts, though Hermounts is never mentioned again, though the wild beasts were mentioned in their mangling of the bodies (Alma 16:10) of the destroyed city of Ammonihah (Alma 8:6), which was located in the land of Ammonihah that bordered along the west wilderness north of Melek (Alma 8:5-6).
    Article: It places the 'Isthmus of the Narrow Neck' to the west of the River Sidon's passage to the sea.”
    Response: First of all, there is no mention of the word “isthmus” or phrase “Isthmus of the narrow neck” in the entire scriptural record, and should not be used in describing the Land of Promise. Secondly, we do not know, and the record does not state, where the river Sidon was in relation to the narrow neck except to the south. Nor do we know where the river Sidon reached the sea, nor even what sea it emptied into from the scriptural records. It would appear from the battles described between the city of Bountiful and the city of Mulek that the river Sidon did not reach that far north.
    Article: “Thus it has already shown a tendency to skew the land Northward to the west a bit from the traveled routes from the land southward.”
    Response: Since we have no idea where the traveled routes were other than through the narrow pass or passage into the Land Northward, nor where that exactly was—east or west or central, it is not possible to make such statements. We also do not know that the land was skewed, let along in which direction.
    Article: “Further evidence of this skewing is found elsewhere, but it can already be implied from Mormon brief, precise, compacted, and abridged description here in Alma 22.”
    Response: In reading Alma 22:27-34, you find the words “north (3 times),” “northward (5 times),” “northern” (1 times); the words “south (2 times),” “southward” (2 times); the word “east” (7 times), and the word “west” (9 times). Stated differently, the direct terms north, south, east and west are used a total of 21 times and “toward the north/south, only 7 times. And since “northern” means “situated in the north,” we can add that to the north/south for a total of 22 times vs. 7 times for a more general term. This hardly suggests that the land was skewed, thus it cannot be said that “it can already be implied from Mormon brief, precise, compacted, and abridged description here in Alma 22 as implied.
In Alma 22:27-34, Mormon describes 1) The Land of Nephi bordering on the sea east and sea west; obviously laying between the two seas; 2) Land of Nephni was divided from the Land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east to the sea west; 3) To the north of the wildnerness was the Land of Zarahemla; 4) To the north was the Land of Bountiful; 5) To the north of Bountiful was the Land of Desolation; 6) To the north was the land where the Jaredite bones were found; 7) A small neck of land lay between the Desolation and Bountiful, 8) the land to the north of the narrow neck was called the Land Northward. This is, without a doubt, a land that runs north and south, completely eliminating Mesoamerica and the eastern heartland and Great Lakes areas according to model maps used to show locations of these lands.
    Article: And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and 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…”
    Response: This is Mormon’s description of the Land of Nephi (see map above).
    Article: “…and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west…”
    Response: This is a description of the land or “narrow strip of wilderness” that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla (see map above).
    Article: “…and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.”
    Response: Divided by the “narrow strip of wilderness,” with the Land of Nephi to the south and the Land of Zarahemla to the north (see map above).
    Article: “Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites -- as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.” The Nephites where prepared and ready to 'flee' for their lives if ever the conflict with the Lamanites ever grew to an unmanageable degree.”
Response: Mormon, writing around 370 A.D., about 400+ years after this time frame in Alma, well understood the importance of this Land Northward, since it became the dividing line between the Nephites and Lamanties in his day 350 A.D. (Mormon 2:28), in fact through an agreement he himself made with the Lamanite king. Thus, he includes this later knowledge at this point in his insertion. However, that does not mean the Nephites themselves at the time knew that would be a need. In fact, Captain Moroni later talks about the conern of having to fight a two-front war, one in the south with the Lamanites and on in the north with Morianton or other defectors (Alma 50:32).
(See the next post, “Was the Land Northward Skewed? Part II,” for more of Hender’s views on the Land of Promise from his articles on his website)