Monday, August 31, 2015

The Words of Mormon – Part I

Wherever Mormon was when he finished his abridgement of the Large Plates of Nephi, those plates kept by the kings and sometimes referred to by Nephi as “mine other plates,” is not told us. Certainly, it was not in the comfort of his “office” as we see in the famous drawing I love to use:
It was probably more accurate to think of him on a battlefield somewhere, hiding out in a cave, or recovering from his wounds. But wherever it was, it seems that his mental framework might be important to understand his final writings.
    Somewhere in those last days, either just after, or more likely just before that final battle at Cumorah, Mormon finished abridging the record. As he states: “And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Mormon 6:7).
    He must have felt pretty good about completing one of his life-long tasks, i.e., abridging the record of all the prophets and writers, from Benjamin down to Ammaron, who had been constrained by the Holy Ghost to hide up the records which had been handed down from generation to generation in the year 320 A.D. (4 Nephi 1:48). These are the same records that Mormon mentions in his own works (Mormon 1:2), and that he did take out of hiding before the final battle.
Mormon retrieves the records that Ammaron hid up in the hill Shim years earlier
    Whether this had been an ongoing work, started years earlier, or something that he accomplished in a short time just before Cumorah and the final battle is not exactly clear; however, it would seem from the record that he took them out of hiding. This probably occurred when the “revenge-minded” Nephites decided to attack the Lamanites in the latter’s own territory and Mormon declined to lead them. During those final years, it is most likely Mormon abridged the record as he watched the final decline of his army from a distance.
    At one of these points later in life, Mormon takes the records out of hiding of which Ammaron had told him years earlier. Those records were evidently the Large Plates of Nephi, including the Plates of Lehi and the overall Record of Nephi, which must have been the 116 pages earlier abridged and ended up being translated by Joseph Smith and ultimately lost by Martin Harris. After accomplishing that part of his assignment, Mormon turned to the record of the kings that had been in the hands of Benjamin forward to Ammaron. At what point he actually wrote his own book, that is the final book he named the Book of Mormon, is not known, but it would be assumed it was awaiting that final battle at Cumorah, or just before his writing to King Laman as to fighting that final battle at Cumorah, or possibly while waiting at Cumorah for the Lamanite armies to arrive.
It is also likely that the final two chapters, Mormon 6 and 7, were written by him on, or near, the hill Cumorah after his being wounded and before dying, and during the time or after that he looked down upon the dead of 230,000 of his fighting men, and their wives and children.
    Some will say it really doesn’t matter, and perhaps it does not, however, I am more inclined to appreciate the mental and physical state of the magnificent men who wrote that record, whose life blood was spilt in defense of their nation or in the building up of that nation, the Church, and trying to establish peace in the land.
    As an example, consider Mormon as he wrote his sixth chapter. If it was after that battle and before his death, as some claim, it picks up with his narrative about “marching forth before the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:1). He starts with having written a letter to the king of the Lamanites that they could have their final battle at the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:2), and that they obtained an agreement, and continued on to Cumorah where Mormon talks about pitching their tents around the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:4). He tells us that this was in 384 A.D., and that the Nephites had spent some time gathering “all the remainder of our peole unto the land of Cumorah” (Mormon 6:5).
    If this was after that battle, then during the time while gathering in their people and marching to Cumorah, Mormon most likely finished his abridgement and the writing of the first five chapters of his own book. It is possible that during that time or just before, while fighting running battles with the Lamanites, Mormon wrote to his son, Moroni, in what appears in his book as chapters 8 and 9, which Moroni included in the record after his father’s death.
    So for this brief moment in time, which could have been weeks, maybe months, even a year or two, Mormon has time to reflect on his life, finish his abridgement and ready himself for that final battle that, while he hoped Cumorah might provide some advantage for them over the Lamanites (Mormon 6:4), deep in his heart he knew it would be the final battle of his people (Mormon 6:6).
    How close he was to finishing his abridgement we are not told, but also fearful of failing in his assignment to make sure the sacred records did not fall into the hands of the Lamanites, Mormon hurries to complete his abridgement and hide up the records in the hill before that final battle.
Mormon, after the battle at Cumorah, looking out over the battlefield at the dead of his 230,000 troops and their wives and children. What a sad moment for him, which shows up in his descriptive writing 
    Assuming he completed this task before the final battle, Mormon sets aside the records and prepares for battle, apparently knowing he would not survive it. Yet, after that day-long battle, and being wounded severely, he does survive through the night and into the next day or two. From the top of the hill, where his son and the other few survivors must have carried him during the night from the battlefield where he had been wounded (Mormon 6:10), he looks down upon the death and carnage of that final battle where he records his view as he wrote of his memory of the battle—and having been defeated in that first wave, may well have relied upon Moroni or the other’s account of what happened. His sorrow can be felt as one reads his lament, beginning with the terrible anxiety of his people awaiting the overwhelming army of the Lamanites approaching (Mormon 6:7).
When one stands in battle as an overwhelming foe approaches, their life passes before their eyes in one way or another—certainly, for these Nephites who had been unwilling to repent of their sins and call upon the Lord in those last years, no doubt were ravaged with their awful guilt for they were “filled with terror because of the greatness of the (Lamanite) numbers” (Mormon 6:8). And as any leader of people knows, Mormon felt the overwhelming concern for his people who stood now unprotected by the Lord, awaiting their “awful fear of death which fills the breasts of the wicked” (Mormon 6:7).
    Then Mormon was hewn down and the waves of Lamanites passed by him, leaving him alive but probably severely wounded. At some point Mormon would have regained consciousness, probably during the night after being carried to the top of the hill for safety by those 23 other survivors, including his son, Moroni (Mormon 6:11). What a horrible feeling must have passed through him as he learned of the final moments of the battle and what happened to all his people.
(See the next post, “The Words of Mormon – Part II,” for this prophet’s last acts and final writing and disbursement of the plates)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reforming a Language – A Familiar Story

Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). 
    Somewhere around the time of Jeremiah, who was born between 650 and 645 B.C., based on a series of events that occurred about four centuries later, namely the letter of Aristeas written to his brother Philocrates, as brought into the library in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Whether the letter and its history is accurate (there are always questions about ancient Egyptian history), it speaks of an event that is found elsewhere in history, namely, the movement of numerous Jewish priests from Jerusalem to Thebes along the upper Nile in Egypt, carrying Egyptian records with them.
    The script, called Meroïtic, was the written phonetic script of Northern Sudan in the ancient civilization of Kush, located west of the Red Sea near the city of Meroë, which was located on the east bank of the Nile in the area known as Török. These Jews later occupied an area in ancient Kush, near Meroë, south of where the Atbara River flows off to the east.
    Interested in promoting Judaism, and not wanting anything to do with Alexandrian society, they devised a plan to communicate through this Meroïtic language, which was basically a series of Egyptian characters .
    Today, it is seen as the oldest written script in Africa other than Egyptian hieroglyphs and the related hieratic and demotic scripts. It has a hieroglyphic form using some adopted Egyptian signs and a cursive form similar to demotic. The script had one innovation uncommon in ancient written scripts, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics or Greek, in that there was a word separator, similar in function to spaces in modern scripts, that looks similar to a colon. Meroïtic is first attested in the 2nd century BC and was continuously used until the fall of Meroë in the mid-4th century AD.
The script was rediscovered in the 19th and 20th centuries as Western archaeologists began investigating the ancient ruins of Török northern Sudan (the ancient Kingdom of Kush). The first substantial progress in deciphering Meroïtic came around 1909 when British archaeologist Francis Llewellyn Griffith was able to use a barque stand bearing the names of Meroïtic rulers in both Meroïtic and Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Meroïtic hieroglyphs were then corresponded to the Meroïtic cursive script, allowing the transliteration of Meroïtic.
Some vocabulary was later deciphered by scholars including loan words from Egyptian, gods, names, honorific phrases, and other common words. However, the script remains largely undeciphered. The greatest hope for decipherment, an inscription similar to the Rosetta Stone, containing writing in Meroïtic and a known language such as Egyptian, Greek, Latin, or Axumite, has yet to be found.
    Further confounding research is the debate regarding which language family Meroïtic belongs to. Cognate (related) analysis has proceeded extremely slowly due to the dispute as to which language family Meroïtic properly belongs.
    It is evident that no language has ever been fully deciphered using purely statistical or mathematical techniques, and Meroïtic will of course never be completely understood using these tools alone—what will be needed, is something like the Rosetta Stone, or the Urim and Thummim.
    In particular, many of the subtleties of human semantics and syntax are irregular or do not follow consistent patterns, which statistics would be excellent at analyzing. Thus, we have a language, Meroïtic, that is simply not going to be deciphered until the time of the Lord.
    Does this sound familiar?
    Nephi and Moroni’s “Reformed Egyptian was in that category. It simply could not be translated until the Lord was ready to have it done. Even today, 186 years after Joseph Smith translated the Reformed Egyptian from the plates, no other Egyptologist has shown his ability to do so, even from the scrap of glyphs shown below.
It is not that Meroïtic (2nd image above) or Reformed Egyptian (above) are the same language, or even similar. It is important to note that they both evidently came about from the same source—some type of reformed or altered Egyptian language
    It should be noted that this reformed or altered Meroïtic script is not a fluke somewhere, or a language meant to  be hidden from the people like Nephi’s Reformed Egyptian, since it was used in the Kingdom of Kush, from the 2nd century B.C. onwards until the 5th century A.D., about a 700 year period, in an area of the Nile Valley stretching from Philae in Nubia to near Khartoum in Sudan. The form of this script was borrowed from Egyptian, but the way the system worked was quite different.
    Whether or not this Meroïtic had the same type of beginning as did Lehi’s Reformed Egyptian is not known, and may never be determined until the Lord reveals more of his secrets.
Eastern Sudanic (Northern) language family with Meroïtic inserted according to the research of Rilly, who considered it a possible vestigial language of Lower Nubia
    The important part is that there is a pattern that is not connected to the Book of Mormon or the scriptural record, but to history itself. One can only wonder where we might be in better understanding Lehi’s Reformed Egyptian if knowledgeable scholars spent less time trying to convince us it did not exist and more time in trying to find a way it might fit into the Egyptian world as Rilley did with Meroïtic.
     Once again, the point is there is a type—a pattern shown in the Meroïtic script that should open the door in Academia to where a similar language, such as Lehi’s Reformed Egyptian might also fit. After all, if there is one type of altered Egyptian that can be traced back to the Egyptian language, and there are as many Eastern Sudanic languages in that family as Rilley has shown and orthodox Egyptologists accept, there is certainly a reason to see if Lehi’s Reformed Egyptian is another such language and see where it might fit. If this idea was connected to anything other than the Book of Mormon scriptural record, it would have sufficient merit to warrant such an effort. It might also, along this same line, be suggested that if this idea was not connected with a different approach than the one found at BYU over the past hundred years, namely, Mesoamerica, it might even find some interest there where a greater reason to look into it could be found than regular Acdemia.
The complete Meroïtic text or glyphs. The main impetus behind deciphering Meroïtic was done by the English scholar Francis Llewellyn Griffith (1862-1934), who worked out the phonetic value of the signs by comparing proper names on texts in Meroïtic and Egyptian
    It should also be noted that while scholars can read the glyphs, they cannot understand what the texts mean, because the problem is that the Meroïtic language is an isolate as far as linguists know. It has no known relatives, and the meaning of its words and its grammatical structure remain relatively obscure, therefore so impeding attempts at reading of the texts.
    As Moroni closed out his father’s record, saying: “But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34). Again, this is not to say that Meroïtic is Moroni’s language, or has anything to do with the Book of Mormon scriptural record—but it is a type. Consequently, we now have proof of such a thing as Reformed Egyptian that Egyptologists accept as real and existing, but cannot read and do not understand.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Asiatic Robber Bands

When reading Hugh Nibley, he uses the term Robber Bands, and refers to those robber bands of Asia, and connects them to the Jaredite period. One of the problems with this is that the Asian period and the Jaredite period are not necessarily compatible. 
    Nibley wrote: “An important by-product of the Asiatic-Jaredite system of rallying armies and absorbing nations is an efflorescence of robber bands on all the face of the land. (Nibley (2) p 233)”
It is interesting that in the Nephi record, the term Robber or Gaddianton Robber and their acts is listed in eleven sequences, including some with the Lamanites, but not one single mention in the entire Book of Ether. And since such Robbers pose a threat to the continuity of any government, if they had been in the Land Northward with the Jaredites, one would think some mention, even if minor, would have been included. However, there are only two mentions of "Robbers" in the land (Ether 10:33; 13:26), and one mention of a single robber (Ether 10:3).
    Does this mean they did not exist in the Jaredite nation, except in the days of Com. There is no way to know. However, when Nibley makes a major point of their existence and that, later, they infiltrate into the Land Southward to join up with the Lamanites and dominate those warriors, one needs to take a second look at the reality of such a scenario, for the mention or existence of robbers occurs only in one period, and then again a little later during the last days of the Jaredite battles between Corientumr and Shared. At a time when the entire nation was at war and everyone was joining one side or the other, the fact that some turned to robbing would be understandableand when we consider that the record is being abridged by Moroni, who would hve known of Robber Bands among the Nephites and Lamanites, it seems significant that he did not refer to the "robbers" as being organized in such a manner.
    Nibley added, (p233), “Asia has at all times swarmed with robber bands, exactly as did this continent under the Jaredites, and from time to time these robber bands have formed coalitions strong enough to ruin states and overturn thrones.
    Since we do not have the entire account of the Jaredite nation and its activities and problems, it cannot be assumed that it was the result of robber bands that brought destruction to the Jaredites—but, rather, their wickedness and unwillingness to do as the Lord asked them.  But Nibley is not through with his mention of these robber bands despite their not being mentioned in the scriptural account as any organized force as Nibley describes:
    He continues (p234): “This typical and recurrent state of things vividly recalls the awful days of the Jaredite robbers, when every man slept on his sword to guard his property from every other man—and still had it stolen (Ether 14:1-2)”
    Verses 1 and 2 of Ether chapter 14, does not suggest this problem was from robbers stealing things, or their involvement at all. In this case, The ongoing war between the two main Jaredite factions, under Shared and Coriantumr, there was a two year hiatus between the two leaders, which had both been wounded; however, during this time the war continued as “all the people upon the face of the land were shedding blood, and there was none to restrain them.” (One of the things about an army that few non-military people understand is, that it is the leaders of any military unit or force that keeps the force in checkkill off or eliminate the leaders and chaos results as the military unit or army goes berserk in killing, robbing, and rapine orgies. With both leaders here wounded and out of the picture for a time, we see this result among the two Jaredite forcesit is human nature, not robbers that leads to such inhumane actions).
Typically, dynamic leaders keep an army in check, or on a specific battle plan, and in this case with both Shared and Coriantumr withdrawing because of their wounds, all the people were still fighting. As a result, a great “curse” came upon the land because of the iniquity of the people, in which a man could not keep hold of his own property. When he set it down at night, it was gone in the morning. Every man kept hold of what was his and did not lend out or borrow, and kept his weapon in his hand to defend himself and his family against those who would attack him without warning.
    After this two-year period, and after Shared died his brother, Gilead, became the new leader, who gathered his army against that of Coriantumr and the war was resumed. There were “secret combinations” among Gilead’s people who gave great strength to his army; however, they murdered him and Lib became the new leader, continuing the war with Coriantumr, who killed him in battle and his brother, Shiz took his place, again pressing the war with Coriantumr. This battle continued until all were dead, including Shiz, and only Coriantumr remained alive as the Lord had told Ether.
    Nowhere in all this is there any mention of Robbers or Robber Bands, thieves, or the like. If they existed, which they probably did as unorganizerd individuals or small groups, there is no record of them. But that never slows down a Mesoamerican Theorist, including Nibley from creating what is not in print.
It is interesting that early writings are full of adventures of robber bands, such as those of Greece, of which Alexander the Great is oft considered the last of the breed of those who brought him to power and broke apart at his death. Robber bands are mentioned in the Ionian Islands of Greece, Turkey, Thessaly, Corinth and Olympus, that were protected by the villages, and who burned and plundered the districts under the Pasha’s protection.
    There were bandit cavalcades or robber bands along the Mongolia prairie; robber bands were suggested in connection with Lehi not having fire across the great sand desert (1 Nephi 17:2), and robber bands that were the descendants of Genghis Khan, Ogdai and Batu, who led their hordes of cavalry in conquest after conquest.
    But all of these were of a much later date than the Jaredites, who came on the scene sometime during or just after the days of Peleg, who was born five (5) generations after the Flood (Shem, Arphaxad, Salalah, Eber and Peleg.) Then,”in the days of Peleg the earth was divided” (Genesis 10:25), the Tower was built, Babylon was founded, the Jatedites left, and eventualy Egypt and Greece (among other nations as the confounded languages spread further out from Babylon) were founded.
    While our 2116 date is an arbitrary one for the leaving of the Jaredites (see Chapter 12, “Jaredite Chronology,” Who Really Settled Mesoamerica), a complete though speculative chronology is available to see how these events fit into place with one another based on their probable ages and the known dates of the Flood, Peleg, the Tower, etc.
    The point is that when Nibley continually creates an Asian-Jaredite connection, both the timing and the location are not consistent, and a false understanding is established. As an example, the famed Robber Bands of Asia, which Nibley connects as the forerunners of the Jaredfites, did not even exist at the time the Jaredites formed and were led out of Mesopotamia. While the two civilizations may have had this in common, it was not because the Jaredites were part of the Asian development, which came later, and not likely to be the forerunner, since they disappeared from history and ended up on an entirely different continent with no connection before or after with that movement in Asia.
If, indeed, the Robber Bands of history were the descendants of Ghenghis Khan, as some historians claim, or those of the later Arabs who controlled the Rub’ al-Khalil, or even of the later Greeks (Ionian Islands), the fact of the matter is there is no record, hint, or suggestive connection that would link the Jaredites to this movement in any way. Simply because, after many generations in the land of promise, the earlier righteous people degenerated into warring tribes may suggest a connection to Hugh Nibley, it seems like a huge stretch to me with no supportive connection in distance, time, or location.
    What it suggests more readily, is that Satan with his evil enterprises is alive and well in all parts of the world and has been in all periods of time. Robber Bands are less isolated to a people, it would seem, than to the evil nature of many types of people for they have existed in numerous areas and among numerous peoples over the course of history.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What Jarom Teaches Us

Jarom, the great-grandson of Lehi, the grandson of Jacob, and son of Enos, is given the plates by his father and told to update the record. Was it necessary for him to go into detail like his father or grandfather had before him? He had a few observations that were brief, succinct and to the point as he wrote down:
1. Behold it is expedient that much should be done among this people because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks.
2. God is exceedingly merciful unto them and has not as yet swept them off form the face of the land.
3. There are many among us who have many revelations.
4. They are not all stiff-necked, and have faith, as well as have communion with the Holy Spirit.
5. After 200 years, the people have become strong in the land, observe the Law of Moses, keep the Sabbath Day holy, neither profane nor blaspheme.
6. There are twice as many Lamanites as Nephites scattered on the face of the land, and the laws are very strict.
7. Jarom did not write down his own prophecies and revelations, for they were the same as those of his father and grandfather, for what more could be written.
8. My fathers have revealed the plan of salvation and that sufficeth me.
9. We have many times withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands, and began to fortify our cities, or whatsoever place of our inheritance.
10. We have 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, as well as weapons of war.
11. And thus being prepared to meet the Lamanites, they did not prosper against us. But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.
12. The prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land.
13. Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already had.
14. After 238 years and many wars, contentions and dissensions, the prophets were continually stirring the people up unto repentance.
15. I, Jarom, do not write more, for the plates are small. But behold, my brethren, ye can go to the other plates of Nephi; for behold, upon them the records of our wars are engraven, according to the writings of the kings, or those which they caused to be written, and I deliver these plates into the hands of my son Omni, that they may be kept according to the commandments of my fathers.
    Obviously, the Lamanites were far more numerous than the Nephites, and loved murder, coming many times against the Nephites in battle, the latter only able to arm and defend themselves. The Nephite kings and leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord, teaching the people the ways of the Lord. Once having removed the Lamanites from their land, the Nephites began fortifying their cities.
    Throughout Nephite history until the very end (when grace had left the Nephites), all battles took place on Nephite territory. In fact, at the end, Mormon told the Nephites: “it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them. Behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed“ (Mormon 4:4).
The Nephites in Jarom’s time prepared for war—they were very proficient in building, making things, working with metal, including machines for war—but being armed did not provide them with security, only a means of not being overrun and destroyed. It was keeping the commandments that saved them as a people and as a nation, right up to the end when they violated the very precepts of righteousness and attacked their neighbor.
    And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land. To keep the people in line, “the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land” (Jarom 1:10).
    Jarom seems to be one of those quiet men of history, fervent in his testimony, and valiant in his defense of his country and its beliefs. He wrote little, depending upon the words of previous prophets to his own, and reminding the people of who they were and what they already had been told and about what they had been warned.
    He understood the value of his heritage and of the prophets of his day preaching that heritage to the Nephites.
    Unfortunately, for the Nephites, Jarom’s son, Omni, though a patriot himself, was a self-proclaimed “wicked man,” who did not live up to the commandments of the Lord. It is easy to see that Jarom teaches us to look to the commandments, i.e., what the prophets have already preached, to follow the prophets, and not be trying to state or restate what is already known. From a geographical point, Jarom teaches us to follow the simple statements of the prophets and not try to come up with wild, new, and controversial ideas of our own--but to stay the course and pay attention to what we have been told.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Peleg Teaches Us – Part II

What Peleg teaches us is that: 
1) The Bible and scriptural record are accurate;
2) The time frame of Moses is accurate;
3) The Earth is not as old as scientists want us to believe.
The lesson for us to learn is simply this: The Bible is accurate.
Whether secular reconstructions of history agree with it or not does not change the accuracy of the Bible. We should use the biblical chronologies to determine where the secularists have gone astray and we should not amend the Bible to fit the latest secular speculations on history. This research area has largely been ignored by Christians in the last hundred years or so as they scramble to manipulate the Bible to conform to the latest secular reconstructions of man's history.
   We even find members of the Church trying to do this because of the pressure of the sectarian world, the time-frames taught by science, and the upbringing in public schools.
In recent years, some Christians have done an excellent job of restoring the authority of Genesis 1–4, 6–9. However, the genealogies in Genesis 5,10, and 11 (and the chronological portions in Kings and Chronicles) have been quietly surrendered to the domain of secular historians.
    Their destructive work on these chronologies has overthrown the faith of many. It is about time that the Moses time frame of Genesis and Moses of the Pearl of Great Price, are reclaimed. After all, if one cannot trust the numbers in the chronologies of the Bible, why should one trust the words between the numbers? What limits should a person place on their unbelief?
    In fact, we find far too many today who say, “I will accept this, but not that,” in their so-called pursuit of truth. “I can agree with that, but not this.”
    When we look at the Bible and its chronology, it is true the Bible has been translated inaccurately at timers and difficulties do exist—it should be kept in mind as Latter-day Saints, we  have the writing of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, as well as Abraham who give support to and authenticate the dates found, in Genesis of the Bible.
There are three errors common in biblical chronology today. First, there are those who have a low view of the Bible and ignore its chronological data altogether. Numerous ancient secular writers can be cited on this and often are in articles about the Earth being 4.55 billion years old. However, there are numerous other writings of scientists as well as religious leaders who counter this secular view. As an example, when it comes to the Bible and Genesis, we also have Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, the latter writing showing us the Earth is about 13,000 years old. For more on this, see the book Scientific Fallacies & Other Myths.
    Part of the problem in this battle is the fact that the great disparity between 4.55 billion and 13,000 is so great, it is not even considered possible. How could science speak in billions while religionists speak in thousands—so immediately, we have a believability gap.
    This issue becomes critically important when we look for common ground to discuss the Book of Mormon, which is based on the accurate framework of Moses as found in Genesis and Moses (Pearl of Great Price). Once this common ground of dates can be accepted—which, by the way, is the same time frame used by Joseph Smith in his teaching of the second session he taught in the School of the Prophets.
However, this acceptance comes only after a great deal of study, comparison, and understanding of what is being learned. This was so important to Joseph Smith, that he used the dates of the early Patriarchs as the basis for his second lesson in the School of the Prophets. A revelation in December 1832 specifically directed Joseph and the elders of the Church in Kirtland to establish the school. Their instruction was to include both sacred and secular topics. Joseph presided over the school. In the second lesson, Joseph not only taught the birth and dates of the early patriarchs from Adam down to Noah and from Noah to Abraham, but afterward tested the school participants on the knowledge they had learned, and specifically on the dates.
    Joseph obviously felt this knowledge was that important for the early Church leaders to know and understand. Perhaps one of the reasons is that the Book of Mormon, and especially its geographical setting, cannot be proven by the Bible when one approaches the geological setting of a 4.55 billion year old world. This is why we often say true science supports true religion and visa versa. We cannot approach true religion with biblical or scientific myths. We need to compare truth with truth, not truth with fallacy.
    One of the things that Peleg teaches us is the correct founding of the first great nations and, once understanding that, the placement of nation building after the Flood, within the early centuries of the Earth. As an example, there are those who would shorten the period of the divided kingdom. This is found in E. Thiele’s The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994), where he adjusted the Hebrew numbers to make them conform to Assyrian chronology and ignored making Assyrian chronology fit the biblical chronology, which it does just as well.
Thus, Thiele uses the fragmentary Assyrian chronology of the divided kingdom period by about 50 years, to fit the conjectured dates from Assyria. But this would mean that Babylon would have been founded way before Peleg and the Tower of Babel! Third, there are those who would lengthen the biblical chronology. One of the earliest were those rabbis in Egypt who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek to produce the Septuagint (LXX) in the third century B.C. They arbitrarily added about 700 years to the biblical chronology for the period between Noah and Abraham, to make it agree with the works of Manetho. If what they had done was correct, then Peleg would be dead and gone (as would most of the leaders of the division of the nations) before the Tower of Babel happened.
    Many modern biblical archaeologists, like the translators of the LXX, are just as guilty of the same thing today. Just as the LXX's translators listened to the fairy tales the Egyptian priests told them, most modern biblical scholars follow the just so stories told by secular historians and archaeologists who push the founding of Babylon and Egypt back thousands of years. As an example, Merrill F. Unger (Archaeology and the Old Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1954), who states (p84) that Egypt dates back to about 5000 B.C., but later states (p97) that Susa near Babylon dates back to about 4000 B.C. Since the biblical date for the Flood is 2344 BC, how long could these people tread water? Although this book was published in 1954, its opinions are reflected in newer works dealing with biblical archaeology. If anything the situation has become worse, not better, in the last fifty years. Unger is a very conservative and well-respected Bible scholar. If he could be deceived, how much more careful should we be today when so many more errors are afoot?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Peleg Teaches Us - Part I

What do we learn from Peleg? His name appears only once in the Old Testament (Genesis 10:25), the word origin appearing three times (Genesis 10:25; Job 38:25; Psalm 55:9). The name is close to the Hebrew word Palag, meaning “division,” and is considered by most scholars as the meaning of the actual name given, Peleg. 
Naturally, Moses draws that parallel, for he writes: “And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg for in his days was the earth divided” (Genesis 10:25).
    “In the Days of Peleg” have become synonymous with several changes, including a previous article we wrote here about the division of the Priesthood between the Old World (Jews) and the New World (Jared). ‘When we follow that line of thinking, we find the story of Jared where it begins in the Old Terstament and begins the Book of Mormon. We also find that ancient documents in the days of Peleg are consistent with the total accuracy of the Bible’s chronology.
As an example, four generations after the Flood, and six generations from Noah, Moses records the birth of Peleg. Some suggest the continents of the earth were divided at this time, while others feel this is unlikely, as such a process would have had to occur within a very confined time period (of course, nothing is too difficult for the Lord), believing that the resultant geological violence would be overwhelmingly catastrophic—like another Noahic Flood all over again.
    Whether the Flood and the division occurred at the same time, or one followed the other, is a matter of another article (see the book Scientific Fallacies & Other Myths for a scholarly explanation). The point is, these events occurred. One thing is for certain, that about this time, with the Tower of Babel disbursement and the scattering of the people, continents were divided and nations established.
    Amidst this period, then, the Jaredite nation came into being, their language was not confounded, and they were led to a land of promise—that same Land of Promise later given to Lehi.  Now the placement of Jared within this time frame is one of speculation, however, the overall timing can be closely determined by the events described in Genesis and those in Ether.
The Jaredites were between the establishment of the Tower at Babylon and the forming of Egypt after the disbursement 
    At what point did the nations become established?
    According to the biblical chronology as deduced by Archbishop Ussher, the Flood occurred in 2349–2348 BC, and Peleg was born in 2247 BC about a hundred years later. According to our interpretation of Moses in Genesis, following the births of the Patriarchs, the Flood occurred in 2344-2343 B.C., about five years later.
    As we look at the historical writers of the past, we find a resounding agreement with these dates generally, beginning with the establishment of the first settlement of which we know and that is Babylon
    In the year 331 B.C. After Alexander the Great had defeated Darius at Gaugmela near Arbela, he journeyed to Babylon. Here he received 1903 years of astronomical observations from the Chaldeans, which they claimed dated back to the founding of Babylon. If this was so, then that would place the founding of Babylon in 2234 BC, or about thirteen years after the birth of Peleg. This was recorded in the sixth book of De Caelo (“About the heavens”) by Simplicius, a Latin writer in the 6th century AD. Porphyry (an anti-Christian Greek philosopher, c. 234–305 AD).
    Following Babylon, we find that historically Egypt emerged. The Byzantine chronicler Constantinus Manasses (d. 1187) wrote that the Egyptian state lasted 1663 years. If correct, then counting backward from the time that Cambyses, king of Persia, conquered Egypt in 526 BC, gives us the year of 2188 B.C. for the founding of Egypt, which is about 60 years after the birth of Peleg. About this time Mizraim, the son of Ham, led his colony into Egypt. Hence the Hebrew word for Egypt is Mizraim, sometimes referred to as “the land of Ham” (Psalm 105:23, 27). In fact, even today Egyptians call their country Mizr, sometimes referring to Cairo as Mizr; and Egyptians are called Mizrim (Augustin Calmet, Dicitonary of the Holy Bible by Charles Taylor, Holdsworth and Ball, 1832).
    Next came Greece. According to the 4th Century bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea, Egialeus, king of the Greek city of Sicyon, west of Corinth in Peloponnesus, began his reign in 2089 B.C., 1313 years before the first Olympiad in 776 BC. (J. Ussher, Annales Veteris Testamenti, Flesher and Sadler, London, p. 6, or paragraph 54 in the revised work, 1654).
    If Eusebius is correct, then this king started to reign about 160 years after the birth of Peleg.
    Note that Babylon, Egypt, and Greece each spoke a different language. These ancient historians have unwittingly confirmed the extreme accuracy of the biblical genealogies as found in the Hebrew scriptures. The Tower of Babel would have had to have occurred before the founding of these other three kingdoms. Babel (Babylon), being in the same region as the Tower, would have been one of the earliest kingdoms, of course, as the confounding of the languages drove people away from one another and scattered them abroad.
    Of the other kingdoms, the ones most distant from Babel would have been founded the latest. This is exactly what these writers have described. First Babylon, then Egypt, and then Greece were founded.
1=Ark landed; 2=Rebellious settled in Babylon, where their language was confounded and the first settlement after the confusion of tongues took place; 3; Egypt was the second settlement after the confusion of tongues; 4=Greece was the third settlement after the confusion of tongues. Note the increasing distances from the Tower
    Another point is also shown here, and that is about human nature. After the Tower of Babel, people were forced to split into groups according to their new language. Humans are basically lazy. They would have moved away only as far from Babel as they had to in order to live in peace. However, population pressure, military force, or the desire to search for “greener pastures” would have induced them to move out further and further. So civilization would have slowly spread by periodic migrations from its center at Babel.
    Although secular historians ignore the events of Babel and the Flood, they assume civilization started in the Middle East, likely near Babylon, and spread out slowly from there. However, they use a time frame much earlier than the time deduced from the biblical chronologies.
    Manetho (Manethos), the 3rd Century B.C. writer of Aegyptiaca (History of Egypt), which has been used by Egyptologists to establish the reigns of the pharaohs, also connects the Flood with Peleg, claiming that the Tower was built five years after Peleg’s birth. (Manetho, The Book of Sothis, Harvard Press, Cambridge, MA, p. 239. (Loeb Classical Library 350).
    If this is correct, then it would be confirmed that the migrations recorded in Genesis 10 occurred over a period of time, for the apparent leaders of many of these national groups would have been very young children when the confusion of languages occurred. In fact, J. Ussher deduced that the division of the earth at the time of Peleg’s birth was Noah dividing the land among his grandchildren, which is most likely part of this event, though it may not be the only part of the division. Some of these divisions moved to Shinar, where they conspired to hinder this dispersion of them as commanded by God and begun by Noah, building the city and tower of Babylon (Babel). God frustrated this project with the confusion of languages, which was then followed by the dispersion of nations.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Let’s See, How Shall We Speculate Today? Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the continuing process of how speculation by the Theorists paint a completely inaccurate and misleading picture of the Nephites and any others in the Land of Promise. As we saw from the last sentence of the previous post, Sorenson’s misleading comment that 2 Nephi 5:22-23, had to do with other people living in the Land of Promise at the time of Lehi’s arrival, as opposed to events between the Nephites and Lamanites, is completely inaccurate.  
The Lamanites, Nephi’s brothers and their seed, separated themselves from Nephi and the Lord. This separation brought about a cursing of dark skin, idleness, mischief and subtlety on the Lamanites, which lasted with them, and was added to those who joined them, from that point onward.
    In an interesting parallel of Sorenson misunderstanding the scriptural record, he earlier said of the area of first landing (p140): “As Nephi tells the story, the Lamanites down in the hot lowlands were nomadic hunters, bloodthirsty. The circumstances of life in that environment could account for some of those characteristics.” However, the scriptural record tells us a more accurate reason for the Lamanite condition. “And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey” (2 Nephi 5:24).
It is true we live in a politically correct world today, and that our society demands a softening of attitudes toward rebellion and outright evil. It is not considered fitting today to call "a Spade a Spade," but to deflect the direct for the indirect, the soft for the hard. Even in Lehi’s day, we find Laman and Lemuel saying much the same thing. Lehi first tells us that his two older sons “murmured, saying it was a hard thing which he had required of them” (1 Nephi 3:5), then, they themselves, add to this by saying, “Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear” (1 Nephi 16:1).
    Whatever Sorenson’s reason, whether to deflect the hard for the softer tones, or whatever, he certainly wants to paint a much more acceptable view of the Lamanites by claiming the Nephites were prejudiced toward them and spoke harshly about them.
    Keep in mind that the Nephites always refer to the Lamanites as “their brethren” or “my brethren,” beginning with Nephi talking about his three brothers: (1 Nephi 3:9, 10, 14, 21), which soon became the separation of these two groups (1 Nephi 7:16, 17, 18 19) and continuing down through the thousand years to Moroni at the close of his record (Moroni 1:4). The Lamanites were not referred to as the “evil empire,” but were always part of Lehi’s family and their brothers (Helaman 15:4), as were those in general and those of the Church so referred (Mosiah 2:15; Alma 5:14).
    Lehi knew from the beginning that there must be an opposition in all things. As he taught Jacob, his first-born son in the wilderness: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.
    Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God” (2 Nephi 2:11-12).
    Regarding this, Jacob added, “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Nephi 10:23). However, it was President Ezra Taft Benson who tied it together when he said, “We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices” (Come Unto Christ, p40). Dallin Oaks made it clearer that we cannot be deprived of our God-given free agency to choose, but that in the circumstances of mortality freedom is always qualified. You can hang from a catwalk and choose to let go and fall, but you cannot choose to will yourself into a soft landing.”
It was Jacob’s son, Nephi’s nephew, who said, “I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites” (Enos 1:11), and “And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God” (Enos 1:20). His son, Jarom writes for the “intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamananites—he didn’t write for the benefit of the Nephites, but for the benefit of the Lamanites (Jarom 1:2).
    Then along comes Sorenson who wrote of this controversy between Nephites and Lamanites (p90): “The scripture is clear that the Nephites were prejudiced against the Lamanites,” and adds, (p91): “The question is how great the difference was: we may doubt that it was as dramatic as the Nephite record keepers made out.” However, the Lord sees it quite different: “And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (2 Nephi 5:25).
    Whatever dramatic results occurred, it is apparent and needs no further discussion, that the Lamanites (Laman and Lemuel and their children, as well as the sons of Ishamel and their families), separated themselves from Nephi and the Lord, bringing about their own damnation and the future destruction of their people.
    We can find many a theorist who may have a different view, and some will build volumes, maps and come armed with a myriad of information that sounds authentic and accurate—but the fact is, if it does not agree with the writings of the prophets and Mormon’s abridgement, it is nothing more than a theory and will, when trying to find support in cross-scriptural references, be doomed to failure. Unfortunately, most theorists will not let their erroneous ideas fail—they will simply restate them and attack the scriptural accuracy from a different point of view.
    Each theorist as the free agency to choose his own path, and make his own stand on those views—but the scriptural record should be the pattern of that stand, not the point of attack. And as long as theorists choose to attack the scriptural record and try to change it to mean something Mormon and the others didn’t intend, they will be faced with the consequences of their fallacious views.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Let’s See, How Shall We Speculate Today? Part I

Does anyone else see a pattern here? 
    It is as though so many of our scriptural record theorists wake up of a morning and say to themselves: ”Let’s see, what part of the scriptural record shall we speculate on today?”
    Somewhere along the way, theorists seem to have misplaced the idea that the scriptures are accurate and the Word of the Lord, with the idea that they are merely ideas written down by ancient people who, without any guidance or understanding of an overall picture, jotted down information that we are now struggling with to try and understand.
Of course, this does not apply (for the most part) to the doctrinal scriptures, such as faith, repentance, baptism etc. But it certainly does to those who are reading for additional information as to where, when, and how, regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise itself. It is as if they say to themselves:
• Let’s see, the Land of Promise has a hill. It is called “Cumorah.” OK. Let’s see where a hill is that we can consider the location of the Land of Promise.
• Let’s see, there is a narrowing of the land—called a “narrow neck” but we need not place too much emphasis on the word “narrow.” We need to find a place where the land narrows—that’s the key.
• Let’s see, we need a river. The direction of flow is not that important—it just needs to be a major river that runs through where the major land area is located.
• Let’s see, we need two land masses. While they are called north and south, we need not worry too much about directions, since we can use the term “Mormon North” or “Nephite North” to make any adjustments needed.
• Let’s see, it says a land of many waters, rivers and fountains. We need a place with a lot of lakes and rivers. Fountains is not all that important. What are they, anyway?
• Let’s see, Jacob says they were on an island and Helaman says they were surrounded by four seas. We can fit most any place into that one since there has always been areas with a lot of water, and if we go far enough, we can find a sea in any direction, or at least in two directions—that should be enough.
It seems that theorists are so committed to a certain place or location that their mantra seems to be that they’ll find a way to fit things in, and if something doesn’t, well, the world has changed, and also no one seems to know for certain, least of all those who wrote anciently, since they only saw a very small portion of their land, and were only interested in a local family and what happened to it, anyway. Let’s not burden ourselves with too much detail.
    Then there is the theorist who is more involved with what a modern day prophet has said than what an ancient prophet who lived on the land wrote.
• Let’s see, surely we can find someone who has said he thinks this area is where Lehi landed.
• In fact, Joseph Smith claims several areas that could have been the landing site—we can probably use one of them.
We need to keep in mind that a living prophet does not supplant the scriptures. As an example, when we get to 3 Nephi 23:6, we see that the Lord asked to see all the scriptures, went through them, checked them, and said unto the Nephite leaders: “Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not”—he was the scriptures, but he wanted the scriptures to be complete because the scriptures were more important than knowing what a contemporary prophet had to say on the matter of the past.
    Yet, today, we have many who want to do away with the scriptures and supplant them with more modern information, or a more modern way of saying them. We need to keep in mind that just because we have living prophets, they do not supersede the scriptures—and they don’t try to. Notice that the prophets cling more to the scriptures than anyone else.
    I turned to a book last night written by one of the theorists and opened it by chance and the first thing I read was: “It seems highly probable that when Lehi and his family arrived in the Promised Land they found a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land. A people without government, without religion, and perhaps with but minimum language skill. The core of their culture had been destroyed. While once a great and cultured people, they by the time of Lehi's arrival had been scattered and divided. Had they by that time degenerated to a level of mere subsistence? Our record gives us few clues.”
    One might expect such a quote from someone on the fringe of the record, looking for a critic’s fodder; however, the quote comes from one of the most revered Book of Mormon supporters—Hugh Nibley.
    One can only wonder at the wordage used here—“It seems highly probable that when Lehi and his family arrived in the Promised Land they found a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land.”
    Why would anyone think someone else already inhabited the land? Moroni, in Chapter 13 of his Ether abridgement, and Lehi, in his blessings and prophesying to his family in 2 Nephi, makes it quite clear that there was no one else!
    But Nibley is not alone. John L. Sorenson has the same belief. He writes in his book (p146), ”The Lamanites in the original immigrant group became dominant over a native population of folk already scattered on the land when Lehi arrived.”
    Soreonson adds as his justification, “As far as the Nephites were concerned, those subject folk would have been treated the same as the original Lamanites, even if some physical or cultural differences between them were apparent.” Yet, Nephi wrote: “Cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed: for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done” (2 Nephi 5:23).” Sorenson then adds a concluding statement: “That sounds like historical fact already accomplished more than a mere warning to future Nephites.”
However, as they sometimes say about mixing metaphors, Sorenson is mixing time periods and not missing a beat. The scripture quoted, as is easily seen when read, refers to (left) his rebellious brothers (2 Nephi 5:19), not an additional group of people that Sorenson claims. The scripture has to do with the Lamanites that would not serve Nephi and sought to kill him, and the Lord was reminding Nephi that his earlier prophesy was being fulfilled as the Lamanites separated themselves from the Nephites and were “cut off from the Lord’s presence” (2 Nephi 5:20).
    As a result of this separation, the Lord had “caused the cursing to come upon them (the Lamanites), yea even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint, wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord
God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21).
This was a done deal, i.e., because Nephi’s brethren had separated themselves from him and the Lord, the curse was brought upon them. Nephi went on to further explain this new division between the Nephites (his people) and the Lamanites (his brethren), when he wrote: “And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done” (2 Nephi 5:22-23).
(See the next post, “Let’s See, How Shall We Speculate Today? Part II,” for the continuing process of how speculation by the Theorists paint a completely inaccurate and misleading picture of the Nephites and any others in the Land of Promise and, more importantly, discredits the very scriptural record we all hold sacred)