Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “Giddianhi and the Band of Robbers”? Part I

I sometimes think how exciting it would be to sit in on a symposium that involved the writers of the plates, such as Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Helaman, Ether, and the Brother of Jared, along with Mormon as the abridger of the record, as that last prophet covered why he chose certain events out of the original thousands written about a subject. As an example, there is an interesting parallel that runs through the 78 years surrounding the birth of Christ (63 B.C. – 15 A.D.) as they unfolded in the Land of Promise that present numerous noteworthy thoughts, each leading into wide avenues of interest.
    At the beginning of that period, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, wrote a letter to Moroni (Alma 54), and at the conclusion of that period, Giddianhi, the governor of the Robber Band, wrote one to Lachoneus, governor of the Nephite Nation (3 Nephi 3). While Ammoron’s letter starts out with the intention of exchanging prisoners, the exchange quickly deteriorates into name calling and finger pointing back to when Nephi inherited the land and supposedly stole the government from his older brothers. Ammoron ends by promising the war would end if the Nephites would give back to the Lamanites the right of government else he would “wage a war which shall be eternal, either to the subjecting the Nephites to our authority or to their eternal extinction” (Alma 54:20).
In Giddianhi’s letter, a more peaceful approach to reconciliation is suggested, wherein Lachoneus is invited to turn over the government to the Robbers, join them in the plunder of the Nephite Nation, and subjecting the Nephites to oppression.
    In short, a comparison between the two is informative. In both letters there is a request for the surrender of the Nephites (Alma 54:18; 3 Nephi 3:6-7). And in both cases, the Nephite opponents claim that they have been wronged and that they have been unjustly deprived of their "rights of government" dating back many hundreds of years (Alma 54:17-18; 3 Nephi 3;10.)
    Both letters contain a rejection of God (Alma 54:21-22; 3 Nephi 3:2); and finally, both threaten destruction (Alma 54:20; 3 Nephi 3:3-4). The differences in the letters demonstrate that in the case of the Gadianton robbers, the Nephites were confronted with an enemy far more organized and sophisticated, and much more dangerous than any previous encounters.
    Giddianhi's letter mentions oaths and describes his organization as a "secret society" whose works are of "ancient date." (3 Nephi 3:9). Another difference in the letters is the sophisticated tone of Giddianhi's message. He continually employed the art of flattery and personal concern, claiming to be motivated by a feeling for the welfare of the Nephite leader—suggesting that they were both on the same side, and referring to Lachoneus as "most noble," praising his "firmness" and his "noble spirit in the field of battle."
    Another difference of interest is in the title of each leader—Ammoron was the "king" of the Lamanites, while Giddianhi was the "governor of the secret society of Gadianton,” suggesting the Robbers were a sophisticated and murderous group who were after both political and economic power, including trade since the Nephites were heavily involved in ship building and shipping (Helaman 3:14). For Lachoneus to join him in this nefarious plot, all the Nephite governor had to do was become a traitor to his country and people and give up the Nephite cities, Nephite lands, and Nephite possessions (3 Nephi 3:6).
    Reminds one of the General Benedict Arnold conspiracy—all he had to do to become an officer in the famed British Army, was to give up his military command, his fort, his country and his honor. However, Lachoneus was a far more honorable man than Arnold.
    One of the interesting points this brings to mind is that Nephite and Lamanite military leaders were evidently in the habit of communicating with one another, at least in the notification of a pending battle, as is also shown in Mormon contacting the Lamanite king to arrange a final battle at Cumorah (Mormon 6:2), or the Lamanite king notifying Mormon of preparing to come to battle against the Nephites (Momron 3:4).

    According to Israelite law, it was required to give such warning before attacking an opponent, "When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee." If this offer were rejected, the Israelites could then besiege the city and totally destroy all its males. (Deuteronomy 20:10-13). This also applied in wars of national survival: "According to the Rabbis, the Biblical command that there must be a prior declaration of war, that a sneak attack like a 'Pearl Harbor' was forbidden, applies even to a war of obligation. Even a nation at war must take all possible steps to avoid the shedding of blood. This was also born out in Joseph Smith’s time, as well as ancient and even among the Nephites (D & C 98:28-48).
    It should also be noted that Giddianhi's bold 16 B.C. declaration about his society: “Which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and have been handed down unto us” (3 Nephi 3:9), reminds one of the Jaredite language though about 1800 years earlier: “Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory” (Ether 8:9).
    It seems prudent to keep in mind when considering these ancient civilizations that they had long-term memories of their history—the secret plans and secret combinations dates back to about 1800 B.C. among the Jaredites, and was still understood by the Gadianton Robbers in 16 B.C.
    It should also be noted by the student that the concept of the secret combinations of the Robbers parallels the secret combinations of the Jaredites, though Mormon translated the Nephite record of that group, but it was later that Moroni translated the information about the earlier instance of the Jaredites afterward, certainly after Mormon was dead—which is just another little testimony of the accuracy of the Book of Mormon translation.
We also find that Giddianhi (left) considered the work the Robbers were involved in—murder, government overthrow, military power, so-called “peace-loving” aggression—to be good in his view. Obviously, these are the tactics of Satan, and since Giddianhi views Satan’s tactics of good ones. As he states in his own defense: “which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us”(3 Nephi 3:9), that Giddianhi was not only in league with Satan, but also proud of it—so much so, that he uses the old covenant method of stating his views in specific vocabulary where inside the covenant context, certain words had official and legal meanings that sometimes differed from their normal, everyday use. For instance, to "know" means to be loyal to and to recognize the legitimate suzerain (sovereign or lord) with whom the covenant is being made, and to acknowledge the terms of a covenant as binding.
    Thus Giddianhi gives us a cultural clue that he has covenanted with Satan and his servants, he acknowledges Satan as hIS lord, and thus we know that Giddianhi's knowledge comes from the same source. In saying that the works are "good" Giddianhi also acknowledges that he has kept his covenants with the Devil. 
(See the next post, “Meaning of Words and Statements Part XI: The Purpose of Giddianhi and the Band of Robbers Part II,” for more on the interesting sidelights and glimpses of information such events as Giddianhi’s letter elicits in the scriptural record)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “All These Will I Give Thee”?

In understanding the meaning of words and statements in the scriptural record, scholars sometimes get their theories between themselves and the scripture. That is, in trying to determine meaning, a theorist whose mind is already made up in thinking he knows where the Land of Promise is located, is unable to see the forest for the trees—is unable to understand the meaning of a statement or phrase. Or, in the case of Zeezrom, sees wheat instead of coins, since ancient coins have not been found in Mesoamerica.
Zeezrom offering a bribe of six silver ontis to Amulek if he will deny the Christ
    In the offer above, made by Zeezrom, a very important clue is provided as to the meaning and type of monetary system the Nephites used and was in play at the time of Alma, though the event itself appears more to be used to illustrate the Nephite monetary system and the nature of those who practiced law at the time.
    First of all, in understanding this event, a man named Zeezrom, who “was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people” (Alma 10:31), makes Amulek, a descendant of Nephi, son of Lehi, an offer after Amulek and Alma had finished preaching to the people.
    Now Zeesrom was an attorney, perhaps one of the smartest and most successful lawyers among the Nephites, at least in the land of Ammonihah. And at this time, ”lawyers were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people, and this was to enable them that they might be skillful in their profession” (Alma 10:15).
    Among the audience to whom Alma and Amulek had been speaking were a number of lawyers, who were wise according to the people who had selected them (Alma 10:24), whose job it was to see that justice was done. As an example, “if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber” (Alma 11:2); however, the purpose of most of these judges was to get gain (Alma 10:32), i.e., make money in their profession.
    However, in order to get gain, or earn money, they had to have employment (Alma 10:32), therefore they often went among the people and stirred up one against another so that they could bring a case before them, and therefore have employment.
    Thus, the amount of time these lawyers and judges spent in this work determined how much gain they would get, or how much they would be paid. And Zeezrom, “who was one of the most expert among them, was the foremost to accuse Amulek (Alma 10:31) when he had completed speaking. 
Alma and Amulek preaching to a crowd of people that included Zeezrom
    On this day, the first day of Alma’s renewed effort after earlier having decided to leave the city, and now joined by Amulek, whom the Lord had arranged to be Alma’s companion, the two men became embroiled in a public dispute about whether the Messiah would really come.
    Most scholars of the scriptural record, especially those in Mesoameria, choose to find in the ensuing discussion, how the Nephites monetary system worked. In fact, they all determine that it was a weights and measures of basic goods that determined their system.
    At this moment, Zeezrom in a clever move to show his intelligence before his peers and in front of the people who had gathered, stepped forward to both accuse and, he assumed, trap Amulek in his spoken words.
    "Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you?" Zeezrom asked Amulek (Alma 11:21), who was really in no position to avoid the confrontation.
    "Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me," Amulek replied (Alma 11:22).
    Thinking to entrap Amulek, Zeezrom, no doubt with a hidden smile regarding his own cleverness, said: “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being" (Alma 11:22).
    Now, several things need to be understood at this point:
1. Zeezrom is playing to his audience, who were both other lawyers and judges, and people of the city;
2. Zeezrom intended to attract significant attention to his offer;
3. His expression: "all these" clearly signals that Zeezrom considered this sum to be impressive;
4. It must have been an impressive amount of money in order to attract the desired effect among his audience;
5. The term silver “onti,” or the value expressed by Zeezrom, was defined by Mormon “as great of them all,” meaning as great of all the names or coins or values previously expressed (leah, shiblum, shiblon, senum, amnor, erom, and onti).
    While Mormon takes this moment in the midst of a rather important discussion to go over and outline the Nephite monetary system, we need to keep in mind and not lose track of what is being said.

That is, Zeezrom (extending his hand?) said:
1. “Behold, here are six onties of silver…” Why would he say “here are” if he did not show them to the crowd by holding them out to Amulek, or up for the crowd to see. Obviously, the very words “here are” tells us they were visible. And to gain the fullest impact of his words on the crowed, Zeezrom would have understood, like any showman, that seeing what he held was all-important! He was, after all, playing to the crowd. By showing up Amulek, by trapping him into error, by “winning” the discussion would ensure Zeezrom of future business—after all, the business of legal defense, one would always choose the winner over a loser.
2. “…and all these…” Again,an obvious statement leading one to understand whatever it was under discussion was visible to the crowd, or at least to those immediately around Zeezrom and Amulek. The word “these” refers to the last mentioned, the last shown, or nearest in place of order. These, then, would refer to whatever Zeezrom had or held he called “ontis.”
3. “…will I give thee…” Again, Zeezrom is drawing attention to what he held out or up for all to see. In this case, Zeezrom is making it clear he will give to Amulek six ontis of silver for doing something yet undisclosed.
4. “…if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.” There, the offer was made. Deny the Christ and you can have these six onti. 
    A lot of money for a simple statement. 
    Now, if Zeezrom was not in possession of six onti, his offer would have fallen on deaf ears as far as the crowd was concerned. It’s like saying as a kid, “I’ll give you ten bucks for that candy bar.” Everyone knows you don’t mean it and it carries no weight. On the other hand, hold a ten-dollar bill out in plain sight and say, “I am so thirsty, I’ll give you ten dollars for that Coke,” becomes more believable.
    But the main issue here is the gesture and words and what they mean. Despite all the rhetoric of the scholars and theorists regarding the Nephites not having coins, this statement and offer by Zeezrom makes sense only if coins were involved.
    However, as John W. Welch has written: “It should be clear from all of the foregoing that we are talking here about weights and measures, not coins. When the Book of Mormon speaks of "the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver," as well as naming them "according to their value" (Alma 11:4), we should probably not think that it is referring to minted coins. Rather, the term pieces most likely refers to metallic weights of some sort. The first coins known to history—at least coins in the modern sense—appeared in Lydia in western Asia Minor by the seventh century B.C., spreading into the Mediterranean region only after Lehi had left Jerusalem. As in other ancient cultures, the Nephites seem to have used weighted pieces of metal as payment for measured amounts of grain.”
    Now that was the viewpoint of a scholar. However, for the amount of money involved here (six ontis of silver, the largest amount of money known to the Nephites, equivalent to more than all the others combined), if we are talking weights for measurement, or the measured process itself, what value would that have to the crowd? One can easily renig on an offer that is not available or "on the block" at the moment. One cannot renig if the money is being held in hand and offered at the moment.
Here, Amulek, I just happen to have on my person six bushels of grain, I will give it to you if you deny the Christ 
    “I’ll give you these six ontis—six measurements.” Or even if it was translated into the weight—“I’ll give you these six bushels of wheat, six buckets of barley, six pecks of soybean.” Obviously, it would be silly to be offering the grain measured as Mesoamericanists would like us to believe—the mere size of the offering would preclude Zeezrom from lifting it, showing it, or even having it on his person. The same can be said of six ingots of silver.
    The question is, what would Zeezrom most likely to have on his person that he could immediately take hold of and show to Amulek or the crowd? Only a coin!
    While coins have never been found in Mesoamerica dating anywhere near the Nephite era, and obviously the reason why Mesoamerican theorists deny a Nephite coin monetary system, we cannot simply deny the Nephites didn’t have a coin monetary system. Money in hand, silver coins in this case, is the only thing that makes this situation work, and for Mormon to use it.
    And this entire monetary system really works only if coins are involved, i.e., that there were senine, seon, shum and limnah coins of gold; and senum, amnor, ezrom, and onti coins of silver. It is so much easier to read the scriptural record when one accept what is written and doesn't try to change it, deny its meaning, or alter what Mormon is telling us.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “Erecting Small Forts, or Places of Resort”

One of the problems facing Moroni and the Nephites in the closing century B.C., was the constant incursions of the Lamanite armies and bands who came down out of the mountains of the Land of Nephi to wage war. While the Lamanites seem to have followed the age old “warning system” of attacking for major wars or events, they did not seem to have done so for these many smaller conflicts, and at times, the Nephites were caught unaware of the approaching Lamamnite hordes until they were almost upon them. 
Consequently, Moroni, being a brilliant military mind and always thinking of defense, spent much of his time as the Chief Captain of the Nephite armies in structuring their defenses that were so far advanced to the Lamanites it often frightening them when they arrived to do battle only to find that Moroni had out-thought them in their preparations, and were astonished exceedingly, because of the wisdom of the Nephites in preparing their places of security (Alma 49:5).
    In fact, Moroni was such an expert in the process of preparation to avoid war, that Mormon said of him, “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). What more could ever be said of any man?
    It should also be kept in mind that the “Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives” (Alma 48:14).
    Thus, Moroni spent his effort in the art of defense, and during periods of peace, he spent his time strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8).
    It should also be kept in mind that the Land of Promise was not a flat, open plain, for the most part but an area of hills, canyons, mountains and large areas of wilderness, i.e., where man was not located and had performed no improvements, such as planting and harvesting, building and leaving his mark.
This was not open land—the approaching Lamanites were well hidden in their movements through mountains, valleys, and the changing topography
     It was through these areas that the Lamanites chose their attacks. They came down from the higher elevation of the Land of Nephi into the lower elevation of the Land of Zarahemla, through mountains, canyons or other means found within the “narrow strip of wilderness” that “divided the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla,” and then up along the east coast where earlier it had been poorly defended.
    In addition, the Lamanites were a subtle people, expert in living off the land, tracking animals, hunting in the wild, and in so doing, learning to be neither seen nor heard. Several times in the scriptural record we find the Nephites were surprised by a Lamanite army close enough to attack, either in small bands such as those who stole the grain from Zeniff’s and Limhi’s fields (Mosiah 9:13), to a vast army (Alma 47:21) sometimes too numerous to count.
    Knowing this, however, Moroni strengthened the northern border of the narrow strip of wilderness as well as those cities along the eastern seaboard, “placing the greater number of men in their weakest fortifications (Alma 48:9), both of which surprised the Lamamites, for their wars never did cease for the space of many years (Alma 48:22).
    Nevertheless, Moroni prepared his people with not only breastplates and shields, but in such a manner as to astonish the Lamanites who had come down thinking they were well prepared for the fighting they had envisioned. “But behold, to their uttermost astonishment, they were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi. Now they were prepared for the Lamanites, to battle after the manner of the instructions of Moroni. And it came to pass that the Lamanites, or the Amalickiahites, were exceedingly astonished at their manner of preparation for war” (Alma 49:8-9).
    So great was Moroni’s preparations, that “The Nephites had all power over their enemies; and thus the Lamanites did attempt to destroy the Nephites until their chief captains were all slain; yea, and more than a thousand of the Lamanites were slain; while, on the other hand, there was not a single soul of the Nephites which was slain” (Alma 49:23).
    Now, one of the things Moroni did was in preparing “to defend himself against them, by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort” (Alma 52:6). Mormon explains that a place of resort was “a small fort” (Alma 48:8), and in a military sense, these small forts served as outposts, that is, a small fortified area where a small contingency of troops were kept as part of an “early-warning” system. In mountainous country, lookouts were essential to keep track of attacking armies, the movement of the enemy, and the nature of their subtlety regarding their plans for attacks and battle.
    Again, the question we ask in this series, is what was meant by Mormon’s “places of resort, or small forts”? What purpose would a small fort have against armies so vast they could not be counted?
Places of resort, according to Mormon were small forts or outposts that overlooked the path Lamanite armies would take in their attacks into the Land of Zarahemla 
    The simple answer, and the definition of a small fort found in any military organization is that of an outpost, a lookout station, a place “of last resort” before an actual attack. Such an area provides a “defensive” army with a means of recourse, or other means of defense, a place to fall back upon as the enemy approached until the army came to the main fortification or fortress—“the forts of security for every city in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13).
    These main fortresses as the cities were so well fortified, the Lamanites were disappointed (Alma 49:11). Thus, Moroni had been building “forts of security” behind stone walls (Alma 48:8) that were impenetrable by Lamanite weapons. And in the areas between the cities and the Lamanite routes of attack, Moroni had built these outposts or resorts to warn him and his people of an approaching Lamamnite army and pending attack.
    “Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort” (Alma 48:8), “all round about the land.”

Thus, we need to find in our search for the Land of Promise, an area where small forts, or resorts, were built into the mountains, above the valleys, along paths armies from the south would have used to penetrate the Land of Zarahemla. And we cannot claim these resorts were built of wood so they would no longer be standing when Mormon makes it clear that these resorts were part of the building of stone carried out all about the land (Alma 48:8).

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean “Nearly a South-Southeast Direction”?

Continuing with this seventh part of the meaning of words and statements as found in the scriptural record, and how simple statements are often overlooked for specific meaning and content that would enable the reader to better understand what the writer was conveying. As an example, let’s take a look at the above statement.
    After resting for sometime along the river Lehi called Laman, in the valley he called Lemuel, and after going back for the brass plates and for Ishmael’s family, and after the subsequent marriages of the five daughters to Lehi’s four sons and Zoram, the Lord spoke to Lehi by night and commanded him that on then morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:9).
    “And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:10).
    After this miraculous event, the party set about gathering all their things they should “carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:11). Lastly, they secured and packed their tents and started out across the river Laman.
Red Arrow: Almost east direction; Yellow Arrow: South-southeast direction; the first is a cardinal direction (east), the latter is an ordinal direction, or one of the eight winds (south-southeast) 
    “And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer” (1 Nephi 16:13).
    Whatever words or symbols in Reformed Egyptian Nephi engraved on the plates many years later when he recorded these earlier events (1 Nephi 19:1-5), Joseph Smith with the Spirit's agreement, interpreted them as “south-southeast,” and a little later, the term “nearly east” was used (1 Nephi 17:1).
Green arrows and words represent the 4 cardinal points of a compass; the yellow arrows and words the 8 principal points (adding the intercardinal or ordinal points); and the red arrows and words the 16 points of a wind compass, including the principle or main winds, sometimes referred to as the 16-point Compass Rose 
    Thus, in these two instances, Nephi used two distinct compass points while traveling in an area no doubt be had never before been—along the east coast of the Red Sea. The point is, he correctly used two compass points and they were interpreted correctly through the translation process of Joseph Smith and the Spirit. In this way, we can know that Nephi not only used compass points (south-southeast, and east), but used them correctly, and they were translated correctly.
    This should, without question, show John L. Sorenson’s convoluted and lengthy explanation why the Nephites used a different compass orientation is totally without merit. This is even further shown, that Nephi, writing these compass points, did so after reaching the Land of Promise and living in it for a about 20 years. Thus, there would be no reason for Sorenson or anyone else to try to suggest or show a different directional meaning for north, south, east and west as used by Mormon in his clearly stated description of the lands within the Land of Promise as found in Alma 22—unless, of course trying to prove that Mesoamerica, being skewed nearly 90º off those cardinal points in opposition the scriptural record is being forced upon us as the Land of Promise location.
    Given no other rationale, this alone should prove even to the most hardened Mesoamericanist that the Book of Mormon lands were not in Mesoamerica!
    It can be argued, of course, that it was the Liahona that gave Nephi the directions they traveled along the Red Sea, for no directions were used or listed prior to the discovery of that instrument; however, that is simply a moot point since from that time forward, and throughout all the time in the Land of Promise, the Liahona was in the hands of the prophets along with the sacred records.
    As we look at the functionality of the Liahona, it is clear that the instrument the Lord provided did two things:
1. One of the arrows pointed the direction that the family would travel. In the beginning of the journey, this was south. Later the journey turned east. It was again used once they were on the ocean.
2. There was writing on one of the arrows or on the ball itself that would change periodically.
    Both of these would work according to their obedience and faith (whatever else might have been involved we are not told). There were two arrows on the device. One arrow pointed in the direction to travel. The function of the second arrow, however, is never mentioned.
Compasses used in the military use two arrows. First, you sight-in north, then line up the distant object through the vertical wires with the fore and aft sighting, set the second dial, needle, or outside ring to that point, and then keep the first or compass needle on north and follow the sighting point. And almost always two sightings are taken for verification
    It seems critically important to most theorists that the Liahona be discredited as a magnetic compass and, whether it was or not, is really immaterial. The true point to the introduction of the ball, director or compass was that it showed Lehi how to reach the Land of Promise, and that it operated by faith. A secondary, but also important point is that it provided a knowledge of the cardinal directions to those who used it, and especially to Nephi who first landed upon the Land of Promise.
    Thus, nowhere in the scriptural record can be shown that the Nephites did not know the cardinal directions of the Land of Promise, from Nephi down to Mormon. And that Mormon’s use of the cardinal and ordinal points of the land did not warrant any further explanation by Sorenson, or make any attempt to cloud the issue of the simple directions Nephi understood and Mormon would have also.
    Of course, nowhere in the scriptural record does it suggest that the Liahona pointed to north, as theorists are quick to point out; however, it can also be said that nowhere in the scriptural record does it suggest that the instrument did not point north, or east, or to some fixed position.
    What is important here is for us to understand—clearly understand—how a sophisticated compass works, like the one I used in the military some years ago, that was meant to show how to get out of areas, or reach destinations, that were unobservable during the course of travel. As an example, let’s say you are traveling in an area where vision is impaired from time to time or continually, like a heavy jungle, or blocked by crossing hills or mountains. You climb to a high point, find a distant object toward which you want to travel or reach (mountain peak, lake, light, etc.). With a sophisticated compass, having two spindles, one is then set to north, a direction that will not change in the Northern Hemisphere, and the other is set to point to the distant object. This means that when you can no longer see the distant object after climbing down, walking in dense undergrowth, beneath tree canopies, etc., you can keep moving toward the pointer on the one needle you set as long as the other needle points to north.
    In the case of the Liahona, Nephi describes it as having two spindles:
1. One pointed in the direction they were to go, and
2. We don’t know the purpose of the other.
    However, if the second needle was kept pointing toward a set mark, “magnetic north,” the Lord, or whatever was what caused it to point in a continual direction, all Nephi would have to do was follow the other needle since it would be pointing toward their destination.
Upper Left: There are a myriad of compasses around, some do little than point to north; on the other hand (Upper Right) a modern, sophisticated hand-held compass can do a lot more than point to north, such as (Bottom) line up on a distant object, set one pointer to that direction as you line up north so that a path to the distant object can be followed, even if you can no longer see it becasue of the terrain
    The problem is, too many theorists, wanting to disprove the idea of magnetic north involved in the Liahona’s function, in order to qualify Mesoamerica's different directional alignment, get hung up on the idea of modern compasses without seeming to understand how a “two spindle” modern compass is designed to work.
    Once again, when Nephi writes “a south-southeast direction,” he is telling us not only his direction of travel, but that he knew that compass direction, that he used it accurately, and that he obviously knew and understood the various levels of a compass heading, and would have known what direction the land was oriented in the Land of Promise.
    Thus, Mormon’s directions as he used them in Alma Chapter 22 and elsewhere are accurate to our understanding of compass directions today and not based on something Mesoamerianists call “Nephite North,” but to what we all understand as “north.” There is no mystery to this, it is not rocket science, it is merely accepting what was written and the meaning implied.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean: “Driven Forth Before the Wind” Part II

Continuing from the previous post in determining what the words and statement “Driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8-9) actually meant as Nephi used them. The previous post ended with Nephi being tied up aboard his ship and the ensuing storm that struck the vessel as the liahona stopped working.
Not being mariners, Laman and Lemuel must have felt tying up Nephi would not be a problem, but as the storm increased and the liahona stopped working, the rebellious brothers watched, no doubt, with fear and trepidation as the waters began to swamp the ship, yet were unwilling to until Nephi
    All of this, of course, would have taken some abilities that are not previously stated or discussed, but given the lack of experience involved, one can only imagine the extreme fear and terror the rebellious souls must have felt, causing Nephi to add, “and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea” (1 Nephi 18:13),” yet given the hardness of their natures and the stubbornness of their character, “nevertheless they did not loose me.”
Conical sea anchors could be made out of almost any material, with (left) strong drag in a closed device, or (right) partial drag in an open device—the idea of an anchor seems to date to the Sea of Galilee, and is found in the Bible when Jesus said, “I am the anchor,” both for mooring and stabilizing--moorings, of course most people understand about an anchor, but to stabilize, an sea anchor is used to lower the center of gravity of the vessel and keep it stable in high seas
    Of course, we do not know all that the Lord instructed Nephi in the building of his ship, but knowing there would be a storm encountered that would eventually be needed to subdue the rebellious sons of Lehi and Ishmael, the Lord may well have instructed Nephi to include a “sea anchor” in his preparations. Also known as a drift anchor, drift sock, or boat brake today, it is a device used to stabilize a boat in heavy weather. The sea anchor, when deployed, increases the drag through the water and thus acts as a break, and when attached to the stern of a vessel, the sea anchor prevents the vessel from turning broadside to the waves and being overwhelmed and sunk.
    A vessel, when drifting downwind in a severe storm, requires expert seamanship, likely far beyond Laman and Lemuel’s abilities at the time, but with a sea anchor dragging behind the ship would be slowed in the fast moving current and winds, and kept stable (stern to the wind), providing time for the rebellious ones to fear sufficiently for their lives that they would succumb and give up their hardened natures to control the ship. This not only taught them a lesson, but evidently subdued them for the rest of the voyage, especially in the fast-moving West Wind Drift of the Southern Ocean, causing Nephi to make no further comment of any problems from them.
    One important issue here is that two things are obviously involved that aid in understanding the location of the storm in relationship to the land: 1) Such a seamanship maneuver required plenty of sea room, and shows the importance of following a southerly course toward the Southern Ocean so that this sea room (out into the open ocean of the Sea of Arabia and northern Indian Ocean) was available so they had the necessary sea room to avoid running the vessel onto the northward lee shore (which would have been the case along an easterly course toward Indonesia); and 2) The hand of the Lord was heavily involved for these rebellious men would not have  had such expertise to conduct such action on their own without having direction, perhaps from the Lord through Lehi (1 Nephi 18:17) or even Sam.
    Of course, even the most rebellious often see that they face either immediate death unless they reverse their course, and the brothers freed Nephi, who immediately gave thanks (1 Nephi 18:16), and picked up the liahona (1 Nephi 18:21), to see where he needed to steer to get them back onto the outer band of the clockwise swing of the north gyre.
White Circles: Indian Ocean Gyres; Blue Pointed Lines: Monsoon Winds blowing out to sea from the northeast to the southwest; Circle: Storm area encountered; Red Line: Lehi’s Course
    After the storm, Nephi and his family continued traveling south, running to the east of Africa, and picking up the South Indian Ocean Gyre which pulled the vessel toward the east and eventually into the West Wind Drift that flows uninterrupted around Antarctica—a fast-moving ocean current, uninterrupted by any land mass, and circles in a very short distance the globe. This fast-moving ocean current of the Southern Ocean would have been sufficient to continue cowing Laman and Lemuel with fear since the weather in the Southern Ocean is somewhat stormy, with high winds and fast moving waters, which would have continually reminded the rebellious brothers of their near-death experience in the earlier storm.
    Normally, we would not spend much time on such a simple and easily understandable concept except for the fact that nearly every theorist who has ever written about the location of the Land of Promise fails to look at the significance of this simple phrase and how it bears on the direction Nephi sailed and where that direction took him, thus where the Land of Promise was actually located.
    It is when we include Nephi’s simple description within the reality of sailing in 600 B.C. and any advanced sailing design that the Lord implemented (1 Nephi 18:2), we get a better idea of the restrictions of course and location, since we know the starting point of his voyage, i.e., southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, thus where the winds and currents would have taken the more-or-less drift voyage of Nephi's ship "driven forth before the wind."
    Consequently, it is most likely that the square rigged sailing vessel was the design the Lord gave to Nephi which, at the time, was still many centuries from being discovered by man.
    Thus we come back to the statement “Driven forth before the wind.” With such a sailing vessel, Nephi would have been able to sail in only one direction and that is where the wind blew his ship along the current the wind created in the ocean. And the monsoon winds blowing off the India and Arabia coasts and out to sea, coming from the northeast and blowing toward the southwest are clearly defined and understood and have been for centuries.
The red line shows the direction of the winds and currents that would take a drift voyage from the southern coast of Arabia to the Western Hemisphere, landing at Coquimbo Bay, Chile; yet the yellow route looks much straighter, faster and shorter, even though the winds and currents do not move in that direction. However, with the curvature of the earth, the red route is actually far shorter than the yellow one, which would move around the bulge of the equatorial earth. The yellow route is 14,190 miles, compared to the red route which is 4,520 miles, that is, the Southern Ocean route is 9,670 miles shorter!
    The problem is, that theorists with their own agendas have to find a way to get Lehi from Arabia to Mesoamerica, or the Atlantic Ocean, and look elsewhere for such possibilities. Those of Mesoamerica, like Sorenson merely stating that Lehi probably traveled the routes of early traders along the India coast to Indonesia and through the islands, etc. However, those early traders were not ocean-going vessels, but coastal ships traveling coastal routes that relied less on winds and currents as other means—originally from oars and finally from lateen style sails in small, flimsy coastal vessels that could manage the ease of coastal travel, but not strong enough to manage deep-sea sailing. It was like comparing apples and oranges, but if their readers and followers don’t know the difference between blue water sailing and coastal trade routes, then they have no idea of how inaccurate the idea is, and impossible it would have been to accomplish in 600 B.C.
    Even today, sailors talk about, design and build replica ships to duplicate early ancient routes, but do so with GPS, modern construction, constant radio contact, very experienced sailing knowledge, charts, and sonar, radar, etc. Even then, far more of these attempts resulted in failure than success, though we tend to hear about those that made it as opposed to those that did not, but in several cases the ships were wrecked, or had to turn back before sailing very far.
    Also, today, even those using true sailing techniques (no engines), have modern crews, rigging, sails and experience, which is far different than Lehi’s voyage in 600 B.C. In addition, all sailors today know how to tack, sail into the wind, etc. That is, none are actually involved in true drift voyages of which Nephi was only capable of accomplishing—otherwise, he would have chosen a different language to describe his voyage.
    It is a matter of either accepting the language of the scriptural record and its 1829 meaning of words and phases used, or embarking on one’s own ideas and inserting thoughts inconsistent, or misleading, or inaccurate into the record.
    Take, as an example, a book called 2 Hour Book of Mormon: A Book of Mormon Primer, by Larry Anderson (Cedar Fort, 2000), in which he writes (there are no page numbers, only chapter and verse references) under 1st Nephi 18, “We sailed for days and finally came to the Promised Land.We all thanked the Lord for sparing us and leading us. We pitched our tents and  began to farm the ground.We planted our seeds and they grew fast and plentiful.” The problem, in such modern writing, a very important fact was left out of Nephi’s description and Joseph Smith’s translation, i.e., “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24, emphasis mine).
    That is, those seeds he planted were brought from Jerusalem, which is extremely important to know, and in understanding. Such seeds were brought from a Mediterranean Climate, and they “grew exceedingly and provided an abundant crop.” In 600 B.C. seeds needed to be planted in like climates, soils, precipitation and temperatures, otherwise they simply did not grow and emigrants depending on their ability to grow crops perished--just ask the Pilgrims at Plymouth would have had it not been for the Indians showing them how to plant in that climate. 
As has been written, the pilgrims were woefully ignorant of the New England weather. Their early pea crop failed because the settlers planted at the wrong time and the seed pods rotted in the cold, damp soil. Part of their survival was they lived on blossoms of naturally-growing calendulas (marigolds), roses and several members of the cress (mustard) family. In 1621, the Patuxet Indian, Squanto (Tisquantum), part of the Wampanoag tribal confederation, who is credited with the survival of the Pilgrims, taught them how to plant corn, beans, and squash, by spreading cinders around tender crops to foil cutworms, and use old dishwater on plants to kill vermin. He taught them the Indian way of no-till, no-weed planting, an ancient yet efficient style some gardeners still use today, showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn in a mound of soil and encircled it with pole beans, which clamored up the growing stalks and used them for support; low-growing pumpkins and squash were then sown as a ground cover, to maintain ground moisture and prevent soil erosion. In using the methods that worked in that climate, the Pilgrims were finally able to bring in sufficient crops and avert starvation.
    Obviously, leaving that simple statement out removes a critical understanding of the events Nephi writes about, plus giving a very clear picture of where he would have had to have landed. That type of writing, to me, is unconscionable unless you are writing fiction or fairy tales. But it shows the thinking of some theorists, and especially those who write about the Location of the Land of Promiseno theorist I have ever read writes about those seeds and their significance to understanding where Lehi would have had to have landed.    Consequently, when we read that Nephi’s ship was “Driven forth before the wind,” we need to understand that Nephi, Joseph Smith and the Spirit brought to us a language specifically known and understood in our day and age with very important significance in our better understanding of Nephi’s vessel, what it could do, and where it took them.
    The “meaning of words and comments” in the scriptural record are important, and should not be altered, changed, or adjusted to fit either a writing style or a personal belief or pet theory, nor passed over out of ignorance. When Mormon tells us he could only use about one hundredth of what was written in his record, we ought to pay attention to those words he chose and their meaning.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean “Driven Forth Before the Wind “? Part I

Continuing with the meaning of words and statements as used in the scriptural record, but seldom interpreted correctly by theorists because they do not fit within their own pet theories. 
    In this case, Nephi tells us twice that his ship was “driven forth before the wind.” The first time, is when he describes their ship’s motivation, or form of movement, and direction (1 Nephi 18:8), and the second when showing that this was the continual pattern of movement, not just upon entering the water (1 Nephi 18:9).
    In those two statements, as brief as they are, Nephi tells us:
1. The wind was the driving force or motivation of his ship;
2. His ship had a sail(s);
3. The wind was behind him, pushing or driving his ship forward;
4. The sail(s) of his ship was fixed (the wind pushed him forward);
5. His ship could not tack;
6. This was the way his ship moved upon the water, both upon entering and throughout the voyage.
Ships with fixed sail rigging. The yardarm (horizontal brace) suspends the sail, which is pulled tight by a bottom brace, or by rigging, providing a sort of “wing” for the wind to blow against and push the vessel forward
    In addition, the sail of his ship, being fixed, was most likely square mounted on a type of yardarm perpendicular to the boat's hull, since that is a very effective and efficient design for downwind (driven forth) sailing. Such design dominated the ancient Mediterranean and spread to Northern Europe, and were independently invented in China and Ecuador, all much later than 600 B.C.
    Later, Nephi tells us he steered his ship. This means that his ship had a rudder and could be “steered,” that is, moved off a straight course but only within the band the wind was moving, i.e., he could not sail cross wind, tack, “come about,” jibe, beat to, or sail close to, the wind, or basically change the course of the ship while the wind was blowing. In a slow moving current, or when the wind died down, steerage would allow a gradual movement toward shore.
When the yardarm is fixed, that is unmovable except for up and down, the sail merely hangs from it—it is the slight steering available that allows the ship to be maneuvered so the wind billows (fills) out the sail and provides the forward momentum
    Today, a sail can be shaped, altered, moved, swung around, etc., to allow for a number of formations to catch the wind at almost any angle; however, until almost the end of the Age of Sail, around the 20th century, fixed sails were considered the most aerodynamically efficient running rig known and stayed popular on ocean-going sailing ships for many centuries. Even with steel hulls, the “windjammer” preferred the square rigging of fixed sails even into the mid 20th century.
    Coming back to Nephi’s statement of being “driven forth before the wind,” let’s take a look at the meaning of this. First of all, “before the wind” is a nautical expression meaning running (sailing) downwind toward an objective—in this case, the Land of Promise.
    This means that once entering the ocean, that is the sea Lehi called Irreantum (1 Nephi 17:5), in their vessel (1 Nephi 18:8), they were subject to the winds and currents to drive their vessel in the direction they were intended to travel. Nephi calls it “driven forth before the wind,” meaning “downwind” or in the direction the wind was blowing (the wind at your back). Off the southern Arabian coast blow the monsoons, coming out of the northeast (across India and into the Indian Ocean), which would have been in a southerly course or direction for Nephi’s ship. When Nephi wrote that they went down into the ship, he describes a willingness to go, with an orderliness about it, and a trust in the Lord that this ship would carry them across the “many waters.”
    If one has never stood on the sands of Salalah or the hills above Khor Rori, along the southern Arabian coast and looked out across the thousands of miles of open sea, one may not immediately capture the anxiety, pathos and fear that might have been felt by these souls, some far more trusting than others, taking their children and possessions and trusting their lives to this ship and its construction to carry them across this great deep.
    This would require a constant wind and speed factor found typically only in the trade winds, and on a southerly course “running before the wind” from the northeast monsoons. In moving off the coast in the monsoon winds, they headed “downwind,” as the ship was caught in strong winds blowing distinctive currents in the Sea of Arabia as well as the Indian Ocean. The first encountered would be the North Indian Ocean Gyre, the second the South Indian Ocean Gyre, the former moving clockwise and the latter moving counter-clockwise. Consequently, as the ship entered the Sea of Arabia, it was moved along by the northeast monsoons moving from inland out to sea, swung into the north gyre in a southerly direction for several days before the storm hit.
    Just before this time, Nephi’s natural concern and tender feelings toward the Lord caused him to become upset with the lack of respect of his older brothers and the sons of Ishmael along with their wives toward the Lord when they began to make merry, singing and dancing “and speaking with much rudeness” they even forgot “by what power they had been brought thither yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness”(1 Nephi 18:9).
    Nephi could see the pending judgments of the Lord and he tried to intervene on behalf of his brothers for their own good. He spoke to his brothers, but they reacted with typical childishness and Jewish anger toward those who tried to preach to them.
Immediately, his brothers tied Nephi up and as quickly, the liahona stopped working, which brought fear into the hearts of the rebellious for they “knew not whether they should steer” (1 Nephi 18:13). Steering the ship had become increasingly important since they moved out into the currents, for the winds at this point blow strong currents across a wide path, with the inside band closer to the storm’s path and the inner swing of the north gyre, while staying to the outside band swinging out and connecting with the south gyre which was necessary to pick up the counter-clockwise edge  that would continue the southerly course and bend the direction of travel to the southeast and eventually pick up the Southern Ocean and the West Wind Drift that would take the vessel to the east and the Western Hemisphere.
    Storms in this area, like the one Nephi describes, are typically cyclonic, approaching with a northerly wind followed by a southerly wind as the center of the depression passes. This would have backed the sail (slowed forward progress), and they would have brailed the sail (pulled in small lines on the sail to curl or leech the corners) to reduce head wind pressure, and rigged a sea anchor, which would have kept the vessel’s head into the wind, while at the same time drifting downwind or northward hence the words “driven back.”
(See the next post, “Meaning of Words and Statements Part VI: Driven Forth Before the Wind PtII,” for the rest of this regarding the meaning of being "driven forth before the wind" and its impact on the location of the Land of Promise)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean & “Does Narrow Neck Mean Niagara Falls?”

Continuing with this fifth part of the meaning of words and statements 
3. “Niagara means “neck”…narrow neck of land in the case of the Book of Mormon” Ana M.
    Response: At present, there are two specific opinions on this matter, and they are strictly opinions.
”In the area we know today as Niagara River, including the Niagara Falls, the word “Niagara” first or originally appeared in the form “Onguiaahra,” in the writings of Jesuit priest Jérôme Lalemant, Superior to the Huron Mission, in 1641 (though he had not seen the area). However, Lalemant makes no comment as to the meaning of the name. But a survey of subsequent literature reveals two dominant interpretations:
1) “Thundering Waters” or some equivalent to “resounding with great noise.”
2) “Neck,” denoting the strip of water connecting the “head” and the “body” (Lakes Erie and Ontario).
    In 1603, Explorer Samuel de Champlain’s Des Sauvages, repeats a native account of “a fall that may be a league broad, over which an exceeding great current of water descends.” In 1612 on his map of New France, Champlain (though he had not seen the area) labels the falls “de au”, and in 1632, they are simply numbered “90” on his later map, and described in the legend as “Waterfall at the end of Lake St. Louis, of great height, where many kinds of fish are stunned in descending.” The words “sault de au” are French for “waterfall,” and Lake St. Louis at the time was the name for Lake Ontario.
    In 1641 the peninsula was occupied by the Neutral Indians, though what they called themselves is unknown—they were wiped out in 1651, and their language lost. The French referred to them as “la nation neuter” because of their refusal to become involved in the longstanding hostilities between the Huron and the Iroquois, though they themselves were far from peaceful. This left a 170-year gap between the Neutral Nation’s demise and the Iroquoi, Seneca or Mohawk languages from which much of the later information was received.
    When Lalemant first wrote to his superiors in France in 1641, it was from information he received from his two informants, fellow priests Jean de Brébeuf and Pierre Chaumonot, who told him of the term “Onguiaahra,” which they applied only to the river, not the Falls. As he described it:
    “This Stream or River is that through which the great lake of the Hurons, or fresh-water sea, empties: it flows first into the lake of Erié, or of the Nation of the Cat, and at the end of that lake, it enters into the territory of the Neutral Nation, and takes the name of Onguiaahra, until it empties into the Ontario or lake of saint Louys, whence finally emerges the river that passes before Quebec, called the St. Lawrence.”
Top: Red Arrow: Land of the Huron; Green Arrow: Land of the Iroquois; Blue Arrow: Land of the Onguiaahra along the Niagara Peninsula; Bottom; The topography of the area
    In this same report, Lalemant also mentions a Neutral village called Onguiaahra, and was evidently located close to the Niagara River, but where exactly and on which side of the river, is not certain. The village would have belonged to the Onguiarahronon, one of the constituent tribes of the Neutral peoples.
    While Lalemant makes no mention of the Falls, his successor Paul Ragueneau writes of the waters of Lake Erie being thrown “over a waterfall of a dreadful height” into Lake Ontario though he does not state its name. Not until 1656 are the Falls named, on a map by Nicolas Sanson, where they are called “Ongiara Sault.” Ongiara is believed a variant of Onguiaahra, with the same spelling on maps by Francesco Bressani in 1657 and François du Creuz in 1660.
A portion of Nicolas Sanson’s 1656 map of the Great Lakes area. Red Arrow: points to Ongiara Sault, “Ongiara Waters”
    In 1678, explorer Cavelier de La Salle, with a group of priests, including Louis Hennepin, who was the first European to publish an account of Niagara Falls based on personal observation. He wrote in his Desription de la Louisiane, published in 1683, “le grand Salt de Niagard,” and refers to the river as “la belle Riviere de Niagara.” From that point on the name in French became “Saut de Niagara,” the “waters of Niagara,” and the name of the later Fort de Niagara, established by the french at the mouth of the Niagara River in 1726.
    Between 1641 and 1726, however, there were 40 spelling variants of the name Niagara. Thomas Dongan, Governor of the Colony of New York spelled the name six differtent ways (Oneigra, Onijagar, Onyagaro, Onyagars, Onyagro and Onyegra) in letrters he himself wrote between February 1867 and February 1688, with five other spellings (Oneagoragh, Oniagoragh, Onjagra, Onnyagaro and Onyagra) appering in official documents composed by others.
    By 1715, however, the name Niagara, or the Great Fall of Niagara, became standardized in English on Hermann Moll’s map. The British retained the name Niagara when Fort de Niagara was captured from the French in 1759, and the first Loyalist settlement on the west bank of the Niagara River in 1780 was called the Settlement at Niagara. The name was subsequently applied to the Town and Township of Niagara in 1798, the Niagara Peninsula in 1820, the Niagara Escarpment in 1850, and many others thereafter.
    When the Iroquois killed off the Neutral Indians, they used this area between the lakes as a routeway, though they did establish some villages along the Peninsula, but by the century (1690s), they were ousted by the Mississauga Ojibwa, who built villages along Lake Ontario, but left the Niagara Peninsula largely uninhabited, which is one reason the Peninsula was basically empty when European settlement began, there having been no significant native presence close to the Canadian side of the Niagara River since the elimination of the Neutral Nation in 1651.
    As for meaning, there is no agreement or consensus regarding the meaning of “Niagara,” though Alan Rayburn, considered dean of modern Canadian toponymists, insists that the word means “neck” (Oxford University Press, 1997); however, he gives no source for his conclusions, and even he recognizes there are no records to indicate that meaning since no information was ever written in the 1600-1700s regarding its meaning. To complicate matters, we have Steward (1945) stating it means “point of land cut in two,” Harder (1976) “at the neck,” or “across the neck,” or “bisected bottom lands,” while Hamilton (1978) claims “thunder of waters” or “resounding with great noise.” In the 1930s, Armstrong gave several suggestions: from the Neutral Nation words of unknown origin (or possibly simply a variant of the Neutral Nation word applied to them), a Huron word meaning “thunder of waters, resounding with great noise,” or an Iroquois word meaning “connecting water,” “bisected bottom land,” or “divided waterfalls.”
Two suggestions, however, appear more accepted than others, both given by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864), a 19th century explorer, geologist and ethnologist who, among other things, worked for the American government as an Indian agent and became an authority on North American native cultures, and located the source of the Mississippi River. He lays claim to : 1) Thundering Waters, or 2) Neck.
    According to Schoolcraft, and in the earliest known written statement on the meaning of the word Niagara, “Niagara is an Iroquois words said to signify the “thunder of waters,” and the word is still pronounced by the Senecas is O-Ni-áá-gáráh, being strongly accented on the third syllable, while the interjection O, is so feebly uttered that without a nice attention, it may escape notice.”
    Not for another twenty-five years did another suggestion by Schoolcraft appear, in which he wrote: “This name is Mohawk. It means, according to Mrs. Kerr, “the neck” the term being first applied to the portage or neck of land between lakes Erie and Ontario.” He cites that Mohawk word for neck—onhara—as proof, and lists the equivalents in Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca (oniawl, oniaah, onyaa, and kaniasa).
    As a source, Schoolcraft’s informant, “Mrs. Kerr,” would have been Elizabeth, widow of Dr. Robert Kerr, an important surgeon in early Upper Canada. As the daughter of Sir William Johnson and Mary (Molly) Brant and the niece of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, Elizabeth Kerr would have been quite familiar with the Mohawk tongue.
    The problem lies in whether or not there is a single meaning to the word Niagara. If both are correct, though both of the Iroquois Nation, to the Iroquois the word then meant “thundering waters,” and to the Mohawk, it meant “neck.”
    However, it should be kept in mind that linguistics was still at an early stage of development in the 19th century, and people like Schoolcraft were not only self-taught but they were pioneers breaking new ground in the study of Ameridian languages. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that no consensus exists.
    So we are left with two principal interpretations of the name, each quite different from the other, plus a number of other meanings, and no obvious way of deciding which is correct. The conclusion, is obviously inescapable—we may never know for certain what the word “Niagara” really means.
    Thus, making an issue between the narrow neck of land of the book of Mormon and trying to claim it referred to the Niagara Peninsula is outside the range of scholarly research and serves no purpose but to further one’s own personal views.