Saturday, December 31, 2016

All Those Records—Where Are They? Part II

Continuing from the last post where it was stated that for some reason, most members of the Church think that Moroni had with him all the records from his father, which would have included all the records that Ammaron told Mormon about. However, we find from the last paragraph of the previous post that Mormon did not give all "those plates" to his son (Mormon 6:6).
Mormon felt the need to protect and preserve the plates passed to him by Ammaron. He knew this would be the last “hurrah” of the Nephite people and knew if he was killed and the plates were in camp, the Lamanites would find them and destroy them, for the Lord had so warned him (Mormon 6:6). Thus he went up into the hill called Cumorah and hid them—where or how we are not told.
    Now, the records he hid was the record of Lehi (later those 116 pages of translation were lost by Martin Harris), and the record from Mosiah through 4th Nephi. He then gave to his son the abridged record he had finished, which included his abridged record of Lehi, and his abridgement of the record from Mosiah 1:1 onward through 4th Nephi. These records also contained his own writing (the plates of Mormon), which Moroni later finished, adding chapters 8 and 9 (WofM 1:1; Mormon 8:1). On these plates was enough space for Moroni to translate and abridge the book of Ether, and then add his own writing (Book of Moroni). All the other records Mormon deposited in the Hill Cumorah as, no doubt, the Lord instructed him.
    Now here begins the area of problem that confuses most Great Lakes, Heartland and eastern U.S. theorists, in believing this hill Cumorah where Mormon hid the rest of the records had to be the hill Cumorah where Moroni put his abridged records and those of his father for Joseph Smith to obtain.
The problem lies in believing those two locations had to be the same, that Mormon’s hiding of the overall Nephite records and Moroni’s hiding of the plates delivered to Joseph Smith had to be in the same place, and that place had to be near where Joseph Smith would grow up in the 1820s. In 400 A.D., where these separate parts were located would have been of little important to the Lord, for he could have caused Joseph Smith to be born anywhere, for Moroni to hide the plates in any location he chose, and for the records hidden by Mormon to have been transported, by whatever means, to whatever location he chose—and he had 1400 years to bring that about. Why we feel we must limit what the Lord can do is beyond my imagination. He is the Lord, through him the worlds were created—worlds without number (Moses 1:33), all that was important was for these three things to be in the area needed at the time Joseph Smith reached the age of 14 and was moved by the Spirit to call upon the Lord.
    Whether the plates were put into the stone box in 400-500 A.D., or just prior to 1823 when Joseph first saw them, or any time in between would matter little to the Lord. Nor did those plates have to be left in that hill until 1827 when Joseph removed them. Whether they were or not is of really little import—they were there when needed, first for Joseph to see, then for him to obtain, so they could be translated as foretold (Mormon 9:30,34). Whether the records lay deposited in the ground where they were found for 1400 years or 14 years, or 1 day, it mattereth not, for the records came forth as prophesied, translated for our benefit, that we may know of Christ, of his dealings with the Nephites, Jaredites, Mulekites and Lamanites through this restoration and translation is what matters. In time, we will know all things.
For now, let us acknowledge that we do not know even a tenth of these things, even a hundredth, yet this theorist and that theorist think, for some reason, they know more than the Lord has told us, or wants us to know at this time. As an example, we cannot be certain that Mormon withdrew all the records that the Nephites had and were later seen by Joseph Smith in the cave. We only know that whatever amount of records Ammaron hid up in the hill Shim and told Mormon about were later taken out by Mormon and evidently carried with him for he tells us that he “did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord” (Mormon 4:23), which leaves us with one of three choices:
1. Ammaron had in his possession all of the records of the Nephites and had hid them in the hill Shim, and Mormon took all those records out between 375 to 380 B.C., about 5 to 10 years before the final battle;
2. Ammaron had all the records, hid some elsewhere and some in the hill Shim, which Mormon obtained;
3. Ammaron never had all the records of the Nephites, like the ones seen in the cave by Joseph Smith as told by Brigham Young. Where those other records were kept is then unknown.
    Now, if we take the stance that at the time of Mormon becoming the head of all the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:1) there were about one million Nephites in the land, then his comment before this final battle at Cumorah “behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites”
 (WofM 1:1) make sense—that is, the “almost all the destruction of my people,” for he is looking out over his own army at the time that had 230,000 fighting men, plus wives and children, and knowing he had already seen the vast majority of his people destroyed. This means in the sixty years between his appointment at age 15 and his preparing for the final battle at Cumorah at age 75 in 385 A.D., he had seen the death of more than three-fourths of his people, some 750,000 men, women and children, leaving him with the 230,000 men and perhaps 20,000-50,000 wives and children.

    Where he deposited the records in that hill Cumorah we are not told—certainly they were not the total amount of records that later Joseph Smith found in a small stone box along with the urim and thummim, breast plate, and the plates of Ether. Based on later accounts of seeing inside a cave, either within the New York hill or through in a vision to another place, the records of the Nephites that have been preserved are so numerous, Brigham Young claimed they’d fill several wagon loads.
But of the record we have, Mormon said, “I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written, for after I had made an abridgement from the plates of Nephi—[these are the Large Plates of Nephi kept by the kings]—down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands—[he had obtained from the hill Shim that Ammaron had hidden]—and I found these plates which contained this small account of the prophets from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi—{these were the Small Plates of Nephi that concluded with Omni].”
    This is the second record, or the abridgement Nephi made on the small plates he made as described in 2 Nephi 5:30, where the Lord told Nephi “Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.”
(See the next post, “All Those Records—Where Are They? Part III,” for the final information regarding all the records of the Nephites and where they ended up)

Friday, December 30, 2016

All Those Records—Where Are They? Part I

For some reason, most members of the Church think that Moroni had with him all the records from his father, which would have included all the records that Ammaron told Mormon about. 
The first we learn of there being more than the Large and Small plates that Nephi tells us about as well as the Brass Plates (1 Nephi 3:3) is in Nephi’s writing:
    I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life” (1 Nephi 1:17), which Large Plates Nephi made of ore (1 Nephi 19:1) and called them the First Plates (1 Nephi 19:2), which we refer to today as the Large Plates. 
    These were made long before he knew he was to make a second set of plates (1 Nephi 19:2), which became known as the Small Plates. Evidently there were plates called the Book of Lehi, or they were dedicated in part to Lehi, for Nephi writes: “And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work” (1 Nephi 6:1), which Nephi intended to hand down through his seed for a record to be kept (1 Nephi 6:6). 
    Nor did he occupy his plates with the sermons of his father to his brothers, Laman and Lemuel (1 Nephi 9:1), and that he actually had two sets of plates, one containing a full account of the history of his people, and the other evidently a smaller version (1 Nephi 9:2) that contained also the ministry of the Nephites (1 Nephi 9:3), while on the other, larger plates would be kept an account of the reign of the kings, wars and contentions of the Nephites (1 Nephi 9:4). 
    Obviously, these smaller plates, which Nephi said, “the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not” (1 Nephi 9:5), would be the ones from which Joseph Smith would translate the Book of Mormon after Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages of the large plates, Joseph Smith called the Book of Lehi. However, so we would have some record of Lehi, Nephi was commanded to “make an abridgement of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life” (1 Nephi 1:17). 
    Evidently, from what Nephi says, he did not make the plates upon which his father’s record was kept since he makes a point of stating he made the records with his own hands on which he abridged his father’s record. Either he did not make the Large Plates upon which the 116 pages of the Book of Lehi, which Harris lost, or there were three sets of plates, the Large Plates of Nephi, the Small Plates of Nephi, and the Plates of Lehi—either way, Lehi kept a record of his life or a portion of it (1 Nephi 6:1). This seems to be borne out by the fact that on the plates Nephi made, “it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3).
    Consequently, at this point we have either three or four sets of plates: 1) Small Plates, Large Plates, Plates of Brass, and possibly the Plates of Lehi. To that list may be added other records, mentioned in Helaman and elsewhere.
    First, though, it might be of interest to know that for those who complain that the scriptural record does not contain enough history of the Nephites, it might be noted that Nephi acknowledges that “for a more history part are written upon mine other plates” (2 Nephi 4:14; 5:33; Jacob 1:3), meaning the Large Plates, which was where Nephi recorded the Nephite history for the first 30 years (2 Nephi 5:28) until commanded to make the Small Plates (2 Nephi 5:30) around 570 B.C.
Just before Nephi’s death, he gave the Small Plates to Jacob (Jacob 1:1). These plates, made by Nephi, were now called the Plates of Jacob (Jacob 3:14). The other, Large Plates, evidently ended up in the hands of the next king of the Nephites, for Jacob records that record was being kept (Jacob 7:26). These small plates were handed down through Jacob’s lineage, beginning with Enos and eventually ending up in the hands of Amaleki, who evidently had no children and his brother had gone with Zeniff back to claim the City of Nephi (Omni 1:30), so he handed the records over to King Benjamin (Omni 1:25).
    In Helaman, we find that in 46 B.C., 554 years after Lehi left Jerusalem and about 470 years after Amaleki delivered the records to King Benjamin, that the Nephites had and kept “many books and many records of every kind” (Helaman 3:15). Obviously, these are part of those records Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw stacked under the table and around the room in what is called the Cumorah Cave.
    Around 321 A.D., a prophet named Amos, who had been keeping the record died, and Ammaron kept in his stead (4 Nephi 1:47) for the next 15 years, when he was constrained by the Holy Ghost to hide up the records which were sacred and had been handed down from generation to generation from Nephi down through the year 321 A.D. (4 Nephi 1:48). At this time, Mormon was ten years of age (Mormon 1:2), and Ammaron came to him and told him that when he became twenty and four years of age, that he was to secure from the hill called Shim where Ammaron deposited the sacred records concerning the Nephites (Mormon 1:3), and take the Plates of Nephi but leave the remainder where they were (Mormon 1:4). When the time came, Mormon as head of the Nephite army, was being driven northward out of the Land Southward into the Land of David and finally to the Land of jashon and the city by that name, which was near the hill Shim where Ammaron hid up the records (Mormon 2:17).
    At this time or thereafter, Mormon did as Ammaron had bid him and wrote down a full account of the Nephites and their evil ways on the plates of Nephi (Mormon 2:18). Over the next nearly 40 years the wars waged on and the Lamanites continued to drive the Nephites northward. During all this time, Mormon abridged the entire record and wrote his own works. Finally, after several correspondents with his son, Moroni, Mormon was about ready to hide up the bulk of the records in his possession in the hill Cumorah, which he had determined would be the site of their last battle with the Lamanites.
“And now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps someday it may profit them. And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi. And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass -- Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people” (Words of Mormon 1:1-5)
    As Mormon now recorded his final moments: “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 6:6).
(See the net post, “All Those Records—Where Are They? Part II,” for the final information regarding all the records of the Nephites and where they ended up)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why Go to all the Trouble?

So often both critics and uninformed members take the same approach with the many technical parts of life and accomplishment during the time of Lehi and the Nephites. As an example, the Lord, they say, could have just picked up Nephi’s ship and set it down on the shore of the Land of Promise. But if we are going that route, why did the Lord have Nephi build a ship in the first place?
A Ship built by the Lord could have been as modern as we wanted to make it and cut through the ocean at great speed, go in any direction and take any course, and shorten the voyage considerably

    Or the Lord could have caused the winds and currents to move differently. Or he could have rearranged the natural circumstances of the time to accommodate almost any scenario some Theorists wants to promote. On the other side of the coin, are those who say that Nephi’s ship had to island-hop across the Pacific, stopping at various islands to replenish their food and supplies, as though the Lord could not have gotten Lehi to the Land of Promise faster than an 18th century Spanish Galleon.
    Somewhere in between these extremes it would seem that most of us have lived out our lives in service to others, to the Church, and to the Lord. While nothing is easy and most everything requires effort—sometimes extreme effort, cost and expertise. In a made-for-TV show a couple of years ago about Noah being told by the Lord to build the Ark, the scene the next day had Noah awakening and finding several loads of timber neatly cut, stacked, and bundled, waiting for his use.
Pre-cut wood could have saved Noah a lot of sawing

    It would simply be easier in life if such help was provided. Think of Noah having a few circular or chain saws, a power nail gun, or a crane. However, the Lord does not work that way as the Biblical and Book of Mormon scriptures so clearly state. Nor would it be wise, for it is through struggle and effort, overcoming obstacles, and eventual accomplishment that we learn, grow and develop. While the Lord obviously could have provided a ready built ship for Lehi and his family to board, there would have been no learning process for Nephi, Lehi, Sam, and Zoram, nor any opportunities for Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to stand up and be counted on the Lord’s side (which they did not rise to the occasion offered them very often).
    As one critic recently asked with a shameful lack of understanding, “Why didn’t the Lord have the Angel Moroni just hand Joseph Smith a finished book, already written in English without any mistakes?” But think what Joseph Smith would have missed—struggling through learning the rudiments of basic English and Hebrew grammar, relying on the Spirit to verify his work, learning first to use the Urim and Thummim, then the seer stone, then his own ability. The growth he went through was dramatic and extremely valuable for a young man destined to lead the restoration of the gospel, restore the priesthood, and the New and Everlasting Covenant.
    When Alma and Amulek watched as “they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire, and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire” (Alma 14:8), it is one thing to see records burned and even more in Alma’s day considering all the work that went into laboriously making those records and manually reproducing them, but far more in seeing wives and children cast into a fire and burned alive because of their faith.
As much as Alma and Amulek wanted to intervene, the Spirit restrained them

    Amulek wanted to intervene and save the people for when he “saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames” (Alma 14:10). But Alma said, “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day” (Alma 14:11).
One of the great personalities of the Book of Mormon, a man who did the Lord’s will despite what would befall him was Abinadi
    One of my all-time heroes in the Book of Mormon is Abinadi. First of all, the etymology of his name suggests “ab” means "father," “abi” means "my father," and “nadi” is "present with you," so the name Abinadi may reflect his mission; it may mean something like "my father is present with you.” Secondly, being burned alive has never been one of my favorite thoughts and Abinadi, knowing what was to befall him, never wavered, for when he was threatened, he merely said, “But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved. But this much I tell you, what you do with me, after this, shall be as a type and a shadow of things which are to come” (Mosiah 13:9-10).
    For those looking at this event more carefully, we find that this was a much more involved process, evoking perhaps the most possible pain involved in death by fire. The record says that “they took him and bound him, and scourged his skin with faggots, yea, even unto death” (Mosiah 17:13). Now “scourge” as a noun means a whip; but as a verb, here clearly used, means “an instrument” of great pain or to cause great pain. Consequently, it appears that Abinadi was not tied to a stake and set on fire, but was poked with faggots, meaning a bunch of twigs and in this case, set on fire. 
    Robert J. Matthews, professor of Ancient Scripture and former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, put it this way: “I see Abinadi bound, possibly supported by something, and his fiendish executioners (probably the priests) gathered about him with burning torches (faggots) in their hands, jabbing him and rubbing him with these until they caused him to die. They actively, eagerly, and physically caused his death…I can imagine them dancing and cavorting about Abinadi, and hear them shouting, exulting, and gloating over what they were doing” (Abinadi: The Prophet and Martyr, in Mosiah, Salvation Only Through Christ, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1991), p102).
    The timbre of the man is clearly seen in his reaction to this pain—resulting from his being “scourged with faggots,” meaning bundles of burning sticks poked and rubbed upon his skin until “the flames began to scorch him,” suggesting his tormentors took burning torches and poked him with these, burning his skin until he died—for he condemned them all and foretold their own horrible deaths (Mosiah 17:15-18).
    The point is, why did Abinadi have to suffer so? It’s certainly not something any of us  would have wanted to go through, but this stalwart, almost unknown prophet rises head and shoulders above almost all of mankind for his exceptional performance. No doubt his reward, or his progress was greatly enhanced from the experience and his stead-fastness to the cause.
    The Prussian (German) philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a cultural critic, poet, philologist, Latin, and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history, possibly understood it best when he said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
 Left: Friedrich W. Nietzsche; Right: Victory Frankl

    Victor Frankl, a neurologist, psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, put it this way: “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances to add a deeper meaning to his life.”
    These and many others through time have understood more clearly what many members and few critics seem to grasp, and that is when things are more difficult to achieve, they hold a more important place in our own hearts and our learning and growth expands exponentially as a result. What is given to us, or easy to achieve, we generally have little interest in or limited appreciation toward.
    It is doubtful anyone has more appreciation for the Book of Mormon than Joseph Smith because of all he went through to bring it into existence. Or Mormon before him, or Nephi who started it. To the rest of us it is nice, powerful, helpful, even awesome, but few of us can appreciate it as much as those few who had a hand in its early development.
    So why do we go to all the trouble? Why did the early prophets go to all the troubles they did? Why does the Lord cause us to struggle to achieve and not just give us things? Why is our effort, even in his service, not perfect in the beginning? As Elder Bednar stated in his talk, “Line upon line, precept upon precept,” taken from 2 Nephi 28:30: “Those who faithfully hearken to and obediently heed the Lord’s direction will learn wisdom and receive more." It is a growing period in our existence. There is much to learn and it is doubtful we will learn as much as we could or should in this life, but learn we will,  given enough time, and enough experiences.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Wilderness of Hermonts

We have been asked a few times over the last year regarding what is known about Hermounts, or the Wilderness of Hermounts. And the answer is not much. First of all, in the Book of Mormon, while “wilderness” is mentioned several times, only in two instances does any wilderness have a proper name: the Wilderness of Hermounts, mentioned just once, and the Wilderness of Akish, mentioned three times, which was a location of a great Jaredite battle where many thousands died by the sword (Ether 14:3-4).
(Yellow Circle) Mashpi Cloud Forest in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador (looking north toward Quito), the probable location of the Wilderness of Akish, running between Guayaquil and Quito—even today much of this area is unoccupied with any permanent habitation or development. The Map shows the (Orange Arrow) the probable path taken towrd the Anaqito plains, just north of the plains of Heshlon a fertile valley toward the northeast beyond Quito in the area of Ogath through the Guaillabamba Gorge, where Shared likely formed his rebel army and where Coriantumr met him in battle (Ether 13:28)

We learn ten things from the single event mentioned at the Wilderness of Hermounts:
1. A wilderness, meaning where people did not live nor was it used for farming or other developmental purposes—it was unoccupied by humans;
2. The wilderness was north and west of the city of Zarahemla and beyond the borders of the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 2:36);
3. The wilderness was a large area, a part of which was occupied by wild beasts (Alma 2:37);
4. The wilderness contained wild, ravenous, man-eating beasts (Alma 2:38);
5. Vultures were native to this wilderness (Alma 2:38);
6. Unlike the Jaredites who left their dead unburied during battles, the Nephites, like the Hebrews before them, considered an uburied corpse a horrible indignity (Jeremiah 22:19);
7. There is also an indignity for Nephites to be devoured by wild beasts (Helaman 7:19);
8. This was a running battle that covered many miles of ground, from the eastern borders of the Land of Zarahemla where the River Sidon (Alma 2:35) courses through the land along the border of the Land of Gideon, all the way to the west of the Land of Zarahemla and the northern border of the land (Alma 2:37). Fearful of the city of Zarahemla in their flight westward, the Amlicites and Lamanites veered north and west to avoid the city (2:36);
9. At the point of the battle along the River Sidon, access from one bank to the other was evidently across a bridge of some type, for the Nephites had to throw the dead piling up on the bridge into the river in order to make room to cross over the river (Alma 2:34);
10. So long was this fearful retreat, that many of the Amlicite-Lamanite army that was wounded in the battles at the river suffered greatly and died by the time they reached the Wilderness north and west of the city of Zarahemla (2:38).
11. The Land of Zarahemla in the northwest shared a border, evidently with an unnamed land in between Zarahemla and Bountiful (Helaman 4:5; 3 Nephi 3:23), and also evidently the Wilderness of Hermounts was in this unnamed land. Mormon is not clear when he states: “towards the wilderness which was west and north, away beyond the borders of the land” (Alma 2:36)—all we can gather is that 1) Hermounts is not in the Land of Zarahemla, but beyond its borders; 2) Hermounts is “away beyond” the Land of Zarahemla; and 3) it is in a land to the north of the Land of Zarahemla, which could be: 1) The unnamed land, 2) An actual land called Hermounts, though no such land is mentioned.
    In addition, The Greek god Pan, which is the god of wild places and things, is the same as the Egyptian named Month or Mendes, and may be connected to the Book of Mormon word, or name, Hermounts, since they both can be traced to the root of wild places and things Hermounts of course being the wilderness home of wild and ravenous beasts (Alma 2:37). In Egypt this name is referred to as Hermonthis, and the land of Month, known as the war god Montu (mntw, which can also be translated as Menthu)), who was usually depicted as a falcon-headed man with two plumes and a sun disk. He was also said to have the head of a bull when enraged the Buchis Bull, called the Bakha (Holy Bull) at Hermonthis—now the modern city of Armant). Egypt's greatest general-kings called themselves Mighty Bulls, the sons of Monthu. In the famous narrative of the Battle of Kadesh, Ramesses II was said to have seen the enemy and "raged at them like Monthu, Lord of Thebes.” Mentuhotep, a name given to several pharaohs in the Middle Kingdom, means "Menthu is satisfied.”
The Temple of Montu at Medamud was probably begun during the Old Kingdom era (3rd millennium B.C.) Temples to Montu include one located adjacent to the Middle Kingdom (Period of Reunification, 2000-1700 B.C.) fortress of Uronarti below the Second Cataract of the Nile, dating to the nineteenth century B.C.
    This modern city of Armant is the ancient Greek settlement of Hermonthis, but the history of the city much predates that. Located a little over 12 miles south of Thebes, it thrived during the Middle Kingdom and was enlarged during the 18th Dynasty with the construction of huge temples (now gone). Cleopatra VII made it the capital of the surrounding nome, and we know that the city continued to do well into the beginnings of the Christian era.
    Today, nothing is left of Cleopatra's Temple, as it was used for materials to build a 19th century sugar refinery. The Temple dedicated to the god Montu still exists. Here, Montu is represented by the Buchis bull, which were buried in sacred vaults of the Bucheum near the Temple of Montu.
    In ancient times, Armant was part of the Palladium of Thebes, which was sacred land placed under the protection of Montu. This is an area consisting of Hermonthis, North Karnak, Medamud and Tod. According to Hugh Nibley, as a city along the Nile, was infested with large wild animals such as lions and crocodiles
    In the Land of Promise the Wilderness of Hermount is located to the north and west of the borders of Zarahemla. Whether or not this is located in the unnamed land between Zarahemla and Bountiful (Helaman 4:5; 3 Nephi 3:23), or in the Land of Bountiful, is not known, but it was in that rather wild area of which some of it was full of wild beasts. As Mormon wrote: “and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts” (Alma 2:37). Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Hermounts was a large wilderness, not all of which had wild beasts in it, and it was into that part of the wilderness that the Lamanites and Amlicites fled where the wounded died of their battle inflictions and their bodies were eaten by the wild animals.
    From all of this we find that Hermounts is neither a Latin, Greek or Hebrew word, nor is it even a Semitic word, but evidently from the Egyptian, who was an extremely popular figure in Lehi’s day, to judge by the great frequency with which his name occurs in composition of proper names in various forms: Montu, Mendes, Menti, etc; it is the Book of Mormon Manti, next to Ammon, which, according to Hugh Nibley, the commonest name element in the Nephite onomasticon, or lexicon of names.”
 Wild and ravenous beasts in the desert include (left) hyenas and (right) cougars (or lions) as well as wild dogs
    As stated, Hermounts was a place that was overrun with wild beasts, Mormon even believed it necessary to add “ravenous beasts,” although that may only have been because of leading into the fact that the animals ate the bodies of the Lamanites.
    It is not likely that a single type of wild beast, such as a cougar, jaguar or lion, is involved here, but several varieties of carnivores, as is the case in most wild food chains, where several types of animals on the chain took their feast in the order of their ferocity, with the bigger first and the smaller last. The point is, this must have been a gruesome event that took some time to complete. When it says the bones were found and gathered, it is not likely this occurred at the same time, but much later after the animals had completely devoured their prey and left the area.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Area of Zarahemla: One of the Oldest Centers in Ancient Peru

Until recently little archaeological investigation and excavation was done in the area of Lima, specifically at this important famous ancient complex called El Paraiso, and therefore little was known about the life of Lima's ancient inhabitants. It is believed that the complex consisted of around 10 to 15 pyramidal structures. Unit I or the main temple of El Paraiso was believed to have been a ceremonial center used by the community. Unit IV was speculated to have been a feasting site associated with Unit I. Unit II and VI, today just big hills, may have been used for domestic or multi activity purposes.
One of the buildings uncovered at El Paraíso in Lima, Peru

    Architecture has been the subject of considerable focus at El Paraiso. In 1965, Engle identified seven major structures and designated them Units I-VII. This naming convention was continued by Quilter's research team when five more structures were identified in the 1983 survey of the site. Unfortunately for archaeologists, modern machinery, roads, and irrigation canals have disturbed the ground in the immediate vicinity of the features, especially in the western half of the site. Because of this, the exact nature of the relationship between Units III and IX is unknown; additionally, Quilter has speculated that Unit III, a structure identified as a rubble pile, may in fact be two structures that have collapsed on themselves. In the eastern part of the site, a brick storage yard has been constructed on the remains of Unit VI, one of the two largest structures at the site; preliminary investigation suggests that the structure once extended under the brick yard.
The newly discovered temple and complex beneath the present structures at El Paraiso. Note the size of the Egyptian pyramid footprint by comparison

    However, in December of 2012 a new investigation and excavation project led by Mark Guillen started at El Paraíso. And after just three months, they had a groundbreaking discovery finding an ancient temple located next to the main temple of El Paraíso. First excavations uncovered an underground ceremonial center comprising four levels each older than the other. The construction is believed to have been built around 3000 B.C. (it has not yet been radio-carbon dated and no exact date has been set).
    The inside discovered fire place where presumably offerings were burnt earned the ceremonial center the name "Templo el Fuego" (Fire Temple). The project is financed until 2017, so we can hope for more interesting and revealing findings.
    According to the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, the building is a stone rectangle that covers 517 square feet. It was plastered with a mud layer and decorated with red paint, and included features never before discovered in Peru. It could be defined as a temple, according to the ministry, and contained signs of fire that would have been tied to religious tradition. The area, in the right wing of the Main Pyramid at the complex, and according to Deputy minister Rafael male Gabai, open avenues for further research and preservation in the area, which was originally explored in 1965 and slated for preservation in 2012.
    According to archaeologists, the only access to the temple is a 19-inch-wide gap. Only one person can enter the temple's center room, which was a flat, rectangular area in the center of which would have been a ceremonial fire used for burnt offerings.
"This discovery in El Paraíso is particularly important because it is the first of this type of structure that is located in the central coast, which confirms that the current Lima region was one of the earliest centers of civilization in the Andean region, demonstrating its religious, economic and political (value) since time immemorial," Gabai said. This certainly verifies its existence at the time of earliest Zarahemla, and then the Nephite era as the Nation’s capital.
    "This find opens a new road for the El Paraíso Archaeological Complex, for research and comprehensive recovery of all the monument's secrets," the Minister said in a statement. The ruined temple measures 22 by 26 feet, and in the center of the temple is a sloping rectangular floor, to which one gains access via a step about 18 inches high. In the center of this sloping floor is the ceremonial hearth, a space where offerings to the gods were burned.
"This discovery at the El Paraíso Archaeological Complex has particular importance because it is the first of this type of structure found on the central coast, which corroborates the fact that the  Lima region was one of the focus of the civilizations in the Andean territory," Deputy culture minister Rafael Varon said.
    Recent excavations have confirmed a dependence upon seafood, but there was also agriculture, especially of the industrial crop cotton. Other estimates of the age of El Paraíso, which required about 100,000 tons of rock to finish, is that it was built around 2,000 B.C. and has ten buildings, making it one of the largest settlements from this early period, encompassing over 58 hectares of land (143 acres).  
    The discovery is believed to be about 5,000 years old and if the date is confirmed, it would be among the oldest sites in the world, comparable to the ancient city of Caral, a coastal city about 125 miles to the north.
Archaeologists found the hearth in mid-January as they were carrying out conservation work at a set of 4,000-year-old ruins of El Paraíso, located 25 miles north-east of Lima in the San Martin de Porres District of the Chillon River Valley. Varon told reporters the discovery shows "that the Lima region was a focus of civilizations in the Andean territory."
    Unfortunately, construction workers in August of 2013, using heavy machinery equipment, bulldozed over one of the oldest of the pyramids at El Paraiso and one of eleven at the site, leaving the ten known today. Land owners and the government have been fighting over this land since 1950 and private ownership has bought up everything in the area right up to the edges of the complex.
    What is important, as we have reported in this blog before, that the area of Zarahemla in the scriptural record includes far more of an area than just the one complex known today as Pachacamac. It is only reasonable that the area the Mulekites first settled and were still living in when Mosiah discovered them after some 400 years from the time both the Mulekites and Lehites first left Jerusalem should have warranted a great development area than generally previously thought by various theorists.
    As Mosiah and the Nephites joined and combined with the Mulekites, the city would have grown under Nephite expansion building and the entire area would have developed far beyond anything previously considered by most theorists. As the hub and center of the Nephi Nation, it would have had numerous palatial buildings to go with the temple and other public buildings—exactly what is being found now in the greater Lima area as more is learned of what was once beneath the present Peruvian capital.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Buildings Are Not Enough

When we look at the ruins of building sites in a suggested Land of Promise location, the mere fact that there were buildings built there is not the end all of the remnants of the Nephite nation. That is, the Nephites didn’t just build buildings, say like the Jaredites. The Nephites build forts and fortresses to guard themselves against their bitter enemy, the Lamanites, who sought the conquest of the Nephites for nearly a thousand years.    As an example, the ruins we find in southern Mexico, the Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras (Mesoamerica) were not built for defense, despite the fact that Mesoamerican theorists like to claim they were. There were few high walls, close compact buildings that provided security, lookout towers, etc., to suggest such a condition.
    Take, for instance, a few of these areas so prominent in the Mesoamerican pantheon of ancient buildings:
“The Castle” at magnificent Chichén Itzá, in the Yucatan of southern Mexico, was one of the largest pre-Columbian cities of the Mayan, but as can plainly be seen, was not built with any defenses in mind--buildings at the site are wide open without walls or defenses to guard them against attck

    Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities, with the relatively densely clustered architecture of the site core covering an area of nearly two square miles. Smaller scale residential architecture extends for an unknown distance beyond this. The city was built upon broken terrain, which was artificially leveled in order to build the major architectural groups, with the greatest effort being expended in the leveling of the areas for the Castillo pyramid, and the Las Monjas, Osario and Main Southwest groups—certainly not an indication that the builders feared being attacked by a hereditary enemy that was constantly bringing them to war to defend themselves.
The ancient Mesoamerican ruins of Teotihuacán (near Mexico City), 100-700 A.D.,  home of the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas—again, this was certainly not built with defense in mind--the streets and buildings were wide open and unprotected

    Teotihuacán was one of the most powerful cultural centers in all of Mesoamerica, its influence not only covered all of the region around about, but far beyond. It was a large city, anciently boasting some 25,000 inhabitants, it was ultimately abandoned around 650 A.D. after a devastating fire razed the entire city. Located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacán is one the archaeological sites with the longest history of exploration in Mexico. The site sprawls over a large area without any thought to defense or protection, without exterior walls and without any type of means of defending itself against attack.
Tikal in Guatemala, the most prominent Mayan ruins, 700 B.C. to 900 A.D., though built during the Nephite era, it shows no signs of defense in its construction and the site is completely wide open and unprotected

    Tikal, perhaps known anciently as Yax Mutal, is located in the rainforest of Guatemala. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, and is located in the the archaeological region of the Peten Basin in what is now northern Guatemala.
    Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century B.C., Tikal reached its apogee around 200 to 900 A.D. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica, such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacán in the distant valley of Mexico. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century A.D.
    On the other hand, despite wars and conquests in Mesoamerica, like just about any region in the world, the huge difference is that the Nephites built and fortified their cities against attack where Mesoamerica obviously did not. Take for instance, Capt. Moroni, who “had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8), And “in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men; and thus he did fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites” (Alma 48:9). And also, “For they knew not that Moroni had fortified, or had built forts of security, for every city in all the land round about; therefore, they marched forward to the land of Noah with a firm determination; yea, their chief captains came forward and took an oath that they would destroy the people of that city” (Alma 49:13).
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)

    In addition, we find that “the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it were by the entrance” (Alma 49:18). Moroni “also placed armies on the south, in the borders of their possessions, and caused them to erect fortifications that they might secure their armies and their people from the hands of their enemies” (Alma 50:10). Moroni was also busy “fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi,” (Alma 50:11).
    At one time, Amalickiah, the defecting Nephite turned Lamanite, “took possession of the city, yea, possession of all their fortifications” (Alma 51:23). And speaking of the Nephite cities, “all of which were strongly fortified after the manner of the fortifications of Moroni” (Alma 51:27). These fortifications had a debilitating effect on the Lamanites, for “they abandoned their design in marching into the land northward, and retreated with all their army into the city of Mulek, and sought protection in their [former Nephite] fortifications” (Alma 52:2). In speaking of the Lamanite entrenced in the former Nephite forts, Mormon writes: “Teancum thought it was not expedient that he should attempt to attack them in their forts” (Alma 52:5). And at one point Moroni “sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful” (Alma52:9). He also told him to “fortify and strengthen the cities round about, which had not fallen into the hands of the Lamanites” (Alma 52:10). Teancum also “made preparations to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and march forth with his army against the Lamanites; but he saw that it was impossible that he could overpower them while they were in [former Nephite] fortifications” (Alma 52:17).
    Defense was so important to the Nephites, who did not start wars, but fought to defend themselves, their families and their possessions, that Moroni “”did employ his men in preparing for war, yea, and in making fortifications to guard against the Lamanites (Alma 53:7). He also caused captured Lamanites to “labor in strengthening the fortifications round about the city Gid” (Alma 55:25). Even the Lamanites caught on to the importance of defending themselves within their captured Nephite cities and “the Lamanites had, by their labors, fortified the city Morianton until it had become an exceeding stronghold” (Alma 55:33).
    In Helaman’s letter to Moroni, he wrote: “I found Antipus and his men toiling with their might to fortify the city” (Alma 56:15). Another example is that “the people of Antiparah did leave the city, and fled to their other cities, which they had possession of, to fortify them” (Alma 57:4), and Moroni did “strive to strengthen and fortify our armies” (Alma 60:25). And “this was done to fortify the land against the Lamanites” (Alma 62:13). And finally, “Moroni had fortified those parts of the land which were most exposed to the Lamanites” (Alma 62:42).
    In the twenty-two verses quoted, the term “fort” is used 4 times; “fortifications” used 8 times; “fortify” or “fortified” used 13 times; “stronghold” used 13 times, and “resort,” meaning small fort, used 3 times.
When the Nephites built, they built their cities, temples, and forts behind walls of stone that can be found scattered all over Andean Peru in hundreds and hundreds of ancient sites

    Thus, the fact that Mesoamerica has ancient buildings, the fact that they were not built or fortified to withstand an enemy attack or to protect the occupants should suggest that Mesoamerica simply does not match the scripture description of the Land of Promise.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders."
 --Isaiah 9:6

"Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heaen and the earth, and all things that in them are."
--3 Nephi 9:15

Very Good Hebrew – Part VIII

Continuing with this final article on Hebrew forms of grammar that are never or seldom found in English. 
    The Book of Mormon also uses conjunctions to mark parenthetical phrases. In the Book of Mormon examples listed below, we have added parentheses to illustrate:
    "After I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God (and the Son of God was the Messiah which should come) and it came to pass that I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things" (1 Nephi 10:17, 1830 edition).
    "When Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand…" (3 Nephi 12:1).  
    Another example of this, which sets apart the important part of a statement that is within parenthesis is found in 1 Nephi when he states: "For it came to pass in the commencement of the first yer of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, 9my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets..." (1 Nephi 1:4). in this case, Nephi is not only setting apart an important comment of explanation, it is an important issue all together, that is, lehi lived at Jerusalem, not in Jerusalem.
A special use in Hebrew of this kind of parenthetical phrase is also the introduction of a name. In English, we usually say something like, "there was a man named Sam," or "there was a man whose name was Sam." While the Book of Mormon has many such examples, it often reflects the Hebrew usage, which is, "there was a man (and his name was Sam.)" In the examples which follow, parentheses have been added where necessary:
    "Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake (now Zoram was the name of the servant) and he promised . . . " (1 Nephi 4:35).
    "They took him (and his name was Nehor) and they carried him . . . " (Alma 1:15).
    Another Hebrew-like use of the conjunction in the Book of Mormon is the expression “and also.” In Hebrew, it is used to emphasize the close links between two things, as in this biblical passage: "Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels" (Genesis 24:44). Here are some examples from the Book of Mormon that seem to reflect the Hebrew usage:
    "They…worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name" (Jacob 4:5).
    "The Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma" (Mosiah 27:14).
    "…What the Lord had done for his son, and also for those that were with him…" (Mosiah 27:21).
    "Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them" (Mosiah 27:8).
• More on Hal-Clauses (Circumstantial Clauses): The string of hal-clauses evident in Alma 2:1-2 is perfectly acceptable in Hebrew, yet an editor or English teacher would not spare red ink on a similar structure found in written English.
    The Book of Mormon is replete with similar examples, the Bible also. John Gee ("La Trahison des Clercs: On the Language and Translation of the Book of Mormon," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 6/1, pp. 51-120), discloses a choice example from the Jewish Publication Society's translation of Genesis 1:1-3:
    "When God began to create heaven and earththe earth being unformed and void, with darkness [being] over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the waterGod said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light."
 In the Hebrew text, everything between the dashes consists of three hal-clauses (also known as circumstantial clauses) that begin with wa- (and) + noun/pronoun; the three nouns heading the three hal-clauses are earth, darkness, and wind/spirit, respectively. Ignoring semantic disagreements, the above is structurally a nice translation of hal-clauses: three verses into one sentence, no less. The three being participial phrases add background information or accompanying circumstances and are thus a prime language environment for hal- clauses in Semitic.
    In stark contrast, the King James Version makes separate sentences or independent and-clauses of the three parenthetical hal-clauses:
    "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." (Genesis 1:1-3 KJV)
    The fact that the King James translators left many of the Hebrew circumstantial clauses inconspicuous by translating them as and-clauses quite undermines the accusation that Joseph Smith was simply mimicking the King James biblical style, because the Book of Mormon employs -ing participial expressions much more frequently than does the King James Old Testament. [Brian D. Stubbs, "A Lengthier Treatment of Length," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol 5/2, pp. 82-84,96] [See the commentary on Mosiah 7:21-22)
Repetitions: Hebrew also repeats related elements such as prepositions, articles, and possessive pronouns. Here is another example from the Book of Mormon:
    "And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family and provisions, and tents, and he, departed into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:4, 1830 edition).
    "And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things" (1 Nephi 3:22).
    "…All mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state…" (1 Nephi 10:6).
    " …My gospel…and my rock and my salvation…" (1 Nephi 13:36).
    “The city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire" (3 Nephi 9:10).
“…All their men and all their women and all their children…" (Mosiah 24:22).
    Such repetition seems to be a waste of precious space on the plates, except for the fact that it is required by the Hebrew language.
    The purpose of this eight-part series on the differences between Hebrew and English grammar was to serve three purposes:
1. Show the authenticity of the Book of Mormon being a translation of an ancient text written by Hebrew-speaking and Hebrew-writing people (albeit translated from Reformed Egyptian);
2. Show that the critics views of the many changes in the first several editions was based not on errors in the doctrines being discussed and the Lord’s inspiration and involvement in the original writings, but of making the awkward Hebrew grammar more compatible with English;
3. Show members that “first-blush” views are often wrong in trying to understanding the scriptural record beyond the initial views that Mormon’s words bring to mind.
    Further, it should be noted that for whatever reason, the Book of Mormon is full of these translations that reflect the Hebrew grammar and not the English, whether by design or by Joseph Smith’s lack of translation expertise at the time, the original text of the Book of Mormon and even our current edition, contain many expressions that are not characteristic of English.
While this use of awkward Hebrew expression in English seems to embarrass some who work with the scriptural record, and has been a source of criticism by uninformed critics, either Joseph Smith was unable to go far beyond the liberal representation of the text before him, or working through the Spirit, it was intended. If the latter, and thankfully for these differences, we have a perfect testimony of the accuracy and authenticity of the translation of the Book of Mormon. If we remove all of these incidences (as some LDS scholars want to do), at some point we will have removed the very factors that prove the Book of Mormon is exactly what it purports to be, a modern translation of an ancient record written by Hebrew-speaking and Hebrew-writing people.