Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part IV

Continued from the previous post regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah found in his Letter VII that is used by Heartland Theorists as the doctrinal account of the last Nephite-Lamanite wars and the annihilation of the Nephite nation.
So what are the actual problems with Oliver’s Letter VII to W.W. Phelps? First of all, is the claim that Joseph Smith assisted Oliver in composing Letter VII, which has led the Heartland theorists to claim that the letters are authoritative and reflect Joseph Smith’s inspired views on Book of Mormon geography. However, as pointed out earlier, Joseph’s involvement was in assisting Oliver to compose his letters, and include facts about Joseph’s early life, not in determining or discussing the location of Land of Promise events, especially the final battles at Cumorah. In fact, Joseph’s interest is spelled out in his letter to Oliver that was later published in the Messenger and Advocate in December 1834.
   Here it should be pointed out that anti-Mormon publications were alleging that Joseph had a disreputable character, so when Joseph learned Oliver was writing articles about the “origin and rise of the Latter-day Saints,” he informed Oliver that he was going to provide him with a brief history of his early youth. It should also be noted that Joseph’s early history is not discussed in Letter VII, but it is included in Letter III, published in December 1834.
   Again, and it should be emphasized, that the extent of Joseph Smith’s involvement with the authorship of these letters was to provide Oliver with details about his early life. His intent was to refute anti-Mormon accusations of illicit behavior on his part during his youth.
    As such, contrary to the assertions of Heartland theorists, beyond this “there is no evidence that Joseph Smith assigned Cowdery to write the letters,” including Letter VII (Karen Lynn Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, The Church Historian’s Press, Salt Lake City, 2012, pxxi).
    In addition, while Meldrum and the Heartland theorists like to make the claim that Joseph Smith had Letter VII copied into his history, as though its contents held particular significance, the fact is that all eight letters written by Oliver Cowdery were copied into Joseph Smith’s history. More importantly, they were copied as a block of text, with no evident effort to make any corrections or changes to the contents, including even factually problematic claims in the letters which contradicted other parts of Joseph’s history, suggesting they were seen as a series, not as a periodic or gradual copying of the individual letters (Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1, p39).
In addition, to contradict the Heartland theorists’ misleading claim that Joseph selectively gave preference to Letter VII, all eight letters were inserted into Joseph’s history by three different scribes: Frederick G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, and Warren F. Parrish, the latter copying Letter VII. Obviously, it was a matter of Joseph outsourcing the task of composing his history to scribes who then made use of a large chunks accessible material already then in existence. So the 1834–1836 history “serve[d] as a repository—more permanent than unbound newspapers—for a copied compilation of the entire series” rather than a shrine to the sui generis inspiration of Letter VII” (Davidson, The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1, p39—emphasis added).
    Another claim is that Joseph Smith supervised the publication of Letter VII, made by Meldrum and the Heartland theorists. However, while the letters appeared in several publications, such as the Millennial Star, the Times and Seasons, the Gospel Reflector, in the Prophet, and Oliver Cowdery’s own works, this is not evidence Joseph Smith was involved, as Heartland theorists claim. First of all, of those letters republished in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, at least half were published in the United Kingdom, far from the Prophet’s supervision, nor did any of these republications have Joseph’s editorial oversight.
    In addition, when republished in the Times and Seasons in 1840–1841 Don Carlos Smith was the editor, not Joseph Smith, who would not assume editorship of the paper until February 19, 1842. The non-involvement of Joseph in these republications is seen also in the fact that the Gospel Reflector and The Prophet took place in Philadelphia and New York City, respectively, both outside of the supervision of Joseph Smith, with the letters republished in The Prophet appearing two days after Joseph Smith’s death.
    However, it cannot be said that Oliver’s letters were not important to the early Saints, or even that Joseph Smith may have been influenced by them—they certainly were persuasive among early Mormons; however, contrary to Jonathan Neville’s assertion, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith quoted Letter VII in his September 6, 1842, letter to the Saints. In fact, the locations of the publication contradict the Heartland theorists claim that Joseph gave them his approval or sanction.
    It should also be noted that if Letter VII was so foundational, so fundamentally important, so essential in definitively settling the supposedly revealed geography of the Book of Mormon as Heartland theorist insist it is, then it would have been sanctified and venerated, as some other of Cowdery’s writings, one of which as previously stated, appeared in the Doctrine and Covenants. After all, there was certainly opportunity to do so—two editions of that work were prepared during Joseph Smith’s lifetime: one in Kirtland in 1835, and the other in Nauvoo in 1844, with the latter finally appearing in print only shortly after the Prophet’s death. In neither of these editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, nor in any edition up to the present, even though multiple editions of the Doctrine and Covenants have added and removed material (Richard E. Turley Jr. and William W. Slaughter, How We Got the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2012).
It is also of note that Oliver’s letters published in his Messenger and Advocate contain factual and glaring errors and embellishments, which of course, the Heartland theorists ignore. One of which is that Oliver was completely silent about the First Vision—in fact, as Oliver recounts the story in his 1823 Letters III and IV, Joseph Smith was confused by the religious sects and denominations fighting for converts around him and so retired to his bedroom, prayed, and was visited by the angel Moroni, which event started the Restoration. Of course, this contradicts Joseph Smith’s own official history, his 1832 entry written in his own hand (see Journal 9-11 November 1835 entry), which Warren Parrish later copied into Joseph Smith’s journal (Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision of Deity, Joseph Smith Papers, Joseph Smith History, circa Summer 1832, pp1-3). In fact, in this history, there are two accounts of the first vision that were written during Joseph’s lifetime. In addition, there were private retellings to Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, Levi Richards, David Nye White, Alexander Neibaur, etc., all of which wrote what Joseph told them in their journals.
    In addition, as an example of Oliver’s embellished aspects of Joseph Smith’s early history, is the 1,038-word dissertation in Letter VII of Mormon’s brief 140-word comment mentioned earlier. This is also seen in Letter VIII, especially clear in Letter VIII, in which Oliver attributed to Moroni a verbatim 1,078-word quote supposedly delivered to Joseph Smith after he was unable to obtain the plates upon first seeing them, a quote that is found nowhere else, or even suggested anywhere else in Joseph’s history.
    This is especially troubling when taken in connection to the fact that Oliver didn’t so much as even know Joseph Smith in 1827—the two men first met in April 1829—when these words he attributed to Moroni were spoken, let alone witness firsthand the recovery of the plates and the interview between the Prophet and the angel, which Oliver claims.  Obviously, as a secondhand source publishing eight years after the event, Oliver was certainly embellishing details about the interview supplied to him by Joseph Smith, which as we have seen, would not be out of character for Oliver.
Unveiling painting of Oliver Cowdery for display at the Church History Department in 2006. In addition to being the Church’s 2nd Elder, Cowdery was the first church attorney, and therefore the painting was later hung in the J. Reuben Clark Law School

It has been extensively documented by historians and this blog as well, that for all of Oliver Cowdery’s fine points and important contributions to the Church, serving as the Second Elder, assisting and avidly supporting Joseph Smith, his misrepresentation of factual information is overwhelming. The problem lies, not in the character or performance of Oliver in his personal life or church service, but in his writings, even of factual events, where he considerably embellished those events with his own undocumented and speculative prose on the subject. This is not to discredit Oliver in any way, only the pedant nature of some of his writings and remarks that, unfortunately, unknowning or unscrupulous people use to further or promote their own ends, as does Jonathan Neville and Rod L. Meldrum.
(See the final post, “The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part V,” for more explanation regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah found in his Letter VII that is used by Heartland Theorists as the doctrinal account of the last Nephite-Lamanite wars and the annihilation of the Nephite nation. 
Joseph Smith (left) and Oliver Cowdery (right), who was the scribe to whom Joseph dictated many messages. However, Oliver’s writings in what are now called Letter I through VIII were written solely by Oliver Cowdery, except for the part where Joseph tells Oliver of his youth

In his book, Letter VII, Jonathan Neville spells out the circumstances that determine the Hill Cumorah in New York as being the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, claiming that Oliver’s published letter (Letter VII) “unequivocally refutes the ‘two-Cumorah theory,’ was written by Oliver Cowdery with the assistance of Joseph Smith, who repeatedly endorsed it” (emphasis added).
    However, Joseph Smith’s involvement with the letters Oliver Cowdery wrote regarding the origin and rise of the Church, had to do with answering a volatile question of the time among non-members about Joseph’s background, which had been impugned by numerous critics and enemies of the new Church. 
    After seeing Oliver’s first letter published in the Messenger and Advocate, Joseph wrote: “Dear Brother, Having learned from the first number of the Messenger and Advocate, that you were, not only about to ‘give a history of the rise and progress of the church of the Latter-day Saints,’ but, that said ‘history would necessarily embrace my life and character,’ I have been induced to give you the time and place of my birth; as I have learned that many of the opposers of those principles which I have held forth to the world, profess a personal acquaintance with me, though when in my presence, represent me to be another person in age, education, and stature from what I am.” Joseph then went on to write about his birth, his ancestors, the folly of his growing years, and ending with “I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add, that I do not, and never have, pretended to be any other than a man, ‘subject to passion’ and liable, without the assisting grace of the Saviour [sic], to deviate from that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk! By giving the above a place in your valuable paper, you will confer a lasting favour [sic] upon myself as an individual, and, as I humbly hope, subserve [sic] the cause of righteousness. I am, with feelings of esteem, your fellow-labourer [sic] in the gosepl [sic] of our Lord, Joseph Smith” (Published in Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol.1, No.3, Kirtland, Ohio, December, 1834; also published in Letters by Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps on the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Liverpool, England, 1844).
All of Oliver Cowdery’s letters to W.W.Phelps were first published in Cowdery’s “Messenger and Advocate” newspaper which replaced the Evening and Morning Star, which was destroyed by a mob ion Independence, Missouri

Oliver Cowdery’s first letter, or installment, to appear was published in Norton, Medina County, Ohio, on Sunday, September 7, 1834 in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate; the second installment, or Letter II, was published in Kirtland, Ohio, November 1834; the third installment, or Letter III, was published in Kirtland, December 1834; the third installment, or Letter IV, was published in Kirtland, February 1835; and the last or eighth installment, or Letter VIII, was published in Kirtland, October 1835.  Letter VII was published July 1835.
    Joseph Smith is mentioned only once in all eight letters, and that is in Letter I, when Oliver recounts a journey with Joseph Smith from Kirtland to New Portage, Ohio (about 7 miles south of Akron), to attend a Church conference; the name Joseph is mentioned 4 times in Letter VII, all referring to Joseph, the husband of Mary, and twice in Letter VIII, referring to Joseph, who was sold into Egypt; however, Letters III and IV contained the early history of Joseph Smith, the visitation of Moroni, and the angel’s appearance and instructions to Joseph; Letter VI covers what was communicated to Joseph by Moroni, and Letter VII contained Joseph’s discovery of the gold plates.
    In these eight letters, which were written during Oliver Cowdery’s early tenure as editor of the paper, he wrote these letters to William Wines Phelps, another prominent Church figure, detailing the early history of Joseph Smith, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the gospel, and the gathering of Israel. These letters were written partly to combat anti-Mormon opposition and partly to increase the faith of Church members by publishing “a more particular or minute history of the rise and progress of the church of the Latter Day Saints; and publish, for the benefit of enquirers, and all who are disposed to learn (published in Letter II).

Now it should be kept in mind that the Heartland model regarding the geography of the Land of Promise is based on a foundation of Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII, in which he claims in the most flowery terms that the drumlin hill, later called Cumorah, in Manchester New York, was the hill Cumorah of the scriptural record. The importance of this Letter VII (and his other seven letters to W.W. Phelps) is clearly understood in the circumstances of Joseph Smith’s history. Although the Prophet began composing his personal history in 1832—currently still in Joseph Smith’s personal handwriting under History circa Sumer 1832, “A History of the Life of Joseph Smith Jr. an account of his marvelous experience—the early draft remained unpublished during his lifetime. This, in turn, made Oliver’s letters in the Messenger and Advocate the earliest public history of Joseph Smith, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and several other related topics. In fact, though a year earlier, The Evening and the Morning Star ran editorials by William W. Phelps on the content and message of the Book of Mormon and the early progress of Mormon missionary efforts, these articles provided neither a substantial or meaningful history behind the early life of Joseph Smith nor a clear narrative describing the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (“The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star vol.1, no.8, January 1833, pp56–58).
    Unfortunately, as stated earlier, when reading Oliver’s letters, one gathers a very speculative and pedant, though general understanding of events, but is also led down a very speculative path regarding details. The one letter (Letter VII). On the other hand, that information which was the result of Joseph Smith’s input and assistance, have resulted in both an accurate and meaningful record. As an example, part of Letter I is included in the Pearl of Great Price. Other such information Joseph Smith gave Oliver was the first quotations of what Moroni told Joseph, and the first account of John the Baptist conferring the Priesthood, as well as the first detailed accounts of most of what happened when Joseph found the plates—all of which these events were written by Oliver with Joseph Smith’s help and under his personal direction.
    On the other hand, the much vaunted Letter VII, espoused by Neville and Rod L. Meldrum, regarding the so-called statement that the hill Cumorah in New York was the same as the hill Cumorah in the scriptural record regarding the hill where both the Jaredites and Nephites were annihilated, was not given by Joseph Smith, who at no time in his life, made such a suggestion. The record of this in Letter VII was completely Oliver Cowdery’s speculative and theoretical verbiage. That the battle he describes took place is not in question, but what took place during the battle and the information about the valley to the west of the Manchester hill was where so much violence and death of the Nephites occurred is strictly Oliver’s presumed conjecture.
In fact, Jonathan Neville, author of the book Letter VII, and huge supporter of the Heartland theory, admits: ““We do not have a record of a specific revelation that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 (the site of the Nephite records repository) was in New York. But because we don’t have a record doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We do have Letter VII; what we don’t have is a separate document specifically explaining the factual background of what Oliver wrote about Cumorah” (Jonathan Neville, “Why some people reject Letter VII,” Moroni’s America—The North American Setting for the Book of Mormon, January 9, 2017).
    It should be noted that this is one of the fallacies that theorists often work under. That is, “we don’t have any record of something happening, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” However, more importantly, we should work under the premise that if we don’t have a record of it happening, we need to reject that it did happen as doctrinal or gospel truth. It is merely speculation.”
(See the next post, “The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part IV,” for more explanation regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah found in his Letter VII that is used by Heartland Theorists as the doctrinal account of the last Nephite-Lamanite wars and the annihilation of the Nephite nation.
    As mentioned in the previous post, there is nothing to suggest, as Oliver does in his speculative account, after describing in a 328-word description regarding the location of the drumlin hill Cumorah in Western New York, where Joseph Smith obtained the golden plates as the same Hill Cumorah where the Nephites perished in their last battle with the Lamanites. In his account, Oliver states how the Hill Cumorah in New York was the setting for important events from the Book of Mormon, and elaborates on this location, describing the long, narrow valley to the west of the hill as the only place the battle took place, even though Mormon tells that the Nephites were encamped all around the hill, when he wrote: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:4).
Yellow circle, the encampment of the Nephites “around about” the hill Cumorah. As can be seen, there is plenty of room for the battles to take place all around the hill where the Nephites were located, not just in the West Valley as Oliver claims

After all, the word “around” in 1828 when Joseph was translating Mormon’s record, meant: “about; on all sides; encircling; encompassing; in a circle; on every side.” And the word “about” meant: “around.” Thus, the term “around about” meant strictly all around the hill Cumorah. If the Nephites were all around the hill Cumorah, then why was the battle only on the west? After all, there were valleys to the north, east, and south as well. Oliver decided to place the last battle of the Lamanties and Nephites in a small, narrow valley, where more than three-quarters of a million people were in hand-to-hand battle, and more than one-fourth of them were killed. This valley, it should be kept in mind, is only about one-mile-long and about one-half a mile wide.
The West Valley where Oliver claims the entire battle took place, yet there is flat, open ground all around this hill Cumorah where the Nephites were encamped and certainly the Lamanites would have attacked the entire area, bent on annihilating the entire Nephite army and people

In this little valley, Oliver goes on to add, “In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites—once so highly favored of the Lord, but at that time in darkness, doomed to suffer extermination by the hand of their barbarous and uncivilized brethren. From the top of this hill, Mormon, with a few others, after the battle, gazed with horror upon the mangled remains of those who, the day before, were filled with anxiety, hope, or doubt…Mormon himself, according to the record of his son Moroni, was also slain. This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah: by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr [and] their tents. Coriantumr was the last king of the Jaredites. The opposing army were to the west and in this same valley, and nearby, from day to day, did that mighty race spill their blood, in wrath, contending, as it were, brother against brother, and father, against son. In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill, one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying of our fellowmen. Here may be seen where once sunk to nought the pride and strength of two mighty nations; and here may be contemplated, in solitude, while nothing but the faithful record of Mormon and Moroni is now extant to inform us of the fact."
    However, it should be noted, that while extant means “currently in existence,” Oliver’s wordage “to inform us of the fact,” should be understood that the “fact” is what Mormon wrote in his simple and very brief wordage, not what Oliver wrote, expanding upon and increasing Mormon’s 128-word statement to a speculative and flowery 1,038 comment. Oliver’s comment is not “fact,” but his expansion of an event, including his own aggrandizement of that event beyond anything resembling Mormon’s brief words. The same is true of most of Oliver’s writings, and should be used as doctrinal information only after carefully comparing his words with those of the scriptural record.
    It should also be pointed out, that there is “no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill ‘Cumorah’ in 1823” during his first encounter with the Prophet Joseph Smith. The name Cumorah came into “common circulation (amongst [sic] Latter-day Saints) no earlier than the mid-1830s” (Jed Woodworth and Matt Grow, “Saints and Book of Mormon Geography,” Church History, LDS Church,
The first documented person to identify the drumlin hill in Manchester, New York, where Joseph Smith received the plates with the hill Cumorah appears to have been the writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher and lawyer, William W. Phelps left), who read the Book of Mormon a year after it was published and joined the Church in 1831. He was ordained in October of that year, and two years later in 1833 published material referring to the unnamed hill in New York as Cumorah (Michael J. Dorais, “The Geological History of Hill Cumorah,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Vol.13, no.1–2, 2004, pp.136–143, pp173–74; William W. Phelps, “The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, vol.1, no. 8, January 1833, p57).
    Phelps’s identification was later followed by Oliver Cowdery in 1835 in his eight letters on the origin of the Book of Mormon, and the rise of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These letters, including the famed “Letter VII,” were published in Liverpool, England by Thomas Ward and John Cairns in 1844 (first published in Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, vol.1, no.10, July 1835, pp158–159).
    No doubt, due to the popularity of Phelps and Cowdery as early church leaders, their writing and talks held a lot of influence among members regarding the establishment of the hill in New York as the same hill Cumorah mentioned by Mormon as the final battleground of the Nephites. As such, the location of the hill Cumorah in New York became accepted among early Latter-day Saints.
    Of course, the location of where Joseph Smith obtained the gold plates from which the translation of the Book of Mormon derived, is well known and not itself contested; however, whether that was the same location as the final battles and Nephite destruction remains open to considerable discussion. Regarding this subject and its importance, Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote in 1950: “the hill from which the Book of Mormon plates were obtained is definitely known. In the days of the Prophet this hill was known among the people as Cumorah. This is a fixed point in Book of Mormon later history. There is a controversy, however, about the Hill Cumorah–––not about the location where the Book of Mormon plates were found, but whether it is the hill under that name near which Nephite events took place,” and further explained, “As far as can be learned, Joseph Smith, translator of the book, did not say where, on the American continent, Book of Mormon activities occurred.” (John A. Widtsoe, “Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?” Improvement Era, July 1950, p547). 
    Controversial writer Grant H. Palmer, writing of Cumorah, has stated: “Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon geography, some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested.”
(See the next post, “The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part III,” for more explanation regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah)

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part I

Oliver Cowdery met Joseph Smith on April 5, 1829, a year and a day before the official founding of the church, but nine years and ten days after Joseph received what is now called the First Vision, and six years, five months and sixteen days after the angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph, and 2½ years after Joseph obtained the plates for translation. Thus, Oliver’s knowledge of these earlier events, of which he often wrote, and did so extensively, were merely comments made to him by Joseph—not any of his own personal experiences or first-hand knowledge.
    Thus, Rod L. Meldrum and his followers, as well as the support basis for his “Heartland Theory,” are at best based upon, for the most part, the second-hand knowledge and writings of Oliver Cowdery—not public or written statements made by Joseph Smith, though that is what Meldrum claims.
    The problem with all of this is that Oliver Cowdery was well known for his showy knowledge about unimportant minutiae and romanticizing events in his speech and writing, in which others have studied and reported upon.
Oliver Cowdery described the hill in western New York, which he called the hill Cumorah, as: “about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is, because it is as large perhaps, as any in that country [and] I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveler as he passes
While the hill in Western New York protrudes, or bulges upward, it is not large at all, barely 100 feet in elevation. It’s protrudence is noticeable only because the surrounding land is so flat and barren. The hill itself is barely noticeable for any other angle than from the north (the Lamanites would have been approaching from the southern direction). Oliver, which was typical of him, embellishes the prominence and importance of the hill, which was hardly considered of much by local people of the time before Joseph obtained the gold plates from the hill.
    In fact, Oliver’s rhetoric was so well understood by those who have studied his writings that Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen, and David J. Whittaker, writing about the Joseph Smith Papers, note that Oliver’s “florid romantic language and his pedantic and flamboyant literary habits (as opposed to Joseph Smith’s own simple and straightforward authorial style) in these letters and elsewhere” (Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1, p38; See also Arthur Henry King, The Abundance of the Heart, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1986, p204). In addition, Oliver, an educated teacher and lawyer, who found himself among the far less educated people around Joseph Smith was oft in the practice of expounding on things that elevated his standing among them. 
    Richard L. Bushman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, who taught at Harvard, Boston University and BYU, and who the University of Virginia established the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair of Mormon Studies in his honor, and who was referred to as “one of the most important scholars of American religious history” of the late 20th century, and was one of three general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers, of which he states regarding Oliver Cowdery: “The rhetorical flourishes in Oliver’s letters published in Messenger and Advocate carried over into a way of describing events that put himself in the forefront. His feelings and thoughts are always on display, making the story more Oliver’s than Joseph’s” (Richard L. Bushman, “Oliver’s Joseph,” in Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, ed. Alexander L. Baugh, Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, 2009, p7).
    The point is, while Oliver accomplished many important things, aided Joseph Smith and served not only as the Second Elder of the Church but also Joseph’s historian, the man had a strong tendency to elaborate on minimal information, turning a simple comment into a lengthy, flowery and authoritarian statement. This is found in his account of the last battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites at Cumorah, of which he made the story more his own than that of Mormon.
The Lamanites would have been approaching from all around this small hill with their extremely large numbers, which was so much larger than the Nephite Army, that “every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers” (Mormon 6:8), wanting to keep any Nephites form escaping as they approached

In the scriptural record, Mormon simply states: “My people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them…they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers…they did fall upon my people with the sword, and with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the ax, and with all manner of weapons of war…my men were hewn down, yea, even my ten thousand who were with me” (Mormon 6:7-10).
    Now, compare this scriptural 128-word statement with Oliver Cowdery’s 1,038-word account in his Letter VII of Mormon’s writing, the following of which is but a part of his elaboration: “scenes of misery and distress-the aged, whose silver locks in other places and at other times would command reverence; the mother, who in other circumstances would be spared from violence; the infant, whose tender cries would be regarded and listened to with a feeling of compassion and tenderness; and the virgin, whose grace, beauty and modesty, would be esteemed and held inviolate by all good men and enlightened and civilized nations, alike disregarded and treated with scorn! In vain did the hoary head and man of gray hairs ask for mercy; in vain did the mother plead for compassion; in vain did the helpless and harmless infant weep for very anguish, and in vain did the virgin seek to escape the ruthless hand of revengeful foes and demons in human form—all alike were trampled down by the feet of the strong, and crushed beneath the rage of battle and war! Alas, who can reflect upon the last struggles of great and populous nations, sinking to dust beneath the hand of justice and retribution, without weeping over the corruption of the human heart, and sighing for the hour when the clangor of arms shall no more be heard, nor the calamities of contending armies no more experienced for a thousand years? Alas, the calamity of war, the extinction of nations, the ruin of kingdoms, the fall of empires and the dissolution of governments! O the misery, distress and evil attendant on these! Who can contemplate like scenes without sorrowing, and who so destitute of commiseration as not to be pained that man has fallen so low, so far beneath the station in which he was created?
According to Oliver Cowdery, at about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between

In this vale lie commingled, in one mass of ruin, the ashes of thousands, and in this vale was destined to consume the fair forms and vigorous systems of tens of thousands of the human race—blood mixed with blood, flesh with flesh, bones with bones, and dust with dust! When the vital spark which animated their clay had fled, each lifeless lump lay on one common level—cold and inanimate. Those bosoms which had burned with rage against each other for real or supposed injury, had now ceased to heave with malice; those arms which were, a few moments before nerved with strength, had alike become paralyzed, and those hearts which had been fired with revenge, had now ceased to heave with malice; those arms which were, a few moments before nerved with strength, had alike become paralyzed, and those hearts which had been fired with revenge, had now ceased to beat, and the head to think—in silence, in solitude, and in disgrace alike, they have long since turned to earth.”
    Indeed, Oliver was wont to use “florid romantic language and his pedantic and flamboyant literary habits” in retelling the simple story Mormon gave us. While there is no question that Oliver expounds with his own thinking, speculation and verve regarding what might have taken place at Cumorah, and as interesting as one might find the writing, it is not doctrinal, i.e., it is not found in total, or in part, in the scriptural record. Under other circumstances it might be of great interest to consider the possibilities presented by the historical fact of the Nephite demise at Cumorah; however, and unfortunately, Meldrum and Neville use this Letter VII extravagant expansion of a simple statement by Mormon, as though it is both doctrine and defense of the battle and of the location, in western New York as absolute proof of the location of the Land of Promise.
    Yet, there is absolutely nothing in the scriptural record to suggest any of Oliver’s expanded theories other than those regarding the feelings of people about to die a horrible, violent death, and even that is his romanticizing of the limited scriptural comment.
(See the next post, “The Writings of Oliver Cowdery—a Lesson on his Letter VII Controversy – Part II,” for more explanation regarding Oliver Cowdery’s flamboyant and speculative comments about the location and the battle at Cumorah)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

How Did Lehi Know Where to Go When Fleeing Jerusalem?

When Lehi was told by the Lord to flee into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:1) he not only had tents, donkeys, seeds of every kind, and other provisions at his immediate disposal to take with him, he also knew exactly where to go.
    It might be of interest to know that the word “seeds” is mentioned only four times in Nephi’s writing between leaving Jerusalem and planting the seeds they brought from Jerusalem into the soil where they landed in the Land of Promise. Thus the word “seeds” is mentioned:
1. In the valley of Lemuel after returning with Ishmael’s family (mentioned twice 1 Nephi 8:1);
2. When they boarded the ship Nephi built (1 Nephi 18:6);
3. When they planted them after landing in the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 18:24).
When Lehi left the area of Jerusalem, he packed his provisions and supplies on donkeys, which included the seeds “They had brought from the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 18:24)

Most importantly, when Lehi left the land of Jerusalem, Nephi recorded that “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 departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4, emphasis added). Stated differently, there is no mention of obtaining any of these items, but that Lehi evidently already had such items, including his tents, seeds and whatever else he took in the form of provisions, which would have included cooking pots, etc.
    An intercedent thought involves the term “gold and silver,” which in the form of money would have been needed to some extent in the reprovisioning along the way, purchasing passage through clan-held lands, and most importantly, purchasing of camels once away from Jerusalem where camels did not go because the soil there was rocky, with sharp flints that would have slashed the camel’s large, unhooved, cushion-like foot. Thus the gold and silver left behind would likely have been in the form of objects or some of the “precious things” mentioned (1 Nephi 2:4).
    After trading to exchange his donkeys and purchase camels for the desert trek, the family headed south around the Dead Sea, for a two-hundred-mile trek to the Gulf of Aqaba. For the length of this trek to where Lehi camped in a valley he named Lemuel, where a year-round river flowed, which he called Laman, Lehi had no instrument to tell him where to go. While he may well have been inspired of the Lord in which direction to flee, a knowledge of the route would have been essential.
    How did Lehi know where to travel and where the water holes would be?
    As discussed in previous posts, Lehi would have had knowledge of, and intercourse with, the Arabs who traveled by camel caravan north and south along the king’s highway—a road out of Egypt that was one of the oldest in the world, and 1,000 years old when Abraham was born. Less a road than a path, it had been worn in the earth by the feet of slaves, trudging from the Nile northward, a trade route of vital importance to the ancient Near East, beginning in Egypt, and stretching across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba, and from there turning northward across Transjordan, leading to Damascus and the Euphrates River. It also traveled southeast from Aqaba and along the Red Sea, then across the desert to present day Oman and an area called Salalah where the Frankincense trees grew.
If Lehi had contact with the camel caravans of his day, with whom some believe he conducted business trade, he would have known of the trails to the southeast along the Red Sea

These caravaneers would have had an extensive knowledge of the trails, the water holes, and where oases were located. This king’s highway, of course, was merely a route—not a specific, marked trail. Often many miles wide, and undefined other than it being a more-or-less flat terrain, the Frankincense Trail, or Incense trade route or the Spice Road, as it was more accurately called, comprised a network of major ancient land and sea trading routes linking the Mediterranean world with Eastern and Southern sources of incense, spices and other luxury goods, stretching from Mediterranean ports across the Levant (eastern Mediterranean lands) and Egypt, through Northeastern Africa and Arabia to India and beyond. The incense land trade from South Arabia to the Mediterranean flourished between the 7th century BC to the 2nd century AD. The Incense Route served as a channel for the trading of goods such as Arabian frankincense and myrrh; Indian spices, precious stones, pearls, ebony, silk and fine textiles; and from the Horn of Africa rare woods, feathers, animal skins, Somali frankincense and gold.
    The full route along the south was from the Salalah Plain in Oman in the southern Arabian Peninsula, then westward across the southern Empty Quarter, turning northward paralleling the Red Sea, one trail along the shore, another along the eastern slope of the foothills, and both converging around the Dead Sea before heading northward past Jerusalem (which was on top of a mountain) and into Syria, trading at every opportunity along the way.
    After camping in a valley near the Red Sea for upwards of two years while the brass plates were obtained, read and studied, and after Ishmael’s family was retrieved and joined them, and after five weddings took place, the Liahona appeared (1 Nephi 16:10) as the colony was ready to continue their journey (1 Nephi 16:12).
Lehi with the Liahona; this was used along the trail toward Bountiful as an aid in direction and ease in travel

This compass showed them the way along the “most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea“ (1 Nephi 16:14). Before this, however, there is no mention of any aid to help Lehi find his way to that first camp along the Red Sea, approximately 200 miles distant from Jerusalem, which he called the Valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 2:14). 
    Thus, it can be assumed that Lehi specifically knew where he was going when he left his home, and had a working knowledge and understanding of the routes available to him down to the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba). And, with the likelihood that Lehi over the years would have taken his four sons down the mountain to trade or buy from the caravans, it would also explain why the boys would have had experience with the large tents of the day—something that those within the city would not have possessed, let alone know how to use.
    It should be kept in mind that to modern man who gives little attention to traveling—he hops in a car, gases it up, and heads off along one of the many interstate freeways where food and gas stops are frequent. But in 600 B.C., one's very life depended upon knowledge of the terrain, life-saving water holes, and oases. For someone living within the city of Jerusalem, such knowledge would be both unknown and unnecessary. When traveling around Israel, as some did, a distance of a little over a hundred miles from north to south, overnight stops were in caves that pockmarked the routes, traveling along trails or roads that were many hundreds of years old. Such travel on foot was a time-consuming process, but not overly dangerous, though there was always the thought of thieves.
    Travel along the route Lehi took through the desert south of Jerusalem, and during the dry season, the sand-cushioned “superhighway” with gently sloping gradients and comfortable passageways through the rough and otherwise impenetrable hills. This route was well known even 800 years before Lehi when Moses mentioned it in asking permission to proceed along it without turning “to the right hand nor to the left” with the hosts of Israel on their way to Canaan (Numbers 20:17; 21:22).
    Though well traveled in the time of Lehi, this route was dangerous and any lack of knowledge of the route could end up in disaster. As an example, when Nephi’s steel bow broke, and the wood bows of his brothers lost their spring, they were unable to obtain food (1 Nephi 16:21). This was such a calamity that even Lehi began to murmur against the Lord for bringing them out into the wilderness. They began to suffer for lack of food. Not until Nephi made a bow and arrow and went hunting to obtain food, was their suffering relieved (1 Nephi 16:31).
    When Lehi stopped in what he called the Valley of Lemuel, there was a year ‘round river or stream that flowed down from the hills and into the Gulf of Aqaba. There he stayed for some time while his sons retrieved the brass plates and Ishmael’s family, and five weddings took place (1 Npehi 16:7).
    Nephi describes his father’s “comings and goings,” and we can see how, during one of these encampments along the caravan trail where Lehi would have had not only time to rest while waiting for a caravan, but also meditate upon the matters of his soul. At such a time he could have received his future calling from the Lord. Nephi describes his father receiving his calling while away from home, then returning exhausted after the experience (1 Nephi 1:7). 
Lehi praying while in the desert waiting for a camel caravan bringing goods northward and stopping at the foot of the mountains that lead up to Jerusalem

While on one of these trips into the desert, encamped along a trail awaiting for one of the Arba caravans, Lehi might have been engaged in mighty prayer to the Lord.  Here he would have had time on his hands and his concerns over the people of Jerusalem must have weighed heavily on his mind, for many prophets had been sent among them to warn the people of their evil ways (1 Nephi 1:13). Here Lehi might have had his vision of the pillar of fire and saw many things that made him "quake and tremble" (1 Nephi 1:6).  After this experience, and, perhaps, after the caravan passed by and he concluded his business, “he returned to his own house at Jerusalem” where he cast himself on his bed in exhaustion from the trip and the spiritual experience.
    Once receiving the Liahona, Lehi was led by the Lord, and much teaching went on with the Lord instructing in more than the direction to take, “which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord, and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it” (1 Nephi 16:29).
    While the Liahona for some time led them down along the coast of the Red Sea in a south-southeasterly direction (1 Nephi 17:1), a route that was marked fairly well by the direction of the sea, after Ishmael died, was buried and mourned, the Liahona sent them nearly eastward, which would have been up over the mountains and toward the great sand desert beyond. Here, there would have been no trail, as dim as it might have been, for moving through the sand desert required a firm knowledge of the water holes, which were much further apart here than they had been along the Red Sea.
    A day’s march along the Red Sea was between water holes where they could fill up their goatskin bags for the next day‘s travel; however, once into the sand desert, water had to last much longer for the water holes were more distant, where the sun was low and burned them with thirst, and where heat waves played tricks with their eyes.
    Lehi knew not where he traveled, but trusted in the Lord. The Liahona pointed the way and the prophet followed—and the others followed the prophet. Thus we see, that Lehi had prior knowledge of the route from the land of Jerusalem to the Red Sea, but from there, needed the Liahona, which the Lord provided, for guidance to continue his journey. His prior experience with the camel caravans passing along the King’s Highway below Jerusalem provided him with knowledge of his early travel to the area of Aqaba, and because of it, he was completely capable of leading his family there when the Lord told him to flee Jerusalem.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Exactly Who Was Hagoth and What Happened to Him?

Hagoth was a man who lived in the last century BC, in the area of the Land North, that is, north in the Land Southward. As clearly stated in the closing verses of the Book of Alma, he was a Nephite ship-builder, and an “exceedingly curious” man (Alma 63:5). Unfortunately, most theorists have misinterpreted the term “curious” to mean he was an adventurer, explorer, and a migrator. Many used this misinterpretation to suggest he sailed to far off lands and was never heard from again, others claim he was stranded on some distant land, others claim he migrated into the Land Northward in one of his ships.
    However, the scriptural record, as short as it is—there are only six verses involving the story of Hagoth—makes it clear he built ships, and at one point, built “exceedingly large” ships (Alma 63:5). Hagoth, then was a shipwright—a carpenter skilled in ship construction and repair. Anciently, as today, ships were built on shipways (slipways) that slope from the place of construction down to the water. These shipways were out in the open, near the sea, where wood was available or could be obtained, and where the sea was protected as a cove, bay, inlet, or large enough river for the boat to then enter into the sea.
Hagoth built “exceedingly large” ships in a shipyard along the West Sea where the land narrows and the narrow neck leads into the Land Northward

When we remove all the unfounded speculation of theorists, we find Hagoth was a simple, but creative ship builder, or shipwright. In an era of small ships, probably used for river or coastal fishing—the coastal waters off Peru, Ecuador and Chile are considered a fisherman’s paradise—he began building very large ships. Before him, no doubt, the Nephite ship-building industry was limited to small craft, likely to take advantage of the unique currents off the coast. This powerful current called the Humboldt, or Peruvian Current, is a cold, low-salinity ocean current that flows north along the west coast from the southern Chile to northern Peru Flowing in the direction of the equator, this current brings cold water fro    m the Antarctic northward with its nutrient-rich cold water rising to the surface.
    Marine ecosystems are strongly influenced by salinity, temperature and the flow of ocean currents. Eggs and larvae of fish and other animals drift with the currents from the spawning grounds to nursery areas where they feed and grow. Along the coast of South America, the tides near the shore, and the upwelling currents from below, dictate the place where fish retain their structure and concentrate food in circular movements of water that lead to small whirlpools and deeper nutrient-rich water pushing to the surface.
    Along this 3,000-mile coastal shore, these waters support one of the largest upwelling events in the world because of the Humboldt Current, and is one of the most productive fisheries on the planet. Its coastal territory encompasses a large variety and wide range of natural habitats laid out in a somewhat linear fashion from south to north in addition to its adjacent open ocean habitation.
    Because of the 40-mile wide, 3660-mile-long Peru-Chile Trench, approximately 95 miles off the coast, an enormous upwelling of cold, nutrient-filled water constantly rises to the surface, the largest upwelling system in the world. This increase in nutrients generates a large amount of primary productivity and support a very dynamic ecosystem from central Chile to northern Peru, fueled by the producers phytoplankton and algae. These in turn are fueled by the cold, nutrient rich waters that move in support of the large increase in biomass, which are the main producers within this food web.
Sailing far off the coast ships needed to be sturdy, large, and capable of withstanding the powerful Humboldt Current 

The ships needed to sail out to these waters nearly a hundred miles off the coast would need to be larger and more seaworthy than small coastal craft and river canoes, a much more involved ship building expertise and area would be needed than some inner river. However, since archaeologists have found nothing larger than dugout canoes and small, reed boats along the coast of Andean South America, as well as Central and Mesoamerica, they have assumed for a century that the indigenous ancients did no deep water sailing. Even the larger coastal vessel with sails that Pizarro saw along the Peruvian coast was far smaller than his own ship in which he sailed from Mexico, and though surprised by its size in comparison to the native canoes he had seen among the Aztecs and natives of Central America, they easily and quickly overtook the native vessel and captured it.
    However, by the last century BC, we know the Nephites were building vessels, and eventually “exceedingly large” ships, that would have been capable of handling deep ocean sailing. These latter ships that Hagoth built, which were those immigrants boarded to sail northward and to unknown destinations, were not capable of sailing very far into rivers, if at all. Nor were they intended to transport people into the Land Northward, since their size and cost would have prohibited short distance travel. Besides, as Helaman states of the Nephites, they were involved in “shipping and the building of ships” (Helaman 3:14), thus already had ships that could move people up the coast into the Land Northward and along rivers.
Hagoth built “exceedingly large” ships, meaning he built much larger ships than had previously been built by the Nephites

The ships Hagoth built were ships that took migrants to far off lands, that sailed out into the sea for some distance, that reached detached Central America, and the Polynesian islands. Ships that took Nephites and some converted Lamanites, to lands from which they were never heard from again—that is, lands that were not physically connected to the Land of Promise, beyond the shores of their large island (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Without knowledge of such abilities and vessels of antiquity, archaeologists and anthropologists were forced to believe and hypothesize that western Polynesia was settled from the east and came up with the flawed notion that these settlers came from the west, somehow sailing into the force of winds and currents that did not flow in that direction.
    So how did the Nephites come up with the idea of building “exceedingly large” ships? Mormon tells us quite clearly when he writes that Hagoth was “an exceedingly curious man” (Alma 63:5). There are two parts to understand about this statement:
1. Exceedingly in 1829 at the time of the translation by Joseph Smith, meant “to a very great degree; in a degree beyond what is usual; greatly; very much.” Thus, the ships Hagoth built were “to a very great degree” larger than those that had been built previously, “in a degree beyond what was usual” for his day.
2. Curious was defined as “Inquisitive, addicted to research or enquiry, as a man of a curious turn of mind.” It was also described as “accurate, careful not to make mistakes; solicitous to be correct; curious after things elegant and beautiful; difficult to please; exact; made with care; artful, diligent; wrought with care; neat and finished.”
Hagoth built a shipyard where he built several large ships, some of which carried Nephite emigrants to “a land which was northward,” disconnected from the Land of Promise

In such a description, we find the man Hagoth was an artist, a man committed to excellence, one who was inquisitive as to how things worked and addicted to solving problems and finding answers. One who was careful to be precise, difficult to please, and exact, making things with care. Stated differently, he was a shipwright who sought to improve his craft, constantly working to do better, and solve the problems he faced. In short, he built ships better than others, making more difficult and better designed ships, building them after lengthy study, planning, and organizing.
    Obviously, he was quite successful, for he built several “exceedingly large” ships that carried emigrating men, women, and children along with their supplies for a new life, into lands “which were northward,” (Alma 63:4-8) as well as ships that could carry timber for construction to the Land Northward (Helaman 3:10), either along the coast or upriver.
    From all this, we can imagine a very ingenious artisan capable of high level laborious achievement in the Nephite shipbuilding business. It can also be understood that others had been building boats and ships before him, perhaps for a very lengthy time before him, but these were much smaller and far less capable of ocean sailing. Hence, Mormon described him as one who could build “exceedingly large” ships, meaning much larger than what had been usual for his day.
    In addition, he was also likely a promoter of emigration, and built a business around providing the means (ships) that could be used both profitably and successfully in transporting large groups of emigrants to long distances. After all, it took a full year for the first of these large ships to take its human cargo to a distant land, for it was the next year after sailing that the ship returned to the shipyard (Alma 63:7b). He certainly did not go anywhere in his ships, at least as recorded, for he was in his shipyard building other ships while the first sailed and returned a year later (Alma 63:7a).

Friday, January 25, 2019

Those Who Went North in Hagoth’s Ships – Part VI

Continued from the previous post, regarding those who set sail in the ships that Hagoth built as is recorded in Alma 63:5-7, and where these immigrants landed and where are they today?
Nephite Immigrants grateful for a safe landing in “the land which was northward”

As shown in the last post, and found in Alma 63, at least three ships went north with men, women and children immigrants along with their supplies. These would have been traveling a long distance for it have been worthwhile for Hagoth to have extended the cost of building “extremely large ships” and launch them into the West Sea. In addition, since Hagoth built several large ships, and people were boarding them to immigrate to a”land which was northward,” and “were never heard from again,” it should be concluded that these immigrant were traveling some distance, to a land which was disconnected to the Land Northward, but far enough away to:
1. Make Hagoth’s investment in building extremely large ships worthwhile;
2. Make the cost of traveling by ship rather than merely going overland into the Land Northward;
3. Never being heard from again.
    It should also be understood and extremely large ships are not ones that sail up rivers, but across seas and oceans. Thus, we can understand that these ships landed somewhere along coasts where the people settled. If these Nephite immigrants were just heading into the Land Northward, going overland would allow them to move into any place within the open land; however, going by extremely large ships would limit their location to just along the coast—areas where no doubt Nephites already in the Land Northward would have gone. Thus, the coast of the Land Northward would have been limiting the places where immigrants could settle in the Land Northward—a high cost of ship transportation for limited opportunity.
    All of this suggests that these immigrants were not just going into the Land Northward, but to a far off land, disconnected from the large island that was the Land of Promise. This means that somewhere to the north of the Land of Promise should be evidence of large Nephite settlements similar to those in the Land of Promise. After all, these Nephites had been in the Land of Promise for nearly 600 years; had been building temples, synagogues, cities and roads for hundreds of years.
    So, to find the location of the Nephite settlements to the north of the Land of Promise, we need to find two areas where advanced buildings of temples and cities of stone or similar material, such as found in the area of origin for Lehi and Nephi, the latter having taught his people how “to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15). It is highly unlikely that such a statement would have been made if Nephi and his people built stick huts with thatched roofs like those found anciently in North America. After all, Nephi “did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16, emphasis added).
Left: Stick frame of an Iroquois Long House; Solomon’s Temple

Now, Solomon’s temple was built of cut and dressed stone, not sticks, or poles set in the ground and covered with animal hide as the Iroquois long houses were, or did the temple or ancient houses there have fire pits with holes cut in the roof as did the Iroquois long houses and other huts, which all had very dark interiors, through which rain and snow would enter the enclosure as in the Iroquois longhouses.
    We might also look at the North American indigenous peoples, to whom the Heartland and Great Lakes theorists attribute to the Nephite people. First, is the aforementioned Iroquois, which label applied to any member of the North American Indian tribes speaking a language of the Iroquoian family—mostly the Cayuga, Cherokee, Huron, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. Those who spoke these languages occupied a continuous territory around Lakes Ontario, Huron, and Erie in present-day New York state and Pennsylvania as well as southern Ontario and Quebec in Canada. That larger group should be differentiated from the Five Nations (later Six Nations) better known as the Iroquois Confederacy, whom they referred to themselves as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. As was typical of Northeast Indians before colonization, the Iroquois were semi-sedentary agriculturists who palisaded their villages in time of need.
Map of the major Indigenous Tribes of the Eastern U.S.

Of this group, the Cherokee, of Iroquoian lineage, were one of the largest politically integrated tribes at the time of European colonization of the Americas. Their name is derived from a Creek word meaning “people of different speech,” but many preferred to be known as Keetoowah or Tsalagi. They are believed to have numbered some 22,500 individuals in 1650, and they controlled approximately 40,000 square miles of the Appalachian Mountains in parts of present-day Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and the western parts of what are now North Carolina and South Carolina. There was also the Mohawk, part of the Iroquois Federation, with their visionary chief, Dekanawide, who preached principles of peace and was instrumental in founding the Iroquois Confederacy
    In the Heartland, there were the Arikara, who were also called Sahnish, Plains Indians of the Caddoan-speaking peoples who established the prehistoric mound-building societies of the lower Mississippi River valley. The Arikara were culturally related to the Pawnee, from whom they broke away and moved gradually northward, becoming the northernmost Caddoan tribe. Before American colonization of the Plains, the Arikara lived along the Missouri River between Cannonball and Cheyenne rivers in what are now the Dakotas. These Arikara traditionally lived in substantial semi-permanent villages of domed earth-berm lodges, growing maize, beans, squash, sunflowers, and tobacco, to trade for meat and processed hides.
    There were also the Northeast Indians, who occupied the territory bounded in the north by the Canadian forests, the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and west by the Mississippi Valley, and the south by an arc from the present day North Carolina coast northwest to the Ohio River and to its confluence with the Mississippi River.
Top Left: Iroquois Longhouse; Top Right: Arikara earth-berm lodge; Lower Left: Traditional Ojibway Wigwam; Lower Right: Huron longhouse

Scholars and anthropologists assure us that the types of housing these tribes in the Heartland and Great Lakes areas were building when the Europeans arrived, were the same style and type of houses built as far back as any record of these tribes covers. It should be noted then that the style of housing built by the numerous tribes of the Heartland, Great Lakes and Eastern indigenous Indians were far from anything that would have been found among the Nephites.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Those Who Went North in Hagoth’s Ships – Part V

Continued from the previous post, regarding those who went north in the ships that Hagoth built that is recorded in Alma 63:5-7.
    There are two specific matters discussed in connection with Hagoth’s ships that have a bearing on where the Nephites and some Lamanites went in his hips.
First, we learn that some sailed northward to “the land which was northward” (Alma 63:4), as opposed the Land Northward. In addition, we see that “many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward” (Alma 63:6, emphasis added). Finally, “many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward” (Alma 63:7).
    It should also be noted that “they were never heard of more” (Alma 63:8). Thus, in some cases, the Nephites in the Land of Promise had no idea where these immigrants went, or if they lived or died, or if they sailed to a distant land, not connected to the Land of Promise.
Hagoth’s shipyard was near the narrow neck of land and along the West Sea; from there he launched several ships that took their course northward, and at least one other ship that went to an unknown destination 

Secondly, an additional ship sailed, at least that was recorded by Mormon: “one other ship also did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not” (Alma 63:8). Now in this case, any others that were not specifically recorded in the scriptural record, a ship sailed on a course that was unknown to the Nephites. This would have not been north, since on four occasions the destination of Hagoth’s ships were given as “northward.” For one to have gone in an unknown direction would mean it did not go north. It would not have gone south, first because the currents would not have allowed it, and second, because the Lamanite strongholds were in that direction. That leaves only sailing west on the West Sea (Alma 63:5).
    Now, the currents along the coast move either northward (Humboldt), or outward (South Pacific Gyre) in a circling motion toward the west and then curve down into Polynesia because of the Earth’s trade winds and Coriolis force. No other course would have been available to a ship sailing on the West Sea from the area of the narrow neck of land as Mormon records.
    Even non-scriptural sources suggest that Hagoth led an expedition, sailing into the Pacific Ocean from the Americas. In addition, as we have reported numerous times, some Church leaders and scholars have stated that the people of the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, Polynesia and New Zealand, are descendants of the Nephites (Robert E. Parsons, “Hagoth and the Polynesians,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, the Testimony of the Word,” Religious Studies Center,  BYU, Provo, 1992; “Latter-day prophets have indicated that Pacific Islanders are descendants of Lehi,” LDS Church News, July 9,1988). 
Hagoth is described in the scriptural record as a builder of ships, not one who sailed in them 

Before proceeding with Hagoth, we need to make it crystal clear that Hagoth was a shipwright. He built ships. When the ships went northward (Alma 63:5-7), Hagoth was still in his shipyard building other ships (Alma 63:7). There is absolutely no record, suggestion or inference that he ever traveled anywhere by ship, or that he accompanied any of his ships on any of their voyages. When we talk about Hagoth we refer to the ships he built and where those ships went—not where Hagoth went, for it is unknown if he ever went anywhere.
    Even though there is no statement, inference, or insinuation sbout anything regarding Hagoth other than he built many ships, John L. Sorenson, who was a missionary in Polynesia, and who states in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (p269): “I am well aware of the Hagoth theme in LDS tradition,” then goes on to write, “The Book of Mormon itself, of course, says only that the man and his mates disappeared from the knowledge of the people in Zarahemla. For all they knew he might have died at a ripe old age on the west Mexican coast without a suitable vessel in which to make the return voyage.” For one “who is well aware” it is interesting that he makes up the entire concept of Hagoth sailing somewhere and being stranded there and unable to return home since he had no suitable ship—even a more interesting attitude since Hagoth was an experienced shipwright.     
    In addition, a BYU Studies article stated, “Hagoth sailed into the Pacific where he and his shipload of people became at least part of the progenitor of the Polynesian people” (vol.17, no.1, Autumn 1976, pp59-73). According to Mel Waanga, it states in New Zealand Church History, that: “Hagoth built large ships and sailed north,” (Foz Emz Kd Wanoa, March 9, 2015, LDS New Zealand Church History, Teachers Seminary Manual, p193). A similar statement appears in the article “Polynesians of Lehi,” which states: “The story of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon, a Nephite who built several ships and sailed away with a large group of Nephites” (Nephite and Lamanite Link to Polynesia, Works of Joseph, September 30, 2018).     Another similar article: The Book of Mormon talks very briefly about the voyages of one Hagoth who disappeared about 55 BC “northward” along with some colonists” (Mark Blanchard, “Do Mormons believe Polynesians are Descended from Hagoth?” Quora, June 21, 2017). Also, David Richins writes that: “oral traditions of Polynesians and Hawaiians suggest that Hagoth may have ventured out into the Pacific…This is consistent with the Book of Mormon account which says that Hagoth ventured out from the narrow neck Alma 63:5” (Geography Wars: Toward a Reconciliation, The Lunch is Free, March 22, 2016).
    The point is, there are many members, historians, theorists and scholars who claim, without thinking or researching, that Hagoth himself sailed on his ships, when there is not a single comment, suggestion, or expectation that Hagoth every left his shipyards where he built many ships.
Hagoth’s ships sailed westward from his shipyard filled with Nephite immigrant men, women and children to settle the islands of the Pacific 

On the other hand, it is interesting that Elder Matthew Cowley used the term “descendants of Lehi,” Heber J. Grant used the term “the blood of Lehi and Nephi,” Mark E. Petersen used the term “descendants of Lehi and blood relatives of the American Indians,” David O. McKay and Hugh B. Brown both used the term, “descendants of Father Lehi,” Joseph F. Smith, speaking to some Maori from New Zealand: “You are some of Hagoth’s people, and there is no perhaps about it!” Spencer W. Kimball, speaking in Samoa, stated, “your ancestors moved northward and crossed a part of the south Pacific” and also speaking in New Zealand, “you are some of Hagoth’s people” and also called the Maoris people “the children of Lehi.” 
    It should also be noted that the Tongans and Samoans were adamant in their tradition that they came from the east, not the west as some modern scholars affirm. This means they came from South America, not from Indonesia. Maoris have an ancient tradition that they came to the islands “from the place where the sweet potato grows wild, where it is not planted, does not have to be cultivated.” Again, referring to Andean Peru where the sweet potato first appeared and was taken by the Spanish back to Europe. They also state emphatically that they came from the joining of two great lands at the two waters; specifically: “I haere mai taua i tawhiti nui, tawhiti roa, tawhiti pamamao i te hono i wairua,” that is: “You and I have come from a great distance away, an extended distance away, and extremely remote distance away, even from the joining at the two waters.” Now the two great lands, were the Land Northward and the Land Southward, which were joined by the narrow neck of land, and the two waters at this joining were the West and East Sea, which the narrow neck separated.
    It should also be added here that the doctrine that the Hawaiian people and all other Polynesians are heirs to the blessings promised to the posterity of Abraham had its origin through Elder George Q. Cannon of the Quorum of the Twelve and later member of the First Presidency. While he was at Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, he received a knowledge directly from the Lord that the Hawaiians were of the house of Israel. From this time on Elder Cannon and his associates began to teach that the Hawaiian people were an offshoot branch of Israel through the posterity of Lehi, the Book of Mormon prophet (R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1986, pp97-98).
Hagoth stayed in his shipyards building other ships with no mention that he ever went anywhere aboard the many ships that he built

Since we can see that Hagoth never set sail for anywhere according to the scriptural record, we should not get caught in the sloppy writing and thinking that he did. Therefore, we also cannot make claims that Polynesians or any other exotic or distant culture are descended from him, or that his descendants are among them. What we should concentrate on along this matter is that those who set sail in the ships Hagoth built traveled mostly northward, but also to destinations unknown to the Nephites, which would have taken them westward into the west sea and toward Polynesia.
(See the next post, "Those who Went North in Hagoth’s Ships – Part VI,” regarding the people who preceded the Maya, Aztec and Inca, and who built those vast advanced cities and pyramids that still stand in Meso-, Central, and South America, and more importantly, how those civilizations began and from wench they came)