Saturday, November 9, 2019

Comparing the Great Lakes and North America to the Scriptural Record

Much has been made of the fact that the hill in western New York where the plates were hidden is the same hill as the one mentioned in the scriptural record, i.e., the Hill Cumorah (known as the hill Ramah to the Jaredites). In fact, many theorists champion the Great Lakes area as the Land of Promise, which the Lord promised to Lehi. While we know that Mormon hid up a majority of the plates or records of the Nephites in the Hill Cumorah he gave a small amount of the plates to his son, Moroni (Mormon 6:6). Where Moroni hid up the small amount of records left him, he did not tell us (Mormon 8:4).

Despite this fact, and that the plates Moroni had, were in his possession for 36 years after the battle at Cumorah, in the hill where the final battle took place. These theorists ignore the fact that Moroni would have been far from Cumorah by then, for he was running for his life, trying to keep away from the Lamanites (Moroni 1:3).
In any event, let’s take a look at this model for the Great Lakes being Lehi’s Land of Promise.
1. To understand the archaeology of the Great Lakes one needs to understand its climate. Temperature wise it has more in common with modern day Oslo, Scandinavia or Beijing, China, than it does with the warmer western Europe, and specifically Jerusalem, which is a Mediterranean Climate. And over the past 6,000 years the climate in the Great Lakes region has changed very little—and is a climate that can be very harsh, with howling winters bringing snow as early as October and as late as April. In Toronto on the northern end of Lake Ontario, the average 24-hour temperature for January is -4.9 degrees Celsius. To put that in perspective the average for London, England, in that same month is positive 4.9 degrees Celsius.
• Compare that to Alma 46:40 in which there were such hot seasons that fever was rampant among the Nephites and would have killed many except for the marvelous herbs the Lord had provided. 
2. In the Great Lakes region, the climate makes basic survival in ancient times, not to mention agriculture, very difficult. A hunter-gatherer must find or build adequate shelter to survive the long winter months, and also construct tough, winter-resistant clothing from animal hides. A family dependent on agriculture faces great challenges for without enough food grown during the summer months, a family living off the land can easily starve or succumb to the elements.
• Compare that to the fact that Nephi tells of crops growing exceedingly and providing abundance for them (1 Nephi 18:24; 2 Nephi 5:11), and Zeniff, who planted corn, wheat, barley and two other grain crops, as well as all manner of fruit, that obviously grew exceedingly for the Lamanites raided their crops (Mosiah 9:9,14). 
3. The people who arrived in the Great Lakes were hunter-gatherers. It’s believed that they traveled in small groups, and spent their time hunting migrating caribou herds.
Nephi taught his people how to build, and work with wood and metals, and “did build a temple” 

• Compare that to the fact that Nephi immediately taught his people how to build buildings and work with metal (2 Nephi 5:15), and built a temple that rivaled the one built by Solomon (2 Nephi 5:16). The Jaredites built all types of impressive buildings (Mosiah 8:8), and the Nephites built the “great cities” of Zarahemla (3 Nephi 9:3), of Moroni (3 Nephi 9:4), and of Moronihah (3 Nephi 9:5).
4. The tools the initial settlers of the Great Lakes region used were flint arrowheads, spear points, stone axes, flake knives. Eventually, they learned to cold-hammer copper into tools or weapons. 
• Compare that to the Jaredites who “did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth…ore of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work. And they did have silks, and fine-twined linen; and they did work all manner of cloth, that they might clothe themselves from their nakedness” (Ether 10:23-24).  “And I did teach my people 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. And I, 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. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (2 Nephi 5:16-17)
Archaeologists claim that agriculture first began in the Southern States along the Mississippi Valley and then spread northward much later 

5. In the Great Lakes region, those far to the south in the southern states area were far ahead of those in the Great Lakes, developing pottery and other methods long before the Great Lakes people, who received most of their crops and materials from the south.
• Compare that to the Nephites, who were north of the southern lands that were occupied by the Lamanites, who were far more advanced in all things than the Lamanites. As Enos wrote of the Lamanites in the south: “their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat” (Enos 1:20). 
6. According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to 1400. At its peak, from A.D. 1050 to 1200, the city covered nearly six square miles and 10,000 to 20,000 people lived here. Over 120 mounds were built over time, and most of the mounds were enlarged several times. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas, and vast agricultural fields lay outside the city.
• Compare that to the fact that the Nephites were completely wiped out by 385 A.D., and for many years after that, the Lamanites were involved in civil wars and not likely to have been building anything. In fact, in North America, the Indian tribes seldom built much at all.
7. The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia.
• Compare to the fact that Cahokia was not begun until around 600 A.D. and continued to 1400 A.D. Certainly not a Book of Mormon site.
8. In the first century AD, Professor Smith notes that it looks as if some sites, that are located at the mouths of rivers, are remaining where they are for a longer period of time. In other words, people are becoming more sedentary.
• Consider that the Nephites would have been sedentary from the beginning, having come from a society and culture of more than a thousand years of history. This hardly fits the Nephites of the era specified.
Saginaw and St. Joseph Rivers in southern Michigan

9. It took some time until the early people of the Great Lakes became full-time farmers. Mostly of these early people settled along rivers and waterways as in the St. Joseph and Saginaw River valleys (in Michigan)—then the two most populous areas. Water provided an easy means of transportation and, in fish, a plentiful supply of food. Some settlements along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shores were regularly occupied in summer and abandoned for more sheltered positions in winter. Evidence of plants has not been found prior to 1300 AD. 
• Consider that Nephi reports of tilling the ground and plating seeds brought from Jerusalem upon first landing (600 B.C.) They did not start out as hunters and gatherers for several hundred years as this suggests of the Great Lakes.
10. 180-miles south of Nauvoo, is the 2,200-acre site of Cahokia with its 120 man-made earthwork mounds over an area of six square miles, although only 80 now survive. These Cahokia Mounds are the largest archaeological site related to the Mississippian culture, which developed advanced societies in central and eastern North America beginning more than five centuries before the arrival of Europeans, which would make it commencing around 900 A.D.,
• Consider that this mound-building culture began over 500 years after the Nephites were annihilated.
11. Cahokia was settled around 600 AD during the Late Woodland period, and mound building at this location began with the Emergent Mississippian cultural period, about the 9th century A.D.
• Nephi tells us in the second year of their landing, he was teaching his people how to build buildings, etc., and that they commenced and soon finished a temple like unto Solomon’s. This simply does not fit into the mound-building cultures of North America. 
12. The mound builders of North America built Platform Mounds, with the construction of large, truncated earthwork pyramid mounds, or platform mounds. Such mounds were usually square, rectangular, or occasionally circular. Structures (domestic houses, temples, burial buildings, or other) were usually constructed atop such mounds.
• Consider that Nephi, Sam, and Zoram all came from the area of Jerusalem, an established civilization that, by 600 BC, was well established with about 1000 years of history building stone buildings on flat ground, digging down to bedrock. There is no history in all of Israel of building earth platforms with buildings on top.
    Thus, there can hardly be considered a match in anything found in the Great Lakes area, from the weather, to the planting seasons and crops grown there in that climate, to the gap in time between when the Nephites were in the Land of Promise and when the Great Lakes area had societies that would have rivaled the advancement of the Nephite Nation. In addition, it can hardly be considered a match in anything found in the heartland of North America with the mound building cultures that Meldrum and other U.S.-only theorists want to promote.. There is no history in all of the Middle East of anyone building on earthen platforms. The Book of Mormon does not describe anyone building on earthen platforms, and nothing at all to suggest an earthen mound-building society. Whoever the mound-builders were, they were not Jaredites nor Nephites. Those, that came into that land as hunters-gatherers, and took an extended period to develop into agriculturists—certainly would not have been either Jaredites or Nephites.

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