Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Were Hagoth’s Ships Canoes or Rafts, or Something Else? – Part I

The strength of Nephites and Lamanites moving north, firwst to Central and Mesoamerica, and much later to North America, hinges on the idea of Hagoth’s ships “that took their course northward” (Alma 63:) and that they “went to a land which was northward (Alma 63:4). Did Hagoth build ships of small size, as John L. Sorenson claims? Were they nothing more than large canoes with high sides? Were they rafts?
A large canoe capable of holding twenty people would hardly make it across the deep ocean

Such boats or rafts could move adequately on an inland river, or perhaps along the seashore, but that might be more difficult than it sounds. But either way, Mormon tells us these ships were launched into the West Sea (Alma 63:5). Mormon also informs us that these ships were exceedingly large (Alma 63:5). In addition, he also tells us that they were large enough for many men, women and children, along with much provisions to start a new life elsewhere (Alma 63:6).
    So how larger is “exceedingly large”?
    In the understanding of that word in Joseph Smith’s time, Noah Webster in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, says it is: “To a very great degree; in a degree beyond what is usual; greatly; very much.” Today, the word is defined as “extremely; exceptionally; tremendously, immensely.” It might also be understood that the word “exceedingly” had its greatest use between 1817 to 1844, steadily tapering off after that time to a low in the year 2000.
    In Hebrew, the word exceedingly מְאֹד (meod) meant “abundantly, excessive, extremely, great, immensely, very.” Of the 50 different meanings in the Old Testament, found in 287 instances of use, it was translated as “very” in 139 of those uses; “great or greatly” 68 times; “exceedingly” 14 times, and all the others being used only once or twice, the word in the Bible basically meant “very great or greatly.”
    So we can conclude that the word “exceedingly” as used in the Book of Mormon as an adjective carried the descriptive meaning of “very large ship,” or “greatly large ship,” which by the stretch of anyone’s imagination could not be a raft or large canoe.
    In addition, we need to consider that in Hagoth’s time, around 55 BC, the Nephites had been in the Land of Promise over 500 years, and in Zarahemla 150 to 200 years. In all that time Helaman lists and Mormon verifies that the Nephites were involved in “shipping and the building of ships” as one of their major areas of endeavor (Helaman 3:14). Thus, the Nephites were somewhat of a maritime people who not only built ships, but these ships were used for commercial purpose.
The Land of Promise was an island surrounded by water with numerous inland rivers requiring a shipping industry

Obviously, these earlier ships would have been small, but still larger than Sorenson’s raft or large canoe, but in either event, what Hagoth built was much larger than that. So why did Mormon single out Hagoth? Evidently, because he built ships quite differently than those ships built before his time. So what do we know about this man that backs up such a claim?
First: he was likely a Nephite
Second: He was probably a wealthy man for he constructed a shipyard large enough to build several ships within a few years;
Third: He was a very curious man.

    Now while many theorists conclude from this that Hagoth was an explorer and sailed out with the ship he built, the scriptural record does not suggest this. Thus, he did not set sail with his first ship which carried large numbers of emigrants on a course northward, for he remained in his shipyard building other ships when the first ship returned (Alma 63:7). In addition, there is no mention or suggestion that Hagoth ever went anywhere in any of his ships.
    Now we come to the word curious—it was not only about having a “Strongly desirous to see what is novel, or to discover what is unknown; solicitous to see or to know; inquisitive.”
    But it also meant:
2. Addicted to research or inquiry.
3. Accurate, careful, solicitous to be correct;
4. Attentive (as to detail);
5. Difficult to please; exact,
6. Make with care; artful; wrought with care and art;
7. Elegant; neat, finished (as curious work);
8. Particular; exactness of workmanship.”
    Thus, we can conclude the Hagoth was a maker of things unusual—ships that were exceedingly large that transported large numbers of people to distant lands.
    It is also seen that Hagoth and Mormon’s description of the man, his work, and results have been misunderstood by Mesoamerican, Heartland and other theorists, and who misrepresent him in their writing.
    Regarding this, we might ask:
2. What was the size and design of Hagoth’s ships? Some Mesoamerica scholars, such as John L. Sorenson, suggest that Hagoth’s ships were little more than very large dugout canoes with built-up sides or log rafts with sails, and certainly not complex planked vessels resembling later European ships. However, the facts do not seem to bear this out. So according to the scriptural account, one of these exceedingly large ships:
An ancient single sail ship driven forth before the wind

• Was big enough to accommodate a very large number of men, women and children;
• Was, in addition to carrying people, big enough for extensive immigrant provisions meant for colonization, which might have included domestic animals, such as cows, goats or sheep;
• Was built by a master craftsman who constructed other ships;
• Was seaworthy enough that after nearly a year at sea was immediately able to embark on a second, lengthy voyage, apparently without repairs.
    This hardly sounds like a dugout canoe or log raft, no matter how large. While a group of adventurers might undertake such a voyage upon a meager craft, such as Thor Heyerdahl and his group on Kon-Tki, and other raft vessel voyages, men seldom venture forth with their wives and children in such dangerous or tenuous circumstances, especially with the intent of migration.
    Consequently, since they were taking families and supplies on this voyage, and many people were involved, these ships had to have been quite large, and obviously more involved than simple dugouts or rafts. In fact, Mormon calls them “exceedingly large ships” (Alma 63:5)
(See the next post, “Were Hagoth’s Ships Canoes or Rafts, or Something Else? – Part II,” for more on the construction of Hagoth’s ships that carried emigrants to a land :”which was northward.”

1 comment:

  1. Very good info here. I often wondered if they built totora reed boats the way the Baja Indians used to do and the way the Lake Titicaca Indians do even now.However it does say large ships and reed boats don't qualify as large ships. Ithink there is a large reed ship in progress now in being built. Del I am putting a few comments up so you won't think nobody is reading what your writing . We need more people making comments so I don't have to! I would rather just read what someone else wrote. It is enjoyable to read this blog every day! Thanks