Saturday, October 31, 2020

Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part III

Another passage most theorists misunderstand or just plain ignore is the one Mormon makes in his insert into Alma’s writing, when he wrote that “the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22”32).  

This simple statement obviously shows that the two major land masses of the Land of Promise had only one connection, and that was the narrow neck of land.

No other model of any theory allows for such a condition in their various designs—not the Mesoamerican model, the Heartland model, the Great Lakes model, or any of the various models of the Land of Promise.

All movement from the Land Southward into the and Northward was through a narrow pass within this narrow neck of land (Mormon 2:29; 3:5; 52:9) and all movement between these two lands was through this narrow neck of land (Alma 63:4).

“And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east (Alma 50:34).

A narrow pass


It should be noted that Mormon’s description of this narrow neck states: “the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east (Alma 50:34, emphasis added), is borne out by Moroni’s comment of the Jaredites, who “built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20-21, emphasis added).

Thus, this narrow neck of land was a narrow passage from the Land Southward to the Land Northward (and back again), verified by Mormon and Moroni’s statements. In fact, it was this narrow neck that became the dividing line between the Lamanites in the south and the Nephites in the north, arranged by treaty, as seen in statement: “in the three hundred and fiftieth year we made a treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided. And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward (Mormon 2:28-29, emphasis added).

In addition, the Nephites blocked this narrow pass within the narrow neck of land, preventing entrance into the land northward, an area of major strategic importance. In fact, Mormon illustrates the importance of this narrow pass or passage and neck of land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, as is seen in the instance of Teancum blocking the defector Morianton and his flight northward. He states: “Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land /northward and…they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:33-34).

The Narrow Pass within the Narrow Neck of Land


This narrow neck and the narrow pass, once again were the only way to get between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, otherwise, blocking it against Morianton seeking the Land Northward would have been meaningless, since other avenues northward would have existed. 

Again, Mormon makes this quite clear when he wrote: “thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward—therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites—as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires” (Alma 22:32,34).

It should be apparent to every reader of the scriptural record that the importance of this strategic area was in the fact that it was the only way to get between these two lands. If the Nephites blocked this narrow neck and its narrow pass, then the Lamanites could have no access into the Land Northward, preserving that Land Northward that the Nephites “might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.”

When Morianton tried to reach this single Pass, “Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward” (Alma 50:33, emphasis added). Teancum and his army  “did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34, emphasis added).

Thus, the flight of Morianton and the race of Teancum’s intercepting army traveled great distances to reach this Pass. If there were multiple ways into the Land Northward, as most theorists claim, how would Teancum know which of these ways to head toward to stop Morianton? And what would keep Morianton from choosing another way when seeing Teancum’s army approaching?

We repeat here that Joseph Smith said, “Now taking it for granted that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, LDS Manual, 2011, pp88-100), this shows us that Joseph was telling us that the scriptural record was completely accurate.

In support of this, Joseph Fielding Smith added this idea even more strongly, “anything the church authorities—including Joseph Smith—have said about ‘Book of Mormon geography’ is irrelevant if it conflicts with what is in the Book of Mormon itself.”

This tells us that all the theorists claims made and models designed are inaccurate if they stray from the clear and accurate statements found in the Book of Mormon. Thus, any claimed inspired statement by anyone, including the prophet Joseph Smith, that contradicts a clear geographical indicator or passage contained within the Book of Mormon is trumped by the Book of Mormon statement.

It is of interest that when the guru of the Mesoamerican Land of Promise, John L. Sorenson, states that a researcher should “use the entire scripture without exception” and review “every statement in the text,” we should do exactly that—too bad Sorenson and other theorists do not adhere to this advice.

A Mountain Pass. Passes do not always involve mountains, or even hills, they can be cuts through rock cliffs, flat terrain, and other areas where rivers or flash floods once flowed and cut passes into the ground or rock


As one theorists claims: “The narrow neck of land is also not to be confused with the “narrow pass” (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 3:5) which is a passage way through mountains or hills,” and quotes the definition listed in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, “Pass, noun: A narrow passage, entrance or avenue; a narrow or difficult place of entrance and exit; as a pass between mountains.”

This theorist then goes on to say that the narrow pass or passage of the scriptural record was a mountain pass and calls it as such several times.

The problem is, Webster does not isolate a narrow pass to only a mountain pass. He stated: “A narrow passage, entrance or avenue; a narrow or difficult place of entrance and exit; as a pass between mountains.” Note the word “as,” which is a word “used in comparison” and “to refer to the extent or degree of something.” In 1828, Webster defined “as” being “like,” “similar,” and “equal.” Thus, “as a pass between mountains,” is an example of a narrow pass, not the only type of a narrow pass.

Cuts and Passes through flat land on the plains—not in mountains


Such usage of “narrow pass” could include a narrow pathway, narrow ingress, narrow entranceway, walkway, corridor, etc. It is also defined as “a narrow part of a valley, a narrow part of a strait, narrow ravine, and a narrow pass through hills, such as those created by water flow (flash floods). What is important is that a “narrow pass” in this case is a “route” through, around, under or over something—it does not reference only mountains.

Moreover, when Mormon mentions a Narrow Pass, he does not say or imply there are more than one, yet some theorists claim there are several. However, the scriptural record references just one. “They did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.” (Alma 50:34, emphasis added). And, “He also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9, emphasis added), And The Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29, emphasis added). “And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5, emphasis added).

Note that in every case where the Narrow Pass is mentioned, it follows the word “the” which means that it was introduced before, or is known. Thus, the Pass, in passing through the Narrow Neck of Land is implied, and having already been addressed in this overall writing that Mormon abridged. Obviously, this shows, then, that the Narrow Pass ran through the Narrow Neck of Land, and was the single and only was between the Land Southward and the Land Northward.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part II

 Continued from the previous post regarding words and phrases found in the Book of Mormon that are often misunderstood or ignored by readers and theorists. In fact, theorists often read right past a statement from Mormon or one of the ancient writers of the Book of Mormon without considering its true meaning. As an example, which we have used before, is Nephi’s statement “For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4).

Most people reading this passage, “my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days,” as meaning Lehi lived in Jerusalem all his days,” however, that is not the meaning of this statement. As an example, the word “in” meanings within or inside, thus, such a statement would be lived within or inside the city of Jerusalem; however, “at” means outside and around—in this case, outside the city, or around the city of Jerusalem.

In 828 the American Dictionary of the English Language, listed:

1. “In” denotes present or inclosed, surrounded by limits; as in a house; in a fort; in a city

2. “At” denotes nearness” as at the house; or near the house, or toward the house.

Applying this to Nephi’s statement about his father, it shows that Lehi lived outside, but near, Jerusalem. It does not say he lived within the city! Yet, nearly every person, including most, if not all, of the theorists, interpret this statement to mean “within” or “inside” Jerusalem, which was a walled city at the time (1 Nephi 4:4-5; 24, 27). These walls existed between 3000 BC and 500 AD., and were 13,182 feet long (2.5 miles), 40 feet high and eight feet thick—a distinct walled area. Thus, people lived either inside the city or outside the city, not both. In 300 BC, a Greek geographer claims that the population of Jerusalem was 125,000 in a city area of 160 acres—about 150 households per acre.

Thus, someone living within Jerusalem at the time would have had a very small piece of property, completely covered by a house, with rooms opening off a central courtyard within the property’s walled peripheral. As such, they had no room for any unnecessary equipment or possessions. They would not have had room for the large tents of the day since they would take up a lot of storage area (each tent needed two donkeys or camels to carry them)—nor would they have had any need, since as they traveled within Palestine they slept the night in caves that existed throughout the area. In fact, many houses were built employing the “hillside strategy” that made use built up against the limestone rock face of hollowed out caves. Such structures were easy to build and there was a certain natural coolness to them.

Nor would they have had a place to plant, therefore they would have had no need for seeds, especially in the quantity needed to start a new life in the Land of Promise. Yet Nephi tells us that Lehi “took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4), as well as “we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind” (2 Nephi 8:1); also, once reaching the Land of Promise “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 18:24).

Lehi would have needed several donkeys to carry tents and provisions from Jerusalem down to the camel market along the Wadi Arabah (Arava)


In addition, Lehi would have had need for sufficient donkeys to carry the tents and provisions, which would have amounted to at least 10 donkeys (six for the three tents—at least three tents, i.e., one for Lehi and his wife and small children, and at least two for his grown sons (1 Nephi 3:9), plus at least two or three for provisions, and one or two for the women (certainly one for Sariah).

No one living within Jerusalem would have had room for 10 donkeys and three large tents. The wealthy people within Jerusalem might have had two donkeys, one or two cows, and either a goat or sheep, which were kept within the grounds, and at night within a room in the ground-floor of the house with a floor of pounded earth—which would have been throughout the home of the poor, with the affluent or wealthy having pebbles or baked clay tiles, while the very wealthy had wood floors.

Another example of a word or phrase that is often ignored by the reader and theorists is “going up,” and “going down,” meaning elevation. This is seen in Lehi living outside the city is verified by Nephi describing his and his brothers’ traveling down to their ancestral home (Lehi‘s home) and up to Jerusalem. As shown in these verses, the first is spoken by Nephi when they were in the city of Jerusalem, “therefore let us go down to the land of our father's inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches” (1 Nephi 3:16, emphasis added). Spoken by Nephi when in his father’s home: “Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands” (1 Nephi 3:29, emphasis added). And “We journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews” (1 Nephi 5:6, emphasis added). Before the second journey, Lehi states: “Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands” (1 Nephi 3:29).

To show that the term “going up” and “going down,” as used in the direction from the house of Lehi to Jerusalem and back. Consequently, we need to know that these directions mean what Nephi said later.  

Going up from the Red Sea where Lehi was encamped, Nephi states: “And it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another” (1 Nephi 3:10, emphasis added).

Going down to from Jerusalem to Lehi who was along the Red Sea, Nephi states: “But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us (1 Nephi 3:15 emphasis added). Note, going down is consistent with the other uses of “going down.”

There is the concept of up and down in the Bible as well, which is seen in the writing of the road down to Jericho (luke 10:25)


It seems correct to read “up in direction” or “down in direction,” as meaning up and down in reference to altitude, when reading those words “up” and “down” in the scriptural record. As an example, the words “up to” are used here when people are in the Land of Zarahemla going to the Land of Nephi: “we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?” (Alma 26:23), and “but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren, who have been up to the land of Nephi(Alma 29:14), and “departed into the wilderness with their numbers which they had selected, to go up to the land of Nephi, to preach the word of God unto the Lamanites (Alma 17:8).

Or the words “down to” are used here when people are in the Land of Nephi going to the Land of Zarahemla: “Ammon and his brethren saw this great work of destruction, they were moved with compassion, and they said unto the king: Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed. (Alma 27:4-5), “Amalickiah had gathered together a wonderfully great army, insomuch that he feared not to come down to the land of Zarahemla(Alma 51:11), and “Therefore it became expedient for us, that we should put an end to their lives, or guard them, sword in hand, down to the land of Zarahemla…we did resolve to send them down to the land of Zarahemla; therefore, we selected a part of our men, and gave them charge over our prisoners to go down to the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 57:15-16).

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part I

When those who write, talk about or discuss the Book of Mormon geographical setting and the Land of Promise, stray from the scriptural record to make their point, they are in deep water and as time goes on as they try to make their questionable points, they end up floundering more and more. This is generally the case when people embark on opinion or points of view that are not well founded in the scriptural facts.

The watershed of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including the Ohio River


Take Rod L. Meldrum the Heartland Theorists who wants to place the Land of Promise in North America, along the Mississippi River region, the Great Plains, and even to the Great Lakes, which some theoriss, like Phyllis Carol Olive, Vernal Holley, W. Vincent Coon and Delbert W. Curtis, place the Land of Promise in western New York.

The Rod Meldrum and Bruce H. Porter’s theory of the Nephites in the Heartland of North America, has led Meldrum over time discussing the Sidon River of the scriptural record being the Mississippi River. Now the Mississippi flows from Minnesota in the far north to the river’s delta to the far south in the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of some 2,320 miles, with its length increasing or decreasing as deposition or erosion occurs at its delta, or as meanders are created or cutoff. The river crosses through ten states, and with its many tributaries, the Mississippi watershed drains all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains.

Once every 1000 years, according to experts, the Mississippi has changed course as it  looked for a shorter, lower path to the Gulf when sediments deposited by the river made the old path higher and flatter.  Today, it’s ready to change course again.  It wants to take a short cut at the Old River Control Complex down the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf at Morgan City, Louisiana.  It’s 193 miles shorter and steeper and faster than going by New Orleans.

Thanks to the Corps of Engineers, the Mississippi River that used to be about one-mile-wide at its widest is now two miles wide at the widest. This navigable point is at Lake Pepin, about fifty miles south of Minneapolis, between Hager City and Reads Landing where it is the dividing border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A geologic syncline


Geologically, the Mississippi embayment is a syncline (fold in the rock, and a recess in a coastline forming or resembling a bay)) which plunges to the south and whose axis generally parallels the Mississippi River. The syncline is filled with sedimentary rocks ranging in age from Jurassic to Quaternary and reaching a maximum thickness of about 18,000 feet in the southern part of the region. Stratigraphic evidence in the central Mississippi Embayment indicates that a stream of major size has continuously occupied approximately the same location since the forming of the Atlantic Ocean (C. John Mann and William A. Thomas, The Ancient Mississippi River, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, Vol.18, 1968, pp187-204; Donald E. Owen, “Commentary: Usage of Stratigraphic Terminology,” Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, vol.57, no.2, March 1987, pp363–372).

Significant deltaic sediments occur from thick layers of the river's silt deposits of oolitic and silty limestones, called the geologic Smackover Limestone as well as in most younger units, has formed the route of the Mississippi. The stream which has persisted from the formation to the present is referred to as the Ancient Mississippi River (Kendell Dickinson, Upper Jurassic Stratigraphy, US Geologic Society, 1968, pE9). The Mississippi embayment—part of the alluvial plain—is one of the most fertile agricultural regions of the country, which resulted in the river's storied steamboat era.

During the Civil War, the Mississippi increased as an important route of trade and travel, and because of substantial growth of cities and the larger ships and barges that supplanted the old keel boats and other shallow-draft riverboats of shallow draft to clear river snags and rapids. The first decades of the 20th century saw the construction of massive engineering works such as levees, locks and dams, often built in combination—making the Mississippi for the first time, available to deep ocean ships.

Prior to that time, the traffic on the Mississippi was in shallow or flat bottomed boat traffic, such as early canoes, packet and keel boats, then the big paddle wheelers driven by steam. However, not until the river was dredged, deepened and widened in 1820, was it capable of handling ships of any size, such as large, deep-water sailing vessels that plied the oceans in the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to then, traffic on the Mississippi River consisted of the steam-driven paddle wheel boats carrying cargo up and down the lower Mississippi, and before then were the canoes and keel boats.

Flat-bottom boats, or broadhorns, had a very shallow draft in order to negotiate the Mississippi River before it was dredged in 1820


While the keel boats had a draft of only 2 feet (the distance between the keel and the water line), a shallow-draft paddle wheel steamboat widely used on rivers in the 19th century, had a draft of only 4 feet; however, the early sailing ships had a draft of 17 feet and could not have sailed even the distance from the Gulf to Baton Rouge, a distance of only 68 miles (Erik F. Haites, et al., Western River Transportation: The Era of Early Internal Development, 1810-1860 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1975, pp15-18).

Naturally, gravity finds a shorter, steeper path to the Gulf when sediments deposited by the river make the old path higher and flatter. Experts claim the river is ready to change course again—taking a short cut at the Old River Control Complex down the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf at Morgan City, Louisiana.  It’s 193 miles shorter and steeper and faster than going by New Orleans.

In reality, south-bound traffic on the Mississippi is free flowing with the current, however, north-bound sailing has to struggle to get through the 5- or 6-knot current.

It used to be, especially in the winter, that debris floated downriver, making sailing on the river hazardous, and caused even the large paddle-wheelers placing lookouts on the bow of their ships, watching out for hazards. It could get so dangerous that ship captains would not sail the river at night.

The river bed of the Mississippi was initially a low-lying or shallow basin, that filled with water over time as well as continually having sediment from upriver settling along its bottom, especially from the confluence of the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, and the Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas rivers. This continual deposition of sediment has always kept the Mississippi River quite shallow until modern times when the Corps of Engineers was tasked in the early 1800s to keep the river open to ship traffic.

In the upper part of the Lower Mississippi (north of Baton Rouge) in the late 1800s was still plying the shallow Mississippi in two-foot draft keel boats and wide canoes


Thus, when Meldrum and Porter claim that one of the groups, the Mulekites, sailed 852 miles up the Mississippi River to southwest Iowa/southern Illinois to the area across from Nauvoo which the early Saints called Zarahemla, it would not have been possible, for several reasons, not the least of which, would have been against wind and river currents.

Another problem is that the Mississippi does not correctly illustrate the Sidon River of the Book of Mormon. As an example, Manti is near the head of Sidon but the actual head of Sidon is in the South (or narrow strip) wilderness "away up beyond" the land of Manti. That puts the river’s head or source on a higher altitude than either Manti or Zarahemla. This would obviously result in a northward flow of water between Zarahemla and Manti. In addition, we know that the river Sidon flows pas or through the Land of Zarahemla, again meaning the river flowed to the north.

As can be seen, theorists go wrong when they make up stories, such as anciently the Mississippi was once wide and deep; and as Meldrum in his map, tries to make the ancient Mississippi so large, that he claims it was the Sea West—neither of these two ideas are consistent with known history and with the Book of Mormon. The claim that the south flowing Mississippi is the north flowing Sidon River is completely without merit.

(See the next post, Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part II,” for more information on how theorists go wrong in the development or support of theories that are inconsistent with the scriptural record)

What Did the Prophet Mean? - Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding more information on interpreting what the prophet meant when writing the Book of Mormon.

We continue here with an explanation of the word Wilderness.

Wilderness. This was defined in 1828 as: an uncultivated or unoccupied track of land

and we find the descriptions in the Book of Mormon following along this common understanding:

1 Nephi 2:2—barren hills

1 Nephi 2:5—desert wadi (dry river bed)

1 Nephi 2:6—desert plains

1 Nephi 18:25—coastal lands, including forest

1 Nephi 19:2—deserts of Arabia and unchartered lands

1 Nephi 19:10—deserts of Egypt

2 Nephi 5:24—large area of unsettled and uncultivated land

2 Nephi 24:17—desolate, uninhabited place

Omni 1:12—highlands, lowlands, and valleys

Mosiah 7:4—Wilderness here refers to this same land in reverse, between Zarahemla and the land of Lehi-Nephi which, upon leaving Zarahemla, would be valleys or plains (capital parts).

Wilderness can be most any different terrain 


Mosiah 87—Wilderness here refers to all the land between Lehi-Nephi and the land of many waters (land northward), which would have included mountains, valleys, canyons, ravines, plains, and the like.

Mosiah 8:8—Wilderness here refers to that area probably between the narrow neck of land and the land of many waters (land of Desolation).  This could not possibly have all been mountains, but would have included valleys, plains, forests and perhaps jungles.

Mosiah 19:18—Wilderness here refers to that land around the land of Lehi-Nephi and the land of Shilom.  Unless these cities and lands were on the side of a mountain, this wilderness refers to valleys, plains, forests, etc.

Mosiah 19:28—Wilderness here refers to that area outside the settled parts of the land of Lehi-Nephi and the land of Shilom.

Mosiah 20:4—Wilderness here refers to and area of water where women came to bathe, etc.  This is likely a meadow, valley, clearing in a forest, etc.

Mosiah 22:6—Wilderness here refers to an area surrounding the city of Lehi-Nephi, and is likely not a mountain when considering the driving of animals.

Mosiah 22:8—Wilderness here refers to that area around the land of Shilom.  Again, probably flatter land since animals were being driven through it, and since there was a secretive nature, this area was likely forest or jungle.

Mosiah 22:11—Wilderness here refers to that area around the land of Shilom, which would hardly signify mountains, otherwise the escaping Nepites would be traveling in a semi-circle around mountains that enclosed at least half or more of a rather small valley (if not very small, then the escapees were traveling a very long way in a roundabout manner -- hardly what escapees would do who feared being followed by an avenging army).  Thus, since you could see across the valleys around Lehi-Nephi and Shilom, this area of wilderness had to be more open and level, like plains or valleys (forests or jungles).

Mosiah 23:3—Wilderness here refers to numerous types of terrain for it would be difficult to flee an avenging army eight days in mountains.

Top: Plains along the Altiplano in Peru; Bottom: A typical valley in the highlands of Peru


Mosiah 23:35—Wilderness here refers to probably more open areas such as plains or valleys, for an army seeking its way home would hardly be content to travel up and down mountains where they could see little and where the going would be most difficult.

Mosiah 24:20—Wilderness here refers to an area somewhere between Lehi-Nephi and Zarahemla. It is unlikely that all this land was mountains, yet it is described continually as a wilderness.  Probably it was a combination of mountains, valleys, canyons, forests and jungles, or even deserts.

Mosiah 24:24—Wilderness here refers to the area Alma covered between the land he had established (Helam) and Zarahemla.  There is no indication that this was mountainous country.

Mosiah 24:25—Wilderness here refers to that land between Helam and Zarahemla.  Twelve days in mountains would hardly seem likely with women, children, and animals.

Mosiah 28:9—Wilderness here refers to traveling on more level ground before they "went up" into the Land of Nephi.  Likely this was a valley, plain, or forest area below a more noticable highland area.

Alma 18:37—Wilderness here refers to the deserts of Arabia.

Mountainous areas within the Narrow Strip of Wilderness

Alma 22:27—Wilderness here refers to a narrow strip between the land of Zarahamla and the land of Nephi.  This narrow strip was somehow set apart from the valleys of Zarahemla and the highlands of Nephi.  Mountains do not seem to fit such a narrow strip concept.

And it came to pass. The short Hebrew wuh, pronounced “we,” must be prefixed with the word to which it applies, and means "and," as well as “so, or, but, now, that, when, then, and so forth.” In addition, combining wuh with “yehi,” the latter meaning “it was, became, existed, or happened,” the result is “wayehi” or “hatah,” הָיָה or הָֽיְתָה pronounced “wa-yuh-HEE,” a common sentence starter in Hebrew, However, “wayehi” is mostly translated as “and it was,” but the old English translators of the Bible used "and it came to pass,” 1204 times in the Old Testament,  but it was translated only 727 times as “and it came to pass” in the King James Version. Joseph Smith did not introduce such variety into the translation of the Book of Mormon. He retained the precision of “and it came to pass,” which better performs the transitional function of the Hebrew word.

As an example there are other renderings such as: “And it came about” or "and When,” or “and often,” or “and also.” Jacob Weingreen, in Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew (Oxford University Press, 2nd Ed., 1959), suggests that it would best be given the meaning, "now it happened." Strong's Hebrew dictionary suggests "to exist" or "to become,” as possible translations of hâyâh. Royal Skousen postulates that hâyâh represents a "discourse marker" and suggests that the phrase and it came to pass "may be considered equivalent to “and then" or "and so” (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 1994, Vol.3, No.1, p. 37).

Weyah begins a section or an idea and is a very common word but it often indicates more than a simple introduction. The ancient writers of the Book of Mormon used the phrase “and it came to pass” as a “structural marker that tells the reader to begin a new section.” This is in keeping with ancient writing practices, thus, rather than being anomalous or strange, the phrase “and it came to pass” is used exactly as it should be in the Book of Mormon as an ancient writer would have used it. It exists as a structural marker to give order to the text.

While the Nephites wrote and spoke daily in Hebrew (Mormon 9:33), the writers of the scriptural record wrote in Reformed Egyptian (Mormon 9:32). Therefore in knowing about the Egyptian language, such as Egyptian historical texts “begin in monotonous fashion” always with the same stock words; for example, at some periods every speech is introduced with the unnecessary “I opened my mouth.”

We need to keep in mind that ancient languages did not have punctuation; there were no sentences or paragraphs and required some key to knowing when one thought ended and another began. In Hebrew (and Egyptian) that phrase was “it came to pass.” In fact, dramatic Egyptian texts are held together by the constant repetition of Khpr-n, “It happened that” or “It came to pass.” In Egyptian these expressions were not merely adornments, they are a grammatical necessity and may not be omitted. Thus, the Book of Mormon, written Reformed Egyptian, which was based on Egyptian, and therefore it very appropriately repeats the connecting phrase “and it came to pass” in monotonous fashion at the introduction of a new section.  Such a device is a grammatical necessity in ancient Egyptian, although it is awkward and strange in English. It need not exactly mirror known ancient Egyptian textual use, because we are dealing with reformed Egyptian.


Monday, October 26, 2020

What Did the Prophet Mean? - Part II

 Continued from the previous post regarding more information on interpreting what the prophet meant when writing the Book of Mormon.

• Know what is being referred to:

D&C 89:

The following revelation, called the Word of Wisdom, was "given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints."  This was "not by commandment or constraint" and was the "order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days." The emphasis was on awareness against the "consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" the Lord "warned" us and "forewarned” us, "by giving unto [us] this word of wisdom by revelation."

[1]  “That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong [full of spirit, intoxicating] drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet [suitable, proper] in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.  And behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make

[2]  And again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies

[3]  And again, tobacco is not for the body [external], neither for the belly [internal], and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill

[4]  And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly

[5]  And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome [healthful] herbs God hath ordained [established, decreed] for the constitution, nature, and use of man -- every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof

[6]  All these to be used with prudence [caution, reservation] and thanksgiving

[7]  Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving

[8]  Nevertheless they are to be used sparingly [frugally, moderately, seldom]

[9]  And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine*

[10]  All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven [sky, air], and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth; and these

[11]  Hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger*

Grains are for the use of man


[12]  All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground –

[13]  Nevertheless, wheat for man

[14]  Corn for the ox,

[15]  And oats for the horse,

[16]  And rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field,

[17]  And barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain

[18]  And all Saints who remember to keep and do these sayings

[19],  Walking in obedience to the commandments

[20],  Shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones

[21]  And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures

[22]  And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

[23]  And I the Lord give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

*  Note the different language between these two statements.  Meat is to be used during winter, cold, or famine, since that is when plants (grain and fruit) normally do not grow, and in 1833 when the revelation was given, not available to man; however, in the second statement, it is in times of famine and excess of hunger, i.e., when more food is needed than what wheat will provide, it is all right to eat the other grains such as corn, oats, rye, barley, etc.  The reason is simple: grains and the flesh of beasts and fowls have all been ordained (established, decreed by the Lord) for man to eat, however, the principle of obedience^ is hereby established by the Lord# with an accompanying promise "showing forth the order and will of God" who knows the nutritional value+ of meat, grains, fruits, etc. 

^  Discussed by Stephen L. Richards in Conference Report, April 1949, in which he states that this type of obedience (following the Words of Wisdom) "increases our faith and development of more spiritual power and, in turn, more wisdom."

# "This is a spiritual commandment” (Stephen L. Richards in Conference Report).

+ "The condition of the physical body can affect the spirit.  Food can affect the mind and deficiencies in certain elements in the body can promote mental depression” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, October 1974, pp 91-92).

Conspiring men would have poisoned the wine the Saints bought for the Sacrament

[1] There was a concern that conspiring men would poison any wine Joseph Smith, or the early brethren, might purchase for use in the sacrament;

[2] Liquors are considered strong drink; 

[3] Alcohol has always been a medicinal wash for the body, wounds, etc.

[4] Even today, tobacco plant is used for a poultice on open wounds, and used for healing animals;

[5] At the time this revelation was given, hot drinks were teas and coffees.  In the areas where the Church was organized, there were no herbal drinks that were heated at that time;

[6] To have eaten plants and fruits out of season at a time when no refrigeration or modern agricultural technologies existed would have been unhealthy and dangerous

[7] Over-indulgence in any eating habits or any foods is not wise

[8] Eating meat, generally, is sanctified by the Lord

[9] Meat is to be eaten sparingly, that is, not at every meal, not even at most meals

[10] Meat should be reserved for times when plants (grains and fruits) are not grown (winter) or         when they do not grow (famine).  Today, of course, plants are grown during winter in many parts of the country and world and there are few, if any, famines in the United States.  However, the statement is clearly an indication that meat was to be used to supplement diets when normal dietary foods (grains and fruits) were unobtainable; therefore, meat is not recommended by the Lord to be eaten as a main staple

[10]  Grains

[11]  Certain grains are not for use of man at all times, though they are ordained (established) for  his use

[12]  Evidently wheat has certain nutritious properties the other grains lack

Wheat is the preferred grain for man


[13]  Clearly, wheat is the preferred grain for man.  All the other grains are better used for animal consumption, with certain grains having nutritional value for certain animals.  The intent is to show that while man can eat all grains, certain grains are better than others,            and wheat is what the Lord has established (ordained) for man--the other grains are to be used by man "only in times of famine and excess of hunger," that is, when there is not enough wheat, other grains may be used

[14] "These sayings" refers to the words of wisdom being given by the Lord to man in this section of the D&C

[15] "The Commandments" refers to all the commandments the Lord has given us for our benefit, not just those in this section of the D&C, but in all of scripture

[16] Evidently, good health is received as a combination of obedience to both dietary laws and life commandments.  The Lord seems not to be separating these two things.  That is, good health seems not only dependent upon leading a healthful life, but also in leading a righteous life

[17] Clearly, the more obedient we are to all the commandments, the greater knowledge we are granted; and the greater the knowledge we are granted, the greater becomes our obedience

• Know the Words Being Used

(See the next post, “What Did the Prophet Mean? - Part II,” for more information on interpreting what the prophet meant when writing the Book of Mormon).