Monday, March 19, 2018

The Ancient Amazonian Sea

For those who still have difficulty in thinking of South America as being mostly underwater in the distant past and that Lehi landed on an island, despite Jacob telling us that (2 Nephi 10:20), perhaps the following recent discoveries might be of help.
    According to a recent Smithsonian article, recent discoveries show that anciently, the Caribbean Sea flooded inland forests of the Amazon. Carlos Jaramillo, a paleobotanist (a study of fossil plants in biological reconstruction of past environments, i.e., paleogeography) and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, which is an out-of-country bureau of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., states: “It’s hard to imagine that you could have the Caribbean ocean in the West Amazon.”
    Yet, that is exactly what he has found.
According to Geologists, as the Caribbean Sea inundated the Amazonian Basin and spread over the inner shallow sedimentary basins the inland Pabesian, Pananense and Paranan epicontinental seas (on the continental plate) and other marginal seas were established leaving islands of very old crystalline shields, which cover only 36% of the land mass

It should be noted that because of the rise of the Andes Mountains to their present height, the Amazonian Basin sea found its northward and Pacific exit blocked through what is now Venezuela before finding its present eastward outlet into the South Atlantic. Gradually this inland sea became a vast freshwater lake and wetlands where sediment flattened its profiles and the marine inhabitants adapted to life in freshwater. Over twenty species of stingray, most closely related to those found in the Pacific Ocean, live today in the freshwaters of the Amazon, which is also home to a freshwater dolphin.
    This inland sea, it is claimed, covered a large section of the forest, creating an inland sea that jump-started the evolution of new species. This resulted from the rise of the fast-growing Andes mountains that created microclimates at different elevations, sparking speciation and funneling new plants and animals into the Amazon basin. When marine microorganisms were discovered in the Amazonian sediments in the 1990s, it was hypothesized that the forest was once inundated by an ocean. “It’s hard to imagine a process that would cover such a large forest with an ocean.”
Drill sites of the Amazon region. Yellow area shows a much younger period of geologic time than previously thought (green area older, reddish area oldest). Also shown are (blue dotted arrows) seismic lines and (red circles) drill sites from the Andean foreland to the Atlantic Ocean margin. In the far western Peruvian, Ecuadorean, and Colombian Amazon, ongoing uplift of Andean foreland basin sequences provides outcrops of Cenozoic sediments that are relatively easily accessed

One of the overall problems was, despite extensive hydrocarbon exploration undertaken in this region, including many deep drill cores and thousands of mliles of seismic lines, little is known about the non- petroleum-bearing shallow, more recent part of the sedimentary record, which holds key information about the evolution of the modern rainforest and the establishment of the Amazon river drainage system. To determine this reality, Jaramillo and his colleagues turned to core drilling into the jungle floor.
    According to Lizzie Wade, a former Fulbright scholar at the National University of Mexico, a Fellow at Wired, and an intern and contributing correspondent for Science, covering archaeology and Latin America for the magazine from Mexico City, the drilled cores were three inches wide and 1970-feet deep, and preserved a record of the region’s past environments in the form of fossils, pollen, and sediments, well back into prehistory.
    Using two cores, one from eastern Colombia, drilled by an oil company, and one from northeastern Brazil, taken by the Brazilian Geology Survey in the 1980s, Jaramillo team went through the cores layer by layer. As Jaramillo reported: “Most of the remains came from land-dwelling species. But in two thin layers, we found marine plankton and seashells. The Colombian core even contained the fossils of an ocean-dwelling mantis shrimp and a shark's tooth.” That was enough to convince Jaramillo, who was once a firm believer that the waters of the Amazon forest were nothing but rivers to switch his thinking to the Caribbean Sea, which he now understands reached down into the western Amazon of Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru.
    “It’s a lost ecosystem,” he stated in Science Advances. According to Jaramillo, The Amazon once possessed a vast inland sea surrounded by seasonally flooded land. The Caribbean waters penetrated deep into the west Amazon with the salty ocean water flooding the forests during raining seasons and receding from some areas during the dry seasons. Before Jaramillo’s discovering, it was believed that this central area of South America was thought of as being dry land throughout its history.
    However, Jaramillo, who was initially skeptical of the idea, was able to piece together this portrait of a lost ecosystem through these deep core samples of rock and soil and studied exposed outcroppings at many locations around today’s Amazon.
    “I thought it was impossible,” Jaramillo said from his Panama City office beside a long table covered in books, printed scientific papers and fossils of bones and plants waiting to be categorized. “It’s hard to imagine that you could have the Caribbean ocean in the west Amazon...It’s too far away. But even though it rains a lot in the Amazon, it seems hard that the ocean could gain terrain through the rivers. It would have taken a flooding ocean.”
    Jaramillo added that if one could travel back in time and fly a hundred feet above the ground, one would experience a world where land and water intermingled across a vast region.
    The Amazon is arguably the most biodiverse place on Earth, with a 4,000-mile river running from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean that is currently surrounded by a two and a half million square mile river basin, roughly the size of Australia. Yet, as vast as the region is now, the modern Amazon rain forest ecosystem represents but a fragment of the diversity of habitat and wildlife that once existed between when it was flooded with ocean water from the Caribbean Sea. Today, it is now understood that the Amazonian flood covered hundreds of thousands of years, extending over all of Colombia, and was affected by the rising Andes Mountains.
    The new work “makes the case [for marine flooding] much stronger, and it makes the timing more definite,” says Carina Hoorn, a geologist and palynologist at the University of Amsterdam and Ikiam Regional University of Amazonia in Tena, Ecuador, who first proposed the marine flooding theory. While Paul Baker, a geologist at duke University in North Carolina, and Yachay Tech in Urcuquí, Ecuador, is hesitant about such a flooding extending as far as Jaramillo claims, he is in agreement that Colombia was underwater during this inundation period.
    Despite the public conscience thinking of South America as always being a huge continent, the idea of inland seas, marginal seas, epicontinental or espeiric seas, is not only a reality, but shallow seas over continental plates is a foregone conclusion to geologists and oceanographers for more than a century. Today, we recognize that the Baltic Sea, White Sea and Black Sea are all inland seas, with the Hudson Bay and James Bay are withjin the North American continent and along with Baffin Island to Quebec and Ontario share some similarities with the Gulf of Bothnia in Fennoscandia both lie in the middle of a shield.
    In fact, at various times in the past, inland seas have been greater in extent and more common than at present. In South America, swathes of Patagonia were subject to a marine transgression that linked the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as inferred from the findings of marine invertebrate fossils of both Atlantic and Pacific affinity in the La Cascada Formation.
    The point is, to those who study the past, the idea of inland seas inundating Southern America is not only common, but is being proved with more and more research into the subject. The problem that Land of Promise theorists, and often members alike, is that they try to assess the past by the appearance of topography and geographical appearances of today. South America was once a series of islands, with the western coastal shelf (Andean Shelf) a long, narrow island stretching from around the Colombian border to the area of Santiago, Chile, and upon this island, Lehi landed. Nephi, to escape his brothers, made his way northward, to the area of Cuzco, Peru, where he settled, and the story of the Nephites and Lamanites took place within that region, from Cusco to Lima to Ecuador—definitely a limited Geography area—from that point onward.
    Perhaps the bottom line here is the statement made by Donald R. Prothero, a geologist specializing in the history of South America, teaching geology and paleontology for 35 years at Caltech, Columbia, and Occidental colleges, and the author of over 40 books, including six leading geology textbooks, and over 300 scientific papers. He is also a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the Paleontological Society, and the Geological Society of America, and also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Science Foundation. He served as President of Pacific Section Society for Sedimentary Geology in 2012, and five years as Program Chair of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, receiving numerous awards, such as the Charles Schuchert Award for outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40, the James Shea Award of the National Association of Geology Teachers for outstanding writing and editing the geosciences, the Joseph T. Gregory Award for service to vertebrate paleontology, and been featured on numerous TV documentaries. Regarding an inland sea in South America, he stated: “The theory that the Amazon Sea once existed is not new. It dates back at least to the 1950s, but evidence for it had been weak until now.” 
    Little by Little, the facts about South America are being proven to show that it was once an island and coupled with the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, verifying the reality of a Nephite existence there.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Revisiting Mormon’s Insertion and His Intent – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the points that Mormon makes in his insert about the geography of the Land of Promise. The first nine were covered in the previous post, here we follow with point number 10:
10. However, the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness 
    Again, the Nephites controlled all the Land northward within that horseshoe or between the east and west curving wilderness 
11. This Nephite-occupied area north of the narrow strip began at the head of the Sidon River and ran northward all the way to the Land of Bountiful 
   The land the Nephites controlled north of the narrow strip of wilderness included all the land other than the east and west wilderness and the narrow strip, which all was filled with idle Lamanites living in tents, especially along the seashores 
12. This Land of Bountiful bordered on the north with the southern boundary of the Land of Desolation 
   Again, the Nephites controlled all the land in the north and Mormon is now describing that land as it passes from the Land Southward (Bountiful) into the Land Northward (Desolation)
13. This Land of Desolation continued northward so far that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla 
   The bones belonged to the Jaredites, and Mormon is telling us that the Land of Desolation extended so far northward that it came to the area of many waters, rivers and springs 
14. Thus, it being the place of their first landing. 
    The first landing of the Jaredites, who landed along the seashore and came up into the south wilderness or up into the Land of Moron (Ether 7:5) 
15. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful 
   Along the border between Desolation and Bountiful, and extending in both directions a short distance, was a wildernesscalled here, the south wilderness.” Called the South Wilderness because it was in the south of the Land Northward or Jaredite lands 
16. This south wilderness was filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food. 
    These are the animals described in Ether 9:30-34, specifically vs 32 
17. And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; 
    This line is the boundary between the Land Northward (Desolaton) and the Land Southward (Bountiful), which is the small or narrow neck of land which is between these two major lands 
The Land Southward, or the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi were nearly surrounded by water, except for (yellow circle) the narrow neck of land
18. And thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, 
    “roundabout means not following a direct Mormon is describing the Land Southward, having begun with the kings proclamation in the Land of Nephi. Thus, he is telling us that this Land Southward was surrounded by water except for this small neck of land in between the two major lands 
19. There was a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward. 
    This small neck of land is the same neck sometimes called narrow neck and is the only land form connecting the Land Southward (Bountifujl) with the Land Northward (Desolation) 
    The point of all of this is to show that all this information, covered here in 19 points, was describing the topography or geography of the Land of Promise, from the far south, where the Lamanites dwelled (even mentioning the area of First Landing), to the far north where the Jaredite final battles took place (Land of Many Waters). All his points, even the mention of the River Sidon, the Jaredite animals that escaped and became wild over time, even the landing area of the Jaredites, etc., was all intended by Mormon to describe the Land of Promise.
    Consequently, at this point of a small neck of land Mormon is simply continuing with his description of the land and tells us how narrow this narrow neck was so that his future reader could understand what a small neck of land meant. And to make sure we understand how narrow it is, or how small this neck was, he tells us what the distance was across this line or boundary between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation, i.e., the distance it would take a Nephite to travel in a day and a half journey.
    The word line between two lands tells us that this is a boundary. The word journey tells us it was a normal movement that was taken (not a race, not a quick or slow passage, just a normal pace). He also tells us in the word Nephite that this journey was taken by a normal man that lived in a city style environment as opposed to a Lamanite who lived in the wilderness and sought his food by chasing, trapping and killing animals. Also in using journey Mormon tells us that this was a normal movement, i.e., the Nephite would have traveled only in daylight where he could see along this border, and that he rested at times and slept at night.
    Now to make sure we understand that Mormon is describing just geography, he goes on in vs 33 to tell us:
20. The Nephites inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea,
21. The Nephites in their wisdomhad hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward. 
22. The Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about.
    All of this, along with the distance of the narrow neck, was intended to tell us, his future reader, what the Land of Promise was like, how it was configured, and where its size differed considerably, what this distance was. Therefore, from strictly an academic view of this passage (as I see it anyway), this was a distance measurement, it was intended to continue Mormons description of the land of which he was describing in some detail, and that he did not vary from his point by inserting unnecessary wordage or thoughts, or ideas that were not clear and easily understood.
    After all, what was he measuring in a day and a half journey if not the narrowing of the land where this small neck was situated between the Land Northward (Desolation) and the Land Southward (Bountiful). Nowhere else in his insertion does he introduce an unknown factor in describing the geography of the Land of Promise, and nowhere else does he introduce a distance measurement except where he describes a narrowing (small) are of land.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Revisiting Mormon’s Insertion and His Intent – Part I

A further comment about the intent of Mormon’s inserted writing in Alma 22 regarding his description of the Land of Promise states: “I disagree with your assessment in Alma. I do not think Mormon is describing how wide the small neck of land is. It think he is discussing the fact that the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi were nearly surrounded by water.” 
    We have written about this many times, but since it is a major issue among Theorists and often articles are written to describe a different view of this subject that are both confusing and erroneous, which causes confusion in the scriptural record where no confusion actually exists, let us take a few moments and go into great detail on what Mormon wrote in this insertion of 8 verses and what is obviously his intent.
An angel, answering the prayers of the Church Members, appears to Alma and the sons of Mosiah who had been fighting against the Church; they were so frightened the fell to the ground which shook as the Angel called them to repentance. Their conversion led to the great missionary work they performed among the Lamanites

First of all, Mormon is describing the missionary efforts of the sons of Mosiah, including Ammon and Aaron. After Ammon had described the Lord to the Lamanite king (King Lamoni’s father), he traveled on, and Aaron arrived in the king’s land. After Aaron taught the king, the king “was struck as if he were dead,” and both the queen and the king’s servants thought him dead, as did the Lamanites, and threatened Aaron and his brethren missionaries, but the king awoke and stood and administered to the Aaron and his brethren and the people were pacified, so the king “caused that Aaron and his brethren should stand forth in the midst of the multitude, and that they should preach the word unto them” (Alma 22:26). Afterward, “the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land amongst all his people, who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about” (Alma 22:27) that “they should not lay their hands on Ammon, or Aaron, or Omner, or Himni, nor either of their brethren who should go forth preaching the word of God, in whatsoever place they should be, in any part of their land” (Alma 23:1).
    This decree the king sent out, stated “that they should not lay their hands on them to bind them, or to cast them into prison; neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them, but that they should have free access to their houses, and also their temples, and their sanctuaries. And thus they might go forth and preach the word according to their desires, for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household; therefore he sent his proclamation throughout the land unto his people, that the word of God might have no obstruction, but that it might go forth throughout all the land, that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness” (Alma 23:2-3).
    As can be clearly seen, Mormon is following the events in Alma’s writing of the missionary work of the sons of Mosiah, however, in between these two events, Aaron preaching to the people and sending the proclamation, Mormon inserts eight verses of explanation regarding the land of the king, the Lamanite lands and the lands of the Nephites.
Throughout all the Lamanite kings land and among all his people in the land

So in vs 27, “the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land who were in the regions round about.”
    Now in this statement, Mormon sets the stage for his inserted verses, that describes that he is talking about the land form, topography or geography of the Land of Promise. He inserts:
[1] all the land,
[2] amongst all his people who were in all his land
[3] who were in the regions round about
    In this simple statement, Mormon inserts a fairly complete description of the Land of Promise. Consider that he goes on to tell us in his description that this land:
1. Borders even to the sea on the east and on the west 
      Mormon mentions this twice in vs 27, saying the land went from the Sea East to the Sea West
2. Was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness
3. This wilderness ran from the sea east even to the sea west,
4. This wilderness also “curved” roundabout on the borders of the seashore, 
      “Roundabout means not following a direct route, but is circuitous. This means the narrow strip of wilderness had to have curved or wound upward at the east and west terminus of the land, i.e., curved upward since it was on the west and east of the Land of Zarahemla
5. The borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, 
      “On the north obviously means that the northern boundary of the narrow strip of wilderness that ran between the Land of Zarahemla (a term sometimes used for the entire Land NorthwardMormon 1:6; Alma 4:1; 16:1) and the Land of Nephi (a term most often used for the entire Land SouthwardAlma 26:23; 46:29; 50:8) was a dividing wilderness between these two major lands (Alma 22:28,34; 27:14)
6. This wilderness “that bordered Zarahemla on the north” ran through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, 
       Either along the northern edge of this strip, or slightly within it, was both the city of Manti and also the head of the River Sidon
7.  Which wilderness ran from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided. 
       Mormon again makes it clear he is describing that Manti and the head of the River Sidon are within this narrow strip of wilderness that separates the Nephites from the Lamanites
8. This narrow strip of wilderness on the west extended northward from the narrow strip into the Land of Zarahemla along the seashore, and southward along the seashore from the narrow strip all the way down to the area of First Landing, and was occupied by tent-dwelling idle Lamanites (vs 28) 
       While the narrow strip runs in a basic straight line from sea to sea, it curves up at the seashore in both the east and the west, forming a land roundabout that curves up into the Land of Zarahemla along the coast. It also extends downward along the coast of the West Sea, and is filled with idle Lamanites all the way to the area of First Landing
9. This narrow strip of wilderness also extended northward in the east along the seashore into the Land of Zarahemla 
       The Nephites had driven the Lamanites (who had been in the Land of Zarahemla) far to the east and at the time of Mormons description, occupied the wilderness that ran roundabout northward along the sea
       Thus, this narrow strip of wilderness along the northern boundary ran like an upside down horseshoe with the Lamanites along the horseshoe and the Nephites in the middle, thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites
(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon’s Insertion and His Intent – Part II,” for the rest of these points that Mormon makes in his insert about the geography of the Land of Promise)

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Intent of Mormon’s Description – Part II

As we ended the last post, Mormon’s statement “it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32), was introduced. And in doing so, Mormon introduces two unknown factors, i.e., “the line” and “east.” So let us take these two words “line” and “east” 
First of all, the word “line” is only mentioned three times in the book of Alma. The first time is here in Alma 22, the other two are in Alma 50 (vs 11 “fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites,” and vs 13 “it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites), in both cases in Alma 50, the word “line” has to do with a boundary.
    The word line in 1828 meant “a straight or parallel direction, a straight line, a course, direction, limit of a country, border.” We see this in the statements: “the line went “from the north sea to the south sea,” or “from the east sea to the west sea,” as opposed to being from a particular area or point, such as “from the east boundary to the west sea,” or “from the east mountains to the west sea,” or “from the east canyon to the west sea.” Either way the intent is understood clearly.
    Line meant a boundary direction.
    Thus, the word “line” in Alma 22:32 would appear to mean a boundary. First of all, “line” in vs 32 is used “On the line Bountiful and the land Desolation,” which would obviously suggest some type of boundary, as his use twice of “line” in Alma 50.
That makes pretty clear sense here, since Mormon is telling us about the division of the Land of Promise from the south (Land of Nephi, or the Lamanite king’s land) to Bountiful in the north, with “the land on the northward [of Bountiful] was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful” (Alma 22:31). Then, after a sidenote about animals, he states: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation” (Alma 22:32), which continues with his description of the land. That is, along a line between Bountiful (on the south) and Desolation (on the north), the width or distance was a day-and-a-half journey for a Nephite.
    Now, when Mormon wrote that, the East Sea or Sea East, had likely not existed for some 350 years, but the “narrow neck of land” still existed, or more correctly, “the narrow pass separating the Land Northward (Desolation) and the Land Southward (Bountiful) still existed. We see this since it was still being used in the third century A.D. when it was a boundary between the Land Southward, being granted to the Lamanites in the treaty, and the Land Northward, granted to the Nephites (Mormon 2:28-29), and that narrow pass led from the north into the Land Southward (Mormon 3:5). President Ezta Taft Benson in General Conference stated that “The Book of Mormon was written for our day” (Ensign Nov 1986 p6); and Mormon himself stated that he was writing to a future people (Mormon 7:1); and Moroni, writing after all had been killed, was a prophet without a people, thus his audience was a future people when he wrote: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know our doing” (Mormon 8:35); and the Lord said “they should be given unto future generations” (3 Nephi 26:2).
    Since Mormon was writing to a future people of whom he did not know, nor would have known their language nor way of thinking about distances, etc., any more than we can assume how people in 2368 A.D. would refer to distances, so he is letting us know that between these two lands, of which the Land Southward was completely surrounded by water except for a Narrow Neck of Land, he is telling us how wide that “narrow neck” is, so we can get a picture of this overall land he has been describing to us.
    It should be kept in mind, that when saying he went “from the east to the west sea,” that is not clearly understood, unless the point in the east was made clear (mentioned or described previously).
    Now when Mormon says “amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west” (Alma 22:27)—he clearly states the subject matter he is talking about, i.e., the regions round about. “Round about” what? Round about his land. Where was his land? It bordered “even to the sea.” What sea and in what direction? “On the east and on the west.”
    So Mormon’s writing is clear—the area in question was the king’s domain stretched “round about” the land that bordered from the east sea to the west sea—or the sea in the east to the sea in the west. Therefore he did not have to identify the seas since he identified the extension of the land stretching to the sea in both directions.
    In the same verse, he says “by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west” (Alma 22:27). In this case, he does not identify the extent of the east/west direction since he identified the subject matter earlier (the land “which ran from the sea east even to the sea west”).
    So we see that already in the previous five verses (Alma 22:27-31), Mormon has mentioned the Sea East and the Sea West as being the terminus borders of the land (twice in vs 27) and mentioned an east seashore (once in vs 29), so in vs 32, when he mentioned “from the east to the west sea,” and again in vs 33 “from the east unto the west sea,” he is still referring to this singular area of land (Land of Promise) which was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), at the time in which Mormon is referring.
    Secondly, in looking at east/west direction, Mormon uses the phrase “from the east to the west sea,” twice (vs 32 and 33). Now in vs 33, it seems pretty clear he is referring to “from east sea to west sea” since he is talking in that verse about “hemming” in the Lamanites and to do so in the land he has been describing since vs 27, would mean that the Nephites had blocked the Lamanites off from sea to sea so they could “have no possession (or expand) on the north.” No other type of topography is introduced in this vein, so a boundary in the east would be “understood” to be the same boundary as mentioned in the West.
    Once again referring to my friend’s comment about this, he stated: “The line went from the West Sea to the East along the Jubones River which was the line talked about, for about 45-50 miles into the southern entrance to the narrow pass area.”
    However, if that was what Mormon had in mind to say, he did not convey any thought, suggestion, idea, or intimation that he had that in mind. And since his entire insertion (vs 27-34) fits perfectly with a detailed description of what he is talking about, It seems out of character to suggest that he was referring to a river or some other topography of which he not only does not mention, but doesn’t even allude, insinuate, or provide an inkling about.
    Not only that, but nowhere in the entire book of Alma, does he suggest the word “line” meant anything other than boundary that was clearly understood. In vs 27 of his insertion, he tells us what area he is talking about. As an example, he gives us four boundaries and mentioned what they were in each case: “all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and roundabout on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness.
    Nothing is left to the imagination. It seems clear that the idea of an east boundary in vs 32 and 33 not being identified is such is inconsistent with both Mormon’s previous elliptical writing, and his intention of being understood by a future reader. The problem is, the truth simply does not fit the Mesoamerican narrative and runs contrary to these theorists protecting their Mesoamerican model.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Intent of Mormon’s Description – Part I

One of the important statements made in the scriptural record regarding the description of the Land of Promise, is the insertion of eight verses that Mormon places in the writing of Alma, as the abridger describes for us the land of the Book of Mormon and who was placed where in that land, i.e., the Nephites and the Lamanites.
The Nephites and Lamanites were divided by a Narrow Strip of Wilderness that ran from the East Sea to the West Sea

In this insertion, Mormon goes so far as to describe the Land Southward northward to the Land of Desolation, which was separated from the Land of Bountiful by a narrow neck of land. To me, this description has always been quite clear, and delineates the land between the north and south at this narrow neck.
    However, a friend wrote to me recently, in which he disagreed with that interpretation, stating: “In these verses I do not think Mormon is telling us how wide the narrow neck of land is, although he is showing us why the land southward was nearly surrounded by water. Mormon makes it clear twice when he is talking about the East and the West Sea, then with v 32 he only says from the east to the West Sea.”
    It is interesting that in his letter, my friend abbreviated the narrow neck of land by writing N.N.L. Sometimes I think Mormon does the same, that is, he shortens a known subject. As an example, I type on a computer much faster than I can write longhand, but I can appreciate someone writing longhand wanting to abbreviate, or even omit, from time to time—in fact, Mormon, who was engraving on thin metal plates with some sort of stylus, would have been a much more laborious effort than writing in longhand, as writing in longhand is more laborious for some people than typing.
    As a result, it seems Mormon sometimes used what is called elliptical writing today, that is, writing clauses in which some words have been omitted, yet the sentence retains the same meaning. A generic example of this would be He talked carefully in order to appear fair is an elliptical sentence for He talked carefully in order [that he] appear fair.
    Another would beHe left after the speeches instead of He left after the speeches [ended] or He left before the speeches [began]. Closer to the scriptural record would be: The breaking of Nephis bow affected the others more than [it affected] him,orNephi was better with the bow than [was] Lemuel,or Nephi loved the Lord more than Laman [loved the Lord].
The first elliptical sentence is correct only if it follows an introduction of the parties involved; the second elliptical sentence is correct, but is complete only if it follows an introduction of the two parties and who they were; the third sentence is correct and should proceed either of the other two elliptical sentences for full understanding as it does in Mormon 1:8

Such elliptical sentences are grammatically correct only if the necessary information to understand the sentence has been supplied previously in the context of the sentence. As an example, in supplying the information previously in The breaking of Nephis bow affected the others more than [it affected] him,showing that the others were affected, and what affected them was the breaking of the bow. The same is true in Nephi was better with the bow than [was] Lemuel,or Nephi loved the Lord more than Laman [loved the Lord].
    Such writing is used to avoid unnecessary repeated words. This is seen in the Book of Mormon in such statements as Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which [language] consists of the learning of the Jews (1 Nephi 1:2); and “the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read [the book]. And it came to pass that as he read [the book], he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 1:11-12); and “Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father [on the plates] then will I make an account of mine own life [on the plates]” (1 Nephi 1:17).
    Ellipsis writing then is used to shorten a sentence by omitting unnecessary words, as in this first Chapter of 1 Nephi; however, while these examples are obvious, elliptical writing or speaking is not always so understandable, as many Theorists’ beliefs make it quite clear. Take, as an example Mormon’s inserted writing of the land’s description:
    “And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they [the Nephites] came to the land which they called Bountiful. And it [the land of Bountiful] bordered upon the land which they [the Nephites] called [the land of] Desolation, it [land of Desolation] being so far northward that it [land of Desolation] came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose  [the people who had been destroyed] bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla [Limhis 43-man expedition], it [the land of Desolation] being the place of their [peoples whose bones had been found] first landing. And they [people whose bones had been found] came from there [first landing] up into the south wilderness [in the land of Desolation]”.
    Using elliptical writing, Mormon’s insertion of these three verses amounts to 120 words in English. Without elliptical writing, Mormon would have written the equivalent of 170 words of English, an approximate savings of 30% engraving effort. Thus, using elliptical sentences both saves time and does not lose anything in the translation, unless one (Theorists) is trying to prove another point, such as the Mulekites (people of Zarahemla) landing in the Land Northward and intermingling with the Jaredites—then problems arise from this elliptical writing.
    However, when read correctly, no problem arises, since elliptical construction is a construction that lacks an element that is recoverable or inferable from the context, which in the case of Mormons insertion it most certainly does! Thus, the above sentences are grammatically correct since the necessary information to understand the sentences has been supplied previously, making them clear from the context of the sentence. It is only when someone wants to claim the statements mean something else that problems arise, as Mesoamericanists have done with Mormons insertion dating all the way back to Hugh Nibleys time. And we can say that, because there is another verification these Theorists rarely, if ever, quote from, and that is Omni 1:15-16) in which the prophet Amaleki tells us that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (emphasis added).
    Now, let’s go back to Mormon’s insertion regarding the narrow neck of land, which is what prompted my friend to comment on this issue. Mormon states “it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32).
(See the next post, “The Intent of Mormon’s Description – Part II,” to see what he had in mind by using “the line” and “east” in Alma 22:32 in his description of the Land of Promise)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Chile, the Unknown Land – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding what was known by Church Leaders about Chile that was not common knowledge in the United States during Joseph Smith’s time. In fact, several Church Leaders in the early days of the Book of Mormon considered the west coast of central Chile, around the 30º South Latitude as Lehi’s landing site. There is a specific reason why this should be of extreme importance to theorists who seek the truth as to where Lehi actually landed, since very little was known about Chile at that time, and prior to the 1890s, almost nothing was known about central Chile, where Lehi is considered by some, to be his landing site. 
To note this, consider George Q. Cannon, whose family was converted in England and crossed the ocean, arriving in Nauvoo in 1843 when he was 16. He worked for the Times & Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor run by his uncle, John Taylor. He was 17 at the time of Joseph Smith’s death. One of his sister’s married John Taylor. Cannon became an early member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, called at the age of 33 in 1860 to replace Parley P. Pratt, and later served from 1873 to 1901 as an assistant Counselor, then First Counselor in the First Presidency under four successive presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow.
    He also served a mission in Hawaii, and helped translate and publish the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian, assisted apostle Parley P. Pratt in publishing a newspaper The Western Standard, in California, became President of the California and Oregon Mission, and assisted in the Utah War as a Lieutenant General in the Nauvoo Legion upon returning home. He was also a printer of the Deseret News while in exile in Fillmore, Utah, and was its managing editor from 1867 to 1874. He served as President of the Eastern States Mission, and also presided over the church’s European Mission.
Recalled to Utah, he was appointed by Brigham Young to work in Washington D.C. to assist in the church’s promotion of Utah territory’s bid for statehood, returned to preside over the European Mission and published the Millennial Star and the Church’s Welsh-language periodical, Udgorn Seion (Zions Trumpet). In 1866, Cannon began publication of a magazine for youth and young adult Latter-day Saints called The Juvenile Instructor, owning and publishing this magazine until his death. He was the first general superintendent of the Church’s Sunday School from 1867 until his death, during which time he sold the magazine to the Sunday School organization and it became the official organ until 1930, when it was replaced with The Instructor. In addition, he was the church's chief political strategist, and was called "the Mormon premier" and "the Mormon Richelieu" by the press.
George Q. Cannon in 1888 wrote of this climate in The Life of Nephi, the Son of Lehi (The Contributor Company, Salt Lake City, UT) “The Prophet Joseph, in speaking of their place of landing, said, it was on the coast of the country now known as Chili—a country which possesses a genial, temperate and healthy climate.” It is interesting that in the early 1840s, when Cannon would have heard this, that Joseph knew about the climate of central Chili, when that information was unknown in New England, and about a climate that was not defined until well into the 20th century. In fact, the connection between the U.S. and Chile was not even established until the early 1800s, and except for some contact in Washington, D.C., and a “special agent” from South Carolina sent there, contact was basically non-existent. Yet, Joseph Smith evidently knew things about the country, at least around La Serena and Coquimbo that other Americans did not know.
    In addition, Cannon in his book, goes on to claim that Joseph Smith said of the Nephites after landing: “They immediately turned their attention to agriculture. They prepared the ground and put in all the seeds which they had brought with them from the land of Jerusalem. They found the soil admirably adapted for agriculture. Their seeds grew finely and yielded good crops, and they were blessed with abundance” (The Life of Nephi, the Son of Lehi, The Contributor Company, Salt Lake City, UT 1888, Ch XIV, pp93-94; full title: The Life of Nephi, the Son of Lehi, who emigrated from Jerusalem, in Judea, to the land which is now known as South America, about six centuries before the coming of our Savior; Juvenile Instructor Press).
    Now, setting the stage of the acumen of George Q. Cannon, and his numerous position in the early Church, let us turn to a book he wrote and published in 1888, which content also appeared in The Juvenile Instructor. This book contained a claimed quote from Joseph Smith, which would have occurred sometime between his first meeting with Joseph Smith in 1843, when he first arrived in Nauvoo, and 1844, when the prophet was killed.
    On page 94, Cannon wrote: "The Prophet Joseph, in speaking of their place of landing, said, ‘It was on the coast of the country now known as Chile — a country which possesses a genial, temperate and healthy climate’.”
    The quote from Joseph Smith, which was inserted in a footnote on page 94, reads: “They traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then, nearly east to the sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chile, thirty degrees south latitude.”
    Cannon goes on to quote: “They immediately turned their attention to agriculture. They prepared the ground and put in all the seeds which they had brought with them from the land of Jerusalem. They found the soil admirably adapted for agriculture. Their seeds grew finely and yielded good crops, and they were blessed with abundance. We find no mention made of any seeds being planted by them at any point from the time of their departure from Jerusalem until they reached the promised land. If while encamped in the valley of Lemuel or at Bountiful they cultivated the earth and raised provisions or seeds, we are not informed of it, though doubtless both places were suitable for that purpose."
    Now considering the fact that this information was unknown in America in 1844 and much later, certainly not before the 1890s, when Chile was belligerent to the United States and worked diligently to keep American influence out of the southern Pacific and coastal South America, and Peru seized all American shipping in the Pacific and Colombia signed a treaty with the U.S. to keep them out of Colombia and Panama, we might find this information extremely significant.
    Where on earth did George Q. Cannon come up with this information were it not for receiving it from Joseph Smith, and where did Joseph Smith come by this information, which was unknown to him—in fact, in 1841, Joseph was astonished to learn of the ruins and facts involved in Guatemala, which he read in the book, Incidents in Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, by John L. Stephens, which he received as a gift from John Bernhisel, a bishop in New York City, via Wilford Woodruff.
    In addition, Elder James E. Talmadge of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said of Lehi, “Eventually they reached the shores of the Arabian sea, where, divinely directed, they built a vessel, in which they were carried by the wind and current across the ocean to the western coast of South America” (James E. Talmadge, The Vitality of Mormonism: Brief Essays on Distinctive Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gorham Press, Boston, 1919, pp133-134);
    Also, two influential Apostles of the Church, Elder Orson Pratt and Elder Franklin D. Richards, both of which knew Joseph Smith personally, taught that the Prophet received a revelation that Nephi’s ship landed at 30 degrees south latitude on the western shores of South America (B. H. Roberts, “New Witnesses for God,” vol 3, Deseret News, Salt Lake City, 1909, p501);
    In his History of the Church in Peru, Dale Christensen, former mission president 1984-1987, quotes from General Authorities “On October 29, 1959, a conference was held with some 300 people in attendance in Santiago, Chile. In the morning session of the Conference Elder Harold B. Lee of the Council of the Twelve Apostles gave a stirring address,” regarding where Lehi landed, he said, “from the writings of the prophet Joseph Smith and of other inspired men, it seems that all are in agreement that the followers of Lehi came to the western shores of South America” (Dale H. Christensen, History of the Church in Peru, Peru Lima South Mission, 1995, pp53-54 (
    As we have also reported in this blog many times, Frederick G. Williams, Joseph’s personal physician, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, personal scribe and friend, understood that Lehi landed at 30º South Latitude in Chile, also using Joseph Smith’s quote about the travel direction of Lehi and his party. In addition, President John Taylor (Times and Seasons, volume 3, September 15, 1842, pp921-922); Apostle Orson Pratt taught that Lehi landed on the western coast of South America (Orson Pratt, An Interesting account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient Records, Ballantyne and Hughes, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1840).
    Thus, despite hardly any details of the country of Chile being known in the U.S. during Joseph Smith’s time, both he and several Apostles and Church Leaders seemed to understand the climate and conditions surrounding the 30º South Latitude, i.e., the area of the Bay of Coquimbo and the settlement city of La Serena sufficiently to show that it matched perfectly with Nephi’s writing in 1 Nephi 18:14-25 regarding Lehis’ landing site. Some of that time he knew Joseph well claimed it was a revelation from the Lord. The information it contains certainly bears the fruit of one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Chile, the Unknown Land – Part I

What Americans knew and did not know about Chile during Joseph Smith’s time is an important factor in further understanding some of the early views of Church leaders regarding Lehi’s landing site. 
   To begin with, the first contact an actual representative of any foreign government had with the country of Chile did not take place until December 1811 when Joel Roberts Poinsett, a “special agent” representative of the United States arrived in Santiago, Chile’s capitol.
Poinsett, a physician by schooling, but an adventurer with an avid interest in the military, traveled all over Europe, Russia, Baku in the Caucasus, and the Middle East between 1801 and 1808.
    He returned to the U.S. suddenly when word finally reached him about the British warship H.M.S. Leopard in June 1807 firing upon the American frigate U.S.S. Chesapeake off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. When Britain hanged one of the sailors and pressed three others of the crew into British service, Poinsett considered that war between Britain and the United States seemed certain and he wanted to be part of it. So in 1813 when the U.S. frigate Essex arrived in Chilean waters and cleared them of English whalers and cruisers, Poinsett decided to return home.
Having met and visited with Czar Alexander in Moscow several times, and other foreign leaders as well as U.S. Ambassadors during his travels, Poinsett returned home to South Carolina with a certain amount of prestige and President James Madison appointed him as Consul in General in 1809, making Poinsett the highest ranking U.S. representative wherever he would be sent. That destination was to Chile and Argentina to investigate the prospects of the revolutionists in their struggle for independence from Spain.
    Poinsett was not officially received in Chile until February 1812, when he became the first accredited agent of a foreign government to reach that land after two months of dickering within the Chilean factions, some of which opposed his appointment favoring Spain or Britain, while others wanted to establish trade relations with America. At the time, Chile had been beset by two opposing factions, the Larrain and Carrera families, who were jockeying for power, but by the time Poinsett arrived, the Carreras had gained control under its leader, José Miguel Carrera.
    Poinsett was instrumental in assisting the Patriots in drawing up a national constitution, which they did in his residence. He also urged Chile to close its port to belligerent Peru who had been conducting acts of war against both America and Chile, seizing U.S. ships in the Pacific; however, the authorities in Santiago did not feel they were strong enough to take such a step, and instead urged Poinsett to aid them in obtaining arms and supplies from the U.S. The belligerent seizure of American ships by royalist Peru continued and Poinsett accepted a commission into the Chilean Patriot army to fight against the Spanish Royalists based in Peru. He was later given the rank of General by Carrera and led a cavalry charge in the Battle of San Carlos, securing a victory for Chilean Patriots over the Royalists.
    Throughout this period, American presence in the region had been extremely limited, with their few wooden ships driven from the southern Pacific by Peruvian warships and a strong effort to deny American presence by the Royalists.
    During this time, American was becoming embroiled in a war with Britain and lacked any real interest in South America. Poinsett desiring to be part of that war, finally managed to return to America in 1815, where he spent two years traveling the U.S. between New York and the west, returning to South Carolina. He was offered a position as special commissioner to South America by Robert Rush, secretary of State, because “No one has better qualifications for this trust,” but turned it down as he has just been elected to the State Legislature of South Carolina, where he spent the next few years working on his passion, “internal improvements and waterways” of South Carolina, serving as President of the Board of Public Works of that state. In 1820 he was elected to the House of Representatives in Washington where he worked on internal improvements for the country.
    He served as a special envoy to Mexico in 1822-1823. He was then sent to negotiate the acquisition of new territories for the U.S. including Texas, New Mexico and Upper California, including Lower California, Sonora, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon (along the Texas border); however, Mexico rejected the U.S. offer to buy these territories.
    In 1825, Poinsett was sent to Mexico as minister plenipotentiary, invested with the full power of independent action on behalf of the government to interact with the Mexican Republic, where he was embroiled in the country’s political turmoil, trying to further U.S. interests by seeking preferential treatment of American goods over those of Britain, attempting to shift the U.S.-Mexico boundary, and urging the adoption of a constitution patterned on that of the United States. This continued until 1830 when he was recalled, returning to South Carolina, where he was again elected to the state legislature. He married in 1833. In 1837 to 1841 he served as Secretary of War, and retired to his plantation in South Carolina in 1841.
    American involvement in Chile was dormant for the next forty-five years, but in 1882 Chile refused US mediation in the War of the Pacific and emerged two years at war’s end as a potential threat to the growing leadership in the Pacific of the United States. Chile, with the strongest naval fleet in the Pacific. During the Panama crisis of 1885, when Panama was part of Colombia, and to counter a growing show of force by Chile, the U.S. intervened and occupied Colón to protect Colombia’s interests, which had removed troops in Panama to fight rebels in Cartagena. Chile feared American disregard of the U.S.-Colombia treaty of 1846 obligating America to maintain “neutrality” in the Colombian state of Panama.
Chilean 7,000 ton steel-armored Cruiser Esmeralda, with its 513-member crew, during the buildup of the naval arms race between Argentina, Brazil and Chile

As a result, the Chilean government sent its most powerful protected armored cruiser “Esmeralda” (which represented a serious threat for the American wooden warships) to Panama City to stop a possible annexation of Panama by the U.S., and ordered not to leave until after the American forces evacuated Colón. However, by the time the Chilean warship arrived, the crisis had been solved, U.S. troops withdrew and Colombia reoccupied its Panama state. In 1888 Chile annexed Easter Island, joining the imperial nations by extending its rule of authority over a foreign country.
    By 1891 the balance in the Pacific was changing with the U.S. possessing more naval power and, more significantly, a workable understanding of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s famed theories on the importance of naval power in securing the growing influence of the United States in Latin America. During the Chilean Civil War, the U.S. backed the insurgents of President José Manuel Balmaceda as a way to increase their influence in Chile and the British backed the Congressional forces. However, when Balmaceda was defeated, America was determined to push out Britain through any means necessary, including war, and assert their influence in Chilean domestic affairs and eliminating British interests in the region.
    The U.S. attempted an arms shipment on the Chilean ship Itata from America to Chile, loading offshore from the schooner Robert and Minnie, near San Clemente Island, meant to assist the insurgents, but it was foiled by U.S. Marshals under orders of a new Secretary of State, leading to the Baltimore Crisis, an incident of Chilean mob attacking and killing U.S. sailors in Valparaiso, which in turn was one of the reasons that Benjamin Harrison was not reelected to a second term as President.
    This extensive history is meant to show that the knowledge and involvement between the U.S. and Chile was at a minimum, yet information available to early Church Leaders suggests an intimate knowledge and understanding of the remote areas of central Chile, especially around La Serena where Lehi is claimed to have made his home in the area of First Landing.
(See the next post, “Chile, the Unknown Land – Part II,” for a more complete understanding of what was known by Church Leaders about Chile that was not common knowledge in the United States during Joseph Smith’s time)