Friday, July 21, 2017

Have You Ever Wondered? – Part I

For those who read the scriptures a lot, the question arises from time to time, “have you ever wondered…” what a particular phrase or verse or thought might mean? Or, wondered why it was written that way, or why it was included at all? 
    One of those type verses is found in Ether: “And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish” (Ether: 2:17).
    Let’s take the clause toward the end that states: “and the length thereof was the length of a tree.” In a verse that was describing the water-tight integrity of the barges, it seems odd that the subject veers off to include the length of the vessel and likens it to the length of a tree. This, then, raises the question “how long (high) is a tree?” The odd thing about the comment is that trees in general have no specific height—they vary. Take any forest, it is made up of several vertical layers: 1) the forest floor; 2) the shrub layer; 3) the understory; and 4) the overstory, or canopy.    
There are actually four growth height of trees in most forests and trees within it can vary from about 10-15 feet in height all the way up to 150-feet in height

So why the comment? Perhaps it is because the Lord was telling the brother of Jared that depending on the tree they chose to use, the length would be determined by how tall or long that particular tree was, i.e., “And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof will depend on the length of the tree you choose; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.”
    Consider that in this passage, the brother of Jared is explaining what the barges were like (obviously a carryover from what the Lord told him they would be like), and outlined how water tight they were—an important factor in light of the later knowledge we learn about these being submersible vessels, capable of being totally immersed in the depths of the sea. As it was written: “I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth“ (Ether 2:24), and “that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?“ (Ether 2:25), and especially “And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea“ (Ether 6:6).
Obviously, as the future readers, Moroni in his abridgement was making sure we understood that these barges the Lord showed the brother of Jared how to make into submersible vessels, could withstand being like submarines, that is, could exist completely beneath and within the ocean depths.
    Now in this single sentence explanation, two things were introduced that were different from the main points covered, which was the watertight nature of the barges, and also: 1) the shape of the ends, that is the front (top) and rear (bottom), i.e., they were peaked; and 2) the length of the barges. 
In this sense, peaked can mean either rounded, as shown above, or pointed, like a pencil
First of all, the fact that the ends were peaked adds to the understanding of how they were able to become submerged and rise out of the depths of the sea on their own, which has to do with their being watertight and fits in with the rest of the sentence—however, the length issue is a separate thought. So why was it included within the overall sentence that appears to have dealt entirely with a separate issue?
    The only reason can be that it is somehow connected. And since the overall subject matter is “structure,” or the capabilities of the barges to become submersible, the length was viewed by the original author and Moroni in his abridgement to compliment that same subject. 
A forest of unique trees, called Baobab—a common name for each of the nine species of tree in the genus Adansonia
  
This brings us back to the so-called construction of the vessels. While this is explained in great detail in the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica in the several chapters about the Jaredites, we can outline it here briefly by saying that the barges were not constructed like a normal ship, by taking various materials and building a vessel by connecting them together with nails, sewn with rope, etc., as did Nephi when he built his ship. The barges were actually one-piece submersible vessels—the only kind of submersible wood vessels that could have existed in building technology and construction capability at the time of the Jaredites—and were, in effect, a single tree, hollowed out to form a vessel capable of being submerged in the depths of the sea, withstanding depth pressures, and also float on the surface and remain afloat.
    It was a very special tree indeed, called today the Baobab tree, of which is found almost exclusively in Australia, Africa, and Madagascar, including India and Sri Lanka. However, there is a single forest outside these normal indigenous areas where the Baobab has always grown and that is in Dhofar (Oman), along the Salalah Plain, just east of Khor Rori.
Thus, the length of the tree was included when the Lord explained this to the brother of Jared, so the latter would understand that the trees they chose would determine the sizer of the barges they would remove from the ground and gutted to make ready so they would float.
    In this brief clause within the run-on sentence we learn how the barges were made, which then allows us to know and understand what was meant by cutting a hole in the top and the bottom, since at first reading without full understanding would cause one to think that the vessel would be rolling over and over, which of course, under no circumstances, would it have since people and animals would be constantly placed in jeopardy, not to mention the supplies inside the barge continually being tossed about.
    Quite often, the answers to our questions are right before us in the text of the scriptural record, but we simply do not take the time to fully understand what it is we are reading, which leads to another type of question and that is, if these barges were trees, how did they have sides? That is, why was a round tree trunk, becoming the body of the vessel or barge, be described as having sides?
   Again, this is easily answered if one takes the time to realize what is being said and described in the scriptural record and not just start thinking of their own meaning for the words. As an example, the terms Moroni uses are: bottom, top, ends, and sides. Yet, a tree is seldom described in that manner, though a ship, or barge is. So how do we correlate those words?
(See the next post, “Have You Ever Wondered? – Part II,” for an explanation of how the terms used to describe a ship or barge apply to describing a tree?)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Don’t Get Confused About Dates

Scientists, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and just about everyone who writes about pre-history falls into the same trap because they do not accept, or take into account, the simple fact that Noah’s Flood actually happened, and according to the Biblical account, took place between 2344 and 2343 B.C. Some two hundred separate cultures and peoples throughout the world have an all-inclusive flood or deluge legend or myth in their pantheon of memories, all involving such similar or identical stories as to completely shatter the feeble scientific claim that it never took place.
Flood legends and myths are spread over more than 200 cultures and peoples on the Earth, in fact almost every culture from ancient Sumerians to recent Chennai Tamils in one way or the other have a flood legend/myth

Yet, Flood stories are so common across a wide range of cultures, extending back into Bronze Age and Neolithic prehistory, that their ancient existence can be found in the histories of people from every continent, and into Polynesia, Hawaii, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They include the first peoples of Mesopotamia, Sumeria, ancient Greek, India, Korea, throughout China, South America, Europe and Asia, as well as Australia, Scandinavia, Africa, the ancient Norse, Irish and Welch, ancient Egypt, and American Indian legends. In fact, it is found in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh which dates back over 4,000 years, considered as the oldest tale of written history.
    It might be of interest to know that all nations, of all times, believed in the existence of a Primordial Paradise where Man originated and developed the first civilization ever—a story, of course, in the Bible, but also in Hindu Holy Books such as the Rig Veda, as well as the Puranas, the Sumerian Tablet of Nippur and many others.
    According to an article “Legends of the Flood,” by Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt, it is claimed: “Anthropologists who study legends and folktales from different geographical locations and cultures consistently have reported one particular group of legends that is common to practically every civilization.”
    Obviously, over time myths and legends have surfaced in what they claim are hundreds of cultures throughout the world, which “tell of a huge, catastrophic flood that destroyed most of mankind, and that was survived by only a few individuals and animals.”
Canadian geologist Sir John William Dawson (left), who was appointed as Nova Scotia’s first superintendent of education in 1850, and professor of geology and principal of McGill University in Montreal, wrote about how the record of the Flood: “is preserved in some of the oldest historical documents of several distinct races of men, and is indirectly corroborated by the whole tenor of the early history of most of the civilized races” (John William Dawson, The Historical Deluge in Relation to Scientific Discovery, Revell, Chicago, IL, 1895, pp4ff).
Evolutionary geologist Robert Schoch, who was honored for his ongoing research on ancient civilizations with the title of Honorary Professor at the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Varna, Bulgaria, has stated: “Noah is but one tale in a worldwide collection of at least 500 flood myths, which are the most widespread of all ancient myths and therefore can be considered among the oldest” (2003, p. 249, emphasis added). Schoch went on to observe “Narratives of a massive inundation are found all over the world.... Stories of a great deluge are found on every inhabited continent and among a great many different language and culture groups” (Robert M. Schoch, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, Jeremy P. Parcher/Putnam, New York, 2003, pp103, 249).
    These very similar, yet pervasive and universal Flood stories in the folklore of peoples from around the world provide us the strongest evidences for the global flood which annihilated all people on Earth except for Noah and his family. It is interesting to note that local geography and cultural traits are present in most of these legends, and tend to be telling the same story. As an example:
1. 95% claim the flood was global;
2. 95% show the flood as the only catastrophe;
3. 88% have a favored family
4. 82% claim local geography;
5. 73% include animals;
6. 70% have a boat as the means of survival;
7. 67% include the saving of animals;
8. 66% claim they were forewarned;
9. 66% claim that wickedness of man was the cause;
10. 57% claim the survivors landed on a mountain.
    It is also interesting to note that according to Brian Thomas there is stunning evidence of a higher ancient sea level that was 70 feet higher than it is today, which he claims presents a puzzle for geologists. Obviously, according to Genesis, there was a time when the surface of the entire earth was underwater (Smithsonian Institution press release, February 9, 2009).
    In fact, it should be noted that according to John D. Morris, “We now know, of course, that the earth has plenty of water to launch a global flood. It has been calculated that if the earth's surface were completely flat, with no high mountains and no deep ocean basins, that water would cover the earth to a depth of about 8,000 feet” (J. D. Morris, “Did Noah’s Flood Cover the Himalayan Mountains, Acts & Facts, 32 (9), 2003). It is also noted that there is sufficient water on the Earth for such a global Flood, along with the resultant changes during such a cataclysm, presently within the current deep oceans and high mountains.
Zoologist Storrs Olsen (left) of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and Geologist Paul Hearty (right) of the Bald Head Island Conservancy, found cobbles and marine sediments, along with rim cements, that could only exist where they were found if the sea level had been sustained at a much higher elevation (Storrs L. Olsen and Paul J. Hearty, “A sustained +21 m sea-level highstand during MIS 11 (400 ka): direct fossil and sedimentary evidence from Bermuda,” Quaternary Science Reviews, 28 (3-4), 2009, pp271-285).
    The point of all of this is to show, that current with modern scientific findings (though there is a very strong advocate of non-flood by godless men) that not only did the Flood take place, but that in its having occurred, there were no dates prior to 2343 B.C. of any activity, people, events, or occurrences on the Earth that could be so recorded and dated. Thus, when archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and others began dating events in the area of the Land of Promise prior to this event and its Biblical date, then we know that those dates are all false, based on made-up time frames as though there had been no Flood.
    As believers in the Bible and the word of God, there is no way we can justify that such events occurred in pre-history prior to 2343 B.C., for those events, though they may well have happened, did not occur in a previous dating period than 2343 B.C. That is when Noah exited the Ark, when life began in our current prehistory and all events that we know about occurred after that date.
We need to keep that very basic and inarguable fact in mind. There were no people in North America prior to 2343 B.C. of which we would have any record; there were no people in South America or Mesoamerica prior to 2343 B.C. of which we would have any record. There are no people prior to 2343 B.C. in the area of the Land of Promise of which we would have any record.
    None! Zip! Nada! 
    And any historical dialogue that includes such must be rejected, at least according to its dated time frame, out of hand! Perhaps, in this way, we can stop all this speculation and assumptive guesswork by archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, and other scientists as to what happened when of which we have any modern record, specifically all the cultures that Mesoamericanists want to claim existed in Mesoamerica dating back before 2343 B.C., or such flora as the development of corn by man dating to 8,000 B.C., etc.
Most of what might have existed in the antediluvian period and wiped out by the Flood would have been buried by the oceans we see today that now make up 71% of the Earth’s surface, much of the rest would have been covered up by the numerous mountains that were forced up during the cataclysm
  
That people lived in the antediluvian period is without question, but we would have no artifacts of their existence that would be known. If something from that period were to be found deep in the Earth, we would have no way of knowing that—while it is possible, it is without merit in any discussion. We know only from 2343 B.C. onward in our current world and its configuration.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding Alan C. Miner’s book we have been asked to comment upon. In the previous post, we discussed some of Miner’s comments in the first couple of pages of his work. Following are more of Miner’s writing points and our response: 
   We can also see in Miner’s writing (p15) his ignoring what Moroni wrote of the Jaredites in favor of Hugh Nibley’s belief that the Jaredites were not annihilated but that only a part of them were.
 So many theorists’, especially those of Mesoamerica, claim that the wars among the Jaredites did not annihilate the total Jaredite population

Miner states: ”So when we read that the Jaredites "were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country" in the very first verse of Ether, we are to understand that the nation was smashed and dispersed, but not that the catastrophic final battle was necessarily the whole story. The first thing that occurs to king Limhi on relating the discovery of the twenty-four gold plates to Ammon was, "perhaps they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence this record came" (Mosiah 8:12), showing that to king Limhi at least it was perfectly possible for a remnant of a people to exist after that people had been "destroyed"  [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 239-240].
    Unfortunately, Nibley, for all his intelligence and vast experience and accomplishments, has this attitude marked by many theorists of today, that the scriptural record does not tell us things that he (or they), alone, seems to understand and injects into the record that simply not only does not exist, but runs contrary to what is said by the original writers and the ancient translators.
    Two points here: First, the word “destroyed,” according to Nibley and repeated by Miner, “destroy is to wreck the structure not to annihilate the parts. Thus in 1 Nephi 17:31 we read of Israel in Moses' day that, "according to his word he did destroy them; and according to his word he did lead them," bringing them together after they had been "destroyed," (i.e., scattered, and in need of a leader). "As one generation hath been destroyed among the Jews," according to 2 Nephi 25:9, "even so they have been destroyed from generation to generation according to their iniquities."  A complete slaughter of any one generation would of course be the end of their history altogether, but that is not what "destroyed" means.
    The problem with this argument is that in 2 Nephi 25:9, the discussion is not the total destruction of the House of Israel, but the destruction of parts of it—those that were evil, and that evil group were, indeed, totally destroyed or annihilated. However, the terminology and understanding is that this was a partial factor, i.e., part of Israel, not Israel in total. Thus, this scriptural reference and concept is not valid overall.
    Secondly, the word “destruction” needs to be understood in light of its use in the 1820s and 1830s when Joseph Smith used it as a translation from the original writing of
Mormon and Moroni. 
According to the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, giving us an understanding of words and their meaning as used in the New England, northeastern United States, Noah Webster tell us that “‘destroyed” (participle passive) means: “Demolished; pulled down; ruined; annihilated; devoured; swept away; etc.” And that “annihilated” (participle passive) means “reduced to nothing; destroyed.” And that “nothing” (noun) is “no and thing” meaning “Not any thing; not any being or existence; a word that denies the existence of any thing; non-entity; opposed to something. Non-existence; a state of annihilation.”
    Thus, it cannot be said that “destroy” means “to wreck the structure not to annihilate the parts,” as Nibley states, but just the opposite as Joseph Smith used it in 1829 when translating the Book of Mormon. In fact, in Ether we find the statement about the Jaredites “For behold, the Lord saw that his people  began to work in darkness, yea, work secret murders and abominations; therefore the Lord said, if they did not repent they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.  And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover . . . their secret works and their abomination; and except they repent I will destroy them from off the face of the earth; And now, my son, we see that they did not repent; therefore they have been destroyed, and thus far the word of God has been fulfilled; . . . (Alma 37:22-26).
    Once again, we find that destroy means to annihilate, to remove completely, to reduce to nothing.
The second point is about King Limhi (above), and his thinking there might have been survivors from the destruction of the people of the north country. As stated above, Miner says: “The first thing that occurs to king Limhi on relating the discovery of the twenty-four gold plates to Ammon was, "perhaps they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence this record came" Mosiah 8:12.”
    The statement in Mosiah that is referenced states regarding the plates of Ether: “…perhaps they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence these records came; or, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of this very people who have been destroyed; and I am desirous to know the cause of their destruction.”
    There are four parts of this statement: 1) information about a portion of the people that were destroyed (not necessarily information on the entire civilization); 2) from wench the records came, i.e., from who or what civilization; 3) give a knowledge of the entire civilization; and 4) what caused the death or the destruction of those people.
    There simply is no indication that King Limhi thought there were survivors of the people unless he wondered if that group was only a portion of a larger civilization and that, though not specifically stated, would be understandable since neither he nor anyone else knew anything about that people who had been destroyed. Obviously, Limhi’s 43-man expedition to find Zarahemla found no other evidence of a living people anywhere, but then Limhi would not have known anything about that north country nor would anyone else other than the expedition people and only that portion they covered.
    In an obvious example of where Miner believes the Land of Promise to have been and the Book of Mormon to have been written about, he states (p16): “The "north country" of Moroni and the "northern part" mentioned by Ixtlilxochitl are in all probability the Gulf of Mexico area that today is called the "faja de oro," or Golden Lane, because of the abundance of oil that has been discovered there.  This area is where archaeology bears testimony of the most ancient civilization of Mesoamerica.”
    This merely shows the reader Miner’s pre-conceived location and that all of his writing would be based on that “fact” to him.
    In another striking example of opinion, Miner states (p27): “The King James translation of the Holy Bible places this tower at about 2200 B.C. with Noah's flood at about 2300-2400 B.C.  However, the Holy Bible translation used by Christ's first apostles was the Greek Septuagint which has a much earlier chronology.  It would place the Great Flood between 3100 B.C. and 3200 B.C.  From Mesoamerican data, mentioned later, it would appear that the actual date was August 13, 3114 B.C. (Gregorian calendar system).  These dates are consistent with historical and archaeological data from Egypt, Ebla, India, and Mesopotamia.  These include flood levels at four Mesopotamian cities that date to about 3100 B.C.  In addition, the Septuagint dating is confirmed by Mesopotamian king lists, and the biblical connection to Nimrod.  Thus, a date of 3114 B.C. appears reasonable.”
However, as reasonable as Miner may want this to be (since it agrees with the Mesoamerica time frame and that of Ixtlilxochitl’s writings), it does not agree with the father to son birth dates of the Patriarchs as set down in the Old Testament, and also in the Pearl of Great Price. Those dates, which are quite clear, and according to Moses, were given to him by the Lord, and, as a side note, were the dates used by Joseph Smith in his second lesson in the School of the Prophets, leads to a date of 2344 B.C. for the beginning of the Flood and 2343 B.C. for the date at the end.
    It is always amazing to me how theorists love to use dates that fit their own interests rather than the ones stated so clearly in the Old Testament—not this translation or that translation, but the very one that is part of the Church’s standard works.
    As for Miner’s overall book, there is a lot of worthwhile information in his writing, and some valuable insights into some of the early occurrences of the Church leadership, and certainly a myriad of different author’s viewpoints. However, from our point of view, there are far too many areas of error involved as pointed out above in just a small portion of the book to keep from making it overly reliable.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding Alan C. Miner’s book we have been asked to comment upon. In the previous post, we discussed some of Miner’s comments in the first couple of pages of his work. Following we are still on page 2: 
   All this time, following the battle at Cumorah, Moroni expected to be killed at any moment. He had no guarantee on any longevity of life beyond Cumorah, but the Lord granted him a longer life to fulfill his assignment to hide the plates so the Lamanites could not destroy them.
Sometime between 401 A.D. and 421 A.D., Moroni finishes the record he “had supposed not to have written more” (Moroni 1:1). How long it took him to write what is now known as the Book of Moroni is not known; however, we can conclude he finished his writing in 420 or 421 A.D., for his final remarks, which are addressed to the Lamanites, he begins with: “I would that they should know that more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ” (Moroni 10:1).
    From this we cannot conclude as Ainsworth and Miner have, that Nephites survived this battle and track down period. In fact, Moroni’s own writing tells us no one did but himself. Thus, it should be noted that Morolni twice makes mention of the fact that he is "alone."  In Mormon 8:3 he says, "And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of destruction of my people.  But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father."  In Mormon 8:5 he says, "Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof.  And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone.  My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go."
    However, the precise and clear language of Moroni is not sufficient for Miner, who goes on to state: “In respect to Moroni's writing assignment, the phrase "I even remain alone to write the sad tale" apparently means that Moroni was the only official Nephite scribe left…However, the idea that Moroni was the only Nephite left is a little bit questionable.  Moroni 1:2 lets us know that at a later date Moroni says, "they (the Lamanites) put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ."  Therefore, the meaning of the phrase "I am alone" probably means that all the other major Nephite leaders had been put to death by the Lamanites. The words in Mormon 8:5, "my father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinfolk" implies further that Mormon and Moroni were probably part of a great family unit that shouldered much spiritual and secular responsibility in the Nephite society.  The phrase, "I have not friends nor whither to go" might imply the lack of righteous covenant people to whom Moroni could go for help.”
On the other hand, “I even remain alone,” might mean exactly what it implies—Moroni was the last Nephite alive. It is always amazing to us that so many theorists simply will not take the scriptural record to mean what it says—they are constantly trying to tell us something else than what is being said is meant.
    Miner quotes John L. Sorenson (p2), who also weighs in on this matter, stating: “the record came to an end because the lineage did, not because an entire civilization ceased…Naturally, large numbers of people of Nephite descent had never consented to flee their lands in the first place (Mormon 2:7-8), but had switched allegiance and renounced their old beliefs and allegiance rather than move out (Moroni 1:2).”
    However, what Miner and Sorenson seem to forget is that the Nephites had no choice—they either fled with the Nephite army or they were killed by the approaching Lamanite hordes. As Mormon tells us: “And it came to pass that we did again take to flight, and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites' did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites' were swept down and destroyed” (Mormon 5:7). Of all those Nephites who remained alive, Mormon tells us that in 384 A.D., “we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah” (Mormon 6:5).
    All the remainder of our people!
    That doesn’t leave any room for others to not have participated in this final battle as Miner and Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists want to claim.
It can also be said, that on another occasion, Miner states (p6): “After writing an epilogue to his father's abridgment (see Mormon 8:1-13), the amount of time that elapsed before Moroni returned to the sacred depository to once again take the stylus in hand is unclear.  However, when Moroni returned to the sacred site and removed the plates of Mormon from their place of concealment, he engraved a brief affirmation that he was the same person who had previously buried the sacred records.  He wrote: "And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord" (Mormon 8:14).  Without that transitional sentence the reader would be lost as to who was writing on the plates following the previous benedictory conclusion.”
    The problem with such writing is that Miner assumes things and writes them into his narrative as though they are fact, when in reality they are his opinion. Take, for example the statement “…he was the same person who had previously buried the sacred records,” when in reality, there is no mention of the records being buried. Where else they might have been is not the point—the problem is that the reader is left to accept the comment as fact when, in reality, Miner does not know the records had been buried, nor does he even know that Moroni had not carried the records with him in his travels or hiding during that elapsed time. In fact, the term “bury” and “buried” are not found at all in either the writings of Mormon (Book of Mormon) or of Moroni (Book of Moroni). At one point, Moroni says he is going to “write and hide up the records in the earth” (Mormon 8:4), but does not tell us in what sequence, or in what time. Did he write, hide them up and then get them again, and write more and hide them up? We simply do not know.
    In addition, Miner providers us once again with his own view and not what the scriptural record tells us or even suggests. He states (pp15-16): “Apparently by using the phrase, "this north country" (Ether 1:1), Moroni seems to imply that he was writing from a location somewhere in the north country, or in other words, from the land northward (the place where both the Nephites and the Jaredites were destroyed)…we are told elsewhere in the Book of Mormon that the final battle site of the Jaredites (the hill Ramah) and the final battle site of the Nephites (the hill Cumorah) were the same (Mormon 8:1-4).  We are also told that Mormon "hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records" which had been entrusted to him except apparently the abridgement (Mormon 6:6).  Therefore, the fact that Moroni is making this record of the Jaredites seems to imply that he has returned to the hill Cumorah, located in "this north country." 
There is no suggestion that Moroni returned to the hill Cumorah at any time. There is no suggestion that Moroni hid the records he possessed in the hill Cumorah at that or any time in antiquity. That he did deposit the records in a hill in western New York prior to the time he instructed Joseph Smith to obtain them from the ground is obvious, but it is not as obvious that the hill in New York was the same hill as the one mentioned in the scriptural record. In fact, as we have stated here numerous times, there are little, if any, comparisons that can be drawn at all between the hill mentioned in the record and the one in New York.
(See the next post, “Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon – Part III,” for more information on our view of Alan C. Miner’s book that we have been asked to evaluate by a Reader of our blog)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon – Part I

Recently we were asked about our opinion and evaluation of the Book Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon by Alan C. Miner. First of all, we have always shied away from brief one-liners about other’s works or short commentary on extensive writings, preferring a much more detailed example of what our opinion is based upon. In this case, like some other questions in the past, we feel a full article is required to answer the questions posed.
This book, published in 1996, was written by Alan C. Miner, a featured writer for Meridian Magazine, and contributing author for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, and a practicing dentist in Springville, Utah. He has written other works, such as The Liahona: The Magnetic Compass of God to Miracles by Small Matters, as well as numerous articles about the Jaredites, Mulekites, Indian origins, Polynesian origins, General Authority statements, etc.
    It is interesting that in his opening remarks of his book, in describing Moroni, son of Mormon, he states: “The most notable character trait of this keeper of sacred records is his humility. When he speaks of himself, it is in the most self-effacing of contexts.” He then goes on to state (p1): “Moroni the soldier grew up in the household of the greatest Nephite commander of all time.  At the same time, he was possibly nurtured by a mother who was a pacifist.”
    It is always amazing to us that writers who editorialize on the scriptural record so often go so far beyond anything suggested, let alone anything written, to describe a point they want to make. Since Mormon’s wife is never mentioned, hinted toward or described in any way, to arrive at any conclusion about her is both foolhardy and certainly not scholarly. While it might be argued that women anciently might have been pacifists, or at least passive in favor of being loving and kind, for a Nephite women of Mormon’s time to be is an odd idea since they would have had by then nearly 1000 years of almost constant wars with a hereditary enemy bent on their total destruction.
    In addition, the word “pacifist” means “a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable,” could hardly describe any Nephite woman of the day after a thousand years of Lamanite attacks, murders, ambushes, and constant aggression.
    Unjustified? Hardly.
Obviously, Mormon would have been married since he had a son named Moroni; however, we know nothing of his wife, family, other children, or of Moroni’s upbringing

Can anyone who has studied Mormon’s life in the farthest reaches of their mind consider that he married a pacifist or that after 20 or 30 years of marriage his wife would be a pacifist? She might well have been against war, just about everyone is, but a pacifist and opposed to militarism and violence, a word by the way coined in France by Émile Arnaud from the term ahiṃsā, meaning “to cause no injury, do no harm”—a tenet of ancient India religions, such as Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism (i.e., “One who does not injure others with words, thoughts or acts is named Adrohi).
    It is also interesting that Miner’s opening sentences, under the heading of “Moroni finishing his father’s record,” quotes John L. Sorenson as to why Mormon and the Nephites did not, if they were in Mesoamerica, retreat farther north rather than stand and fight a hopeless battle at Cumorah, stating (p2): “In the first place, we must realize that rarely if ever is there any decent land that does not already contain a sizable population, so they would have had to dispossess other people first. . . . Farther north also lay another military threat.”
    Here are two more critically important assumptions or speculations: 1) That a sizable population existed to the north of Cumorah, and 2) Another military threat faced the Nephites to the north of Cumorah. Is there anything in the scriptural record to suggest such a thing? No! Not one word, not a supposition, presumption, speculation, surmise premise or any kind of hint.
Not long before his death, Lehi spoke unto his family concerning the land of promise…that the Lord covenanted unto him and his children…and that it be kept from the knowledge of other nations (2 Nephi 1:3,5,8)

We could spend some time here as we have done in the past to show that the Lord promised Lehi that his land of promise was reserved for his posterity when Lehi told his family of the Lord’s promise: “behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8).
    Obviously, there is no suggestion from this or several other statements Lehi made that there would be either a sizable non-Nephite population to the north of Cumorah, or that an army of some type awaited them there if they went north.
    In another instance, Miner tries to make a distinction of those few Nephites who had escaped southward when he states (p1): “Geographically speaking, does the term "country southward" mean "the land southward", which was south of the small neck of land (Alma 22:27-34)? Or does it simply mean any land southward from the hill Cumorah?  For the survivors to have reached the "land southward" (meaning the land south of the small neck) they would have had to go through many miles of territory occupied by Lamanites or those the Lamanites had conquered.  Possibly "the country southward" simply refers to those lands toward Jordan, Boaz or Desolation which were southward from Cumorah and which lands were possibly more familiar to the survivors.” In fact, Miner uses this specific reference to begin his foregoing comment: “Moroni notes that "the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites until they were all destroyed" (Mormon 8:2).
    However, that is not what Mormon earlier stated about them (Mormon 6:15) which Moroni erroneously misworded in (Mormon 8:2), resulting in a misleading dialogue by Miner that is neither pertinent or answerable in the scriptural record. What Mormon actually wrote of this is: “and also a few who had escaped into the south countries.”
    “South countries” is not the same as “the country southward” since one is plural and the other singular, and depicts more than just a southward movement, but a movement into a specific set of areas, i.e., “countries to the south.”
    It is not that this is a big deal, but we are merely pointing out that in the first three pages, Miner has chosen to speculate on matters not covered in the scriptural record and raise questions not answerable by the scriptural record, yet he submits his viewpoint on both issues without substantive support within the scriptural record.
In another beginning statement, Miner says, “According to Jerry Ainsworth, Moroni finally reports in A.D. 400—fifteen years after Cumorah—that "my father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go" (Mormon 8:5).  Moroni further says—also fifteen years after Cumorah—that the Lamanites "have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more" (Mormon 8:7).  That means that immediately after the battle of Cumorah the destruction of the Nephites was not complete.”   
    This is another erroneous and misleading comment on Miner’s part. First of all, Moroni begins his writing in 401 A.D. (Mormon 8:6) as he finishes his father’s record, in which he states: “And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed” (Mormon 8:2). He follows that statement up with “Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not” (Mormon 8:3). He then adds, “And behold, the Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more; and great has been their fall; yea, great and marvelous is the destruction of my people, the Nephites” (Nirnibn 8:7)—all of which is a summary of what has taken place since the last entry into the record by his father, which is dated 385 A.D., evidently prior to that last battle at Cumorah took place.
    Then, to finalize his summary, Moroni states: ”Behold, I say no more concerning them, for there are none save it be the Lamanites and robbers that do exist upon the face of the land” (Mormon 8:9).
There is no way to consider that there were Nephites who survived the battle at Cumorah, or those who ran wild and undetected in the Land of Promise. The Lamanites obviously knew some escaped or survived that last battle, other than Moroni, and knowing this, tracked them down and killed them all who would not deny the Christ (Moroni 1:2).
(See the next post, “Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon – Part II,” for more information on our view of Alan C. Miner’s book that we have been asked to evaluate by a Reader of our blog)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Defense Building of the Nephites

Mormon makes it quite clear that during the era of Captain Moroni, the Nephites reinforced their cities and lands and built anew defensive forts and fortresses of great practicality and purpose in their preparations to defend their country and their land from the Lamanites.
As he wrote of Moroni: “he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land. And in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men; and thus he did fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites” Alma 48:8-9).
    Many members, theorists and readers of the scriptural record seem to have glazed over this particular example of the tremendous defensive efforts of the Nephites in their nearly thousand-year long wars with their hereditary enemy and what was likely involved in this massive effort to “fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites.” Despite all these preparation, it should be noted that, as Mormon writes: “Yea, and in fine, their wars never did cease for the space of many years with the Lamanites, notwithstanding their much reluctance” (Alma 48:22).
    These wars began in the age of Nephi, who built swords after the manner of the sword of Laban in order to arm his people to fight against their brethren, the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:14,34) and continued until the final war of annihilation at the hill Cumorah in 385 A.D., though there was a 235-year hiatus following the appearance of the Savior around 34 A.D.
    The point is, the Nephites were always under fear of Lamanite attack, which sometimes happened nearly every year, like clockwork when the Spring came.
    However, Moroni had prepared so well that “the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance…thus were the Nephites prepared to destroy all such as should attempt to climb up to enter the fort by any other way, by casting over stones and arrows at them (Alma 49:18-19).
Tall, narrow entrances (left) compared to a person standing in it, (right) seen along the wall as it extends openly backward into the village where defenders can stand on top to defend the entrance

It was the uniqueness of the entrances and the fact it was the only way into their cities and fortresses, that stymied the Lamanites. As Mormon wrote: “the captains of the Lamanites brought up their armies before the place of entrance, and began to contend with the Nephites, to get into their place of security; but behold, they were driven back from time to time, insomuch that they were slain with an immense slaughter. Thus the Nephites had all power over their enemies; and thus the Lamanites did attempt to destroy the Nephites until their chief captains were all slain; yea, and more than a thousand of the Lamanites were slain; while, on the other hand, there was not a single soul of the Nephites which was slain” (Alma 49:21-22).
    Thus, the entrance to the fortresses must have been both unique and so easily defended that not only could the Lamanites not gain any entry, but not a single Nephite was lost in the defense of those entrances. This is not only a remarkable achievement, but one that should suggest that the method of building these defenses by Moroni and his men must have been unusual and remarkably effective.
    So what might those entrances have looked like?
    In a unique fortress high up in the northern mountains of Peru sits a fortress that has several unique properties to its construction. Occupied by a people today referred to as the Chachapoyas, but were called “the Cloud People” by the Inca, they were reputed to have been a white-skinned and beautiful people.
Described by Spanish conquistador and chronicler, Pedro Cieza de León (Crónicas del Perú) as “They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen in Indies,” and also Spanish author Pedro Pizarro, who described these people as “white” and “blond.” The Spanish so completely annihilated these people, that an estimated 300,000 Chachapoyas were reduced to a few thousand by 1606, and the entire culture had disappeared shortly afterward. Today only about 300 people live in this entire Chilchos/La Meseta region after the Cloud People, who survived the smallpox and back-breaking slave labor, had been scattered by the colonial mandate of Viceroy Toledo.
The home of the Cloud People, a fortress built high on a mountain top and situated behind and above (top) forty-foot high walls, (bottom) with only three entrances, (yellow arrow) with one shown along the south wall

All three entrances of this fortress are built the same, and as can be seen from the image above, were narrow (about two people wide standing shoulder to shoulder). Once inside, it was a very long trek of about a hundred yards uphill between tall rock walls from which height a defender could stand and throw down stones, bounders, and shoot arrows and throw slings against the invaders who had no opportunity to fight back.
Looking down the narrow entrance to the opening

Looking up the narrow entrance toward the city itself

One can stand atop the fortress level and throw rocks and boulders down upon anyone trying to gain entrance

The entrance is quite foreboding for an approaching enemy—a long path upward with no way to defend yourself from attacks from above

So great was the stratagem of Moroni that the Lamanites were greatly astonished for the “leaders of the Lamanites had supposed, because of the greatness of their numbers, yea, they supposed that they should be privileged to come upon them as they had hitherto done; yea, and they had also prepared themselves with shields, and with breastplates; and they had also prepared themselves with garments of skins, yea, very thick garments to cover their nakedness. And being thus prepared they supposed that they should easily overpower and subject their brethren to the yoke of bondage, or slay and massacre them according to their pleasure. But behold, to their uttermost astonishment, they were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi. Now they were prepared for the Lamanites, to battle after the manner of the instructions of Moroni” (Alma 49:6-8).
    As the Lamanites observed the special preparations Moroni had arranged for the defense of the city, the Lamanites were taken by surprise. “And it came to pass that the Lamanites, or the Amalickiahites, were exceedingly astonished at their manner of preparation for war…and behold, [the] chief captains durst not attack the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah, for Moroni had altered the management of affairs among the Nephites, insomuch that the Lamanites were disappointed in their places of retreat and they could not come upon them” (Alma 40:9,11).
The Lamanites would have met with impenetrable walls forty feet high, a very narrow, singular entrance, that left any enemy approach completely vulnerable to attack from above—no wonder the Lamanites fled into the wilderness

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Misleading Statements About the Book of Mormon

One of the many problems we find today because of well-meaning, but poorly-informed or badly-written articles on the location of the landing site and region of Lehi’s landing and the Nephite Nation homeland, is that loosely worded or poorly chosen comments, which become embedded in the membership (or non-members) mindset. And once so entrenched, are almost impossible to remove, no matter how compelling the evidence against such ideas and the scriptural record statement supporting an opposite view by those who lived upon that ancient land.
Take, as an example, one of the earliest works entitled Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, written by Milton R. Hunter, then member of the Quorum of Seventy, and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, then head of the New World Archaeological Foundation, with a forward by John A. Widtsoe, then member of the Quorum of the Twelve, makes the odd statement: “[Fernando de] Ixtlilxochitl and the Book of Mormon both make the claim that there were white people in ancient times in Middle America” (Kolob Book Company, 1950, p241; Fernando de Ixtlilxochitl (writing about 1595) as published in Antiquities of Mexico, M. Dupaix, London, Vol IX, LVIII) 1848).
    The problem is, despite Hunter and Ferguson making the claim, the Book of Mormon says no such thing regarding “Middle America.” Thus, while Lehi’s “white” family was in the Land of Promise, we do not know that there were “white” people in Middle America from the scriptural record. However, Hunter and Ferguson’s blatant disregard for the scriptural record and their insertion of Middle America (Mesoamerica) into the print dialogue as early as 1950, shows the willingness of some historians to alter facts to fit their own pre-conceived beliefs and ideas.
    The Hunter and Ferguson article goes on to claim that “References to white people persisted in the traditions and histories of Mexico and Guatemala even down to and following the colonial period. In fact, after the Spanish arrived in America, they discovered some very light-complexioned Americans, descendants of the ancient cultured inhabitants, living in Guatemala, Yucatan, Mexico and Peru, ancient seats of high culture.” However, they fail to give any sources to this and we are left with believing them or not.
    We can, of course, pinpoint the white reference above to Peru, since Cieza de León stated in his history of Peru that, among the indigenous Peruvians, the Chachapoyas were unusually fair-skinned and famously beautiful. He wrote: “They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen in Indies, and their wives were so beautiful that because of their gentleness, many of them deserved to be the Incas' wives and to also be taken to the Sun Temple.
The Llauto head piece or covering—a type of turban with the colors of the Tahuantinsuyo, woven with vicuña hair, a kind of braid of different colors that gave five to six turns to the head and it held on the forehead a strip of wool, called mascaipacha, that along with The feathers of the korekenke (sacred falcon whose symbol was on the forehead) and the topayauri (golden rod or scepter) were the particular attire of the Chachapoyas and the Sapa Inca

The women and their husbands always dressed in woolen clothes and on their heads they wear their llautos, which are a sign they wear to be known everywhere” (Pedro Cieza de Léon, The Incas of Pedro de Cieza de Léon. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1959, Chapter 27).
    It should be noted that the area of the Chachapoyas or “Cloud People,” is sometimes referred to as the "Amazonian Andes" due to it being part of a mountain range covered by dense tropical forest, basically located in between the Western and Central Andes ranges. The Amazonian Andes constitute the eastern flank of the Andes, which were once covered by dense Amazon vegetation and where these white-skinned, blonde haired people lived.
   The region extended from the cordillera spurs up to altitudes where primary forests still stand, usually above 11,500 feet. The cultural realm of the Amazonian Andes occupied land situated between 6,600–9,800 feet, and according to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, was so extensive “We could easily call it a kingdom because it has more than fifty leagues [155 miles] long per twenty leagues wide [62 miles], without counting the way up to Muyupampa, thirty leagues long more [93 miles].”
    Located in the Jamalca district in Peru's Utcubamba province, about 500 miles north-east of the capital, Lima, the area was an extremely isolated part of northern Peru because of the size of the Marañón River and the surrounding mountainous terrain, with the Chachapoyas beginning between 1000 and 500 B.C., and major sites such as Kuelap and Cerro Olán (Helaine Silverman and William Isbell, Handbook of South American Archaeology, Spring Science & Business Media, 2008).
Lamanties killed every Nephite who would not deny the Christ

Hunter and Ferguson (p244) go on to claim that the scriptural record further states: “Thus, it would appear from the meager facts available from the Book of Mormon on the matter that at the time the record closed in 421 A.D. there were both white-skinned and dark-skinned people in the victorious Lamanite political ranks.” They also quote Moroni 1:2-3, adding, “Moroni makes it clear that as of about 400-421 A.D. not all of the Nephite religious-political faction had yet been killed off.”
    However, this is not accurate according to the scriptural record, for Moroni clearly states: “For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ” (Moroni 1:2-3). While the first part of this statement is in the present tense, (wars are exceedingly fierce), and are between the Lamanites (among themselves), the last part is what has already happened (they put to death) “every Nephite “that at the time will not deny the Christ—or would at the time of the event. In addition, if there were any Nephites in 400-421 A.D. denying the Christ, then they became Lamanites, and as Nephi writes: “And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed for they shall be cursed with the same cursing” (2 Nephi 5:23).
    Thus, there would have been no “white” Lamanites after that last final battle at Cumorah.
    It should be pointed out, on the other hand, that around 55 B.C., when Hagoth was building ships and Nephites were traveling to “a land which was northward” (Alma 63:4-6), that some “white” Nephites went beyond the Land Northward in the Land of Promise to settle. No doubt, because of the similar construction and settlement examples, some ended up in Mesoamerica and evidently would have been Maya and Aztec progenitors. Therefore, we can place “white” Nephites (or their descendants) in Mexico and Guatemala in later centuries.
    Thus, we can draw a reasonable conclusion that, as Hunter and Ferguson write: “It is therefore not surprising to find Ixthlilochitl talking about “white” Tultec kings as late as the tenth century A.D.” It is just that those of the Book of Mormon record, in the location of the scriptural record Land of Promise, are not the same as any that might have gone elsewhere aboard Hagoth’s ships.
On the other hand, not all references in Hunter and Ferguson are to be accepted at face value. As an example, they write (p248): “The founder of the ancient Maya city of Mutul in Yucatan was one Zac Mutul, his name meaning “white man” (quoting from M. Wells Jakeman, The Origins and History of the Mayas, Research Publication Co., 1945, p182). Since the city was founded centuries before the coming of the Europeans, it is apparent that the name was descriptive of the man. Zac is the Maya word for "white." Amazing enough, the Hebrew word for "white” is identical to the Maya—Zac.”
    The problem, however, is the Hebrew word for “white” is not Zac, but laben. In fact, “laben” לָבָן, in Hebrew, pronounced “law-bawn,” means “white,” and is so given in 29 usages or occurrences in the Old Testament, as in Genesis 30:37, Exodus 30:31, Leviticus 13:3, etc. This is not to be confused with Laban, pronounced “law-ban,” which means “brick,” though sometimes translated as white, as in Isaiah 1:18 and Daniel 11:35. Also, as a name, Laban, like in the Book of Mormon, the meaning is “white.”
    The word Zac, in Hebrew, means “pure, clean,” or “clear.” As a name, it means “remembered by God,” and is also short for Zachariah, a name which means “The Lord has remembered.”
    Thus, no parallel can be drawn from the scriptural record and Ixtlilxochitl on this, or most other subjects.
    Unfortunately, because it is within the popular mindset, claiming things that are found in Mesoamerica or Middle America are also in the Book of Mormon is an inaccurate use of the scriptural record. We should be very careful of inserting our own opinions and beliefs into the scriptural record when there is no indication or support for doing so.