Saturday, February 17, 2018

Orson Pratt’s Message of Lehi’s Travels to the Land of Promise – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding the beliefs and attitudes of Church leaders in the 19th century and prior to the introduction of archaeology into BYU. 
    Isn’t it interesting that in all of the time that people have written between Orson Pratt’s time and the Mesoamericanist theorists of today, hardly a word is mention at BYU Archaeology about the fact that Orson and others had such a firm, fixed conviction that Lehi landed in Chile and moved northward to around Peru/Ecuador where the Nephite Nation dwelt and the Book of Mormon took place. Granted the limited theory was developed but that does not mean that South America was still not the landing and dwelling place of the Nephites—nor does it suggest that Mesoamerica had to be the place of landing.
In the early days of the Book of Mormon, members and leaders assumed the description of the Land of Promise meant the entire Western Hemisphere. Later, more careful reading of the scriptural record led to an understanding of a much smaller area than an entire hemisphere or even an entire continent that resulted in the “Limited Geography Theory”

All the Limited Theory actually showed was that the Land of Promise was not a continent-large area, but a much smaller region that the entire Western Hemisphere as several early leaders perceived. In fact, South America, as we have reported here several times, though unknown to any American in the 1830s or for many years afterward, was basically an island before the Andes rose and the central continent came up to form the Amazon Drainage Basin—an area barely above water—a fact according to Charles Darwin, and as other evidence shows, occurred during the age of man.
    The difficulty with Jakeman’s approach was that he was so convinced of Mesoamerica, specifically Guatemala and the Mayan civilization being that of the Nephites, that he turned a deaf ear and unseeing eye to the scriptural record for verification of his ideas. The fact that the land form was and never had been north and south did not bother him, nor that so many scriptural references were not found in Mesoamerica and did not verify his viewpoint.
Only two places in the entire Western Hemisphere has advanced ancient ruins expected to have been built by a people with 1000 years of history and an advanced building capability from Jerusalem

In fact, there are so few matches in Mesoamerica, other than the ruins, that it is remarkable that Andean South America, where there are so many matches to the actual scriptural record was not only completely ignored, but never even considered as a possibility and no BYU archaeological digs or events occurred there, especially after M. Wells Jakeman became the head of Archaeology at BYU.
    One of the extremely sad and disastrous results of Jakeman’s approach is found in the life of Thomas Stuart Ferguson, who teamed with Milton R. Hunter of the Quorum of Seventy, and wrote a book entitle Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, published in 1950 (Kolob Book Company, Oakland California).
    The story of Ferguson is indeed a sad one. He was born in Pocatello, Idaho, on 21 May 1915. He received degrees in political science and law from the University of California and practiced law in Orinda, California. He worked with the F.B.I., but his first love seemed to be trying to prove the Book of Mormon through the study of Mesoamerican archaeology. In 1983, J. Willard Marriot wrote a letter in which he commented concerning Ferguson's dedication to establishing an archaeological base for the Book of Mormon:
    "We spent several months together in Mexico looking at the ruins and studying the Book of Mormon archaeology. I have never known anyone who was more devoted to that kind of research than was Tom. I remember when he was with the F.B.I., he would arise at 4:30 or 5:00 AM and read the Book of Mormon and information he could find pertaining to it." (Bruce W. Warren and Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, Book of Mormon Research Foundation, Provo, Utah, 1987, p250).
Though there were two distinct and acceptable locations for a (red circles) Limited Geographical Theory location, complete with extensive ruins and artifacts of an early Book of Mormon-era period, BYU and LDS archaeology centered only upon one

He was helpful in getting the Church to open an Archaeology Department, and received a grant of $250,000 for archeological research in Mesoamerica from then President David O. McKay (The Messiah in Ancient America, pp263-266), to fund Ferguson's work from 1955-1959. After Ferguson’s death in 1983, Fred W. Nelson wrote: “"Thomas Ferguson has either directly or indirectly influenced thousands of people's thinking on archaeology...He has had a great influence on professional archaeology through the Department of Archaeology at Brigham Young University, the Gates Collection, and the New World Archaeological Foundation...Ferguson's legacy in the founding of the Archaeology Department at Brigham Young University, the obtaining of the Gates Collection, and as founder of the New World Archaeology Foundation stands as shining example to us all" (The Messiah in Ancient America, pp282-83).
    However, despite a quarter of a million dollar expenditure, five years of searching (and a lifetime) of effort, Ferguson never discovered the evidence he had desired to find to support the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. In response to a letter Hal Hougey wrote in 1972 which reminded him that he had predicted in 1961 that Book of Mormon cities would be found within 10 years, Ferguson sadly replied: "Ten years have passed…I sincerely anticipated that Book-of-Mormon cities would be positively identified within 10 years - and time has proved me wrong in my anticipation" (Letter dated June 5, 1972).
    According to Ferguson, at first it had all seemed so simple; since the Book of Mormon told when the Nephites were in Mesoamerica [which it does not ever say the Land of Promise was in Mesoamerica], all one had to do was find archaeological sites that dated to the period and the Book of Mormon would be established by the evidence. The fact that archaeological research failed to provide the confirmation which Ferguson expected to find must have weighed very heavily on his mind. The most serious blow to his faith, however, came just after Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri were rediscovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
    This collection, which had been lost for many years, contained the very papyrus from which Joseph Smith "translated" the Book of Abraham. Ferguson obtained copies, gave them to two renowned Egyptologists, who both said “that the papyrus Joseph Smith claimed was the Book of Abraham was in reality the Book of Breathings, an Egyptian funerary text made for a man by the name of Hor (Horus).”
    When Ferguson learned that this papyrus had nothing at all to do with the patriarch Abraham or his religion, he was shaken to the core by the discovery. He soon lost his faith in the Book of Mormon and the work he had undertaken for the better part of his life.
    While the mummies and papyri are a different story, ones which we have explained here on other occasions, the point is that Ferguson lost his faith in the Book of Mormon because after so many years, he could find no proof of it in Mesoamerica.
    One can only wonder what he might have found and what the Church might know today had Jakeman not demanded Mesoamerica was the Land of Promise and Ferguson done his work in South America as had been the attitude before Jakeman. However, that was not to be the case.
    In 1973 Michael Coe, one of the best known authorities on archaeology of the New World, and an avid critic of the Church, wrote an article for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. In this article he addressed the issue in a very forthright manner: "Mormon archaeologists over the years have almost unanimously accepted the Book of Mormon as an accurate, historical account of the New World peoples...Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true, and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group…The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has even shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973, pp41,42,46).
    Of course, Coe, like BYU Archaeologists, is referring to Mesoamerica when he talks about New World Book of Mormon evidences and artifacts—none have been found in Mesoamerica and none are likely to be found there dating to the time of the Book of Mormon, since the Land of Promise was in Andean South America.
    The sad tale of Thomas Stuart Ferguson is simply a prime example when someone’s personal views overshadow what is written and described in the scriptural record. When we put out faith in the beliefs of man, we endanger our souls and lose all help from the Spirit, who otherwise testifies to us what is truth. Mesoamerica has been shown to be anything but the Landing Site of Lehi. Yet, it is promoted today with as much vigor as it ever was.
    The reputations of all those who have promoted Mesoamerica on nothing more than their opinions, beliefs and desires rather than on the descriptive information Mormon gave us, will always fail. So why is it that someone coming in from Berkeley as an historian/archaeologist and an avid Mesoamericanist was able to completely ignore and turn all attention away from South America that had been the focal point of so much Church discussion, talks, and early Church leaders views?
Why was South America never again even discussed? How did BYU Archaeology manage to ignore all the previous understanding of South America and remove it so completely from all consideration as Lehi’s landing and the Nephite dwelling lands?
(See the next post, “Orson Pratt’s Message of Lehi’s Travels to the Land of Promise – Part III,” for a better understanding of the beliefs and attitudes of Church leaders in the 19th century and prior to the introduction of archaeology into BYU)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Orson Pratt’s Message of Lehi’s Travels to the Land of Promise – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the beliefs and attitudes of Church leaders in the 19th century and prior to the introduction of archaeology into BYU, and specifically with Apostle Orson Pratt’s address in the tabernacle: 
   Orson Pratt continued: “Being so severely persecuted by the Lamanites, the Nephites were commanded of the Lord to depart from their midst, that is to leave the first place of colonization in the country which the Spanish now call Chile. They came northward from their first landing place, traveling, according to the record, as near as I can judge, some two thousand miles.
While the Lamanites occupied the East and West Wilderness, living in tents, the Narrow Strip of Wilderness that ran from the East Sea to the West Sea divided the Lamanite and Nephite people

“The Lamanites remained in possession of the country on the South. The Nephites formed a colony not far from the head waters of the river Amazon, and they dwelt there some four centuries (in the land we call today “Peru”), increasing and spreading forth in the land. The Lamanites, in the South and in the middle portions of South America, also spread forth and multiplied, and became a very strong and powerful nation.
    “Many wars existed between the two nations, in which hundreds of thousands were destroyed. Finally, in the course of generations, the Nephites fell into wickedness; they departed in a great measure from the law of Moses and from the precepts of truth which had been taught to them by the prophets in their midst.
    “A certain portion of them who still believed were commanded of the Lord to leave their brethren in consequence of their wickedness; they did so, and those who still remained faithful, under the guidance of prophets and revelators, came still further northward, emigrating from the head waters of what we now term the river Amazon, upon the western coast, or not far from the western coast, until they came on the waters of the river which we call the Magdalena. On this river, not a great distance from the mouth thereof, in what is now termed Columbia, they built their great capital city. They also discovered another nation that already possessed that country called the people of Zarahemla.”
    Now despite this understanding, though it may well have been imperfect, especially placing the Nephites so far northward in Colombia, which would leave almost no room for a Land Northward, but still a workable scenario with foundations in several scriptural references for anyone who wanted to have taken a look at it—and one would think that a new Archaeology Department at Brigham Young would have done so since several Church leaders had similar views at the time, including Frederick G. Williams, a member of the original First Presidency serving under Joseph Smith, that Jakeman would have at least looked into the idea. But he did not.
    Jakeman arrived at BYU with a firm, fixed belief in where the Land of Promise was located—in Mesoamerica among the Maya—and began teaching that principle to his first class, from which nearly all the following BYU professors and leaders in the Archaeology Department and field were later gleaned, and no one has ever checked out Pratt or William’s or possibly even Joseph Smith’s views of the time.
    When Jakemen came to BYU, he stated emphatically: “The ‘authenticity problem’ of the Book of Mor­mon is therefore the foremost problem of future Maya research. It is difficult if not impossible to conceive of a scientific problem fraught with greater significance for the modern world...The admittedly paramount scientific and religious signifi­cances which it involves make its undertaking, by both ‘Mormon’ and non-’Mormon’ scientists or agen­cies, a matter of greatest urgency. Further delay on the excuse of unimportance or insufficient data is no longer admissible.”
Left: The dining and lecture tent of the First Annual Archaeological Field School of BYU, Montezuma Canyon, August, 1969; Right: BYU 1948 Archaeological expeditions to Mesoamerica, at the ruins of Aguacatal, Campeche, Mexico
And that is exactly the approach the founder of Archaeology at BYU took. The problem is, more than just analyzing contemporaneous trends in Maya research, the 1938 article many Mesoamerican theorists today believe to be the first statement of Book of Mormon archaeology in its scientific dimen­sions, the initial theoretical orientation upon which most of the work of subsequent years has been based, seems to be misunderstood by all so connected to Jakeman and his approach creating the department of Archaeology at BYU, is the fact that his interest and, therefore, that of the school to begin with was not concerned about Book of Mormon archaeology, but Mayan archaeology as being that of Book of Mormon archaeology. In one fell swoop, the years of previous views of some Church leaders, inspiration, and dearly held beliefs were swept under the rug never again to surface at BYU to see if they, indeed, held some semblance of worth or truth under the support of academic archaeological work.
    As the1938 statement continues: “And the fact that it was submitted to such a periodical as the Church Section seems to foreshadow a complete dedi­cation on the part of its author to the archaeological study of the scriptural foundations of Mormonism—being inseparably connected to the archaeology of Mesoamerica.”
    The obvious question no one connected to BYU and the Jakeman Archaeology Department seems to have ever asked, or are even interested in asking, is: “What if Mesoamerica is not the landing place of Lehi?” And indeed is a question that demands to be asked—and answered—for if Mesoamerica is not the landing site of Lehi and the home of the Nephite 1000-year existence of the scriptural record, the better part of 80 years has been wasted on an endeavor that can neither ever be satisfactorily concluded or ever solved. It is like looking for the origin of the landing of Noah’s Ark in the islands of Japan, or the remains of the Tower of Babel in Australia.
    It seems rather foolhardy to concentrate an entire University’s department of Archaeology for eighty years on an area that has yet to provide much in the way of concrete connection between the scriptural record and “in ground evidence.”
    As an example, while one can debate beliefs, there are 44 different scriptures that relate to or describe in detail Land of Promise connections, i.e., from a “north-south” land layout as described in Alma 22:27-34, to an indigenous plant that heals deadly fevers (like quinine), as mentioned in Alma 46:40, neither of which are found in Mesoamerica (though both are found in Andean Peru); from the Nephite four seas described in Helaman 3:8 to a Jerusalem-type climate to regrow seeds brought from Jerusalem as stated in 1 Nephi 18:24, again neither of which are found in Mesoamerica, but both are found in Andean Peru; or from Metalsmith work spanning 2500 years in the Land of Promise among both the Jaredites and Nephites, and not found existing in Mesoamerica until at least two hundred years after the final Nephite demise, to a Sea that Divides the Land outlined in Ether 10:20, again not existing in Mesoamerica, but existing in Andean Peru.
    The list of scriptural references goes on regarding what does not exist in Mesoamerica, but does exist in a single location in the Western Hemisphere, namely Andean Peru in South America. However, BYU has never bothered to open any research in that area, though for nearly a hundred years before Jakeman, it was thought to be where Lehi landed by Church leaders and members.
    Why is that? And why concentrate in Mesoamerica? Perhaps because that was Jakeman’s area of interest, his expertise, and his conviction of it being the Book of Mormon land. As is stated of Jakeman by Ross T. Christensen in "The True History of Archaeology at Brigham Young University," (1969): “Far from being narrowly specialized on the archae­ological and epigraphic aspects of what he termed ‘the general reconstruction problem of Maya History,’ with­out neglecting these, he outlined—following the Carnegie Institution of Washington—a far-flung ‘pan-scientific attack.’ This approach comprised studies of the living Mayas, including physical anthropology, tropical medi­cine, ethnology, linguistics, and agronomy; historical studies, including both archaeology and pre-Conquest and post-Conquest documentary research in such sources as the extant ancient hieroglyphic books (“codices”) and the sixteenth-century Maya manuscripts found in the archives of Spain and Mexico; and environmental studies, including geology, vulcanology, climatology, geography, botany and zoology.”
    It did not, however, extend beyond the limits of the Maya in Mesoamerica! It totally ignored any other possibility!
    In fact, glaringly absent was a total absence of studying anyone other than the Maya, whose existence was limited to what is today Guatemala and the Yucatan, the latter by the way a physical landform that simply does not fit into any geographical description in the scriptural record, which covers the Sea East in rather good detail, but nothing about an area over 76,000 square miles with a 700-mile coastline, that is in any way described in Mormon’s detailed discussions of the area throughout Alma.
(See the next post, “Orson Pratt’s Message of Lehi’s Travels to the Land of Promise – Part III,” for a better understanding of the beliefs and attitudes of Church leaders in the 19th century and prior to the introduction of archaeology into BYU)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Orson Pratt’s Message of Lehi’s Travels to the Land of Promise – Part I

Long Before BYU organized an Archaeological Department, before the first Latter-day Saint ever to earn the doctorate in the field of archae­ology (combined with ancient history) graduated, Orson Pratt discussed where Lehi sailed and where he landed, as well as where Nephi moved to and settled—all in western South America, between about the 30º south latitude to the area of Peru/Ecuador.
However, when M. Wells Jakeman, graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1938, his dissertation was entitled, “The Maya States of Yucatan, 1441-1545,” and the Maya, of course, were in Mesoamerica. When Jakeman joined BYU and founded the first Archaeology Department, he brought with him a different, but adamant and singular viewpoint, borne out of his classroom studies of the ancient Maya, which he took from the early Indian and Spanish accounts of ancient Mexico in the light of modern archaeological findings.
    According to Ross T.Christensen in "The True History of Archaeology at Brigham Young University, "the Department of History at California had supervised his advanced program, in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology for training in New World archaeology. He had previously studied ancient history and biblical and other Old World archaeology, it may be added, at the University of Utah and the Univer­sity of Southern California.
    Before this event, the history of the Saints, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, with the Brigham Young Academy as the seat of higher learning, produced numerous individuals who had been brought up in the understanding of men like Orson Pratt, one of the great leaders of the Church, who was born 19 years before the Church was organized, and 14 years after the birth of the prophet Joseph Smith. With studies as a mathematician, Orson was called to the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 and was considered a leading Mormon theologian and writer until his death in 1881, serving as an Apostle for 46½ years.
    Pratt was called to his first mission at the age of 19 upon his baptism, and served on several missions in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as abroad in England, Scotland and Austria. He also served as editor of the Millennial Star, President of the British Mission, and was a member of Brigham Young’s initial pioneer company, the Vanguard Company, that crossed the plains from Missouri to Utah, to select a western site for Mormon colonization, within which he served as scientific observer, taking notes on geological formations and mineral resources.
With Erastus Snow (far left), 36-year-old Orson Pratt (left) entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 21, 1847, three days ahead of the main body of the Vanguard company. Several days later, he preached the first sermon in the Salt Lake Valley and formally dedicated the valley to the Lord.
    At the age of 53, Elder Pratt delivered a discourse in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, February 11, 1872 (Journal of Discourses, Vol 14, Discourse 44, p 323) in which he stated, in part: “It is quite unexpected to me to be called upon this afternoon to address this congregation; but inasmuch as I have been solicited so to do I cheerfully comply with the request. It has also been suggested that there would be several strangers present this afternoon who would desire to hear some of the evidences in relation to the Book of Mormon, and although it is a subject on which we have spoken during the week just passed, and have set forth many evidences in support of the divine authenticity of this book, still it may not be amiss to repeat some of these evidences and give some reasons to those who are present why this people receive this book as a part and portion of the revelations of the Most High.”
    Elder Pratt went on to say, “Our traditions, which we received from our fathers, have naturally inclined us to reject all revelations, or all pretended Scripture except that which happened to be compiled in the Old and New Testament. I had this tradition in common with the rest of mankind who profess to believe the Bible; but when I came to examine this tradition which I, as well as millions, had imbibed, I found it to be only tradition and without any substantial foundation.
    “I cannot possibly imagine how to reconcile the supreme goodness, wisdom and mercy of the Almighty with the idea that a few of the inhabitants of our globe, dwelling in one small region called Palestine, should be the favored few to whom revelation should be vouchsafed. I cannot reconcile this idea with the view that we talk of the character of the great Being whom we worship and serve.
    “When I contemplate the vast number of millions that must have swarmed over this great western hemisphere in times of old, building large cities, towns and villages, and spreading themselves forth from shore to shore from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the frozen regions of the north to the uttermost extremity of South America—when I contemplate all these people as human beings, beings that have immortal souls and form part of the brotherhood of all nations, descending from the same parents, created by the same Creator, I cannot believe that all these nations have been left in darkness, deprived of the light of revelation from Heaven, and having no knowledge concerning God; but I must believe that God, who is an impartial Being and presiding over all the inhabitants of the earth, would have respect to the people of ancient America as well as of ancient Asia.”
Elder Pratt wrote a series of eighteen pamphlets in 1851 on the tenets of Mormonism, that was published in England; it was compiled into a book and became an influential work for the early Church in Britain. He was an orator with special appeal, and stated: “Consequently, in accordance with the views that we would naturally entertain concerning the attributes of the Great Jehovah, we believe that he has in these latter times, in the generation in which we are permitted to live, condescended to bring to the knowledge of the people another book, another divine revelation containing the history of his dealings with the generations that are past and gone on this western hemisphere. The book which I hold in my hand [the Book of Mormon] contains nearly as much information as the Old Testament. It is a book of five or six hundred closely printed pages.
    “This book, the Latter-day Saints believe to be the Bible of the western hemisphere; a compilation of sacred books, books delivered by divine inspiration in ancient times to prophets, revelators and inspired men who dwelt upon this continent, both in North and South America. We believe that it was written, mostly by a branch of the house of Israel, a part and portion of the chosen seed, the descendants of Abraham who were led forth to this continent some six hundred years before Christ from the city of Jerusalem, brought by the special providence, miracles and goodness of the Almighty.
    “A colony with whom there were several prophets; a colony of Israelites who believed in the law of Moses, and to whom the Lord manifested himself in a peculiar manner. They were brought forth from the land of Jerusalem in the first year of Zedekiah, King of Judah, six hundred years before the birth of our Lord and Savior.”
Shifting slightly, Elder Pratt begins an explanation of Lehi’s travels, where he went and how he arrived in the Land of Promise: “On board this vessel they embarked, and were guided by the Almighty across the great Indian Ocean. Passing among the islands, how far south of Japan I do not know, they came round our globe, crossing not only the Indian Ocean, but what we term the great Pacific Ocean, landing on the western coast of what is now called South America. As near as we can judge from the description of the country contained in this record the first landing place was in Chile, not far from where the city of Valparaiso now stands.”
Valparaiso is located about 200 miles south of La Serena and Coquimbo Bay, the latter where Lehi landed

After landing on the western coast of South America, they divided into two colonies, one colony called Lamanites, the other called Nephites. These names originated from two brothers, the name of one being Laman, the name of the other, Nephi. The Lamanites became a very wicked and corrupt people. The Nephites believed in the law of Moses, in God, in the spirit of revelation and prophecy; they believed in visions, in the ministration of angels, and they sought to serve the Lord with all their hearts, and they were exceedingly persecuted by the Lamanites. The Nephites, by the command of the Almighty, made sacred records on gold plates, and on these plates they were commanded to engrave their history, their prophecies, the dealings of the Lord with them from generation to generation.
(See the next post, “Orson Pratt’s Message of Lehi’s Travels to the Land of Promise – Part II,” for a better understanding of the beliefs and attitudes of Church leaders in the 19th century and prior to the introduction of archaeology into BYU)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

City of Zarahemla, Land of Zarahemla and the River Sidon – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the meaning of the River Sidon, and whether or not the Nephite river was named after or had any relationship to the Phoenician (Lebonese) coastal town by that name. 
   As concluding in the last post, the Mulekites outnumbered the Nephites at the time of their first meeting when Mosiah discovered them. It should be kept in mind that originally, both Mulekites and the Nephites originally spoke Hebrew, and by the time Mosiah discovered the Mulekites or people of Zarahemla, their language had become corrupted (Omni 1:17) so it could not be understood by Mosiah and his Hebrew-speaking people. Because of this, it would probably be a stretch to say that the Mulekites, because the word “Sidon” is a Hebrew or Semitic word, were the ones to give the river that name. Also, because of their small size, and their distance away from the eastern borders of what later became known as the Land of Zarahemla, that they even knew of the river, let alone named it.
Sidon is 25 miles south of Beirut along the public (coastal) road, and was one of the most powerful city-states of ancient Phoenicia, and known for manufacturing purple dye. Homer noted their famed ability to produce glass, which made the city famous and rich. The city was the “seat” of the Phoenician Civilization and from its port were launched most of the ships which would ply the Mediterranean, bringing more wealth to the city through maritime trade 

Yet, Allen, oblivious to these facts, goes on to write: “The port of Lebanon, which is south of Beirut, is also called Sidon (Sayda in Arabic and Pdn in Phoenician, Sidon in Greek, meaning “fishery”). The name meant “fishing-town” originally, and later was translated as “fishery” or “fish waters.”
    First of all, there was no “Port of Lebanon,” in Biblical times. There was the port of Tyre and the port of Sidon, both were important cities in the Old and New Testament times and today Sidon and Tyre, 20 miles to the south of Sidon, is called Sour today (named for the rock island on which it sits that juts out into the Mediterranean and means “rock”), are part of Lebanon.
    Sidon, the first born son of Canaan, son of Ham, and is from the root word צוד “sud,” which means to “hunt,” or more accurately, to “acquire food.” In addition, the Hebrew word for fish is “dag” from “dagah,” the latter meaning fishing or fishery; with “dugah” meaning Fish hooks, which should eliminate any affiliation with the word Sidon to “fish” or “fishing” as it would relate to the River Sidon.
    Consequently, “Sidon,” in formal conversation to an Israelite, has no association, but a Hebrew audience would probably tie the name Sidon to the root group צוד “sud,” which means “to hunt,” which more or less, as one linguist put it, “was the ancient equivalent of our trip to the supermarket.”
    The purpose of “sud” was to acquire food and one's skill to catch a prey was on a par with one's ability to survive (Genesis 27:3, Leviticus 17:13, Micah 7:2).  In addition, ציד (sayid), means “hunting” (Genesis 27:30) or “game” (Genesis 25:28), and ציד (sayyad), means “hunter” (Jeremiah 16:16 only). It is likely, since מצד (mesad), means fastness or “stronghold” (Jeremiah 48:41), suggesting the original meaning of this word may have been hunting-place.
    Later this verb entered into the game of "hunting" for souls (Ezekiel 13:18, 20). This verb's derivatives are numerous, but none specifically are directed to “fish,” “fishing,” or “fishery,” other than in acquiring food, and even more specifically, “to fortify,” that is to fortify the body through food. Thus we see how theorists love to insert information that is misleading from fact, but appears to support their point of view and Land of Promise model. 
    As a peripheral note, we read on this matter from Allen, “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…We cannot be sure that the Mulekites departed from the port of Sidon, however, circumstantial evidence suggests that they were transported by the seafaring Phoenicians.”  
    The port of Sidon, of course, was their major port around 600 B.C.  and would have been fully under Babylonian control—the Mulekites, i.e., a member of Zedekiah’s family, would never have been allowed to sail from there under any circumstances by the Babylonian military which was under orders to capture any member of the Judah Royal Family.
As has been discussed numerous times in our articles, the only path open for escape or uncontested movement out of Jerusalem would have been to the (red arrow) southeast as shown in this map, since the Babylonian military controlled all the area (shown in yellow) from Egypt to Turkey
One might wonder why such an interpretation of the Nephite Sidon River is important, but Allen has his model in mind and anything that he can show to prove it he seems willing to bend to his interests. As an example, he writes: “The term “fish waters” is also associated with the Grijalva River located in the upper Grijalva valley [of Mesoamerica]. These waters are called Xocal Ha in the Maya language, which means “fish waters,” the same as Sidon in Hebrew.”  Ah—we see why he wants “Sidon” to mean “fish waters,” so he can tie it into his model in Mesoamerica—but as we have seen, “Sidon” does not mean “fish waters” in Hebrew, or even remotely, other than to say that what is hunted, resides in the waters.
   Allen adds, “One town located on the upper Grijalva is called Xocaltenango, a combination of two words, one in Maya and the other in Nahuatl, which means “place of the fish.” Some archaeological evidence hints at the possibility that the ancient Nephites/Mulekites called all the water “fish waters,” or “waters of Sidon,” as many tributaries flow into the Grijalva.” However, that is as misleading a comment as can be made. “Sidon” does not mean that, and there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that the Nephites called all waters “Sidon.”
    As we have written on several occasions, during the siege of Jerusalem and considering Nebuchadnezzar’s fanatical desire to kill off all of Zedekiah’s male kin to teach a lesson to the Hebrews, there is no way a group of palace elites, along with a child, are going to be allowed out of the city, through Babylonian military control lands to board a ship in Sidon or elsewhere along the Mediterranean. Their escape would have had to be to the east as we have suggested in earlier articles—the same basic path that Lehi took a few years earlier.
   Thus, the idea that Phoenicians were part of the Mulek party is both unreasonable and unsupportable and as a result, the idea that the Sidon River name came from the Phoenician town is unlikely and again unsupportable.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

City of Zarahemla, Land of Zarahemla and the River Sidon – Part I

In order for most theorists to try and fit these three places into their pre-determined models, we find them coming up with interesting ideas about the distance between the city of Zarahemla and the river Sidon. Some place the city right on the banks of the river, others place it very close to the river. 
    As John L. Sorenson, in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, on page 152, states: “The Rivjalva River (Rio de Chiapas), which flows through this broad valley, is the only plausible candidate for the river Sidon. Along the west bank of the river must lie the former city of Zarahemla.” Joseph L. Allen, in an article entitled “The Grijalva River and the River Sidon,” states similarly, ”The most prominent river in the Book of Mormon is the river Sidon. The city of Zarahemla was built along its banks… From the headwaters, the river flowed downhill toward Zarahemla” (Joseph L. Allen and Book of Mormon Tours and Research Institute, LLC, 2011).
Joe V. Andersen, in his “Can the Mississippi River be the River Sidon?” shows a map placing Zarahemla basically along the west bank of the River Sidon

However, this is not what Mormon tells us about the location of the river Sidon in relation to the city of Zarahemla. In the scriptural record, Mormon states: “And it came to pass that the Amlicites came upon the hill Amnihu, which was east of the river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla, and there they began to make war with the Nephites.” (Alma 2:15, emphasis added). Now, the word “by” in 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, meant “near, close,” so when Mormon writes “the river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla,” we understand that the river Sidon ran “by,” or “near” or “close” to the eastern borders of the Land of Zarahemla.
    Stated differently, Mormon’s meaning was simply that the “river Sidon, which ran near (or close) to the land of Zarahemla.” In fact, Mormon later tells us that the Waters of Sidon were in the borders of Zarahemla, or the land borders of Zarahemla (Mormon 1:10), which would have been to the east of the city itself.
    This is very different from the city of Zarahemla being on the banks of the river Sidon which many theorists try to tell us. This, then obviously eliminates Sorenson, Allen, and Andersen’s placement of Zarahemla in their models as well as their river Sidon.
    We also learn from Mormon that on the east of the river Sidon was the Valley of Gideon along with the city of Gideon (Alma 6:7); and also that the head of the river Sidon, or its source, was in the narrow strip of wilderness dividing the Land of Nephi on the south from the Land of Zarahemla on the north, or more accurately, where the narrow strip of wilderness divided the Nephites from the Lamanites—we learn this from Mormon:
“And it came to pass that 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, 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 round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided” (Alma 22:27, emphasis added).
    This is further pointed out when Mormon wrote: “And thus he cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon—the Nephites possessing all the land northward, yea, even all the land which was northward of the land Bountiful, according to their pleasure” (Alma 50:11, emphasis added).
    This also points out that the head or source of the river Sidon was in this narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, meaning the source of the river was south of Zarahemla—thus, the river, to flow past the borders of the Land of Zarahemla had to have flowed northward!
    This, then eliminates the heartland model and all those theorists who use the Mississippi River (which flows southward) as the River Sidon. This also eliminates Sorenson’s speculation that “The Book of Mormon strongly implies that the settlement region immediately dependent on the city of Zarahemla was located up and down the river [Sidon] and concentrated on the west bank” (page 152).
    As mentioned earlier, this also shows the erroneous speculation of Joseph L. Allen on his blog page “Book of Mormon Tours and Research Institute,” who begins his explanation of the River Sidon as: “The most prominent river in the Book of Mormon is the river Sidon. The city of Zarahemla was built along its banks.”
    In another of Allen’s speculations, he writes: “The name Sidon was undoubtedly a name given by people of Zarahemla, also referred to as the Mulekites, to the major river that ran through the land of Zarahemla in the new world.”
We know the head of the river is in the narrow strip of wilderness, and that the  river ran by the land of Zarahemla, meaning along or near its border with the land of Gideon

Again, the river “ran by” not “through” the Land of Zarahemla. A seemingly unimportant factor, but in reality quite important, since running through would mean the river could be anywhere in the land of Zarahemla, but running by the land suggests it is near or along the border of the land of Zarahemla, which gives us a clearer picture of where that river flowed.
    How Allen arrives at this is purely speculation, but before getting into that, consider that when Mosiah discovered Zarahemla (the Mulekites), Mosiah led a small group of Nephites who had left the City of Nephi in the Land of Nephi at a time when the Nephites were extremely wicked. How many Mosiah led is not stated or inferred, but it must not have been too large of a number because prior to that the Nephites had suffered through many “seasons of serious war and bloodshed” (Omni 1:3), and been reduced to a much lesser number overall as “the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed” (Omni 1:5), and did spare the righteous that they should not perish (Omni 1:7). Whatever this number, and the righteous are always a smaller number than the wicked, they were half the size of the Mulekites they discovered.
(See the next post, “City of Zarahemla, Land of Zarahemla and the River Sidon – Part II,” for more on the relationship, if any, of the River Sidon in the land of Promise with the Phoenician town by that name)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Steering the Ship

We are asked from time to time that if Nephi’s ship was “driven forth before the wind,” and that direction was dependent upon the wind and ocean currents, then what need did he have of being able to steer his ship.
     It should be noted that Nephi twice makes this same comment: “And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land. And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days, behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry” (1 Nephi 18:8-9, emphasis added).
Sailing downwind with the wind aft of the ship. As the wind presses directly into the sails to make them puff out, that natural force propels the boat forward, and it can be said that the ship is driven forth before the wind

First of all, what does it mean to be “driven before the wind”? There are two methods of being driven “before the wind,” with one being called “scudding under bare poles,” or moving without sails, yet making headway due to the wind pressure on hull and rigging (making headway downwind).
    In fact, in heavy weather, the windage of the mast and other spars can still be enough to move the boat (bare poles describes a sailing vessel with no sail set, that is the poles or masts are bare or have no sails, and is said to be “under bare poles”). To scud, or scudding, is “to move fast in a straight line from being driven by the wind.” Thus, scudding under bare poles is to be moving “straight along a line,” or on the current, driven by the wind. With sails set, that movement is faster than under “bare poles.”
    The other, of course, is having sails set and the wind blowing from astern, pushing the vessel forward from the wind driving in the sails. Either way, the vessel is moving forward from the wind astern, or behind the ship, pushing it forward. And since the wind also pushes or moves the ocean surface current, the vessel is moving forward with the current as it is “driven forth before the wind.”
    Thus, Nephi’s comment in vs. 8 and 9 tell us that he understood that his ship was moved or propelled by the wind as it pushed it forward along the ocean current. Which brings us to the point of his later comment when the emergency arose during the storm after Nephi’s brothers tied him up and the Liahona stopped working, Nephi says of his brothers and their inability to deal with the storm, “Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless they did not loose me” (1 Nephi 18:13, emphasis added).
    Why did Nephi make this comment about steering the ship when the vessel was “driven forth before the wind,” meaning as stated above that the ship was being pushed forward by winds, which also moved the current upon which the ship sailed. After all, “to steer” suggests that, in the case of sailing a boat, the vessel is under the direction of the pilot’s steerage. To add to this, Nephi also states that, after he was released by his brothers, the Liahona began working “whither [Nephi] desired it,” and after praying, “the winds did cease and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm” (1 Nephi 18:21), Nephi then says “I did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22, emphasis added).
    In Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word “steer” means “to direct, to govern, to direct and govern the course of a ship by the movements of the helm.” Also, the word “guide” means “to lead or direct in a way, to conduct in a course or path.” Thus, Nephi claims he had the ability to steer and guide the ship. In fact, in two cases he confirms this: first, in the above stated verse where the brothers knew not how to steer the ship, and in the second, where he states he guided the ship after the storm ceased.
    Since Nephi immediate recognized that his brothers did not know how to steer the ship during the storm, he obviously had some experience in doing so, that is, in steering the ship previously during the voyage from Bountiful into the Indian Ocean: “after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea” (1 Nephi 18:8).
    The problem in the minds of some theorists over this seems to be in understanding the extent to which Nephi steered his ship. The fact that his vessel was “driven forth before the wind” not only suggests that he was being blown forward, but that is the only method of propulsion for the ship, which, of course, means the ship could go nowhere except where the winds blew and the ocean currents flowed.
    So where did he steer?
Consider driving a car along a freeway. As long as you stay on the freeway, you can only go where the freeway takes you, so you are restricted to moving in that direction. However, you can steer the car into another lane, or into two or three lanes over, and back, to avoid traffic, debris, or other obstructions to your driving.
    While a freeway is only so wide, an ocean current is in most cases, many miles wide—as an example, the north flowing Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean is only 30 to 45 miles wide off the American coast, but in the Pacific Ocean, the southern side of the South Equatorial Current Gyre, which flows west to east between 10º and 20º south, is about 800 miles wide; where that current is deflected north along the west coast of South America in what is called the Peru Current (the eastern side of the South Equatorial Current), it is 550 miles wide. Obviously, the width of these currents provides plenty of steerage room within the flow of the current.
    It should also be noted, that while sailing against a strong current can result in a sailing ship making no progress, or even losing headway, a gusting storm moves a vessel forward on the waves or current, even if the sails are furled. Thus, “a great and terrible tempest” that lasted three days would have resulted in eddies, swirling currents, and circular storm paths, that would turn a vessel, even back on its previous course, as evidently the storm did that Nephi describes when he stated: “and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days” (1 Nephi 18:13).
    It also seems reasonable, that Nephi knew if he had not been tied up, and the Liahona had remained working, he would have been able to avoid the storm by steering far to the side or around the weather in the hundreds of mile wide current. This is seen that when the ship had been turned around and was sailing “back upon the waters for three days” he was able to reclaim the helm after being loosed and he “did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22, emphasis added).
    Evidently, the Lord wrote upon the Liahona instructions (1 Nephi 16:29) that Nephi followed as he “steered” the ship within the current over which the wind blew his vessel. As they had done on their trek down along the Red Sea after finding the Liahona (1 Nephi 16:10), the instrument guided them “in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16).
    In such a way, then, Nephi was able to guide his ship across the ocean, following the directions of the Lord as they were written upon the Liahona, avoiding currents, flows and vortices that would have negated his progress or direction, as well as submerged reefs, rocks and other hazards, and steer it along the current that the Lord instructed him, avoiding doldrums and benefiting from current and winds that would further his progress, which led him down through the Indian Ocean, into the Southern Ocean and across to the Land of Promise. Thus, while Nephi could not steer his ship anywhere he wanted, he could negotiate the hundreds of miles wide currents and avoid storms, flows, and obstructions to his overall path across the ocean. In this way he “steered” his ship. When he was tied up, and the spirit left them, his brothers “knew not where to steer the ship” and found themselves embroiled in a four-day storm that threatened to capsize them until “they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed” Nephi (1 Nephi 18:20).

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What Military Line? – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding two statements Alma makes that Dr. Ted Dee Stoddard, Professor Emeritus of Management Communication in the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management makes regarding John L. Sorenson’s interpretation of these two scriptures. 
    After commenting on the meaning of the word “line” used in criticizing Sorenson’s interpretation, Stoddard then goes on to ask another question and answer it: “Should he have said “for the Nephite army”? Answer: Obviously not because an entire army would be hard pressed to march the same “standard” distance in a day and a half that an individual would cover.”
A military unit can cover ground in any number of methods and paces, just as a single individual can do. In fact, military “marching” is more regulated than an individual does, and their coverage of distance more accurate time after time

Actually, this is as fallacious statement, for a military unit is capable of marching at any pace given it, from a standard march or “route step” (normal walking) to a “quick march,” which varies by military unit from 112 steps per minute to 140 steps per minute. There is also a “slow march,” which is usually used only for ceremonial or funeral marches; “Double March,” which is almost a jog of 180 steps per minute; and “Easy March,” which is an unrestricted march used for field marching or other rough conditions. Thus, a military unit can cover ground in any number of methods and paces, just as a single individual can do.
    Stoddard goes on: “In other words, “for a Nephite” has no special meaning other than to describe the defensive line of the Nephites and to reflect the Nephites’ measuring system as they understood it rather than to communicate the distance in some other measuring system such as miles, kilometers, or leagues.”
    Actually, we do not know what terminology the Nephites used for measuring. However, what is important here is to realize, as Mormon tells us in numerous ways, that he knew he was writing to a future people and knew that that people would not necessarily know specific Nephite measurement terminology, so he used a method of distance through what an individual, normal (“common”) man could cover in a certain amount of time.
A fortified line (wall) that was as long as a “day’s journey for a Nephite”
However, obviously unknown to Stoddard, he adds: “For example, Joseph Smith might have correctly transliterated this verse to read “It was only twelve miles on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation to the west sea” when he translated Mormon’s words—but he didn’t. By analyzing the verse carefully, readers can readily deduce that “a Nephite” has no special meaning beyond the measuring system employed by the Nephites.”
    It is this type of meandering through the scriptural record that causes so much confusion in people’s minds when the actual writing of the Nephites and Mormon’s abridgement is rather simple, and it was meant to be, so that we would understand many centuries later what was intended and what was meant.
    Another example of this confusion is when theorists try to combine two separate issues into one, such as Stoddard’s using this “line” mentioned in Alma 22:32, as the “line” mentioned in Helaman 4:7, the latter being used in conjunction with a military issue where the one in Alma was not.
A defensive line can be a man-made wall of stone, or of wood, dirt, or even a “wall of spears,” swords and shields

There can be no doubt that a “defensive” line needs to have something substantial, such as a wall, to stop an invading army equipped only with swords, spears and arrows. Such walls were no uncommon for the Nephites to erect, as seen in “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“ (Alma 48:8). Whether or not a wall was involved in the Helaman 4:7 fortified line is not said and not known, however, some type of defense was erected where Moroni “stationed their armies to defend their north country” (Helaman 4:7). In this case, it is easy to see that subject at hand was a line of fortification, and the several verses before this describe military action, which the verses before the Alma statement did not.
    So here we have two issues:
1. In Helaman, a military line to stop the forward progress of the Lamanites, that is some type of edifice, such as a wall, was built across the land, from the sea in the west to a point in the east that was the distance of a day’s journey for a Nephite from the starting point in the west at the seashore;
2. In Alma, a border separating the Land of Bountiful from the Land of Desolation somewhere at either end or within the narrow neck of land.
    These two things are not related; however, the method of measurement, i.e., “the distance a Nephite could travel in a certain time frame” were related. This was given for us to understand the length of the defensive line and the width of the narrow neck of land.
    How much simpler the scriptural record is to read and understand when one tries not to relate it to a given area, or pre-determined concepts, but simply reads it the way it is written. It is almost humorous that Stoddard begins his article by stating: “The error committed here by Sorenson is in misreading Alma 22:32 and then trying to determine the distance across the narrow neck of land from the content of the Book of Mormon,” when in reality, the error committed in the article was Stoddard’s in believing he knew more about the scriptural record he speaks about than the person who wrote it and gave us a clear understanding of his inserted points.
    Stoddard then went on to add, “What a shame to spend so much time and attention on “the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation” without realizing that the phrasing merely describes one period-of-time defensive line rather than the distance across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
    It shouldn’t take much expertise to see that Mormon’s insert was exactly for that purpose, giving us a measuring device not of a military line as he did in Helaman 4:7, but of the width of the narrow neck of land as he did in Alma 22:32.
    Of course, that measurement does not fit Stoddard’s Mesoamerica, so it must be rejected. What an approach to scholarly work. If you don’t agree or like what is there, reject it!