Sunday, July 23, 2017

How Theories Get Started – Part I

It is always interesting to see how theories get started and then build and sometimes grow into uncontrollable ideas like a forest fire sweeping across the hills. Often there is no rhyme or reason for the theory in the first place, but for some reason, the glaring knowledge of why it could not be possible is ignored and shoved aside with hopes no one will discover that knowledge—or the researchers or writers are just too lazy to do their due diligence to see if the idea could possibly fit the facts and reality.
Take Orson Pratt's theory of Lehi landing just south of Panamaas he stated: “For some who read the Book of Mormon, with maps of the Western Hemisphere in view, the Isthmus of Panama seems an easy fit for the Book of Mormon’s “narrow neck of land” [and the] “running battle,” culminating in the destruction of the Nephite nation, started at “the Isthmus of Darien” (Panama) and “ended at Manchester” (western New York).” He never attributed his beliefs to Joseph Smith or inspiration or anything other than his opinion, yet the theory grew in shape and size over the following years.
    While persisting for some time, the eventual modern theorists began to narrow that scope somewhat. As one recent theorist claims: “I could have started off by studying existing research, but I deliberately avoided doing so, because I wanted to come to my own conclusions without being influenced by other people’s ideas.” Trouble is, he should have done some research, for he places the city and Land of Bountiful right in the middle of the Darien Gap rainforest jungle, an area almost impossible to pass through, let alone build in. He also states: “Mapping the events in the Book of Mormon does involve a lot of guesswork. But we can figure out quite a lot through a process of deductive reasoning.”
    The problem is, no amount of deductive reasoning is going to change five all-important and critical facts:
1. The area where Panama and Colombia join, where the Isthmus of Panama joins South America, is the most difficult, dangerous, and impassable rain-forest jungle known anywhere in the world, called the Darien Gap;
2. This Gap is about 100 miles across and 60-80 miles long, is uninhabited, and has been a block of modern advancement in the area since the Spanish first arrived in 1501;
Pan American highway ends at Yaviza with such jungle between Yavisa and Columbia that the only way to get to Columbia is by boat or airplane

3. The Pan-American Highway, which covers about 19,000 miles, stretching from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuala, Argentine (Tierra del Fuego) at the tip of South America, connecting 21 different countries, has never been built through this Darien Gap—with early highway builders between 1923 and 1950 finding no way to bridge this jungle, and modern technology unable to close the Gap, thus leaving the Central America and South America disconnected;
4. The Gap is not inhabitable, modern-equipped groups with the latest equipment cannot find a way to get through it, with no roads and most travel accomplished by river boats riding the strong flowing currents;
5. During the six-month rainy season the Gap is completely flooded; the heat, humidity and plant life destroying anything in its path the other six months of the year; and rivers keep travel even on the fringes down to a minimum.
In this day and age it is difficult to imagine that there is a place on Earth where a road cannot be built, where transportation of any kind is not possible, and where even foot traffic does not exist for passage from one end to the other

Battling this Gap, more than 2,000 Scottish colonists perished from malaria and starvation in the last decade of the 17th century, and in 1854 numerous explorers died from disease and exposure on a U.S. Navy survey expedition, stopping plans for a grand canal project through the isthmus.
    While explorers and adventurers occasionally brave the outer fringe regions of the Gap and its wall of dark, unruly jungle, few go into the Gap, though some have tried to brave defeat the jungle, but the area is strewn with failure after failure, especially where off-road vehicles were attempted and left behind to rot because of their inability to make it through.
Today, not even the most experienced adventurers would consider going into the Gap without GPS, compass, decent maps, spot locator, sat phone, good field tested equipment and first aid kit. A few 4-wheel vehicles have tried the journey, and even a motorcycle or two, but few have ever made it through this area called this 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest the most dangerous jungle in the World. The first vehicular crossing was achieved in 1960 by a Jeep and Land Rover expedition, averaging  about one mile per hour over 136 days. 
Even motorcycling through was nearly impossible as numerous adventurers learned. For if the natural barriers don’t stop you, or the mud and impassable terrain, trying to float your bike downriver, typically results in being rescued by someone with a boat to pull you out

It would be impossible for modern technology to build a city that could keep the jungle from encroaching and overrunning it, let alone the Nephites building a city of Bountiful and others in the area around the time of Christ which this theory claims.

 The Darien Gap is a remote, roadless swath of jungle on the border of Panama and Colombia, largely untouched by the modern world, and is one of the least visited places on the planet
Yet, this theory persists!
    The same can be said for the Great Lakes Theory, for example. Despite the fact that the Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith obtained the plates, not much else about the area in Western New York fits the reality of Mormon’s extensive descriptions of the Land of Promise. As we have mentioned many times, the one simple point about no mountains being anywhere in the entire area of New York that would qualify for Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy, which the Lord put in his heart to say to the Nephites of Zarahemla, regarding that at the time of the Savior’s death there would be valleys that would turn into mountains “whose height is great,” is simply ignored by all these Great Lakes theorists as though it was never said, even though the Lord, himself, said it was to be an example of his power and existence that could not be denied (Helaman 14:23).
    It is not just that mountains would rise, “whose height is great” that do not exist anywhere in the entire proposed Land of Promise, we also learn that there were mountains already in existence in the Land of Promise that would disappear, “mountains tumbling into pieces” as Nephite tells us (1Nephi 12:4) and becoming valleys: “there shall be many valleys laid low, like unto a valley” (Helaman 14:23). Now the interesting point of this regarding the Great Lakes area, and if you have not driven through western New York, you ought to do so because this problem is really borne out, and that is there never have been mountains in this area. In fact, as stated in geological terms as found in the Western NY Genesee County Magazine, and the Western Museum and Science Center: “The abundance of fossilized corals in some regional rock formations confirms that most of Western New York was once covered by a warm, shallow sea. Abundant corals and shelled animals were the basis of sedimentary rock, the bedrock that lies beneath the region's pastoral scenes.”
(See the next post, “How Theories Get Started – Part II,” to see how theories become entrenched in our daily thinking without their necessarily being consistent with the scriptural record, but simply someone’s personal and speculative viewpoint)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Have You Ever Wondered? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding how the words used in Ether to describe the Jaredite barges would apply to a tree. More specifically,the terms, “bottom,” “sides,” “ends,” and “top.”
   The question is, how a round tree can have sides, and when felled can have a top and bottom. Even more specifically, how does the terminology apply: “Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood” (Ether 2:20).
    Perhaps a better way to read this area in the scriptural record is to take this out of the realm of personal opinion and place it in the factual world of dendrology, arboriculture, silviculture, and forestry:
1. While a tree is standing and almost at all times while referring to the trunk (stem) as a “tree,” it is referred to as “top” and “bottom,” i.e., what is up a in the sky (crown) and what is at the bottom (base) or down in the earth (roots)—even after being cut with the Misery Whip (12-foot long hand saw) and laying on the ground (liggja) since the top and bottom (once logged [cut] this is called the “butt”) are still recognizable (thus, the terms “trim the top” (topping) “trim the bottom” (bottoming); “trim off the limbs (delimbing, limbing or stripping)
2. When the tree is logged, called “felling” (clearcutting or clearfelling, shelterwood cutting, group, single, seed-tree, patch cutting, or retention cutting, block cutting, harvesting or high-grading) the trunk is removed from the stump, delimbed (branches cut off) and the trunk trimmed, it is referred to as lumber with only two ends (windthrow [blow downs] logging is the salvaging of uprooted trees, sometimes with the rootwad still in place, from storms, etc.; salvage logging refers to logging damaged trees; fall cutting refers to the trimming of already felled trees; whole-tree logging is where the tree is transported elsewhere [usually the roadside] where the top and limbs are removed called “delimbed, topped and bucked” [the latter meaning cut to size], and put in cold decks);
3. If the ends are trimmed (rarely), and cut for putting into the ground or planting upright (such as in making a stockade or defensive fence or wall), it is called “peaking” or giving the end a “peak” (i.e., a point).
    Reader: “Also, verse 17 describes sides.  I struggle to see how the word "sides" fits with the picture of the barges on page 146.”
    Response: All trees have sides, which differentiates that portion of the tree from the top and bottom. The side is sometimes called the “face” or “back,” but far more often called the “side.” Even though the side of a tree is continuous, as in “round,” it is still called a side, as in “side-cut” (cutting side of tree), “backside-cut” (opposite side),  “offside” (opposite side), “side-binding” (cutting side of tree with other side compressed), “side-boring” (method of cutting), “side lean” (learning force), “side-notch” (side saw cut), “wood on either side of the tree,” “head lean (forward) and side lean” (side of tree), “side of limb or bottom side of limb,” “tree compressed on one side and tensioned on the other side,” “saw into the side of the tree,” “scale one side of tree,” “opposite sides of the tree,” etc., etc., etc. It might be of interest to know that in modern nuclear submarines, which are basically a round tune in design, are still referred to as having sides. Even a pencil, which is round, is referred to as having sides, as in “the side of the pencil.”
Top: A still living tree that was recently uprooted—it is still easy to see the top and bottom, etc.; Bottom: A long dead, delimbed tree—it is still easy to see the top and bottom

As one reader stated: “Aren't the "ends" the same as the top and the bottom?  Yet vs 17 describes a top and a bottom and ends.”
    Response: First, the Lord, who knows all things, knows more about trees than any of us ever will in this life, so we have to understand he is speaking from a point of knowledge we have not attained. Secondly, while the top of a tree is called the crown, which most of us would call the “top,” yet, that term applies only to the limbs and leaves at the top, not the trunk or what we might think of as the top of a tree.
    Thirdly, the length of most anything basically has a top, middle and bottom. In the case of objects of certain sizes, like pencils, trees, submarines, etc., there is also the “end.” Thus we find three descriptions—a hole in the top, a hole in the bottom, and the ends peaked (Ether 2:17). Perhaps the best way to understand this, is to consider how you would describe it without using many words (engraving on metal is a slow and laborious process, and one that cannot be corrected or changed afterward).
Though a submarine’s design is basically round, it has a front (bow), a rear (stern), sides, top and bottom; but when a tree in that sense, it has a top (front), bottom (rear), and sides

It also seems likely that when the Lord gave such instructions, whether to the brother of Jared or to Nephi later in building his ship, those instructions came with some vision process in which the recipient could see what was meant as well as hear, thus, less words are used and greater understanding is achieved—this is supported by Nephi’s words of being shown, which Lehi’s vision verifies this when Nephi wrote: “after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him” (1 Nephi 1:15), and repeats that with “I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:18).
Nephi was shown a vision in which he saw the tree of life, the iron rod, the fruit, the chasm and stream of dirty water and the big and spacious building and the people inside mocking those on the straight and narrow path. All of this was shown to him in some fashion where he could actually see these things rather than just being told about them

We see this also in Nephi’s vision, when he wrote, “I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all” (1 Nephi 11:9), as well as “and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me” (1 Nephi 11:31); and makes this clear when he said of the instruction the Lord gave him about building a ship, “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (1 Nephi 17:9), and again, “I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2), and “I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3).
    Nephi also made it clear that all that was given him was done so in a vision, i.e., he actually saw what he later wrote about: “I make an end of speaking concerning the things which I saw while I was carried away in the spirit; and if all the things which I saw are not written” (1 Nephi 14:30). Obviously, a vision provides visual understanding above just wordage. What Nephi was shown, and what the brother of Jared was shown, were real images in some fashion where they could see and learn very quickly what was being told them. This is what allowed the brother of Jared to make his barges, and Nephi later, to build his ship. These were instructions embedded visually in the minds of these men to a degree as to allow teaching that had such a degree as to allow them to do things they had never before done.

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)