Friday, November 24, 2017

The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part III

Continuing from the last post on the City of Nephi based on the scriptural account and the evidences today found at Sacsahuaman in Cuzco, Peru. 
    Mormon wrote: “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). We discussed these walls at Sacsahuaman in the last post.
While the fortress overlooks the city of Nephi, it is also above the City of Shilom, which was next to the City of Nephi (Mosiah 9:6), which was called the City of Lehi-Nephi by Zeniff, (both were in a valley, overlooked by hills). As it states in the scriptural record, Ammon and his party, in search of those who had left with Zenniff, “came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom” (Mosiah 7:5), and leaving some there, he and three others “went down into the Land of Nephi” (Mosiah 7:6). When king Limhi sent his guards to get the others, “caused that they should go to the hill which was north of Shilom, and bring their brethren into the city” (Mosiah 7:16).
    We also know that the Land of Nephi in general is at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla, for it is said, “Zeniff went up out of the land even until the time that he himself [Ammon] came up out of the land” (Mosiah 8:2), i.e., both went up out of the Land of Zarahemla to the higher elevation of the Land of Nephi.
    To the south of the Land of Shilom, the Nephites had fields and lands planted with crops, as well as the place they kept their herds (Mosiah 9:14), and there was located the City of Nephi (Mosiah 9:15). And beyond the City and area of Nephi, evidently near the Land of Shilom, was located the Land of Shemlon (Mosiah 10:7-8). Evidently, somewhere between these two cities, was a valley or plain large enough for a battle to take place of such numbers, that the Nephites did not bother to count the dead Lamanites (Mosiah 10:20) and from that point, after their victory, the Nephites “returned again to our own land” (Mosiah 10:21), suggesting that this major battle did not take place in the Land of Shilom.
    Now in the area of Shilom, there is another city further north and west, about two miles from Shilom, which fits the location of Shemlon, and in between is a narrow valley green belt and tableland where such a battle could have taken place.
In king Noah’s time, following these events, he built the tower next to the temple in the City of Nephi, “a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about” (Mosiah 11:12). From Sacsahuaman, the view down into the Valley and the city of Cuzco provides one atop Noah’s tower of a view of all three entrances into the valley, including the land of Shilom and Shemlon. It was later, from this very tower, that Noah “cast his eyes round about toward the land of Shemlon, and behold, the army of the Lamanites were within the borders of the land” (Mosiah 19:6).
    Noah built up not only the City of Nephi, but also the land and city of Shilom. “And it came to pass that he caused many buildings to be built in the land Shilom; and he caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom, which had been a resort for the children of Nephi at the time they fled out of the land; and thus he did do with the riches which he obtained by the taxation of his people” (Mosiah 11:13). 
    As a result, there should be in the Land of Promise a major city, with a temple and a tower next to it, from which height one could see over a large land to the north (Shilom) where major buildings were located (Mosiah 9:8). There was also nearby to the City of Nephi, probably within a one or two-day journey for it was located “in the borders of the land” (Mosiah 18:13), an area called “The waters of Mormon” where numerous baptisms took place (Mosiah 18:16), in an area called Mormon—or maybe the Land of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30) wherein was also the forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30).
    However, finding such a landmark more than 2000 years later, is tenuous at best, especially considering the destruction recorded in 3 Nephi, with mountains tumbling into valleys and flat land rising into mountains, “whose height is great,” it would be difficult to match, and any such suggestion would be questionable at best. All we can surmise from it would be that it was small enough to be searchable by the king’s army, yet large enough for Alma to hide in and not be found, and provide cover for 450 people (Mosiah 18:35).
The hill upon which Ammon rested above the city of Shilom before going into the land of Nephi

At the base of the hill upon which Sacsahuaman sits and the tower that Noah built, which was found when the Spanish arrived, is an area considered by archaeologists to be a very old community, that matches the area described in Mosiah 11:13 that is called the land Shilom. According to Ammon, they stopped on a hill overlooking the Land of Shilom, and he and three companions (Amaleki, Helem, and Hem) left the rest of their party on the hill and went down into the land of Nephi (Mosiah 7:6), thus, the hill where the fortress and tower was located overlooked both the city of Shilom and the city of Nephi.
    There, king Limhi outside the walls of the city at that moment, saw Ammon and his friends, and thinking they were the evil priests of Noah, had his guards tie up the intruders and cast them in prison.
It is also interesting that Zeniff’s descriptipn as Mormon abridged it of their tilling and planting their fields after twelve years of peace, it is written: “For, in the thirteenth year of my reign in the land of Nephi, away on the south of the land of Shilom, when my people were watering and feeding their flocks, and tilling their lands, a numerous host of Lamanites came upon them and began to slay them, and to take off their flocks, and the corn of their fields” (Mosiah 9:14, emphasis added). Note that it says “away on the south of the land of Shilom.”
    All of this fits into the Valley of Cuzco, with Sacsahuaman and the tower to the north, Shilom at the foot of the hill, and the hill upon which Ammon arrived overlooking both the city of Shilom and the city of Nephi. In addition, with Shemlon so identified, the Lamanites had unobserved access to reach the fields in which the people of Zeniff tilled the land and watched their flocks to the south in the land of Shilom.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part II

Continuing from the last post on the City of Nephi based on the scriptural account and the evidences today found at Sacsahuaman in Cuzco, Peru. 
    Most of these magnificent walls are found around Cuzco and the Urubamba River Valley in the Peruvian Andes. There are a few scattered examples elsewhere in the Andes, but almost nowhere else on Earth. Mostly, the structures are beyond our modern understanding—how did they carve and dress such large stones and then set them to fit so perfectly and without the need of mortar? How were such titanic blocks of stone brought to the top of the mountain from the quarries many miles away? How were they cut and fitted? How were they raised and put in place? Now, of course, no one knows, no one can even guess. The “how, why and what” simply baffle modern engineers—modern man can neither explain nor duplicate.
Some of the numerous cuts and angles that match so perfectly, without mortar, were set in place at Cuzco that still baffle stonemasons today

There are archaeologists, scientists and scholars, in trying to attribute this work to the Inca in a politically correct world, who would have us believe that the dense, hard andesite rock was cut, surfaced and faced by means of stone or bronze tools in the hands of the Inca. Such an explanation is so utterly preposterous that it is not even worthy of serious consideration. No one has ever found anywhere any stone tool or implement that would cut or chip the andesite, and no bronze ever made will make any impression upon it.
    Mysteries like this, of course, often bring out explanations that are both inventive and ridiculous, and certainly were not done by astronauts of another world as movies and “experts” claim. However, the answer, at least in part, is found before us, even in print within the scriptural record, that explains some of the mystery.
    This architectural complex is found along the edge of the northern slope of Cusco. The southern side of the structure was enclosed by a 1300-foot wall of polished stone. The east and west sides had additional walls and terraces used for cultivation. The front of the complex, which faces north, is protected by a formidable arrangement of three cultivation terraces encompassing zigzagging walls made of huge, carved and interlocking stones that, according to El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, were constructed to demonstrate power.
Huge stones marked the bottom tier of the front entrance walls, providing an impressive and, to anyone visiting or seeing it for the first time in antiquity, a fearsome example of the power of those within the walls

First of all, there is little we know about the City of Nephi, other than Nephi and his people built it as he stated: “And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15). Now, as often as we have quoted that scripture in this blog, I wonder how many have taken the time to really understand what Nephi knew that he could teach his people that they didn’t already know.
    When we consider that Nephi, at best, was a farmer, living outside the city of Jerusalem all his days (1 Nephi 1:4) before heading into the wilderness with his family, where they would have had to have grown their own food, especially to have had “seeds of every kind” to have taken with them on the spur of the moment and head into the wilderness quickly and furtively to avoid detection by those who sought Lehi's life. Certainly they would not have gone into the city to buy huge stores of seed if they were trying to flee the area unknown—after all, Lehi was fleeing for his life (1 Nephi 2:1-2).
Lehi’s farm or residence outside the city walls of Jerusalem would have had to have been self-sustaining, where he and his sons would have known how to perform normal daily work and repairs, including farming, carpentry, metallurgy, herdsman and husbandry

As such, farmers completely on their own would have dabbled in numerous crafts to keep the residence, farmland and all its workings in good repair, such as woodworking, carpentry, working with various mediums, probably leatherwork and metallurgy, to make and repair tools needed on the farm, etc. They would have known directions, time of the equinox and solstices, and the time of the Pesach (Hag Aviv, or Spring Holiday), which marked the beginning of the barley harvest, with fifty days later the time to harvest the wheat (referred to as the “Counting of the Omer”), and the arrival of Shavuoth, along with Hag Hakatzir (Reaping Festival) and Hag Habikurim (Holiday of the First Fruits), as well as Succoth (Hag HaAsif, the Harvest Festival), which marked the final agricultural harvest which occurred in the beginning of the autumn.
    In a world where a small drought meant hunger, and a severe drought spelled famine, there was always great rejoicing during these times for good harvests and productive crops. In fact, in Lehi’s time, such planting and harvesting, where a good harvest bespoke survival for the winter, it is probably why one of the first things Nephi mentioned after reaching the Land of Promise was the planting of the seed they brought from Jerusalem, and its exceeding great harvest that provided them abundance (1 Nephi 18:24), and his repeating of this during the second harvest when they had reached the location of their final settlement (2 Nephi 5:11).
    Now we are not told much about this city they built. We know it had a magnificent temple, like Solomon’s (2 Nephi 5:16), and had a tall, costly tower next to it (Mosiah 11:12), from which one could stand on the top and look out over the Land of Shilom (Mosiah 11:12) and over the further Land of Shemlon (Mosiah 19:6) that Noah built. Obviously, this tower and temple were built up on a high hill, bluff or cliff of some type to afford it that kind of view, and the tower had to be quite tall and sturdy where a man could climb upon it and find some type of defense for himself, as when king Noah tried to flee from Gideon, who followed with sword in hand (Mosiah 19:5-6).
    Garcilaso, who grew up within the walls of the Fortress and Temple at Sacsahuaman, tells of its beauty and appointments, with “the wonderfully carved granite walls of the temple were covered with more than 700 sheets of pure gold, weighing around [4 ½ pounds] each; the spacious courtyard was filled with life-size sculptures of animals and a field of corn, all fashioned from pure gold; the floors of the temple were themselves covered in solid gold; and facing the rising sun was a massive golden image of the sun encrusted with emeralds and other precious stones.” Reports of the first Spanish who saw the temple told of “around the clock ceremonies conducted there,” and described its opulence, “fabulous beyond belief.”
    Also, when the Spanish entered the Valley of Cuzco, they saw in the distance on a collado (hill) overlooking the valley a tall tower at Sacsahuaman. That tower was eventually torn down by the conquerors, but where it stood remains the circular stone foundation complex, its size and complexity that would have supported a tower that is described in Mosiah. Situated next to the temple ruins and that of the fortress, it certainly fits the descriptions given of the tower Noah built.
    The architecturally advanced complex occupies the edge of the northern slope of the city of Cusco. The southern side of the building was enclosed by a polished wall of almost 1300-feet in length. The eastern and western borders of the temple were delimited by other walls and cultivation terraces.
(See the next post, The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part III,”  for an understanding of who actually built these walls and fortress and how they managed to do so, defying known engineering techniques of today)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part I

Sacsahuaman (also known as Sacsayhuamán, Saqsaywaman) is a walled complex near and above the old city of Cusco, at an altitude of 12,000 feet (by comparison, Brian Head, near Cedar Breaks in southern Utah, at 9,800-feet, is the highest city in Utah, while Kings Peak, at 13,528 in northeastern Duchesne County in the central Uinta Mountains of Utah, is the highest peak in the State).
     The archaeological park of Sacsahuaman is located north of the city of Cuzco and covers an area of 3,094 hectares (7,645.5 acres, or 12 square miles), and contains more than 200 archaeological sites. Leading to Sacsahuaman today, there are two paved roads, one starts in the old and traditional neighborhood of San Cristobal and is just under a mile long, and the other road begins at Avenida Collasuyo and is a little over 2 miles long.
Ancient Peruvian city complex buildings

The city is such a remarkable layout of ancient structures of unprecedented engineering and construction ability, that when the conquistadors arrived, they looked at these extraordinary edifices and at the level of ability of the Inca around them, and despite the fact that these people had carved out an Empire covering 690,000 square miles in a little less than 100 years, the Spanish could not believe these “Peruvians” could have built such greatness. Workmanship, to these Europeans was so far beyond what they saw among the Inca caused these religious conquerors to attribute much, if not all, of what they saw to the work of demons or maligned spirits of the Devil.
    As a result, they tried to tear down and destroy what they considered to be Satan’s handiwork from the outset, and today much of the glory and beauty that was once Sacsahuaman is gone, its abundant gold sheeting stripped and melted down, its jeweled statues removed and destroyed, its magnificent structures demolished. Only the larger, unmovable boulders and hewn rock remains in place, enough of which, that gives us some idea to its past, along with the writings of the Spanish chroniclers who preserved in word and description, that once famed and remarkable area that today is merely a shadow that gives a hint of its former glory.
    Still, from what is left, we can draw a fairly good picture of the enormous achievements of the ancient builders of these cities, which in many cases, have been erroneously attributed to the Inca, whose building capabilities were far from the skilled artisans that originally built the marvelous constructions that we can only today catch a glimpse. As the conquerors correctly surmised, the Inca were simply not capable of building what we see today across the Peruvian landscape.
Three-tiered outer zigzag walls covering the north end of Sacsahuaman

In fact, not even the chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, who was born around 1530, and raised in the shadow of these walls, writing much about what existed when he was a boy growing up there, had a clue as to how Sacsahuaman was built. He wrote:
    "...this fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world. For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were, by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year, they overcame all difficulties by employing human effort over a long period. But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand how these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places. For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment."
    Obviously, even in the 16th century, Sacsahuaman was so ancient, no one had any memory of who built it or when, making the enormous achievement far older than modern scholars would lead us to believe as they fall over themselves today trying to make the Inca into some super race, which they were not—though they excelled at war, diplomacy, conquest and government.
    Not even in the early to mid 1500s did any Inca have any idea who built Sacsahuaman or when it was built—the same is true with Tiahuanaco, Puma Punku, Ollantaytambo and numerous other sites with such monumental stonework in the region. In fact, seeing the impossibility of the Inca at their highest civilized point when the Spanish entered Peru, and understanding there was no way the Indians could have built anything they saw, led to numerous questions by the conquerors as to who built the many structures they encountered and when were they built. To these questions, every Inca questioned replied that they did not know, stating merely that it was built by the ancients long before the Inca came.
    The official royal story line, of course, was that the Inca had built everything, a part of the diplomacy they developed over the century of their conquest—for the purpose of making their enemies believe they stood no chance against such a superior Empire with such tremendous power and ability, that fighting would only prove disastrous and that their salvation depended solely upon surrender and joining the might of the powerful Inca—which so many cultures did. It was a tact that served the Empire well, for many a tribe capitulated without raising a single sword in their defense.
    But Garcilaso, born of an Inca Princess, and a Captain of the Spanish conquerors, grew up in the royal courts of the Inca, talked with the old chiefs and the educated of the royal household all his growing years, and had no idea himself who had built Sacsahuaman, a fortress so dominant it was the focal point of the entire Empire, “the naval of the world,” and the seat of all power, even later under Spanish rule.
Top: Person showing a comparison height of the lower wall; Bottom: The engineering fete of cut and dressed stone that fits perfectly though each stone has multiple angled cuts to fit

The outer defensive perimeter consists of three outer lines of gargantuan walls, 1500 feet long and 54 feet wide, that flank the hill site of the temple and fortress citadel on three levels. The largest stone blocks, some of which are over 28-feet high, are regularly estimated to weigh over 120 tons, but other measurements claim they are between 300 and 440 tons. So precise was the masonry that one block on the outer walls, for example, has faces cut to fit perfectly with 12 other blocks. All the hewn blocks were fitted together so precisely that a thickness gauge could not be inserted between them.
    Beyond the walls is a 500,000 gallon water reservoir, storage cistern, ramps, citadels and underground chambers. At the top and center of the complex, on a collado, an artificially leveled mountain top, was the fortress, and next to it the temple—in Inca times called the “Fortress of the Sun” and the “Temple of the Sun.” And next to the temple was a triangle of three towers, the tallest and main tower was said to be 66-feet high.
    Beneath the fortress were a myriad of rooms, chambers, corridors, and a labyrinth of passageways that are no longer open to the public for fear tourists would wander off and get lost in the maze of tunnels that stretch for miles.
    As magnificent as the stonework is presently at Sacsahuaman, archaeologists tell us that the walls rose ten feet higher than their remnants seen today. That additional ten feet was removed to supply the building materials for the cathedrals and casas of the conquistadors. In fact, there simply are no other walls like these. They are different from Stonehenge, different from the Pyramids of the Egyptians and the Maya, different from any of the other ancient monolithic stoneworks. The stones fit so perfectly that no blade of grass or steel can slide between them. There is no mortar. They often join in complex and irregular surfaces that would appear to have been a nightmare for the stonemason to crerate. There is usually neither adornment nor inscription.
(See the next post, The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part II,” for an understanding of who actually built these walls and fortress and how they managed to do so, defying known engineering techniques of today)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Did Laban Have the Ownership Rights to the Brass Plates? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, regarding the ownership of the Brass Plates and why Laban had them in his possession. 
    First of all, the Brass Plates contained “the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve; also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah” (1 Nephi 5:11-13). The record also revealed to Lehi that both he and Laban were descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt (1 Nephi 5:14,16). Nephi states that all things concerning the prophets of old were written on the plates (1 Nephi 19:21), and that they “should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed, and that they would never perish” (1 Nephi 5:18-19, emphasis added).
    The plates also contained the prophecies of Joseph concerning the descendants of Lehi (2 Nephi 4:1-3). Later, Alma repeats that the brass plates contained the holy scriptures and the genealogy of their forefathers “even from the beginning” (Alma 37:3). In addition, the brass plates also contained the words of four great prophets that are not mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures of today—Zenos, Zenock, Neum and Ezias. We are told that Zenos lived after the days of Abraham and died as a martyr (Helaman 8:19), and that he was the author of the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees that was related by Jacob (Jacob 5), which comprises the longest chapter in the entire Book of Mormon.
    Nephi informs us in that the “record of the Jews” or the Bible contains “many of the prophecies of the holy prophets…save there are not so many” as in the Brass Plates (1 Nephi 13:23). He also stated that “many parts which are plain and most precious” had been removed from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:26). Importantly, Nephi makes the point that “it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise” (1 Nephi 5:22).
    Now when the brothers reached Jerusalem, there was some hesitation on who would approach Laban with the message from their father (1 Nephi 3:11). For some reason, Laman, as the oldest and therefore, as the titular head of the group, did not want to approach Laban himself, so the brothers, perhaps all reluctant to be the one, decided to cast lots to see who would go in and see Laban.
Now the casting of lots is mentioned throughout the scriptures as a method for receiving revelation. Proverbs places great trust in it and reflects two sides to it, that is, on the one hand, there’s a very practical side since those that bind themselves to the lot cannot claim favoritism or impartiality on the part of the caster, i.e., “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty” (Proverbs 18:18). The other side involves a higher level by attributing to the Divine that which is actually quite pedestrian. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). It should also be understood that in the Biblical world of the ancients, casting lots assumed that the randomness inherent in the lots opened the door for God to place His hand in the outcome.
    While the precise ritual and order surrounding the practice has largely been lost to us, let us conclude that two things were likely involved: 1) Laman did not want to be the one chosen, and rather than have his three brothers point to him as the leader and requiring him to go in, he felt he had a better chance of not being the one through the casting of lots; and 2) it seems likely the others went along with the process, each thinking they, too, had only one chance in four of being chosen, as well as some perhaps thinking there might be the hand of the Lord involved in the process—they would have known from the scriptures that the casting of lots was used in the Levitical rotation of temple service was involved (I Chronicles 25), and that Joshua cast lots to determine which tribe to assign to which portion of land (Joshua 18).
    As Nephi concludes: “And we cast lots—who of us should go in unto the house of Laban. And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman; and Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house” (1 Nephi 3:11).
    From the circumstances of the day, it seems likely we could assume that Laban knew who Lehi was, after all, they were related and Lehi was a wealthy man. It could also be concluded that Laban knew who Lehi’s sons likely were. After all, Laban was somewhat of an important figure in Jerusalem, connected with keeping the peace from a military or law enforcement point of view. With Lehi having been preaching in the city and upsetting people with his words regarding the coming of the Messiah, and also the redemption of the world, and about the wickedness and abominations of the Jews (1 Nephi 1:19), and “when the Jews heard these things, they were angry with him” and sought to kill him (1 Nephi 1:20), surely the civil unrest of the city would have come to Laban’s attention.
    At the same time, if Laban had a clear and indisputable right to the plates, he probably would have told Laman “no” when he asked to have them, or when the boys came with Lehi’s wealth, might even have demanded a greater payment, knowing of Lehi’s wealth and property outside the city.
    However, he did neither.
    Instead, he initially threatened to have Laman killed just for asking about the plates, “and thrust him out from his presence, and…said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee” (1 Nephi 3:13).
    Why such vehemence?
    After all, if Laban’s claim to the records was just and legal, why make threats? Was it that he knew he had no right to them and did not want to subject brought up that he had them? As Hugh Nibley claims on this issue: “Laban could have simply said ‘No’ or he could have bargained for a greater payment than the sons of Lehi were offering…Instead, he actively sends his servants to kill the sons of Lehi, while retaining the “gold, silver, and precious things” that the sons had brought.”
    In both instances, Laban’s actions were more like those of a criminal rather than one having legitimate ownership of the records. In the first instance, he threatens murder when Laman brings up the subject, and in the second occurrence, Laban clearly attempts to carry out an act of murder against all four petitioners, which might cause one to wonder if Laban gained possession of the plates through unlawful or at least questionable means.
    It should also be kept in mind, that as the administrator of the city, one of Laban’s main duties was to hear petitions, and based on historical practice it has always been the practice of these men to rob such petitioners wherever possible. Laban appears in Nephi’s writing as the ancient quintessential arrogant and superior governor, willing to both commit murder and to rob people of their possessions under the cloak of authority. Laban obviously considered his own self-importance, meeting as a member of the old aristocracy in full ceremonial armor with “the elders of the Jews” (1 Nephi 4:22) for secret consultations by night, probably holding his position because of his ancestors and not by merit, having his own treasury and with his house the depository of old records—all helping to establish his pretentious character.
    It might also be understood that Laban was given both a chance to do the right thing for the right reason and a chance to do the right thing for a less honorable reason. However, as often happens, his violent reaction instead set up the circumstances by which he lost both his ill-gotten possession and his own life.
    While we do not know that Laban did not have a legitimate claim to the possession of the records, his attitude and actions certainly lend to the likelihood he did not, and that ultimately, the Lord saw that they ended up in the hands of a righteous and rightful heir.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Did Laban Have the Ownership Rights to the Brass Plates? – Part I

We find in Nephi’s writings, no doubt he took and abridged from the original Book of Lehi, which 116 translated pages Martin Harris lost, that the Lord, knowing of the pending doom that awaited the city of Jerusalem and its surrounding region, as well as the immediate dangers facing Lehi from the wicked inhabitants of the city where Lehi had been preaching, had cautioned Lehi, while there was still time, to leave his home and take his family into the wilderness. Now, this was not surprising, since "Hiding in the wilderness" was exactly what people of the Middle East were known to do when difficulties within the city arose, as we find with David hiding in the wilderness of Ziph in the Judean desert when King Saul hunted him (I Samuel 23:14).and in Lehi’s case, we find a parallel event. 
    So in obeying the Lord, Lehi left his home at Jerusalem and traveled into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:4), down into the lowest land elevation on Earth at 1300 feet below sea level, skirting the Dead Sea, and then through the wadi Arabah (HaArava) along the Arabah Depression, to the Gulf of Agaba, whose shoreline the depression incorporates. In Biblical times, this area was a center of copper production, where King Solomon apparently had his mines. The area was home to the Edomites (Idumea) and to the east was the domain of the Nabateans, builders of the city of Petra. The area is very scenic, with colorful cliffs and sharp-topped mountains, notable for its prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and a convoluted cliff called King Solomon's pillars. The Arabah is very hot and dry, and consequently only lightly populated, with the main economic activity agriculture and herding sheep, along with selling camels to those travelers, like Lehi, that would have come off the Jerusalem mountains with donkeys, as such exchange sales are done even today.
Top: The arid Negev (han-Néḡeḇ, meaning “dry south” and references “the [mountain] pass”) at 4,700 square miles, it covers half of Israel, and is the largest desert in the southern region, through which the Wadi Arabah passes; Bottom: the Wadi Arabah—the entire area is a rocky desert of dusty, rocky mountains interrupted by wadis and deep craters, and craterlike makhteshim, or box canyons
Once reaching the southern end, near the Gulf of Aqaba (called the Red Sea in the scriptural record), Lehi traveled three more days before stopping and pitching his tent by the side of a river of water (1 Nephi 2:5-6) that emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:9)

At this point, Nephi writes: “And my father dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15), signifying that Lehi was not a city dweller, but one who lived outside the city and was both familiar with, and comfortable, living in a tent. In fact, Taufik Canaan in Mohammedan Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine, states that there were only two classes of Jews in Palestine, the “dwellers in cities and villages, and the Bedouin” (Luzac & Co., London, “The Palestinian Arab House: Its Architecture and Folklore,” Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, vol 13, nos 1-2, 1927, p1932).
    In addition, Stephen L. Craiger in Bible and Spade: “an Introduction to Biblical Archaeology,” also refers to Palestinians as either “city dwellers” or “tent dwellers.”  (Oxford University Press, 1944, p181). Hugh Nibley in Lehi in the Desert, expands upon the subject, saying: “Nephi himself finds the fact very significant and refers constantly to his father's tent as the center of his universe.”
    Nephi is clear when he refers to his father as a “tent dweller,” letting us know his familiarity and comfort with tent living, as opposed to city living. And with this announcement in his record, Nephi tells us that his father assumed the desert way of life, as obviously, he must have in order to complete his lengthy journey (to Bountiful).
    The question is, where did Lehi go into the wilderness, since the region of Jerusalem is surrounded in the south by the wilderness desert—the Negev—also called in part the Wilderness of Zin (Sin). Yet the southern coastal route directly toward Egypt would have been watched and controlled, and though often that route toward Egypt saw many prophets take to escape from Jerusalem, many were followed and brought back for execution.
    Nibley states of Lehi’s route: “As to the direction taken by Lehi's party the Book of Mormon is clear and specific. He took what we now know to have been the only possible way out [from Jerusalem], what with immediate danger threatening from the north, and the eastern and western lands held by opposing powers on the verge of war. Only the south desert, the one land where Israel's traders and merchants had felt at home through the centuries, remained open—even after Jerusalem fell this was so. And the one route into that desert was the great trade-road down the burning trough of the Arabah.”
    This, of course, is the only route that would have been open later for Mulek and his party that whisked the young lad out of Jerusalem and into the south wilderness before Nebuchadnezzar could exact his revenge on the last of king Zedekiah’s family.
    So it was this route, branching east of the Gulf of Agaba and through the mountains toward the Red Sea, into which the Gulf of Agaba emptied. In Nephi’s account, understanding that the Gulf of Agaba was part of the Red Sea, he states of those last three days in their journey as “he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5, emphasis added).
    It was here, encamped in the valley that Lehi called Lemuel, resting from their lengthy journey from Jerusalem, that Lehi “dreamed a dream,” which is to say, he had seen a vision, as he told Nephi, “in which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem, for behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass” (1 Nephi 3:2-3).
    Now Laban, described as a notable citizen of Jerusalem that commanded both great wealth and many servants, was the keeper of the record of the Jews, and commanded a garrison of at least fifty men (1 Nephi 3:31), though it should be understood that his position as high military commander, he would have commanded tens of thousands (1 Nephi 4:1) in the field away from Jerusalem, where only fifty were housed for local control.
    It might be noted that for quite some time, according to the Amarna tablets, that the cities in Palestine and Syria had basically been under military rule of native local governors, though they were answerable to Egypt, at a time when Egypt controlled or held influence over much of the Middle East, including Greece, Turkey and most of the Fertile Crescent.
    According to Nibley, “These commandants (called rabis in the Amarna letters) were subordinate to the city-princes (chazan), who commonly address them as 'Brother' or 'Father.'  They were by and large a sordid lot of careerists whose authority depended on constant deception and intrigue, though they regarded their offices as hereditary and sometimes styled themselves kings...The Lachish letters show that such men were still the lords of creation in Lehi's day—the commanders of the towns around Jerusalem were still acting in closest cooperation with Egypt in military matters, depending on the prestige of Egypt to bolster their corrupt power, and still behaving as groveling and unscrupulous timeservers.”
    The Lachish letters mentioned were written shortly before Lachish (an ancient city that is now an archaeological site located in the Shephelah region of Israel between Mount Hebron and the Mediterranean Sea)  fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army in 588-86 B.C. during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and refer to commandants (commander of any army), of which Laban would have been one.
    Another question that arises, is why did Laban have the Brass Plates? At the time, Zedekiah, of course, was king, not a prophet, nor was Laban, though his genealogy, as was Lehi’s, was recorded on the Brass Plates. It is likely that Laban held the plates in some official capacity, and kept them in his treasury, evidently because of their great value. It is also likely that he took them with him to the Sanhedrin from time to time to be read among the Elders of the Jews, which is borne out by Nephi’s statement: 
    “And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury. And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins. And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.  And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban. And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls. And I also bade him that he should follow me. And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me. And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls” (1 Nephi 4:20-27).
    Thus, Laban’s servant, Zoram, was not at all surprised that Nephi, posing as Laban, took the Brass Plates and carried them to who Zoram thought were the brethren, or leaders of the Church at the time.
(See the next post, “Did Laban Have the Ownership Rights to the Brass Plates? – Part II,” for more on this subject)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The “I’m Not Changing Scripture” Game – Heartland—Great Lakes

While we are on the subject of changing scripture or ignoring scripture in order to justify a particular theory, let us turn to the North American belief in it being the location of Lehi’s Land of Promise, where Lehi landed, and where the Nephite Nation lived and died that Mormon describes—specifically the two theories referred to as Heartland, and Great Lakes. 
    Collectively, this is sometimes referred to as the “central-eastern” U.S. Theory, and covers the area (lumping all of these different beliefs into one general area) as being as far west as eastern Nebraska and Kansas, and as far east as the Appalachian mountains, including western New York, and western Pennsylvania, as far south as northern Mississippi, Tennessee, and as far north as the Great Lakes and the western St. Lawrence River. In this general area, we find various ideas promoted regarding where specific Book of Mormon areas were supposed to be located, including the Land Northward, Land Southward, the general land areas of both, the Sidon River, the East, West, North and South Seas, and the hill Cumorah.
    While no North American Theory encompasses the entire area described, each theory covers a portion of the total area until parts of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise can be found within this area in each theory. It should be noted here, that the more recent theory of Florida, and the older theory of Baja California, are not included in this general area, but will be dealt with later.
The point to be made is how well, if at all, do these North American theories adhere to Mormon’s many and detailed descriptions of the size, shape, and location arrangement of the Nephite Land of Promise. Or stated differently, how many of Mormon’s descriptive statements have to be overlooked or ignored entirely to make the Heartland or Great Lakes theories appear viable.
    Take as an example one of the most obvious statements ignored by these theorists that is found in Helaman when Samuel the Lamanite so clearly states that “behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
    Now, to put this prophecy into its proper perspective, the events found in Helaman discuss a Lamanite prophet, named Samuel, who came into the Land of Zarahemla and began to preach to the people (Helaman 13:2); however, after many days of preaching, the Nephites cast him out and Samuel was about to return to his own land. But the voice of the Lord came unto him, and told Samuel that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever should come into his heart (Helaman 13:3). As he returned, the Nephites would not allow him to enter the city, so Samuel got upon the wall and cried out with a loud voice, and began prophesying “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart” (Helaman 13:4).
    This event took place in 6 B.C., and he, in part, said, “I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people” (Helaman 13:5).
    Because the Nephites had rejected Samuel’s initial preaching, the Lord told them “Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them. And four hundred years shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten; yea, I will visit them with the sword and with famine and with pestilence” (Helaman 1:8-9).
    So before 406 A.D., the Nephites were to be smitten (defined as “struck, killed”), and as events took place 391 years later (385 A.D.), completely wiped out, annihilated as a people to the last man.
    Now, for every Nephite and Lamanite to understand, after Samuel went on to prophecy about the destruction of the city of Zarahemla, he told of the coming birth of the Savior, in which “there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born” (Helaman 14:4).
    Samuel then told them that there would be another sign, “a sign of his death,” and that the sun, moon and stars would be darkened for three days, and the time of his death there would be thundering and lightening for many hours, and the rocks above and under the earth will be broken up and rent in two, and there would be great tempests, and “mountains would be laid low like unto a valley, and they shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great”(Helaman 14:12).
    Samuel went on to tell them that highway would be destroyed, and “many cities shall become desolate,” and graves opened and many saints appear, and that these tempests would last three days.
    More importantly, Samuel added, “And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).
    That is, these events would not be isolated, hidden, or obscure. They would be seen by all and there would be no doubt that the Lord was involved in their creation so that if they did not believe after that, “a righteous judgment would come upon them” and if they are condemned by their disbelief it will be to their utter condemnation (Helaman 14:29).
    So let us take a look at Samuel’s prophecy, which the Lord told him to deliver to the Nephites in Zarahemla:
1. Existing mountains would be laid low, and become valleys (Helaman 14:23);
2. Existing valleys would become mountains (Helaman 14:23);
3. These new mountains would have great height (Helaman 14:23);
4. This would all be done in a three-hour period (Helaman 14:26; 3 Nephi 8:19);
5. These accompanying rumblings, thunder and lightning would last for three days (Helaman 14:27);
6. These events would be seen by many, and all would know it was from God (Helaman 14:28);
7. The overall purpose of these events was to save those who believed (Helaman 14:29).
    Thus, these events, the mountains falling and the new mountains rising to great heights, would be seen by all in such a manner that they could not deny the author of the events, and was for the salvation of those who accepted God (Helaman 14:30-31). Once again, it should be stressed that these events would be so significant, the result so obvious and so lasting and understood, that there could be no doubt in the minds of the Nephites in the Land Southward and the Land Northward, as to what had happened and, because of the prophecy, that it was from God.
    The Lord, through Samuel, even provided a consequence of these events, by stating: “wo unto this people who are called the people of Nephi except they shall repent, when they shall see all these signs and wonders which shall be showed unto them… If they will not repent, and observe to do my will, I will utterly destroy them, saith the Lord, because of their unbelief notwithstanding the many mighty works which I have done among them; and as surely as the Lord liveth shall these things be, saith the Lord” (Helaman 15:3, 17).
    Through Samuel, we understand clearly and without a doubt, that the Land of Promise had mountains created within its confines, so extensively that all could see them and their miraculous rise, so miraculous that all could only acknowledge that they had been created suddenly by God as a fulfillment of prophecy.
    Since mountains do not disappear except through the control of God, and these mountains, “whose height is great” were raised for a testimony then and now of the greatness of God and the fulfillment of prophecy, it is impossible and without a doubt contrary to the scriptural record, for someone to make a claim that an area was the Land of Promise without a range of mountains, raised in the time of man, “whose height is great.
    As for the Heartland and Great Lakes theories, there are no mountains “whose height is great,” or anything that even comes close to it, within the confines of the Heartland and Great Lakes Land of Promise areas—no, not one. In fact, there is hardly even a hill to point to in that vast area from the Great Plains in the West to the eastern boundaries of their designated lands. Not until the Appalachian Mountains near the east coast of the U.S. do we find a rise in land elevation into what are called mountains in the east—generally just over 6,000-feet. As mountains go, even those, which are outside the Heartland and Great Lakes Land of Promise area, cannot be considered “whose height is great.”
    It is long past time that all honest readers of the scriptural record acknowledge the meaning, intent, and clearly stated descriptive nature of the Land of Promise as given to us by Mormon, and in this case, Helaman’s account of Samuel the Lamanite and the Lord’s prophecy. And among all the claims of the Land of Promise among numerous theorists, only one area meets that single requirement so clearly laid out for us—and that is Andean South Americathe youngest and tallest mountains by far in the entire Western Hemisphere.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The “I’m Not Changing Scripture” Game - Mesoamerica

In a typical Mesoamerican view of the scriptures, the following statement is submitted by John E. Clark (FARMS Review 16/2, 2004, p1-54, of Review of Sacred Sites: Searching for Book of Mormon Lands, by Joseph L. Allen, 2003; and A New Model for Book of Mormon Geography, by James Warr, 2001) as a defense of John L. Sorenson and his treatment of directions in the Book of Mormon scriptural record. Regarding those critical of Sorenson's work, Clark claims:
    “The specific claim of interest is that "some literature" alters directions in the Book of Mormon or on Mesoamerican maps. This is demonstrably untrue. Sorenson's geography is the real target here. He has preserved the orientation of Mesoamerica in all of his arguments, and he has not, to my knowledge, altered even a single scripture to say that north was west or south was east. What Allen's loose accusations appear to be trying to convey is that Sorenson does not assume that "northward" in the Book of Mormon is obvious, so it is not something that can be taken at "face value." The problem resides neither in the manipulation of modern maps nor in ancient scripture but in the rapprochement of the two.”
    One can only wonder how an intelligent individual can make such a claim. First of all, the word used here is “rapprochement.” While it is taken from the French “rapprocher,” meaning “to approach,” from Late Latin “appropiare” which is “to approach.” Originally the French word was used to signify “to approach with intensive force.” In public groups it was sometimes used for “reunion, reconciliation,” and literally means “a bringing near,” it is used today “in public relations and international groups” who have been enemies” to have “friendlier relations.” Even in 1809, the word was meant to “establish cordial relations.” In fact, its meaning is listed as the opposite (antonyms), such as “alienation, disaffection, disgruntlement, estrangement, coldness, cold shoulder, distance, iciness, animosity, antagonism, antipathy, bitterness, enmity, hostility ,jaundice, rancor, spite.”
    Hardly an appropriate word to use in this case, but since it is used, we can assume that what Clark meant is that combining both Sorenson’s map, which shows a 90º tilt from true north-south directions, and the difference between it and “ancient scripture,” i.e., the Book of Mormon, is in harmony. 
    However, there is no possibility of this being true unless one changes the intent of either the existing maps or the directional wordage in “ancient scripture.” To be clear, Sorenson does not come out and say “the scripture is wrong,” nor does he write, “We need to change this scripture to read,” etc. But what he does is ignore the scripture because it does not fit his pre-determined shape and compass orientation of his Land of Promise, which he claims is Mesoamerica. And when one looks at Mesoamerica—not Central America, which are to entirely different things—we find a land form that runs basically east and west, in fact, almost due east and due west!
Mesoamerica, meaning “middle America” is that area of land beginning a little above Mexico City and extending a little beyond Guatemala, including the area of southern Mexico, the Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, and the western portion of Honduras and El Salvador. It lies between North America and Central America in theory and ancient usage

However, if one goes beyond Mesoamerica lines, then one can bring in that there is a northwest orientation through upper Mexico, and a southeast orientation from Nicaragua southward. In fact, if we take the entire land mass from the United States southern border, including all of Mexico to the Panama border with Colombia in South America, then we can see a definite northwest to southeast direction of the land going from north to south.
The actual lay of the land of Mexico, Mesoamerica and Central America

The problem lies in the fact that Mesoamerica, or Middle America, or the land that Mesoamerican theorists claim is the Land of Promise of the Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites, actually runs from about Mexico City through western Honduras, including Guatemala, Belize the Yucatan and southern Mexico. At best, because of the slight curve of southern Mexico, one can say that Mesoamerica is about 90º off kilter from the north-south orientation of both Mexico and Central America, which is inarguably the direction of the Land of Promise as Mormon so clearly describes it.
When the rest of the land is removed from Mesoamerica, you get a very different picture. That area inside the red lines is the actual location of ancient ruins, southern Mexico, Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize and some of Honduras. As one can see, it basically runs east and west

So how on earth is it possible to make any claim at all that Mormon’s north-south descriptions are not being changed when you introduce a map of the Land of Promise that runs basically east and west, when you label the Gulf of Mexico, at the north of the narrow neck of land, as the Sea East, and the Pacific Ocean, as it runs along the narrow neck of land to the south as the Sea West? 
    How is that not changing the scriptural record?
    To say Sorenson does not come out and change any scripture is a blatant falsehood—since he is changing the basic meaning of the scripture even though he tries to do so without appearing to do so. 
    In the early days of verbal manipulation, it was called a “sleigh of hand,” a “silver-tongue” a “selling of snake oil.” Today it is called “The Word Game,” a psychological technique of using words to make it sound positive when discussing a negative idea, or stating a positive sound in order to cover up a negative approach. More specifically, using words that are positive in their individual meanings in a context that is, in and of itself, representing a movement, theory, idea or ideology that is fundamentally negative to those receiving the information.
During the Cold War of the 1960s through 1990s, the Soviet Union developed numerous front organizations to hide their infamous internal organizations bent on the destruction of the American Way of Life. In all cases, they used names and titles that, on the surface, sound like great ideas and organizations, yet in reality, represented organizations bent on the overthrow and destruction of the United States

So one can say Sorenson is not changing scripture; however, when you take a map and change its directions from those Mormon described in clear and precise language, you are changing scripture and it is not a game! Neither is taking locations of lands Mormon gave us and putting them on a map out of order, in the wrong direction, and not in relationship one to another as Mormon laid them out. 
    If that is not changing the meaning of scripture, then we would like to know what is!
    In fact, our third book Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican and Other Theorists, in which more than half of the book is devoted to all the claims that Sorenson makes about the scriptural record that is wrong, altered, changed, or misleading, i.e., changing what the scriptural record states in the clear and previse language Mormon uses, shows this constant tendency.
Sorenson’s Map of Mesoamerica as he Land of Promise (Map 5, Page 37)

In addition, when looking at Sorenson’s map of his Land of Promise, not only are the directions skewed from Mormon’s clear and precise language, but so are the placement of locations within the Land of Promise. Take, for instance, Sorenson’s distance between the Land of Many Waters and the land and hill Cumorah, that distance is approximately 400 miles, yet Mormon describes Cumorah being within the Land of Many waters as he so states: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4).
    Also in looking at the map of Sorenson’s Land of Promise, he has the land of Bountiful (using his directions) east of Zarahemla, and east of Nephi (north on a regular map); the Sea East to the north, and the Sea West to the south, Desolation due west of Bountiful, and the Land Northward due west of the Land Southward.
    One cannot defend changing scripture in order to make the scripture sound like it means something else—which is no different than claiming the scripture means something else if you think you know what Mormon meant to say, but did not, or should have said, or said differently than was meant. One can play a word game, but the end result is that the meaning and intent of the scripture is changed! And John E. Clark, a professor of Archaeology at BYU, who has published, according to his bio, over 177 works, should know that.
    Clarke goes on to say: “We may be tempted to think automatically that "northward" and "southward" label directions that are the same as "north" and "south." But "northward" signals a different concept than does "north," something like "in a general northerly direction."
    The problem with this is, theorists think they can change the meaning of words in order to make the scriptural record say what they want it to say. As an example, “north” means “being in the north,” and “being that point of the horizon which is directly opposite to the sun in the meridian, on the left hand when we stand with the face to the east.” And northward, as we have written many times, means “being toward the north,” or “nearer the north than to the east and west points.”
    Thus, we have two words, “north” and “northward” which pretty much mean the same thing, i.e., "in the north” and “toward the north.” It cannot be said that “northward signals a different concept than does north,” in that both point to the same basic direction, with northward having a little more leeway in degree latitude—but does not signify a “different concept.”
    Clark then goes on: “By their frequency of using the -ward suffix, we can infer that Mormon and his ancestors used a somewhat different cultural scheme for directions than we do.”
    How on earth anyone can draw that conclusion is beyond irresponsibility, it is downright fallacious! Mormon and his ancestors used north just as we do today, i.e., placing lands and places to the “north” and to the “northward,” or stated in definition terms, placing lands and places “to the north,” and “toward the north.”
    Lastly, this theorist concludes: “However, we cannot tell from the Book of Mormon text exactly how their concepts differed from ours, because all we have to work with is the English translation provided through Joseph Smith.”
    It is near impossible to understand such thinking. We can certainly tell from the Book of Mormon text exactly what Mormon’s concept was and that it was not different from ours despite how much this author and other theorist want it to be, so it would validate their model and thinking. And because we have the English translation provided through Joseph Smith, by the Spirit, we know exactly what Mormon meant!
    Thus we can easily see that in order for these Mesoamerican and other theorists in their desperate attempt to make the scriptural record say what they want it to say and not what Mormon actually said, they do have to change the meaning of the scriptural record! They must cloud the issue, introduce doubt and problems that do not exist, and throw a cloud over both the writing and the translation of the original prophets on the plates. The only reason to do that is to try and prove their own message, their own location of the Land of Promise, and their own beliefs that obviously do not agree with the scriptural record—if it did agree with the scriptural record, then all this subterfuge would not be necessary on their part!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Are These the Waters of Mormon?

It has never been our nature here to speculate on locations of such fleeting areas as rivers, lakes, cities where limited information in the scriptural record does not provide sufficient descriptive information to provide more than just an educated guess. However, in regard to this particular area, the Waters of Mormon, has provided sufficient information after lengthy study to allow us to suggest at least a strong possibility. 
   Though we have tried every possibility to disprove this possible location, it is interesting that a turn of events worked its way into our grasp with answers falling into place almost of their own accord, and the possibility seems sufficiently strong to offer our opinion on this. After all, there just might be a chance to pinpoint the Waters of Mormon in the Peruvian landscape outside Cuzco, the City of Nephi.
“Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light... if this be the desire of your heart, what have ye against being baptized in the name of the Lord?” (Mosiah 18:8, 10)
First of all, we know very little about the Waters of Mormon, and typically not enough to say this is where the Waters of Mormon were located; however, what we do know is quite consistent with an area in south-central Peru, a little north of Cuzco.
    In suggesting these might be the Waters of Mormon, we need to review what is known about those waters:
1. In the borders of the land (Alma 5:3)
2. In a land called Mormon (Alma 5:3)
3. The waters were so configured, that a large number of baptisms took place there in a short time (Mosiah 18:16; Alma 5:3)
4. It had a fountain of pure water (Mosiah 18:5)
5. There was a thicket of small trees near the water (Mosiah 18:5)
6. The natural cover of the thicket was sufficient for Alma to hide in during the day from searches by the king’s guard (Mosiah 18:5)
7. The overall area was called Mormon, a name given it by the king (Mosiah 18:4)
8. It was located in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, with wild beasts (Mormon 18:4)
9. The waters were by a forest, called the forest of Mormon
10. The area was large enough to sustain 450 people in the final days before they left.
    So the area had a large enough pool or lake to be named, a small enough area of water fed by a fountain of pure water (probably meaning mountain water from a spring) that was separate enough for the water not to be mixed or influenced by the lake water; had a small stand of trees near where the baptisms took place, plus a forest of some size in which 450 people could hide and live.
    It also had to be a place where this number of people could sustain themselves, either through hunting or some type of planted groves; where people could move in an out without drawing attention to themselves; where their movements were well enough masked by undergrowth that when the king’s army searched for them, there was no trace of them.
    Now, since we know what we are looking for, we also have to consider that this area existed prior to the destruction signaled by the crucifixion, where mountains tumbled to the ground, and flat areas rose into mountains, whose height was great. If the lake or waters survived, they might not look exactly like what they had before, on the other hand, when Mormon introduced himself around 25 A.D., he does so by saying, “I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people…” (3 Nephi 5:12), which sounds like the area of Mormon was still in existence and had not changed much, if at all. Still, Mormon’s father was also called Mormon (Mormon 1:5), so we don’t know if he was named after his father, or both of them named after the land.
    According to Mormon’s words, the people Alma baptized, assembled together as often as it was in their power to do so (Mosiah 18:25), suggesting they not only traveled from the City of Nephi to the Waters of Mormon to be preached to by Alma and then baptized, by him afterward, as often as they could manage it, they traveled there to assemble together and hear more about God, for all of this was done in the land of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, and the forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30). And by the time the king discovered them so meeting and sent his army, they numbered 450 people (Mosiah 18:35).
    So has been discussed in earlier articles on this subject, the distance from the City of Nephi to the Waters of Mormon should have been within a one to two-day journey—for they did take their tents and overnight stays are evident (Mosiah 18:34).
    Typically, historians have placed this area to either the north or northwest of the City of Nephi. While we have no confirmation of this in the scriptural record, we have found a lake to the north of Cuzco, the City of Nephi. That lake is 18 miles distance (shorter as the crow flies), which means it would take about a day and a half to travel there over the type of mountainous terrain existing in the area. It might also be assumed that the converts would have left at night when unobserved, and likely pitched their tents when a few hours from the city, for travel over uneven ground at night is very difficult, especially with women and children.
Puray Lake, with the yellow arrows showing the lengthy forest stretching out for miles along the lake front, and impassable mountains beyond low-lying hills. It is a haven for birds much of the year

Consequently, about a day or day and a half journey north of the City of Nephi in the Sacred Valley of Peru, lies a lake at 13°25’48.98" S  71°59’58.30" W, called Puray Lake (Laguna Piuray), at an elevation of 12,877 feet, about 8 miles southeast of Chincero.
    This is a forested area with sparsely-covered, low lying hills, and barren mountains jutting up behind. Between the hills and the lake is a long, wide forest running the entire length of the water. To the northeast along the lake shore, the forests have long been removed and terraced planting installed, as well as along the east shore and hills as well.
    Within the forest are several waterways, mostly fed by the Puray Falls, where fountains of pure water exist higher up and spill over into the pools deep in the forest completely secluded from exterior view.
    Lake Puray is 18 miles to the north of Cuzco deep in the Sacred Valley, surrounded by the Andes on three sides, with a large forest between the lake and the mountains in which are found the Puray Falls, and perfect pools of water for baptizing. The Falls flow more heavily in the winter, and less in the summer, providing a perfect, pleasant pool collection where baptisms could easily be conducted. Today, this area is used as a swimming pool, where kids jump off the rocks above into the deeper end of the pool. However, most of the pool is about waist-high in depth, with river rock on the bottom and allow for easy walking in and out.
Left: Puray Falls back from the lake and within the forest of trees drops into a pool of pure water and provides a perfect place for baptism; Right: Today this area is used as a local swimming hole

This is a very isolated region, even today a couple of small villages with only a couple of dozen families live around the lake, with Chincera about eight miles away. Much of these highlands are fed by natural spring water.
Isolated Lake Puray showing the forest around it and how difficult it would have been for Noah’s army to find people hiding there
While this area may not be the Waters of Mormon, given the location of the City of Nephi and the land of Shilom, it fits in with the scriptural record descriptions, complete with being in the borders of the Land of Nephi and Shilom, a perfect location for baptisms in an isolated pool of fresh, pure water, where thickets of small trees grow nearby—new growth of the forest beside the area, and the natural cover would have provided security for more than four hundred people.
The boulder-rimmed pool of pure water around Puray Falls, which would have been ideal for baptism, containing pure water from the falls, and before people began swimming in it, you could have drunk this mountain water without hesitation

Again, while this is all assumptive and we are not suggesting this is definitely the area of the Waters of Mormon, it certainly meets the requirements of the location specified, though briefly, in the scriptural account.