In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Monday, January 31, 2011

Simon Bar Kochba vs Captian Moroni

In a recent post I did entitled “Voices From the Dust” on the 3rd of January I presented a group of ancient documents that in the past decade or so have all been found or excavated. Each of these 5 texts or group of documents added unique insights and parallelism for the Book of Mormon. I have decided to give some of these a little more thorough explanation and insight so that those of you who like me may not have heard of these or may have heard of them but not the parallels they offer can get a better understanding on the importance of each of these “Voices from the Dust”.

I will be starting off with the Bar Kochba documents or letters. As I briefly stated in my earlier post In the 1960’s several letters written by Bar Kochba were discovered in caves at Wadi Murabba ‘at and Nahal Hever. Simon ben Kosiba, surnamed Simon bar Kochba (‘son of the star’) was a Jewish Messiah. Between 132 and 135, he was the leader of the last resistance against the Romans. After the end of the disastrous rebellion, the rabbis called him ‘Bar Koziba’, which means ‘son of the lie’. When we compare some of the writings of the legendary hero of the last Jewish revolt against Imperial Rome we find that he had a lot in common with none other than another Messiah like figure known in the Book of Mormon as Captain Moroni.

Captain Moroni according to the Book of Mormon (100 BC-56 BC) was an important Nephite military commander and patriot who lived during the 1st century BC. He is perhaps best known for raising the “Title of Liberty” as a call to arms for his people to defend their country, family and religion. He is first mentioned in the Book of Alma, as “the chief captain over the Nephites. Captain Moroni is presented as a righteous and skilled military commander and among his accomplishments were his extensive preparations for battle and his fierce defense of the right of the Nephites to govern themselves and worship as they saw fit.

According to the Book of Mormon, Moroni was “only twenty and five years old when he was appointed chief captain” of the Nephites. Years later, Moroni was having some problems with a group of men called king-men who were so called because they wanted to destroy the liberty of the people and replace the chief judge with a king. Moroni had written to Pahoran for help in the war, and the Lamanites attacked before help could arrive. Moroni wrote again, chastising him in the process, and this time Pahoran wrote back, saying that these king-men had driven him from the judgement seat. Moroni was happy that Pahoran was faithful to his country, but at the same time he was angry at this development, and went through the land, leaving command of his Armies in the hands of a trusted Command Staff, and led an insurrection of the people to the aid of Pahoran, and to battle against these king-men, killing their king, Pachus, and taking his men prisoner. He and Pahoran then proceeded to regain control of their city Nephihah, which they had lost, restoring the people’s form of representative government.

After fortifying the Nephites’ lands, Moroni transferred command of his armies to his son Moronihah, and permanently retired to his own home. And less than four years after that event, in the 36th year of the reign of the judges, or 56BC Captain Moroni, military leader of the Nephite people, died. According to the chronology of years, listing the time from when Moroni took command of the armies at age 25, he would have been approximately 45 years old when he died.

Apparently, Mormon himself regarded Moroni as a great leader, for he gave that name to his own son and added a rather unique and lengthy editorialization of him in Alma 48:11-13,16-18.

So basically we find both of these military leaders in dire situations and in need of support from their own governments and ironically we have them both writing letters to attempt to get that support. Here is an excerpt from the letters of Simon bar Kochba,

Shimeon bar Kosiba to Yehonathan and to Masabala.
“Let all men from Tekoa and other places who are with you, be sent to me without delay. And if you shall not send them, let it be known to you, that you will be punished.”

From Shimeon bar Kosiba to the men of En-gedi.
To Masabala and to Yehonathan bar Bey’ayan, peace!
In comfort you sit, eat and drink from the property of the House of Israel, and care nothing for your brothers.

This last letter seems to be a reproach to the men of En-gedi, because they had failed to take part in a battle.

We find Captain Moroni in writing his letter to the Governer of Zarahemla Paharon and complaining of the governments neglect of the Army in Alma 60:6-7,

"6 And now behold, we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.
7 Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren"

In both accounts we have Bar Kochba and Capt. Moroni refering to these possible detractors as their brothers or brethren and requesting men to be sent as aid during battles. But most importantly we have their similar wording for the senseless state of neglect that they find themselves and their armies in due to other political leaders. They are both done in the form of a letter or an epistle. Hugh Nibley stated that if the Bar Kochba letters would have been found in the early 1800's instead of 1966, he would have called this a gross robbery of an ancient story line but since it was the other way around, this could be nothing more than evidence that this type of militaristic behavior can be testified about on more than one ancient text.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teotihuacan, "The place where men become Gods"

So a little over a week ago I got a DVD for my birthday entitled, “Finding Moroni” by Dane Hurt as he follows Jerry Ainsworth, author of “The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni” and his professional guide Esteban Mejia through Mexico. One of their many intriguing stops is at Teotihuacan. (Pronounced, tayo-tee-wok-on)

Teotihuacan – also known as “The place where men become Gods” according to the Aztecs. It is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals.

The city was thought to have been established around 200 BCE, lasting until its fall sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries CE. At its zenith in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. At this time it may have had more than 200,000 inhabitants, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano. Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence, if not outright political and economic control, can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya Region

My first introduction to Teotihuacan was in the above referenced book by Dr. Ainsworth. He suggested that since this city has no natural land masses or even walls built around the city it may have been built originally by a peaceful people. Only later to be reoccupied by people who didn’t share these same religious and political ideals. If this is the case it would fit soundly into a Book of Mormon setting. In Helaman Chapter 3 we have the People of Ammon a peaceful people who had buried their weapons of war as a covenant to never shed the blood of man but would rather give up their own lives instead to covenant with the Lord that they had changed moving into the land northward. This is taking place around 45 BC. If the land of Zerahemla is indeed in Mesoamerica than this migration northward would put the People of Ammon in the Teotihuacan vicinity.

The layout of Teotihuacan consists of a large pyramid in the middle known as the Pyramid of the Sun and to the right of it is another pyramid a bit smaller called The Pyramid of the Moon and then to the left of the of The Pyramid of the Sun is a smaller one called the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl. In the “Finding Moroni” DVD Dr. Ainsworth suggests the layout for these pyramids is precisely the way it should be to represent the Celestial (Pyramid of the Sun) Terrestrial (Pyramid of the Moon)and Telestial (Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl) layout according to D&C with the Telestial glory to the left hand side of the Sun. He then points out that the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl’s courtyard is surrounded by a U shape of four smaller pyramids to the right, four smaller pyramids to front and four smaller pyramids to the left. Then behind it lays 3 of these smaller pyramids (actually to the east). He points out that this is the exact same layout used by our current 12 apostles and first presidency when the meet together in the temple every Thursday in the SLC temple. It appears to be a priesthood order.

I must admit that when I was first introduced to Teotihuacan through Dr. Ainsworth’s book a few years ago that the idea that the People of Ammon possibly being the original establishers of this community of worship sparked my imagination and influenced my future research. We do know that these temples that we currently see may not be the original temples built because usually the following civilizations such as the Toltecs and Aztecs would build on top of the existing ruins. Along with the change in temples we do know of surrounding volcanoes that did cause an influx of population in the Teotihuacan area. This influx could have influenced the original founders to eventually flee for freedom of worship or fear of war. As Dr. Ainsworth suggested this is presented as pure speculation but historically it does seem to fit. And location wise when taken in consideration with the Hopi migrations this would fit very well.

The Hopi migrations speak of many of the Hopi clans coming from a great Red City in the south known as Palatkwapi as given by the late Chief Tawakwaptiwa several years before his death in 1960 according to Frank Waters “Book of the Hopi”. No one knows where Palatkwapi might have been. Some of the Hopi spokesmen, who are able to read Hopi meanings from symbols and pictographs carved on Mayan stelae and temple walls, believe that the center of the Mayan Old Empire, Palenque, in Chiapas, Mexico was the Hopi legendary city of Palatkwapi. According to Vernon Masayesva a Hopi leader the great Red city is none other than Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan during its prime was a great cement city (which correlates with Helaman 3) that was painted red. As a matter of fact there are still many of the inner and outer walls that still have signs of the red dye used in the past. According to Hopi Legend it was the Kachinas or “respected spirits” who built Palatkwapi.
Some Hopi legends state that the great Red City was a city held in reverence and was also a walled city. Although this description can change depending upon the legend story teller recent Hopi Chiefs went as far as saying that it was none other than Jerusalem. Not only does this also fit in the Book of Mormon but both Teotihuacan and Jerusalem could be considered the Great Red City of the South. One being influenced by the other which was also done in the early city and temple building by the Nephites according to 2 Nephi 5:16,

“And I, Nephi did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.”

On the west side of the main road going through Teotihuacan known as the Avenue of the Dead Dr. Ainsworth and Esteban established through the knowledge of some of the excavators that a certain smaller temple with an underground room was used as a washing point during the ceremonies. It included water and oil. They were told that there were guards at certain stages of the ceremonies allowing those participating to continue on to other stages after making oaths and covenants eventually culminating at the Temple of the Sun.

If this speculation is correct than we would need a peaceful people in the Book of Mormon (The People of Ammon) migrating north to the Teotihuacan vicinity and building temples (Helaman 3:11-14). If this people were to be scattered or provoked to leave their current settlement we would need to look for a group of peaceful people who may have had to migrate beyond the Teotihuacan site more than likely north of it. This is exactly what you have with the Anasazi settlements spotting Central and Northern Mexico and Southern United States. These same peaceful people still exist today in the form of ancestors of the Anasazi known as the Hopi who’s legends of migration, sacred ceremonies and language still fit soundly with the both the history of Mexico and Mesoamerica. The Hopi still to this day through their sacred kiva ceremonies are considered a covenant making and keeping people. Although we are not sure if Teotihuacan was indeed the Great Red City of the south spoke of in Hopi legend one this is for sure, the Hopi do agree that it was a settlement at one point of Hopi migrating tribes eventually on their way to Old Orabi modern day Northern Arizona.

Monday, January 10, 2011

C-Lite - In My City (Official Music Video)

This is the new song entitled "In My City" by C-Lite (the same guy who was singing in Lecrae's song "Background". I love the idea of youth openly praying and showing that they are true believers in God, especially in todays politically correct environment. Either as a rapper or singer or both C-Lite is a very talented individual and I am glad that he uses this talent to share the message of Christ with he world.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Voices From The Dust

This post is mainly focused on the different types of "voices from the dust" that have appeared over the past century and their individual relevence in regards to the Book of Mormon or the LDS community as a whole. I will be going over a handful of these uneathed documents breifly touching on their background story and briefly touch on their correlation to those of us who want to gain a better understanding on the Book of Mormon and LDS doctrine.

Lachish Letters- Found in the ancient ruins of the city of Lachish. Its fall in the days of Jeremiah is dramatically recounted in a number of letters found there in 1935 and 1938. These original letters, actually written at Jeremiah’s time, turned up in the ruins of a guardhouse that stood at the main gate of the city—two letters a foot beneath the street paving in front of the guardhouse, and the other sixteen piled together below a stone bench set against the east wall. The wall had collapsed when a great bonfire was set against it from the outside. Not only do the Lachish letters tell of fleeing prophets at the time of Jeremiah as do the Book of Mormon but they also tell of one other interesting person.

The Lachish Letters tell of a boy named Nedabyahu(Nedabiah 1 Chronicles 3:18) who is the grandson or “NKD” Septuagint for “seed” of King Jehoiakim. Harry Torczyner translater and top scholar for the Lachish Letters figures now with new chronology that he would be the “NKD” of King Zedekiah. Torczyner states that the boy would probabley be 10-13 years old and was delivering messages of warning to the prophet something that would be punishable of death due to treason. This was a common practice for young men (see 2 Samuel) and still is today in Palestine. Torczyner said this episode happened between 590-588 B.C. Nibley states probably 589 B.C. exactly 11 years after Lehi left Jerusalem. We’re told the Mulekites left 11 years after Lehi. This 11 year old boy would have been on the prophets side doing these treasonable acts when he probably learned of his Royal Family being captured by the Babylonians. Stuck in his position unable to return to Jerusalem he wouldn’t have been able to return without being taken to Riblah with his brothers and killed. This young boy is more than likely the very Mulek spoke of in the Book of Mormon. The only son of King Zedekiah who escaped, was possibly mentioned in Jeremiah 38:6 as Malchiah or Malichyahu which either would have been commonly shortened to Malek or depending on his age Mulek or Mulayk meaning “boy king”. Although he would have been the pride of the fleeing Mulekites he would have been too young to be their king upon finding themselves delivered to the promise land.

Elephantine Documents- For the discovery of the Elephantine documents in 1925 showed that colonies of Jews actually did flee to the desert as Lehi did—during Lehi’s lifetime, and for the same reasons. Arriving in their new home far up the Nile, they built a temple similar to Solomon’s temple, exactly as Lehi’s righteous children did upon landing in the New World. Both of these oddities, and especially the temple, were once thought convincing refutations of the Book of Mormon.

Bar Kochba Documents - In the 1960's, several letters written by Bar Kochba were discovered in caves at Wadi Murabba`at and Nahal Hever. They show that Bar Kochba was a rather authoritarian man. All translations were taken from Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba. The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish revolt against Imperial Rome. Bar Kochba letters discovered in 1966, which in turn present truly astonishing parallels to some of the military correspondence in the Book of Mormon.

The Dead Sea Scrolls - The much-celebrated Dead Sea Scrolls are a treasure trove of ancient Jewish religious texts discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 different desert caves near the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Many scholars regard the scrolls as the greatest archaeological find of the twentieth century, having been composed or copied between approximately 250 B.C. and A.D. 68. Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew or Aramaic on parchment, although a few Greek texts have been found as well. They apparently constituted the expansive canon of scripture belonging to the people who resided at the discovery site in antiquity, and who are almost certainly to be identified as members of the ancient sect called the Essenes.1 The actual name of the site is Qumran (after the name of the nearby wadi or dry streambed).

The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal many beliefs and practices similar to those of the early Christian church and of the Latter-day Saints. Among these are a belief in baptism by immersion for the remission of sins (CD 10; baptismal fonts have been found at Qumran) and a belief in the necessity of receiving the Holy Ghost (CD 3). The community was governed by three presidents assisted by a council of twelve (1QS 8). In each local area of the sect there was a bishop who administered financial affairs, ascertained the worthiness of members, and acted as a common judge (CD 9, 13–14). The sect had a sacred meal of bread and wine administered by a priest (1QS 6). They believed in revelation through prophetic leaders and accepted the writings of these leaders as scripture (1QpHab 7). They also had a form of communal living (1QS 1, 6) similar to that of Christians in the New Testament (Acts 4:34ff). Also discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls was the Copper scroll one more testament that metallurgy was a common practice for etching sacred records. Along with that was the mear mention of "the land of Jerusalem" a phrase that has long been used to criticize the prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon since everyone knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and not Jerusalem. But in Alma 7:10's mentioning of "land of Jerusalem"this was intended to mean Jerusalem and surrounding lands or suburbs if you will. This would then include Bethlehem (which is about 5 miles out of Jerusalem). This phrase appearing in the Dead Sea Scrolls proves that it was a used phrase in Jerusalem and surround areas at that time.

All of this leads to the conclusion that in many ways the Essenes may have been closer to the gospel than other Jewish sects. And yet, we must remember that the Essenes did not have the fulness of the gospel. They were not Christians, and no New Testament material has ever been found at Qumran. Despite the similarities to Latter-day Saint beliefs in some respects, the Essenes also had doctrines and practices incompatible with the gospel. For example, they expected not one Messiah but two. They practiced celibacy and believed in a form of astrology. Although Jesus accepted the authority of the Jewish high priest and the sanctity of the Jerusalem temple, the Essenes denied both. And, contrary to certain claims, there is no evidence that the prayers on the bread and wine at Qumran were in any way similar to our own.

Nag Hammadi Text (Library) – a collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. This immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary Gnostic scriptures -- texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define "orthodoxy" -- scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth.

Nevertheless, it is those passages among the Nag Hammadi codices which deal with mysteries and initiations that have generated the most interest among Latter-day Saints. For example, the gospel of Philip describes an initiation in three stages, corresponding to the three chambers of the Jerusalem Temple (69:14ff). In the last stage, which was called the Bridal Chamber, a sacred marriage was performed which was believed to be eternally binding (70:19ff) and which had to be performed in mortality (86:1ff). In the Dialogue of the Savior, Jesus supposedly tells the disciples how to ascend to the Father (120:20ff). And in the Apocalypse of Paul (23:1–25), Paul is represented as vanquishing the hostile ruler of the sixth heaven by showing him a sign and then proceeding on to the tenth heaven. The actual content of the mysteries taught in the Nag Hammadi codices usually centers on the themes of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve (as in the Apocryphon of John).

In the initial excitement over finding some ideas among the Nag Hammadi codices that are similar to those of the Latter-day Saints, some readers have lost sight of a very important fact: though some things are similar, they are never the same. There is not a single passage among the Nag Hammadi codices which could be said to exactly describe Latter-day Saint practices. There is not a single line of text that could be called a translation of Latter-day Saint ordinances. On rare occasions there are similarities, but always there are differences. The reason for this is simple: the Gnostics did not have the Gospel. By the time the Nag Hammadi codices were written, Gnosticism had already been an apostate movement for generations, perhaps even centuries. There has been a tendency in some Latter-day Saint circles to suggest a direct link between the Gnostics and the true primitive Church. This is impossible, for the Nag Hammadi codices show the Gnostics to have been in some respects even further from the gospel than the post-apostolic “orthodox” church. But just as a Geiger counter can still detect traces of radiation in an empty container that once held radioactive elements, so Latter-day Saint readers can detect traces of departed truth in the empty writings of the Gnostics. Thus, the Nag Hammadi codices are of interest to Latter-day Saints because they seem to demonstrate that certain doctrines and ordinances, whose very existence was denied by later “orthodoxy,” were part of early Christianity. They also provide us with the negative example of a people whose lust for mysteries and secret doctrines caused them to lose the simple truths of the gospel.

It is these type of discoveries and "voices from the dust" that will continue to shed light to those who sincerely seek it. On that same note, in no way does this evidence replace the need of faith and sincere prayer in the search for honest truth. As Neal A. Maxwell put it "Science will not be able to prove or disprove holy writ; however, enough plausible evidence will come forth to prevent scoffers from having a field day, but not enough to remove the requirement of faith."