In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Friday, April 29, 2011

Nephite Assembly under King Benjamin\ New World Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot)

While thumbing through recent notes I’ve scrolled all throughout the margins in my scriptures I stumbled across an informative parallel that seems to be a direct hit found in the comparison of King Benjamin’s speech to the assembled Nephite nation. I had originally come across this study that was put together on the Neal A. Maxwell Institute website in an article put together by John A. Tvedtnes entitled “ King Benjamin and the Feast of Tabernacles”. Without going into the exhaustive study that he did I will try to break this wonderful information down to apples and crayons for those of us simple minded people.

In the many Israelite observances that find parallels with King Benjamin’s speech none fit it better than Sukkot or the “Feast of Booths” or “The Feast of Ingathering” also known as the “Feast of Tabernacles”. This festival was to take place on the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the seventh month. At this time the Israelites were to construct rough temporary living quarters, called sukkot (singular sukkah), or “booths”, in order “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43).

According to the Jewish tradition, the first Sukkot was celebrated at the foot of Mount Sinai, six months after the Exodus from Egypt.

The biblical Sukkot celebration is closely paralleled by the account of King Benjamin’s assembly recorded in Mosiah 1:1-6:6. Upon first reading the text it appears that King Benjamin is assembling his numerous people together so that he can hand the thrown to his son Mosiah but at Tvedtnes points out it is evident from the actual text of Benjamin’s discourse that it was a speech of religious instruction even more so than a coronation ceremony. In fact only three versus are devoted to Mosiah becoming the new king.

There are numerous characteristics of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) that are also found in connection with King Benjamin’s Nephite assembly. These are as follows.

- the people assemble at the temple
- king or political leader reside on a raised platform
- people or families dwell in booths or tents
- special sacrifices are offered
- exhortations addressed to the adults specifically exclude the children
- the Law is read (especially the paragraph of the king)
- God’s mercy and salvation are mentioned
- recitations are made of God’s dealings with his people
- recitations are made of the commandments of God
- recitations are made of the cursings and blessings of the Law
- people are exhorted to love and serve God
- people are promised prosperity if they serve God
- the people in unison or chorus make a covenant of obedience
- the people prostate themselves to worship
- sometimes the coronation of a king is involved
- sometimes the names of the covenanters are recorded or announced
- king blesses the people

John W. Welch has done a comparative study relating certain sections of Benjamin’s speech to Leviticus 25-26, suggesting the possibility that the coronation of Mosiah occurred during a jubilee year. Jubilee was practiced as a year of rest to be observed by the Israelites every 50th year, during which slaves were to be set free, alienated property restored to former owners, and the lands left untilled it was usually known as a time of peace and prosperity in the land. The parallels between the passages in Leviticus and Mosiah are outlined as follows.

Return possessions - Leviticus 25:1 - Mosiah4:28
Not to injure one another - Leviticus 25:14, 17 - Mosiah 4:13
Render according to due - Leviticus 25:15-16, 50 - Mosiah 4:13, 28
Prosperity in the land follows obedience - Leviticus 25:18-19 - Mosiah 2:22
Aid the poor - Leviticus 25:35 - Mosiah 4:16, 26
Use of riches - Leviticus 25:35-37 - Mosiah 4:21
Peace in the land - Leviticus 26:6 - Mosiah 2:31
Covenant with God - Leviticus 26:9 - Mosiah 5:5-6
Lord’s dwelling - Leviticus 26:11 - Mosiah 2:37
Lord to be with his people - Leviticus 26:11-12 - Mosiah 2:36
Curses for disobedience, including burning - Leviticus 26:14-33 - Mosiah 2:38; 3:25-27

Although there is nothing completely conclusive from this study there are many open ended questions about where the influence for these practices started and to what extent the Nephites continued to observe Jewish rites. This does verify what Nephi stated in (2 Nephi 5:10) “And we did observe to keep the judgments, and statues, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the Law of Moses”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Could Moroni Travel from Central America to Upstate New York?

Having recently returned from my vacation to Arizona, I had the wonderful opportunity to finally see the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant at the Mesa Temple. My first experience with these church pageants was two years ago in Manti Utah and the Manti Pageant. It was this pageant that really sparked my interest in the lives of Mormon and Moroni and also eventually lead to my finding of the book “The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni” by Jerry Ainsworth. It was this book that sparked my interest in the Mayans and the Hopi and Book of Mormon lands although I had studied all of them very briefly in the past. I can say that from the point that I attended the Manti Pageant my life, studies and desire to have a better understanding of the Book of Mormon and the rest of the standard works has increased tenfold since that day.

The reason that this pageant sparked so much interest is because like many Latter- Day Saints I have heard the story of Brigham Young announcing that the Manti, St. George, Salt Lake City and Nauvoo Illinois Temple grounds had been previously dedicated by the ancient Prophet Moroni during his migrations to what is now days known as the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York to deposit the plates. Some have considered the idea that Moroni may have taken the plates to New York as a resurrected being and I add that this is a reasonable idea but it’s also possible that during the decades he was wondering and fleeing from the Lamanites (Moroni 1:1-3) that he simply carried the 50lb plates until he made it to upstate New York. It’s interesting to speculate who or what Moroni may have encountered during this migration.

Some people may think that it would be impossible to walk such a journey but history has offered a few examples to people who have done similar journeys. The first one a 16th century English sailor named David Ingram who was shipwrecked off of the coast of Tampico Mexico and apparently disappeared off of the map for 11 months and reappeared in modern day Nova Scotia. Ingram gave is full account that was recorded 13 years later and offered some interesting stories and encounters with North American settlements who helped him on his journey. They say his description on his journey may have been mixed up with things he had seen or heard while he had previously traveled in Africa or South America (he reported encountering elephants). Some scholars have questioned his entire story, stating that it would have been impossible to walk over 3000 miles through the wilderness in only 11 months, but in 1999 a British writer Richard Nathan retraced Ingram’s steps in reverse, walking from Nova Scotia to Tampico in just 9 months.

Next is Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca who left from Spain in 1527 in a party of over 600 men. After challenges with their equipment and the weather the group eventually dwindled down to 3 people who eventually ended somewhere near Tampa Bay Florida. Traveling in this small group, Cabeza de Vaca explored what is now the U.S. state of Texas, as well as the northeastern Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, and possibly smaller portions of New Mexico and Arizona. He traveled on foot along the then-Spanish territories down the Gulf of California coast to what is now Sinaloa, Mexico over a period of roughly eight years. He lived in conditions of abject poverty and, occasionally, in slavery. He was naked the whole time, ever since sacrificing his clothes attempting to repair the boats. After finally reaching the colonized lands of New Spain he eventually made it to Mexico City and from there he returned to Europe in 1537.

The last example I would like to submit is Francis Martin Pomeroy. He was part of a whaling crew that got shipwrecked off of the coast of Peru. By swimming and treading water with a spar under his arm he was carried high up on the sand. By this time he was wrapped in seaweed and unconscious, the only survivor of the ship. The next morning he was picked up by a Castilian youth and carried to his home where he was nursed back to life and health. He remained with them about two years, paying them for his care through service. While there, he learned to speak the pure Castilian language.

Francis made his way by boat to Panama, crossed Isthmus on a burro and then sailed to New Orleans and then to Salem, Massachusetts which included much travel by foot. Francis later met his wife and heard the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and converted helping with many important positions in the migration of the Mormons from Nauvoo IL to Utah. He also held many leadership positions in the church helping establish towns in Utah, Idaho and Arizona and serving as the President of the Indian Mission, which position he filled until his death, which occurred on the 20th of October, 1882.

As can be seen by each of these four individuals David Ingram, Richard Nathan, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and Francis Martin Pomeroy a journey similar in distance to what Moroni would have to have traveled from Mesoamerica to upstate New York is possible. Although some of these travelers were assisted here and there by burro or boat it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is possible. These examples do not prove that Moroni did travel similar long distance only that it was possible if he did.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Possible Mulekite City in Ancient Mesoamerica

A problem in dating ruins in Central America is that its ancient inhabitants built new structures over existing ones. In order to take a look at structure in the land of Zarahemla dating to 300 B.C, for example, one would have to demolish its superstructures that were built perhaps over the next thousand years. That is not an attractive proposition. When we visit these sites today, therefore, we may be looking at Muletkite sites that were built over several times by subsequent civilizations.

However, I know of at least one exception to the rule. For some reason, an ancient site in northern Belize was not built over. New structures were built adjacent to it and the city grew in the southern direction. On visiting that ancient city today, one sees a structure that was actually built in Mulekite times. Adjacent structures were built by the Nephites and Lamanites and finally, by their descendants, all of which groups archaelogists call Maya. The city thus contains a temple dating to 300 B.C. On the outer temple wall appears the face of a man perhaps a Mulekite.

This same city is one of the few that the Spaniards never conquered. It was difficult to access during the Spanish conquest, and it is equally difficult to access today. Since the Spaniards didn't capture the city, they didn't kill the inhabitants. They also didn't rename the city, as they did other cities. Nor was its ancient name forgotten, as were other names. It has the same name today that it did before-Lamanai, which sounds like a variation of Book of Mormon name (Lamoni).