In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Egyptian Wordplay in the Book of Mormon

Many people are familiar with Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon, Bible and other texts(including Mayan codex and Hopi ceremonial dress).  These would include such examples as chiasmus which is a figure of speech in which in which two or more clauses are given and then repeated in reverse order.  Another  Hebraism is called polysyndeton which is the use of several conjunctions in close succession.  This was used in 3 Nephi 4:7 "and they were girded about after the manner of their loins and they were dyed in blood, and their heads were shorn, and they had headplates".  These are just a few examples of Hebraisms.  The Book of Mormon as a record we are told was written in reformed Egyptian which consisted of a mix of both Egyptian and Hebrew.  With the above examples of Hebrew in the Book of Mormon I have often wondered if there were any "Egyptianisms" in the Book of Mormon? 

I read an article a few years ago that spoke of one Egyptianism that takes place in 1 Nephi 15:23-24 (part of verse 24).  Unfortunately I do not recall the author or the title of the article only that it impressed me enough that I took the time to write it in the margin in my scriptures next to 1 Nephi 15:23-24 which states:

"And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?

And I said unto them that it was the word of God: and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish;"

In Egyptian "mdwr ntr" is "Gods words" and is translated into English as hieroglyphics.  In Egyptian "mdw" is also "staff" or "rod".  This is an Egyptianism word play on word meanings. Thus in Egyptian word meanings and word play "word of God" and "rod" or "staff" are directly correlated.  This would seem to have been something either done by Nephi in writing portions of the Book of Mormon or by the Lord himself in helping Nephi understand his fathers vision in which he saw the Tree of Life with the rod of iron which represented the word of God.  Either way it would have been something that Joseph Smith wouldn't have known when he translated the Book of Mormon in the early to mid 1800's and points once again to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  If anyone can recall the article or founder of this Egyptianism or any others please feel free to comment and inform me so I can give credit where credit is due. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mesoamerican Cultural Correlations in the Book of Mormon: Coronation Ceremonies and Human Sacrifice

San Bartolo Mural Coronation ceremony 100 bc
This post is going to be going over some Book of Mormon cultural ties that seem to have also taken place in Mayan temples and rituals. These ties were recently pointed out along with others in the Temple on Mount Zion Conference held in honor of the late Matthew Brown in a talk given by Mark Alan Wright entitled, “Axes Mundi: A Comparative Analysis of Nephite and Mesoamerican Temple and Ritual Complexes”. In this talk Mark points out numerous cultural ceremonial ties held by both the Nephites and certain cultures in Mesoamerica. He shows that the just of what we know as the plan of salvation can be seen in certain murals and teachings held in Mesoamerica,  his main focus of murals were those of San Bartolo to be particular but similarities can be seen on other murals as well. I am only going to be covering a few of the cultural ties held between the two groups but for a more in-depth look I will leave the link to the youtube video of the actual presentation given by Mark Alan Wright and highly suggest watching.

The first correlation that I would like to discuss is that of how a coronation was handled at the time of the San Bartolo murals which date back to 100 b.c.(this is during the Nephite timeframe 600 b.c- 400 a.d.) and more than likely earlier. In the murals it depicts a coronation ceremony that shows a newly crowned king receiving the objects that are given to new royalty at coronation as he sits atop an erected platform or tower. This platform appears to be wooden or something that would have been rather easily constructed. This echoes the crowning of the King Mosiah by his aging father King Benjamin found in Mosiah 2:7 which states,

"For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them." 

And the receiving of royal objects is found in Mosiah 1:16 when King Benjamin gives his son Mosiah the plates of brass and the plates of Nephi as well as the sword of Laban and the Liahona. Thus the murals show that indeed the coronation of King Mosiah does fit into a similar Mesoamerican cultural setting.

San Bartolo Mural Beast, Human, and foul sacrifice 100 bc
The next cultural perspective that Mark has pointed out was that of sacrifice. In Alma 34:10 we have Amulek preaching unto the apostate Zoramites. He is attesting to the need for the atonement of Christ and in doing so he rehearses the need for a great and last sacrifice and declares that it is not a sacrifice of beast, foul or human sacrifice but an infinite and eternal sacrifice. It is the non qualifying sacrifices that add cultural context. As can be seen again in the San Bartolo murals the sacrifice of all three non-qualifying sacrifice subjects…namely beasts, fouls and a form of human sacrifice are shown. This would add credence as to why Amulek would be preaching to an apostate group that the type of sacrifice they  would regularly offer would not suffice. Mark then points out that this same cultural context can be found in the 3 Nephi setting known as the sermon at the temple when Christ appeared the Nephite and Lamanites.

One of the first things that Christ did upon appearing to his apostles in Jerusalem was to allow them to feel the prints in his hands and feet. These were signs that those who were familiar with sacrifice in that area would recognize, especially those who knew the Jesus personally. In the new world Christ did the same
thing by allowing the Nephite/Lamanite population to come forth feel the prints in his hands and feet but his wording also adds one more important cultural context that would be the sign of sacrifice that those in new world (Mesoamerica) would recognize. He stated, “Come forth and thrust your hands into my side” and then followed with “and feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet” (3 Nephi 11:14). It was common among many cultures in Mesoamerica to do human sacrifice.

Aztec Art portraying Human Sacrifice
The manner of human sacrifice among the Aztecs was stretching the sacrificial victim while still alive across an altar with a people holding his arms and legs. Using an obsidian bladed knife a priest would cut a slit below the rib cage on the side and thrust his hand into the body and pull out the still beating heart and hold it up as sacrifice to the heathen God. There are multiple Aztec pictures of these types of sacrifices along with stories from many of the Spanish conquistadors who actually witnessed these sacrifices. Bernal Diaz del Castillo is the classic source of information about mass sacrifice by the Aztecs. A literate soldier in Cortes' company, Diaz claimed to have witnessed such a ritual. "We looked over toward the Great Pyramids and watched as [the Aztecs] ... dragged [our comrades] up the steps and prepared to sacrifice them," he wrote in his Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva Espana (The True History of the Conquest of New Spain), published posthumously in 1632. "After they danced, they placed our comrades face up atop square, narrow stones erected for the sacrifices. Then, with obsidian knives, they sawed their breasts open, pulled out their still-beating hearts, and offered these to their idols." Thus the phrase "thrust your hands into my side" works as a sign or cue to those Nephites that indeed this was the Jesus Christ whom their prophets had preached would visit after his infinite sacrifice.

My personal conclusion of the following contextual events that Mark touched on is that the Mesoamerican setting does add meaning and insight and allows for a better understanding of the above mentioned scenarios. As I mentioned briefly above Mark Alan Wright touches much more on these scenarios and many others in his talk I have linked below.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Hanging of Zemnarihah, Ancient Practice or Western Vigilante Justice?

In the realm of added insights to the Book of Mormon some of my favorites are those involving the understanding of ancient Jewish practices or rituals and the clarification those practices give to the text of the Book of Mormon. There are multiple places where this happens in the Book of Mormon which I hope to be able to do a post for each insight that I deem applicable. One of the stories in the Book of Mormon that gets further clarification from the insights is that of the hanging of the Gadianton leader named Zemnarihah. Zemnarihah was a military leader for a rogue group of dissenters from both the Lamanite and Nephite populations known as the Gadianton Robbers. This group had set up their own type of government and practiced an effective form of guerilla warfare against both the Nephites and Lamanites.

It was during this time of guerilla warfare that the Gadianton Robbers had found so much success that they actually caused the Lamanite and Nephite populations to band together in one location between the cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful with all their families and possessions and enough food to last 7 years. The Nephite/Lamanite population was under the leadership of Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni who were both men of God and great political and military leaders. This plan of banding together actually caused Zemnarihah and his army to abandon their guerilla tactics and have to attack the Nephite population like a regular military front. As explained by Daniel C. Peterson this is known as premature regularization and has been the downfall of many guerilla units throughout history.

Eventually due to the lack of food and the lack of ability to pull off clean attacks on the Nephites the Gadianton Robbers decided to abandon their attack effort. Gidgiddoni knowing their plans decided to head off their escape and attack from both the front and the rear. It was during this time that many of the Gadianton Robbers were either killed or taken prisoner and their leader Zemnarihah was executed. It is the manner of his execution that needs insights from ancient Jewish practices to gain the appreciation it deserves. In 3 Nephi 4: 28-29 it reads.

Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni

Their leader, Zemnarihah, was taken and hanged upon a tree, yea, even upon the top thereof until he was dead. And when they had hanged him until he was dead they did fell the tree to the earth, and did cry with a loud voice, saying: May the Lord preserve his people in righteousness and in holiness of heart, that they may cause to be felled to the earth all who shall seek to slay them because of the power and secret combinations, even as this man hath been felled to the earth”

The practice of hanging someone who has been found guilty of certain crimes is part of Jewish law and was part of the Law of Moses. This is found in Deuteronomy 21:22 which states, “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree.” But it seems as though the hanging of Zemnarihah went once step further with the cutting down of the tree. In researching this issue I was directed to an article entitled, “The Execution of Zemnarihah” by John W. Welch (the same John Welch who founded chiasmus in the Book of Mormon). It is in this article that John leads us to the ancient Talmud tradition that the tree be cut down with the body of the decedent and both buried. Actually the Talmud also recommends hanging the culprit on a precut tree or post so that, in the words of Maimonides (a medieval Jewish philosopher, physician and Torah scholar), “no felling is needed.” If we next consider why the tree was required to be chopped down John Welch quotes Maimonides again saying, "In order that it should not serve as a sad reminder, people saying: 'This is the tree on which so-and-so was hanged.' "In this way, the tree became associated with the person being executed; it came to symbolize the culprit and the desire to forget him or her.” Nibley and Welch both pointed out that when the culprit is hung in the tree it represented that due to his crime he is unsuitable for heaven or earth thus the reason his body hangs between them both.

Note should be taken that in 3 Nephi 4 at the end of verse 28 and all of 29 it states that the Nephites did cry with one voice saying, “may the Lord preserve his people in righteousness and in holiness of heart that they may cause to be felled to the earth all who shall seek to slay them because of power and secret combinations, even as this man hath been felled to the earth." This fits in nicely with the ancient practice of heralding a notorious execution which is also stated in Deuteronomy. Thus we see that an incident such as the execution of Zemnarihah actually fits in very nicely with ancient practice of law and tradition and ritual and not just some sort of old western vigilante form of justice that existed at the time of Joseph Smith jr. but an actual practice of the Law of Moses. I have included a link to the above quoted article of John Welch from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute website.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Book of Mormon Phrase "To Breathe Out" and the Mesoamerican Speech Scrolls

Aztec Murals with speech scrolls
In my continual attempt to find evidence of Mesoamerica in the text of the Book of Mormon I stumbled across an article by Diane E. Wirth from the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum called, “Mesoamerican Speech Scrolls”. In this article Diane points out that the words “breathed out” is not used anywhere in scripture other than in the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon with reference towards expressing speech. This is ironic because it is also used in Mesoamerican art to express speech or communication. In Mesoamerican art it is referred to as “speech scrolls”.

The concept behind the speech scroll is similar to the way we portray cartoons now days with a cloud or balloon shape filled with whatever words the character is saying. In the context of a Mesoamerican speech scroll it is usually on a hieroglyph, stela, pottery or codices (screen-folded books). In the Mesoamerican speech scrolls the scrolls usually extend out of the mouth of the characters in vocalization. Diane points out that there are many examples of this speech scroll being used for threatening the same way the words “breathed out” were used in the Book of Mormon.

Murals of Tepantitla, Teotihuacan
In the Book of Mormon (Alma 35:9) states, “And he [The Ruler of the Zoramites] breathed out many threatenings against them. And now the people of Ammon did not fear their words.” And it is used again in Alma
54:19, in conjunction with a conversation that was taking place between Moroni and Ammoron via epistles back and forth to each oother. In one of Ammoron’s epistles back to Moroni he says, “Behold, ye have breathed out many threatenings against me and my people; but behold, we fear not your threatenings”.

Examples of this speech scroll can be seen in the murals of Tepantitla, Teotihuacan (screaming speech scroll, tears and blood from chest) or Stela 13 from Seibal. Other speech scrolls date back to Olmec time periods such as the cave paintings of Oxtotlan, Guerrero and the ceramic cylinder seal from San Andreas Tabasco Mexico. The Olmec time period correlates with the same time frame as that of the Jaredites from the Book of Mormon roughly 2500 B.C. to 400 B.C.

Stela 13 from Seibal
As can be seen it interesting that this same form of threatening or emphasizing the importance of a message or speech is found in both the Book of Mormon through the phrase “breathed or breathe out” and also in Mesoamerican art through speech scrolls that show this “breathing out” visually. I have only posted pictures of a few of examples of these speech scrolls but Diane E. Wirth has noted more examples in the article. This stands as another correlation between the Mayans and their surrounding civilizations and those civilizations found in the Book of Mormon. I have included a copy of the article that is located on the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum website.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Navajo Knowledge of Christ's Visit to the Americas as Shared by Golden R. Buchanan

Navajo Shaman from late 1800's early 1900's
I decided to share this portion of a talk given by Golden R. Buchanan who spent a large portion of his life in the service of the Native Americans. He is also known as the "father of the Indian Placement Program" for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He was  my Uncle William Bush's mission president.  My uncle spent many years  as a counselor for the Indian Placement Program working hand in hand will the Indigenous of this country.  This is just a portion of Golden Buchanan's talk called "Indian Traditions" in the Improvement Era magazine in 1955.  I decided to share this article because it shows the traditional stories in which Christ chose twelve disciples on the American continent.  This one in particular was shared by an older Navajo shaman and if these traditional stories are indeed true they add support and authenticity to the historicity of the Book of Mormon which proclaims the same message of the visitation of Christ to the Americas shortly after his death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Enjoy!

Some months ago I spent a few days in the hinterlands of the reservation. Among others that I visted was an old medicine man. His home was so remote that up to this time he had never heard the gospel. As we sat in his home, I began the story of the gospel, using his lovely daughter as an interpreter. As the story progressed, I could see his interest rising, and by the time our story reached the part of the visit of the Savior to this continent and his choosing of the Twelve, he could contain his eagerness no longer.

In his native tongue, for he could speak no English, he said, "I know of that," and putting up his hands he named the Twelve disciples chosen by the Savior. He gave them all names and in order. As the story continued, more and more he entered into the discussion, supplying parts of it. He was so completely enthralled that he seemed not to notice that we were white people. He fitted in the stories of the people with the message of the restoration.

Christ's visit to the Americas
Later on in the day, as we sat in the shade visiting, I asked him if he would let me have and write the names of the Twelve as he had given them. He thought a while and then cautioned that should I write, I must never give them to the world. They were sacred, and not to be used lightly. But, since I was his friend and knew the story anyway, he would give them to me and I might write them if I would keep them to myself. He then named them one by one, each in its place; there could be no variation.

As we sat there visiting, I thought to try him on another point. "Which of these Twelve are the three that did not die?" I asked. His eyes flashed, he looked at me searchingly. I seemed to read the thoughts in his mind, which were something like this. "How could you white men know about such things?"

I said further to him, "Yes, I know about it. It is here in your book, the Book of Mormon. It is no secret. Your forefathers wrote it, and we have it here. I just wanted to see if you could give me the names of the three."

He sat for some time with his head bowed, and then finally looked up and said, "The names of the Twelve I
have just given you, are not the Twelve that he chose on this continent, they are the Twelve that were with him across the waters before he came here. Their names are sacred and must not be used lightly." After some little time I asked him if he would give me the names of the Twelve chosen here. He looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "My friend, you have had enough for one time. Come again some other time." He got up from the log and hurried away and busied himself with some sheep that were in the pen. As I sat there pondering, his wife came over and warned me again of the sacredness of what I had learned and suggested that they should only be used on rare occasions.

Artists depiction of Christ's visit to the Americas
and his calling of twelve disciples

On other occasions I have been told the story of the three who never died. Some of the old patriarchs claim that they have seen the three, that they have sat with them in conference and have discussed the program of the Navajo people. But, said one, "They are not just like us although they look like it. They are not dead, but something has happened to their bodies because they can sit with us in council and then, quick as a flash, they are clear across the reservation with another group of Navajos. I do not know how they do it, but I know them and have talked with them many times."

I have scarcely scratched the surface of even the few things that I know, and I am sure that there are countless items of interest and information that have not come to my attention. It is interesting to note, in closing, that I know of no Indian language in which one can take the name of the Lord in vain. Indeed, I do not know of an Indian language in which they can even swear. They have to learn English or some white man's language before they can defile the name of Deity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ancient Hebrew Ceremonies in Mesoamerica

Tabernacle (Sukkot)
Back in April of last year I did  a blog post on the ties between King Benjamin's address to his people when coronating his son Mosiah to take his reign as the new king and compared it to the Hebrew practice known as Sukkot or the Feast of the Tabernacles.  This comparison was triggered by an article I had stumbled across a few years ago by John A. Tvedtnes that found over 20 similarities between these two ceremonies.  Today I will attempt to add the third piece to the puzzle with insights given by Diane Wirth in her book, "Decoding Ancient America, A Guide to the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon". In her book Diane presents the corolations between the Mayan Cha-Cha'ac ceremony and that of the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot).  The Cha-Cha'ac ceremony is a Mesoamerican ceremony still practiced today in the Yukatan, Mexico just as the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Feast of Booths) is still practices in Israel and all over the world today.

The Feast of the Tabernacles 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). The booths (Sukkah) were structures that were made strictly for this festival after the harvest.  The roofs were made by weaving green branches with leaves and represented the temporary dwellings made by their ancestors in the desert after being led out of Egypt by Moses. Much like the Sukkah the Maya build an altar/table and it to is composed of young leafy branches that were hung over the table and have gourds of water hanging from the sides.  Both the Sukkah and the Mayan altar/table have open roofs that were used to open communication between God and man.

Artists depiction of Mayan Cha-Cha'ac
Both the Israelites and the Mayan's made sacrifices to their Gods at these festivals.  Today the Maya sacrifice chickens during the Cha-Cha'ac ceremony. Once the ceremonial sacrifice is completed like Sukkot both the Maya and the Israelites then partake in a feast.  Another similarity is fire (or light) used in both the old world (Israel) and new world (Mesoamerica).  The Maya use candles and the Israelites use oil lamps and men dance carrying torches.  Another tie between the two and that is the use of bread.  The Israelites baked bread for the feast with a braid on the top of the bread that represented a latter to heaven and the Maya instead baked bread in many layers which represented the layers of heaven or the cosmos.  As a side note the Hebrews also believed that there were many layers to heaven. 

As can be seen there are many similarities between the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the Cha-Cha'ac ceremony.  How could the Mayan's have such a similar ceremony to that of the Israelites?  It has been supposed that father Lehi and his family (in the Book of Mormon) who was from Jerusalem and was lead by the Lord to the new world (Mesoamerica) would have been the one who introduced these ancient practices to the Mayans.  We know that Nephi the son of Lehi followed the law of Moses because he stated in 2 Nephi 5:10 that "And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses".  As the father of the Nephites in the new world Nephi's handing down of the ancient Jewish traditions would have included the Feast of the Tabernacles and would explain why such an event seems to be present in the coronation of Mosiah as the king years later and again with the Maya centuries later.  All the above similarities and many more make a great case for these ceremonies being from the same ancient roots. Either way both of these ceremonies are still practiced to this day. I have included the link to the previous post where I discuss the similarities between the Feast of the Tabernacles and the coronation of King Mosiah from his father King Benjamin. Along with with a youtube video of a modern day practice in Yukatan of the Cha-Cha'ac.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Colophons in the Book of Mormon

Nephi and the Plates of Brass
Of all the evidences that support the Book of Mormon’s claim of authenticity some of my favorites are those that deal with ancient literary devices or styles of writing that date back to ancient time periods but can be found littered all throughout the Book of Mormon proving its ancient origin and not merely a creation of Joseph Smith jr. One of my favorites is that of the colophon as pointed out by Hugh Nibley in his articles “Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites”. A colophon is a statement made by the author or scribe used to give some sort of relevant information or useful insight usually about the author or scribe of a document.

The term derives from tablet inscriptions appended by a scribe to the end of an ancient Near East (e.g., Early/Middle/Late Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaanite) text such as a chapter, book, manuscript, or record. In the ancient Near East, scribes typically recorded information on clay tablets. The colophon usually contained facts relative to the text such as associated person(s) (e.g., the scribe, owner, or commissioner of the tablet), literary contents (e.g., a title, "catch" phrase, number of lines), and occasion or purpose of writing. Colophons and "catch phrases" (repeated phrases) helped the reader organize and identify various tablets, and keep related tablets together .Positionally; colophons on ancient tablets are comparable to a signature line in our own times.

The book of 1 Nephi and especially the first chapter is a colophon. It’s a literary form of an introduction. It was pointed out by Hugh Nibley several years ago that they appear in several Egyptian documents. This is interesting because we know that Nephi made his record “in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” Here's how Nibley described the ancient literary device found in 1 Nephi,

Bremner-Rhind Papyrus dating to 4th Century B.C.
“The first three verses of 1 Nephi, sharply set off from the rest of the text, are a typical colophon, a literary device that is highly characteristic of Egyptian compositions. Typical is the famous Bremner-Rhind Papyrus, which opens with a colophon containing (1) the date, (2) the titles of Nasim, the author, (3) the names of his parents and a word in praise of their virtues, with special mention of his father's prophetic calling, (4) a curse against anyone who might ‘take the book away,’ probably ‘due to fear lest a sacred book should get into impure hands.’ Compare this with Nephi's colophon: (1) his name, (2) the merits of his parents, with special attention to the learning of his father, (3) a solemn avowal (corresponding to Nasim's curse) that the record is true, and the assertion, ‘I make it with mine own hand’ (1 Nephi 1:3)--an indispensable condition of every true colophon, since the purpose of a colophon is to establish the identity of the actual writer-down (not merely the ultimate author) of the text. Egyptian literary writings regularly close with the formula iw-f-pw ‘thus it is,’ ‘and so it is.’ Nephi ends the main sections of his book with the phrase, ‘And thus it is, Amen’ (1 Nephi 9:6; 14:30; 22:31).” (Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites, p. 15.)

These textual elements functioned in antiquity somewhat like a copyright or seal of approval. There are many other colophons scattered throughout the Book of Mormon especially by the prophet Mormon in his compiling of the plates. Thus when we compare the style in which Nephi composed his colophon at the beginning of the chapter with that of Nasim the author of the Bremner-Rhind Papyrus we see that Nephi's style of composing this device would have been a common characteristic of the time period. Not only common but almost verbatim.  I offer this as another "Nibley Find" that once again confirms the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kish and Zenock, Whats in a name?

Kish, "Kix"hieroglyph from
The question has often been asked if there are any known Book of Mormon names in Mayan hieroglyphs? The answer differs depending on who the question is being asked too. There are some names that may or may not have a direct reference to the Book of Mormon or due to language and writing/translation differences they may or may not apply to similar names found in the Book of Mormon. One of such names is that of Kish. We know very little about Kish and it comes from the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. In Ether 10:17-18 it states “…and Kish reigned in his stead. And it came to pass that Kish passed away also, and Lib reigned in his stead.”

As pointed out by Daniel Johnson in his article, “Book of Mormon Comparisons, Names and Maya glyphs” Joseph Allen seemed to take first notice of this name when it was originally cited by Bruce Warren who is an LDS archaeologist. Both noted that a name and birth date of the possible Jaredite King named Kish could be found in Maya glyphs on the Temple of the Cross in Palenque. Daniel then asked the question, “Why would a Jaredite King be mentioned in Classic Maya text dealing with royal lineages in Palenque?”

Temple of the Cross Tablet in Palenque
This is answered to some degree in the way that Maya Kings justified their royal lineages. They would do this by tracing their lineages back through other kings or civilizations. The Maya would do this with the great Olmec civilization.It appears that this is what was being done at Palenque by Kan Balam, son of the great King Pakal. Apparently Kish was one of the people traced in his lineage. The actual name in at the Temple of the Cross in Palenque is "U Kix Kan" but the word "Kix" is translated as "Kish" thus reading King U Kish Kan who was born on Wednesday, 8 March 993 B.C. In San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan in southern Mexico.
According to Bruce Warren the translated meaning of his name is Kish means "feather" and Kan means "serpent". Daniel Johnson offered a subsequent translation meaning "stingray spine" which would have been used for bloodletting sacrifices. Kish is considered a prominent Olmec and Mayan name. It was also common among the Jaredites who existed during the same time as the Olmecs (many LDS scholars agree that the Jaredites to some degree were part of the Olmec civilization). Different versions of the name were used by the Jaredites such as Akish and Riplakish.

It must be noted as pointed out by Daniel Johnson that further insights into the translation of the work "kix" have come into question as of recently. Daniel noted that, "The glyph does represent a stingray spine, but since these items were used for sacrificial bloodletting, it may also signify a needle, fang, or other sharp implement used for the same purpose. In a wider sense, it also represents creation and conception, so the same glyph can refer to parentage. Cross-referencing these words in Mayan dictionaries suggests that the reading of this glyph should be kokan". "Kokan" means "fang of serpent" meaning that stingray spine glyph may have originated as a snakes tooth also meaning that the name of the king in question would have been U-Kokan-Kan. We may never know which translation is correct but it does open the door for further study.

Tenoch artwork, founder of Tenochtitlan
Another name that may have persisted in Ancient America that was pointed out by Diane E. Wirth in her article "Did Book of Mormon Names Persist in Ancient America?" is that of Zenock. Zenock was an Israelite prophet who prophesied the coming of Jesus and his ministry. He can be found quoted through the Book of Mormon by other prophets such as Alma and Nephi. These prophecies would have been available to both Nephites and Lamanites because both at times played the role of the wicked and righteous and both having had ample opportunities to be familiar with the teachings of Zenock. In the original Book of Mormon manuscript the spelling of Zenock was actually "Zenoch".

Zenoch's Mesoamerican relation can be found in names like that of Tenoch, the Nahuatl name of a legendary Aztec priest and leader. Tenoch was one of the founders of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan that was one of the thriving cities when the Spanish Conquest arrived. The Nahuatl name of Tenoch may have originally have been Tzenoch or Zenoch. Depending on what area of Mesoamerica different spelling variations of the Tz, z, t, and ts combinations can be found. A few examples that Diane used to support this theory of Tz Nahuatl names where Tzihuacohuatl (also known as Tezihuaccoahutlutl) who was a Nahua chief and also the name of Zwanga a Tarasco King which was also spelled Tzihuanga. This suggests that with the name of Zenoch would have eventually shifted to Tzenoch and eventually dropped the "z" and became Tenoch. What I have presented here today are two possible Book of Mormon names that influence either direct or indirect in Mesoamerican glyphs and language. Although the study of Mesoamerican languages and their influences past and present would be required for any attempt to further substantiate these examples they do stand as significant places for those interested to start.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Captain Teancum vs Tecun Uman the Guatemalan National Hero

Captain Teancum slays Amalickiah
Most of us tend to have a few favorite people or stories when we read the scriptures and one of mine especially when I was a young man was that of Captain Teancum. To those who may or may not be familiar with Teancum’s story I will briefly share it. Teancum was a great military leader from the Book of Mormon in one of its books (The Book of Alma). Some of his major accomplishments include the stopping of the army of Nephite dissent splinter group known as the inhabitants of Morianton in which Teancum personally took the life of Morianton their leader and defeated his army taking prisoners and allowing those who took an oath of peace to return to their homes.

His next major accomplishment was the assassination of Amalickiah. Amalickiah was also a Nephite like Teancum but due to political turmoil and ulterior motives to obtain the judgment seat without success he
dissented and started a campaign to ascend to the throne of the Lamanite kingdom through secrecy and murder. Amalickiah’s plan proved to work with the Lamanites and before he knew it with a handful of murders and plots he became the king and waged war on the Nephites by stirring up the hearts of the Lamanites against them. Amalickiah proved to be a formidable opponent to the Nephite Captains (Moroni, Teancum, Lehi and others). At one point in the continuing battles Amalickiah was able to defeat and conquer seven Nephite cities before he ran into Teancum and his elite group of soldiers. After battling all day with Teancum’s forces Amalickiah’s army had been drive back and eventually pitched their tents and slept for the night because of fatigue in fighting all day. It was at this point that Teancum snuck into the Lamanite camp at night with his servant and used his javelin to pierce Amalickiah in the heart killing him immediately. Upon fleeing back to his camp without being noticed Teancum quickly prepared his army for battle with the Lamanites. The next morning the Lamanite army fled back to the city of Mulek for protection.

The last great accomplishment of Teancum was the assassination of Ammoron the brother of Amalickiah. Ammoron was determined to carry on his brother’s war. In frustration of battle Teancum was determined to attempt a similar assassination attempt on Ammoron’s life. He let himself over the city wall of Nephihah at night and crept into Ammoron’s tent and again used a javelin to attempt to pierce his heart this time the blow did not immediately kill and allowed him to cry out and awake his guards and servants. Teancum fled but the
servants were eventually able kill Teancum. His death was greatly mourned by Captain Moroni and Captain Lehi. As can be seen in the above summary Teancum could be one of the most courageous captains or military leaders of all time second to maybe Captain Moroni. It seems odd that such a national hero’s story would disappear with time with not trace of such accomplishments left through myth or traditional stories. Thanks to recent findings by Robert A. Pate, PhD and author of such books as “Mormon Names in Mayan Stone”, “Mormon Key to Maya Code” “Mapping the Book of Mormon “and “Mormon Footprint in Mesoamerica” we may have a traditional story highly influenced by non other than Captain Teancum.

Tecun Uman Guatemalan National
The legend of the Guatemalan national hero Tecun Uman (or Tecun Umam) states that he was the last great ruler or king of the K’iche (Quiche’) Maya people in the highlands of what is now Guatemala. According to
the Kaqchikel annals he was killed in battle with Spanish Conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado while fighting at El Pinal on February 20th 1524. Tecun Uman is remembered for his bravery because he was fighting to protect his people. He was declared Guatemala’s national hero on March 22nd 1960. The legends say Tecún Umán entered battle adorned with precious quetzal feathers, and his nahual (animal spirit guide), also a quetzal bird, accompanied him during the battle. In the midst of the fray, both Alvarado and Tecún, warriors from worlds apart, met face to face, each with weapon in hand. Alvarado was clad in armor and mounted on his warhorse. As horses were not native to the Americas and peoples of Mesoamerica had no beasts of burden of their own, Tecún Umán assumed they were one being and killed Alvarado's horse. (While another version says he merely attacked the horse in an attempt to knock Alvarado down, having no prior illusion that both man and animal to be one and the same.) He quickly realized his error and turned for a second attack but Alvarado's spear pierced through his opponent's chest and into his heart. It was then his nahual, filled with grief, landed on the fallen hero's chest, staining its breast feathers red with blood, and thereafter died. From that day on, all male quetzals bear a scarlet breast and their song has not been heard since. Further, if one is to be placed in captivity, it would die, making the quetzal a symbol of liberty.

It is believed that "Tecún Umán" was more than likely not the ruler's name at all but may have functioned as a sort of title. The earliest recorded appearance of the name is in the Título K'oyoi in which he is referred to as "nima rajpop achij adelantado Tecum umam rey k'iche' don k'iq'ab'." Translated, this phrase means: "great captain-general Tecum, grandson of the K'iche' king Don K'iqab'." Therefore the word "uman" or
"umam" simply means "grandson of" and is not part of Tecún's name at all. It has been suggested that "umam" may have been a reference to his genealogy, or the name may have originally been derived from another title given to the hero, "q'uq'umam", meaning "ancient one of quetzal feathers". According to Dr. Pate,

“The legend of the national hero of Guatemala, Tecun Uman (also written Tecum Umam), is based in part on the history of Teancum. Even the name Te-cum is from Te-an-cum. In Quiché they refer to him as the “Lord of the Banners and Staffs”. Te-an-cum literally means “pole - up high - coat” or “coat up high on a pole”, as in “Title of Liberty.”

Tecun Uman on Guatemalan Currency
With this translation knowledge along with the traditional stories would it be reasonable to conclude that Tecun Uman could be a descendent of Captain Teancum? We know that it was a common occurance for the Maya to trace their ancestry to claim a position of leadership. With the designation of Uman added to his title meaning “grandson of” leads me to believe this may have some sort of genealogical reference. If we consider the traditional story of Tecun Uman defending his people along with Dr. Pates reference to the meaning of Teancum Quiche meaning “Pole-up high-coat” as in the Title of Liberty which was a coat which Captain Moroni tore and placed upon a pole as a standard to his people (which would include Teancum). On that coat it stated, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”. This would be a likely correlation between the two. Last but not least we have the manner in which Tecum was killed. The legend states, “He quickly realized his error and turned for a second attack but Alvarado's spear pierced through his opponent's chest and into his heart”. This manner of death is the exact same manner in which Teancum killed is opponents Amalickiah and Ammoron, with a spear (or javelin) through the heart. As stated above Tecum Uman was more than likely not his name it was more or less a title or position that would have been given due to direct relation or due to the similarity of the legends of these two heroes. Either way it seems that the traditional story or title of Captain Teancum is held with high regard with the Guatemalan people even to the point of being handed down as a title to other great leaders (who may or may not have been related to him).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Book of Mormon's elusive "reformed Egyptian" may not be so elusive after all

Anthon Transcript
Over the past few weeks during my studies I found a continuing pattern of running into questions about “reformed Egyptian”. These were usually from naysayers stating that there is either no such thing as reformed Egyptian or people just questioning if we have any documents or findings that have reformed Egyptian because this is what we are advised by Nephi that the Book of Mormon was written in. Also if we do have any relics or documents with reformed Egyptian how do they compare with the Anthon Transcripts.

 To those not familiar with the Anthon Transcript it is a document that was a copy of some of the characters that were taken from the golden plates (Reformed Egyptian) used in the translation process of what is now the Book of Mormon. They were copied by Joseph Smith jr. and taken by Martin Harris to scholar/Egyptologist Charles Anthon of Columbia University who would confirm their authenticity and correct translation but when he asked Harris how they were obtained and finding out that they were part of the Golden plates that were given to Joseph Smith jr from an angel (Moroni) Charles Anthon tore up his confirmation of authenticity. In 1838, Joseph Smith related an account based on Harris' version of the meeting. Smith wrote that Anthon "stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. [Harris] then showed him those not yet translated, and said they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and that they were "true characters." According to the same account, Anthon provided Harris with a certificate as to the veracity of the characters but tore it up after learning the characters were copied from a book said to have been delivered by an angel.

Example of Micmac writing system
With that aside it has always been of interest for LDS scholars to try to find some of these same reformed Egyptian characters in other writing systems because it would add authenticity to the Book of Mormon and be looked upon as a direct bulls eye as far as evidences for the book are concerned. I have heard from Rod Meldrum who favors a North American setting for the Book of Mormon (Heartland theory) that some of these characters are similar to ones that have been found in the Native American Micmac (Algonquin) writing glyphs, which I personally do find interesting although I openly do not support an North American setting for the Book of Mormon. (Rod and I can agree to disagree but there is no disputing his love for researching the Book of Mormon as I have attended a few of his seminars). 

Along with the Micmac characters there are other relics that have raised some eyebrows because of their similarities to the characters on the Anthon Transcript. One of these was pointed out by Welby W. Ricks and Diane E. Wirth. It is a roller stamp from Tlatilco, Mexico. Roller stamps were used in Mesopotamia (Near East) and in Mesoamerica. They were used to impress a signature kind of like a rolling pin thus becoming a sealed stamp. The design was impressed on clay tablets. According to Mr. Ricks “cylinder seals” were made in three different styles. 1.With handles like a rolling pin 2.With slight concave depressions at each end for holding between one’s fingers, and 3. With a hole through the center lengthwise for the use of a stick or a wire to support and roll the stamp.

Roller Stamp from Tlatilco, Mexico
 In the July 1966 issue of American Antiquity, an article by David H. Kelley tells of the finding in 1948 at Tlatilco of a “cylinder seal” or roller stamp, 8.5 cm. long and 3.5 cm. in diameter, which was identified as belonging to the “Olmec” horizon (i.e., c. 1000-500 BC). The stamp is separated into 3 registers and one is partially broken away. The other two are complete. As noted by Kelly “All three registers clearly carry sequences of arbitrary symbols which are surely part of a hitherto unknown writing system.” As pointed out by Diane E. Wirth the roller stamp found in Tlatilco is of particular interest because it has writing glyphs similar to that of the Anthon transcript. Because this writing system is currently undecipherable it is of interest as well. It must be remembered that the Nephite writing was a priestly script and those scribes were educated to be able to do this as was seen in the case of Mormon when he received the “calling” from Ammoron. 

Dr. Ainsworths friend Esteban and
reformed Egyptian stele
Dr. Jerry Ainsworth in his book, “The Life and Travels of Mormon and Moroni” actually showed a few examples of reformed Egyptian that he claims were found by a friend of his Dr. Jose Padilla. One was a stele roughly about 5-6 feet tall and 8 inches thick. Dr. Padilla advised Dr. Ainsworth and his friend Esteban that he obtained it from Xochicalco Mexico in a cave where it was being used to mark a grave. One side of the stele has a Mayan in ceremonial garb holding an ephod and a shepherds crook. The opposite side has what appears to be reformed Egyptian script. This is not the only artifact that Dr. Ainsworth revealed in his book. He also had an artifact he referred to as “the lock” that appears to also have some sort of a reformed Egyptian script that along with the stele have many comparable hieroglyphs to that of the Anthon Transcript. These are just a few examples of what could be a version of reformed Egyptian or texts that were influenced by Nephite reformed Egyptian.  I personally think there are many more evidences like these out there that are yet to see the light of day and only time will tell.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Life of Chief Tuba

Chief Tuba
The relationship between Chief Tuba (Tuuvi or Toova) and the early Mormon pioneers especially Jacob Hamblin has always been one of interest to me.  Chief Tuba was born in Oraibi Arizona (3rd Mesa) as a member of the short corn clan (or pumpkin clan).  Hopi tradition does not give his real name but according to a story given to a Mormon missionary his Hopi name was "Woo Pah".  Tuba became involved in an unremembered dissension at Oraibi, and left the village to "be at peace".  From then on, "Woo Pah" was known among the Hopi as Tuuvi, meaning the "outcast or the rejected one".

Tuba settled at Moencopi, about fifty miles west of Oraibi.  The Hopi say that at first, Tuba settled at Moencopi alone with his wife, living there all year long whereas before it had been a seasonal settlement.  However, soon people of Tuba's Short Corn Clan followed him, and eventually members of other clans until a community was created.  Tuba told one Mormon that after he had settled at Moencopi, there came a time when the Hopi's who lived with him "became lazy and wicked", refusing to "plant and tend the herds."  Tuba was greatly distressed about this, and as he sat brooding, he saw an old man approach with a long white beard.  The man claimed to have a message from God that the people must plant and take care of their herds or they would die in a three year famine that was to come. Tuba then turned his head and the man disappeared.  Tuba did as instructed and stored his own corn in a bin which was enought to last through the predicted famine.  Purportedly, Tuba explained that a long time ago there were three men that had been left on the earth, and when the Hopi were in trouble, one would come to advise them.  He believed that this stranger was one of them. 

Jacob Hamblin
The first Mormon missionaries to visit the Hopi came in 1858 under the leadership of Jacob Hamblin.  In November 1870, Tuba left his home with his wife, Pulaskaninki and Hamblin to spend time in southern Utah in order to learn the agricultural ways of the Mormons.  This was against a Hopi taboo forbidding Hopis from crossing the Colorado River until three prophets who anciently had led the Hopi to their current homeland returned.  Tuba spent nearly a year in the company of the Mormons.  He was  able to meet the Mormon leader, Brigham Young at St. George.  It was while in St. George that Tuba and his wife took out their endowments in the temple and was also given a suit as a gift from President Young.  Tuba was particularly impressed by a factory where yarn was being mechanically spun.  In Hopi culture, it is the men who spin the yarn for blankets, and its spun by hand.  According to Jacob Hamblin, after seeing this factory Tuba "could never think of spinning yarn again with his fingers, to make blankets." His wife was most impressed by the Mormon grist mills, a major improvement over grinding corn by stone.

Although Tuba seems to have had various disagreements with village leaders in Oraibi, he apparently retained access to one of the Hopi's sacred stones.  On one occasion, several Mormons were visiting Tuba in Oraibi and he took his visitors inside the village kiva.  There, he produced what appeared to be a marble slab about 15"x18" covered in "hieroglyphic" markings including clouds and stars.  The later Ethnological Report No. 4 produced by the US government seems to uphold the existence of such a stone based on the testimony of John W. Young and Andrew S. Gibbons.  This describes the stone as made of "red-clouded marble, entirely different from anything found in the region."

Tuba City Corn 1941
In 1879, a wool factory was built in Tuba City in order to "benefit the Indians and the [LDS] Church.  No doubt this edifice reminded Tuba of the factory which had so engaged his imagination in southern Utah nine years before. The settlement of his Mormon friends at Tuba City and the completion of the factory may have been the high point in Tuba's life, for it seems his last decade was marked with sadness.  The woolen factory was in operation for only a short time and within a few years it had fallen into disrepair.  It is reported that Tuba "took particular pride in watching over the remains of the factory, but after his death the ruination of the building was made complete."  It also seems that at some point in his last years, Tuba's wife left him for a younger man, and afterwards Tuba spent  about three years living in the home of Mormon missionary C.L.Christensen.  Tuba died in 1887, and at least some of Tuba's children were still living in Moencopi into the mid-twentieth century.  In 1941, a sandstone marker with a bronze plaque was dedicated in Tuba City by the LDS Church in honor of Tuba.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lehi's Contemporaries

Father Lehi
So while reading a Hugh Nibley article entitled, "Lehi as a Representative Man" off of the Maxwell Institute I figured I would do a post on a couple of Lehi's possible contemporaries.  These are people that Lehi as a man of culture and travel would have more than likely rubbed shoulders with at some point in there travels and dealings.  Nibley and many other scholars have suggested that Lehi would have been a skilled trader and an educated man because he spoke the language of his fathers and Egyptian as well.  We know that he had riches due to the episode of his sons second attempt to obtain the plates of Laban in which they attempted to trade their family riches and inheritance that the left once the family fled into the wilderness.  As a prophet of God Lehi would likely have been preaching in places where many could hear his voice and this would include conversing ideals with the thinkers and bright minds of his day. So who were some of the bright minds of his day that would have been in or around the areas in Lehi's environment? 

The first name that Nibley threw out was Solon, he was born in 638 B.C. and died in 558 B.C. and was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet.  He is credited mainly as the father of democracy.  Ancient authors such as Herodotus and Plutarch are the main sources of information on Solon although they wrote about him long after his death.  As a lawmaker Solon was a reformer or a voice of political reason or moderation in Athens.  After his reforms Solon travelled abroad for 10 years and visited places such as Egypt and Cyrus and could have easily rubbed shoulders with Lehi during this time. Solon was also among the "seven sages" a title given by ancient Greek tradition to seven early 6th century B.C. philosophers, statesmen and lawgivers that were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom. 

The other name mentioned was that of Thales who was born in the city of Miletus a Greek Ionian city around the mid 620's B.C.  His mother was a Phoenician and he received most of his education in Egypt, which gives him a similar cultural background to that of Lehi.  He is considered by many the first philosopher in Greek tradition.  He was known for explaining natural phenomena without reference to mythology.  Because of the way that he did this he has been noted as the "Father of Science".  Thales also used mathmatics to solve many problems so he is credited for first applying geometry.  Thales was also considered one of the seven sages or wise men.  Although the list of sages sometimes varies, the ones usually included are the following:

-Cleobulus of Lindos
-Solon of Athens
-Chilon of Sparta
-Bias of Priene
-Thales of Miletus
-Pittacus of Mytilene
-Periander of Corinth

It is interesting to consider that Lehi was rubbing shoulders with some of the wisest men of all time who's influence is still felt today. But if the Book of Mormon is what it proclaims to be than Lehi himself could be considered to be the most influential of them all. Not just because he would be the father of the Nephite and Lamanite nations but because of the influence of the Book of Mormon today.  Lehi was of the Tribe of Manasseh, which of all the tribes retained the old desert ways and was most active in the caravan trade so it is very likely that he would have been associated with Solon and Thales at some point in his life or at least aware of their teachings and influence. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Bible gives justification to Nephi slaying Laban

Nephi about to slay wicked King Laban
 Those familiar with the Book of Mormon know very well that one of the most detailed events is that of Nephi slaying wicked King Laban who was a ruler of a military garrison of 50 if not more in Jerusalem.  Around 600 B.C. Nephi's father Lehi a prophet of God receives a vision prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem.  He warns the residents of Jerusalem that they need to repent of their ways but instead finds himself with a bounty on his head. He follows the Lords advice and takes his family and departs into the wilderness.  It was during their escape from Jerusalem that Lehi receives further instruction to send his son's Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi to return to Jerusalem and obtain the brass plates that contain the records of their forefathers or writings of the prophets.  This record would be something similar to portions of our modern day Old Testament but probably larger.

  The first attempt was unsuccessful as Laman attempted to ask King Laban for the plates. In the second attempt the brothers went back to their previous residence and obtained all their precious items of silver and gold and tried their hand at bartering for the plates but wicked King Laban had his guards chase them and attempted to have them killed and in the process he was able to obtain their silver and gold.  It was at this point that the two older brothers Laban and Lemuel started to hit Nephi and Sam with their staffs and threatened to take their lives.  It took the appearance of an angel who rebuked Laman and Lemuel to stop the assault on Nephi and Sam.  Nephi took courage after they had been visited by the angel and in the third attempt he was lead by the spirit.  It was this third attempt that has drawn much debate among the scholarly community.  Nephi in following the spirit was lead into Jerusalem city limits and went towards the house of King Laban where he found a drunken King Laban who had been out with councilors and had apparently passed out.  It was at this point that the spirit told Nephi that he was to slay King Laban.  This was the only time that I know of that Nephi actually questioned the motives and the direction of the Lord.  Now Nephi admits that "Never at any time have I shed the blood of man and would that I might not slay him" but the spirit told him again to slay him "for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands."  It is this phrase that helps us gain the added insight.

Nephi was later told that "the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes". He was also told that "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." Nephi did have ample reason to slay King Laban when you realize that King Laban had attempted to kill Nephi and his brethren and he had taken their property.  You can't help but to feel that Nephi would be completely justified in taking this one life. Nephi also realized that he could not fulfill the commandments of the Lord without obtaining the brass plates, thus he must also kill King Laban.  Many scholars have pointed out that in 600 B.C. this would be commonly looked upon as justified but additional justification can be found when you look in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.  As pointed out by Steven L. Olsen in his Neal A. Maxwell Institute article entitled, "The Death of Laban" Nephi not only shrunk away from killing King Laban because he had never killed before but also because intentional murder was punishable by death of the guilty under the Law of Moses.  However as Steven Olsen points out "a subsequent provision of the law qualifies this absolute prohibition""He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall surely be put to death.  And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee" (Exodus 21:12-13).  The specific wording of Nephi's decision to follow the spirit and slay King Laban places him securely under the justification given in the Law of Moses.  This not only shows Nephi's innocents but also his amazing ability at using literary devices such as this to portray his life story and help those of us who were not extremely familiar with the Law of Moses come to a complete understanding of his reasoning.  Well done Nephi, well done!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Was Nephi's sermon in Helaman 7-8 an allegorical funeral sermon?

Nephi son of Helaman II
I have a routine of different websites that I search and read on a regular basis when I'm not buried in a book. If you've read anything off of my blog you will have noticed that quite possibly the main website that I research for scriptural insights is the website of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. One of the recent articles that I came across was written by John Welch in regards to the sermon given by Nephi the son of Helaman II in Helaman chapters 7 and 8. If you’re familiar at all with the story Nephi had just returned from proselytizing and doing missionary work in the land northward and had little success. To make matters worse when he returned home to Zerahemla he found the city had become quite apostate. At this point Nephi goes to the top of a tower in his garden near the main highway and prays in such a way that it attracts the attention of passersby. In doing this he seems to have gathered quite a crowd and then proceeds to call the people of Zerahemla to repentance and then tops it all off by prophesying the death of the Chief Judge of Zerahemla and even prophecies who the murder of the Chief Judge is.

Welch points out that it has been a normal practice of many prophets of old to use some sort of an allegorical example to help the people to whom he is preaching better understand the message. Below are a few examples pointed out by John Welch,

"It was not uncommon for early Israelite prophets to use example. When Jeremiah wanted to impress the people of Jerusalem with his prophecy that they would be yoked into bondage by the Babylonians, he

draped himself with thongs and a yoke and thus went forth proclaiming his message of doom (see Jeremiah 27:2-11). Other similar symbolic or parabolic acts performed as prophetic oracles are found in Jeremiah 13:1-11 (hiding a waistcloth), Jeremiah 19:1-13 (smashing a bottle), 1 Kings 11:29-39 (tearing a garment into twelve pieces), 2 Kings 13:15-19 (shooting an arrow), and Isaiah 20:2-6 (walking naked)."

With these examples in mind Welch then proceeds to point out a number of clues that give the impression that Nephi may have been presenting an allegorical funeral for his sermon. The clues include the following.

1. Nephi was "mourning" and "lamenting" and as pointed out by Welch Nephi was from an aristocratic household so this alone would have caused the passersby to wonder who of the household had passed.

2. Nephi's mourning or mock funeral seemed to last quite a long time. It lasted long enough for passersby to leave to get others to come witness this lamentation and return. This would make sense in the setting of a mock funeral mourning.

3. The lamenting of Nephi seemed to have been quite the spectacle because Welch points out that Nephi advised that the people indeed had "great need to marvel".

4. If Nephi was performing an allegorical funeral he also included the word "murder" a few times and this alone would have drawn a crowd. He then proceeded to include the iniquities of people of Zerahemla which would have worked up the crowd even more. Thus completing his purpose of performing the allegory.

5. The tower Nephi was praying and preaching from more than likely would have been some sort of Mesoamerican pyramid. These pyramids were used for numerous things in Mesoamerica during the times of the great Mayan civilization. One of the main purposes for the pyramid towers was to bury their dead, thus his allegory would have been performed at an actual funeral site.

6. The words and phrases used by Nephi in his sermon were used to predict the eventual death of those at Zerahemla. These phrases include such wording as, "why will ye die" and "everlasting misery" and God will turn them into “meat for dogs and wild beasts".

There are more examples but Welch points out that Nephi finishes by prophesying the death of Chief Judge of Zerahemla thus providing a specific corpse for all his woes. This Chief Judge's death represents the people of Zerahemla for whom the prophecies were given. It was also used to validate Nephi's prophetic words. As John Welch points out there is no way for us to be certain that Nephi was indeed performing an allegorical funeral sermon but this does add a rich, plausible and interesting symbolic meaning to the sermon given by Nephi.

I will also inlcude the link to the actual article by John Welch.  See below.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Voices from the dust continued...

In January of 2011 I put together a blog post that I entitled "Voices from the Dust". The purpose of this post is to keep adding other voices from the dust that in some way or another add some sort of relevant insight to the Book of Mormon. This post will focus on two more "voices" that shed light on our understanding of the Book of Mormon. The "voices" I will be covering are the Amarna Letters and the Darius Plates.

The Amarna Letters
The Amarna Letters are a group of letters that were written on clay tablets between Egyptian political officials and those of Canaan and Amurru. They are written in Akkadian cuneiform a writing style from Mesopotamia an area that included Babylon an opposing force to that of Egypt. The tablets were found in El Amarna in Egypt and date back to the 14th century BC during the reign of pharaoh Akhenaten (1350s – 1330s BC). The Book of Mormon states that Jesus was "born of Mary, at Jerusalem" which has been a point of much ridicule towards the Book of Mormon since even the most elementary student of the Bible knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and not Jerusalem. LDS scholars have advised that the term "land" refers not only to Jerusalem but the surrounding cities or what we would call suburbs in our own day. Nowhere in the Bible does it refer to the "land of Jerusalem" and this was used quite often to criticize the Book of Mormon as well. The Amarna Letters were found around 1887 and date to much earlier than the birth of Jesus as noted above and prove that the term "land of Jerusalem" was a commonly used phrase used to describe the city of Jerusalem as well as the surrounding areas which would include Bethlehem which is only six miles south of Jerusalem. In the Amarna Letters they refer to the "land" of other Canaanite sites as well proving the use of the term "land of" was common in many settings.

The Darius Plates and stone box (Tehran, Iran)
The Darius Plates were discovered in 1933 at the Persian capital of Persepolis (which is Iran) and date between the years 518 to 515 B.C. The plates are made up of one gold and one silver plate also written in cuneiform and were contained in a stone box crafted to fit the plates. The plates are written in three languages (Babylonian, Elamite, and an older form of Persian) and contain Darius l rule over the Persian Empire. Since the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in 1830 critics have declared that the book is a fraud because Joseph Smith stated that he translated from plates of gold. The critics have declared the book a fallacy because it was well known that no ancients kept records on metal plates. In this matter the Darius plates stand as a testimony that indeed the ancients did use metal plates to keep records and they also stored them in a stone box as did Moroni when he stored the gold plates that contain what we know of today as the Book of Mormon.

The Amarna Letters and the Darius Plates along with those from my previous post (the Lachish Letters, the Nag Hammadi Text, The Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Elephantine Papyrus) all in some way or another add their voices from the dust to testify of the validity of the Book of Mormon.