Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, November 28

Critique | The Lamanites’ Bones (from Brant Gardner’s “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message”)

Critique | The Lamanites’ Bones (from Brant Gardner’s “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message”)
by grego


Brant Gardner:
“Similarly, early in the book of Alma the Nephites beat back an invasion by Lamanites which supported Amlici’s internal rebellion. Mormon describes the aftermath of the battle:

36 And they fled before the Nephites towards the wilderness which was west and north, away beyond the borders of the land; and the Nephites did pursue them with their might, and did slay them.
37 Yea, they were met on every hand, and slain and driven, until they were scattered on the west, and on the north, until they had reached the wilderness, which was called Hermounts; and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts.
38 And it came to pass that many died in the wilderness of their wounds, and were devoured by those beasts and also the vultures of the air; and their bones have been found, and have been heaped up on the earth. (Alma 2:36 – 38)

We can comfortably accept the historical information that the Nephites were victorious and drove the Lamanites out of their land. However, the final description is the interesting one. Mormon suggests that the Lamanites were lost in the wilderness and had been attached by wild animals. His evidence is that “their bones have been found.” The fact that they found bones and not bodies is also probable history. However, that the bones were of those particular Lamanites is most likely an invention after the fact, a historical “just-so” story made to fit the available facts.

Does any of this mean that Mormon was less than a prophet? Absolutely not. What it means is that his understanding of his task was appropriately ancient. He wrote with the historical sensibilities of the ancient world, which necessarily saw all events as they fit into and supported their religious understanding.”

grego: First, Mormon does not suggest that “the Lamanites were lost in the wilderness”; if someone can see that in the text, explicit or implied, please share.

Second, we are completely unknowing of what Mormon’s source said, and to draw assumptions only from what he wrote is to… well, assume.

I believe that Gardner assumes that Mormon is talking about his current state of affairs when he comments on the bones–that Mormon is himself aware of the bones, and drew the assumption about what happened and whose bones they were; but in fact, it is just as likely that Mormon is not adding his knowledge here, but is taking this from an earlier source. Or, that Nephites know the history of that spot, similar to asking natives/ long-time residents about a historical spot–they weren’t there and didn’t personally see what happened 400 years ago, BUT history says that… I believe everyone has had that experience.

Nevertheless: no human bones in wilderness *infested* with *wild and ravenous beasts* (especially in large number) –} many Lamanites go there, most already wounded –} Nephites hear cries of Lamanites and roars of beasts (imagine that!) and see vultures circling down and landing –} all Nephites know people don’t go there, and never have/ no record of other humans going there –} human bones are found there, likely with arrowheads found in/ near them (like with Zelph) and their weapons right nearby.

Does that sound like an “invention” or a “just-so story made to fit”? Or, can one draw a logical and probable conclusion from those simple facts? Here’s mine–Lamanite bones!

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