“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land[…] Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.”
Part 2: Arguments Concerning JACOB (except Sherem)
The plausible presence of these “others” among the Nephites at this early point in Nephite history provides a context for a strange choice Nephi makes when recording on his personal plates. In 2 Nephi 6, Nephi records a sermon that Jacob gave. This is an odd discourse in the absence of any explanatory background. Jacob addresses a population that has recently established a city, and may still be in the throes of establishing that city and their way of life, and he preaches to them about a text from Isaiah that deals with the long distant future salvation of Israel through the Gentiles. Of all of the possible concerns for a people recently established in a new world, let alone a new city, why discourse on an event thousands of years away, and dealing with Gentiles in the Old World? To top off this mystery, we have Jacob’s statement that it was Nephi, the king, who suggested this topic.7
When we look at the sermon again with our understanding of the likely presence of a goodly number of non-lineal Israelites in the early city of Nephi, that sermon becomes precisely the type of sermon that a king might request. We can easily imagine tensions between the two cultures arising, and a wise king noting the importance of “Gentiles,” or non-lineal Israelites, as the salvation of Israel, or the literal descendants of Lehi. Nephi would be “likening” this future situation to that of his own community. The not-so-subtle message would be that these “others” in their midst would be essential to the salvation of the Old World lineages. Rather than a discourse on a theological future, it is a strong commentary on an important social present.
****They had established a city? Note that in the Book of Mormon, city/ land is used most of the time, never “town” until Mormon 4:22 and Mormon 5:5:
Mormon 4:22 And it came to pass that the Nephites did again flee from before them, taking all the inhabitants with them, both in towns and villages.
Mormon 5:5 And it came to pass that whatsoever lands we had passed by, and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire; and thus three hundred and seventy and nine years passed away.
The word “village” occurs in the Book of Mormon here:
Mosiah 27:6 And there began to be much peace again in the land; and the people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.
Alma 8:7 Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them; and thus it was with the land of Ammonihah.
Alma 21:11 refers to a Lamanite village.
Alma 23:14 And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities.
How one could build a city but not have a village and then town, is a little difficult to explain. No one has gotten the numbers to work. Thus, to cite “city” as writer’s evidence of a very large town, is false.
Jacob says, “. . .the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for YE ARE OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because YE ARE OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL” (2 Nephi 6:5)–twice, he clearly says that they are of the house of Israel.
Why would he give a talk to a combined audience of Israelites and “others” and say that they were all of the house of Israel? Unless they were another group of covenant people that had been led out before, right? And if that were the case, then why weren’t they be given as the example when Lehi was talking about all that in 2 Nephi 1? In other words, please explain “non-lineal Israelites”.
There are other reasons this topic may be considered appropriate at this time:
–it is similar to a baby’s blessing, with the “baby” being the Nephites; like one, it prophesies their full life; were it given at the time of a special feast/ celebration/ ceremony, it is especially fitting.
another announcement of fulfillment of the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem (after 2 Nephi 1:4), which prophecy was given before and plays an important part in Lehite matters, and which announcement was also promised before.
–it’s a majestic prophecy for a small group of wanderers, much like the prophecy of Joseph Smith that the church would grow to fill the earth–why did that talk take place, when those listening couldn’t even fathom it?
–the Nephites were already oppressed by the Lamanites and had probably already had wars with them. They were smaller in number and no doubt less inclined to violence. Ask any members living in dangerous places if those words are fitting, uplifting, and bring comfort to them, and I think you’ll have a positive answer.
–the scriptures speak of Christ, his omnipotence, and his saving mission.
–it could be to show the Nephites that some prophecies, like Lehi’s about future nations, are sometimes in the far future; however far, though, they were not forgotten.
–being likened to them, that the Nephites will be sorely smitten before Christ comes, that Christ will come among them, and that afterwards they will be smitten again; but not to destruction, a lot because of the prayers of the faithful; “the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance” (2 Nephi 6:11). Sounds just like the history of Lehi’s seed.
–as a reminder that Lehi’s seed (and other Israelites there, and elsewhere) are not forgotten to the Lord, and are his, and the posterity will one day be gathered (see Jacob 7:41), and the promises fulfilled.
Actually, there’s no need to speculate too much, because Jacob himself even gives reasons for this particular sermon:
–“that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:1).
–“[that ye might know] “[that] he has spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets, even from the beginning down, from generation to generation, until the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God; when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise” (2 Nephi 9:2).
–“that ye may rejoice, and lift up your heads forever, because of the blessings which the Lord God shall bestow upon your children” (2 Nephi 9:3).
–to answer many of the listeners’ questions: “For I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come; wherefore I know that ye know that our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God” (2 Nephi 9:4).
–as an introduction to his discourse on the Savior and the atonement (most of 2 Nephi 9).
–so that those listening might “. . .behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:53).
–to show the Nephites how they fit into God’s plan in the world (2 Nephi 10).
–to explain that cut off from Jerusalem =\= “cast off” from the Lord (2 Nephi 10:20).
–to stress that the land they were now in possession of was “a better land” and they were led there by the Lord (2 Nephi 10:20).
–to remind them that “the promises of the Lord unto [us]” are “great” (2 Nephi 10:21).
–to show them that they are not the only Israelites in this situation; God has led others away, too. (2 Nephi 10:21-22).
–to show them that ” the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also” (2 Nephi 10:22).
–to let them know that they can “cheer up” and not be controlled by their situation and negative feelings (2 Nephi 10:20, 23);
–and, to let them know that now is the most important time for them, and that they need to worry more about repenting now continually feel anxiety regarding their and their seed’s future. (2 Nephi 10:20, 23-24).
(How someone could claim to carefully read the text, and miss all fourteen (and maybe more) of those reasons, is a question worth pondering…)
Now, it is true that God says:
“Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto THY SEED, and THEM WHO SHALL BE NUMBERED AMONG THY SEED, forever, for the land of their inheritance. . .” (2 Nephi 10:19). Well, we already have Zoram and Sam’s blessings from Lehi where this happens. No other interpretation be needed, though it’s possible. Here God is already saying that there will definitely, at some time, be others who will join the seed of the Nephites (Mulekites?).
However, then Jacob says:
“And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for WE ARE NOT CAST OFF; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20).
“But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, THERE MUST NEEDS BE MORE THAN THIS, and THEY ARE INHABITED ALSO BY OUR BRETHREN” (2 Nephi 10:22).
“For behold, THE LORD GOD HAS LED AWAY FROM TIME TO TIME FROM THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, ACCORDING TO HIS WILL AND PLEASURE. And now behold, the LORD REMEMBERETH ALL THEM WHO HAVE BEEN BROKEN OFF, wherefore he remembereth US also” (2 Nephi 10:22).
Jacob seems to go to great lengths to comfort the Nephites about their own particular situation, and how it was not completely unique, explaining that there were many other Israelites in their same situation; were there already other Israelites there, the Nephites would hardly need to be reminded/ taught this.
So far we have examined points of correspondence that only require contact with another people. Now we turn to events that require the particular cultural content of Mesoamerica at the very time period of the Book of Mormon event. The first example is another of Jacob’s sermons. In this case, we have Jacob’s first recorded sermon in his own book, encompassing Jacob chapters 2 and 3. This sermon is much more problematic than Jacob’s discourse on the future salvation by Gentiles. The first problem is his choice of topics. Jacob has two major problems with his people. He will decry their use of riches, and he will preach against their adoption of polygyny.
On the surface of the discourse we have the structural problem of the relationship between these two topics. Even given the presence of both problems in society, what is the linkage between the two that suggests that they be treated in the same sermon?
****What is the “linkage between the two topics”? Brant Gardner himself has just explained why they are in the same talk: “Jacob has two major problems with his people.” Not to mention what Jacob says in Jacob 1:17–“Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, HAVING FIRST OBTAINED MINE ERRAND FROM THE LORD.” And, in Jacob 2:11–“Wherefore, I must tell you the truth according to the plainness of the word of God. For behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and DECLARE THE WORD WHICH I SHALL GIVE THEE UNTO THIS PEOPLE.” There it is–the Lord told him what to talk about. And why would these two topics “be treated in the same sermon”? For the same reason. I have spoken myself like this in church, as have many others–nothing surprising to anyone, I think, to hear more than one topic in a sermon, especially one given by a leader. And besides–well, they’re NOT “treated in the same sermon”. Jacob finishes one, then starts the next, as we see: “And now I MAKE AN END of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I MUST SPEAK UNTO YOU CONCERNING A GROSSER CRIME, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you” (Jacob 2:22). “But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. . .” (Jacob 2:23). That’s two sermons, not one.
After the Nephites had existed as an entity for about forty years (see Jacob 1:1), their men began “desiring many wives and concubines” (Jacob 1:15).
How many descendants of the original party would there have been by that time? We can safely suppose that adaptation to foods, climate, disease, and natural hazards would have posed some problems, although we cannot quantify those effects.
Let us at least start to bracket the possible growth in numbers by setting an upper limit that is at the edge of absurdity. Assume a birth rate twice as high as in today’s “less developed countries,” a rate perhaps not even attainable by any population. Let us also suppose no deaths at all! Under those conditions, if the initial Nephite group was comprised of twenty-four persons, as I calculate generously, by the time of Jacob 2, they would have reached a population of 330, of whom perhaps seventy would be adult males and the same number adult females. Of course the unreality of that number means we must work downward. Using a more reasonable figure for the birth rate and factoring in deaths, we see that the actual number of adults would be unlikely to exceed half of what we first calculated–say, thirty-five males and thirty-five females. Even that is far too large to satisfy experts on the history of population growth.3 With such limited numbers as these, the group’s cultural preference for “many wives and concubines” would be puzzling. The fact that the plural marriage preference for the early Nephites is reported as a cultural fact seems to call for a larger population of females. If so, it could only have come about by incorporating “other” people.
****First, population growth:
Quote: “Assume a birth rate twice as high as in today’s “less developed countries,” a rate perhaps not even attainable by any population.”
The promised land was hardly that. There promised land seemed to provide plenty of everything that was needed, including space/ land, crops, flocks, adequate housing, moderate climate, etc. The Book of Mormon describes very few of these above-mentioned problems; beside, wild beasts are only mentioned in other parts of the land; and, compared to surviving on raw meat in the desert (which they did for 8 years), and then surviving on a ship (which they did for a while), to these rugged desert dwellers, the promised land would have been like heaven in this regard. Especially when considering that during their whole trip to the new land, only one death is mentioned–that of Ishmael.
Nephi says animals were plentiful (see below about animals), and they brought lots of seeds (see below also); besides, lack of adaptation to foods rarely results in death. It sounds like a safe paradise, and only war would inhibit reproduction and multiplying.
If they were in Central America, they probably didn’t have droughts or lack of water, freezing cold winters with snow, etc. It seems that there was plenty of tillable land to support the population with food.
Being primarily farmers and herders, lots of children might have been a blessing to help with work.
Fevers and sickness are mentioned later in Alma 46:40, but then goes on to say not really, because of the great medicine–but when they learned that, who knows, unless they learned it from others already there from the beginning, which would mean sicknesses weren’t much of a problem for their population growth. Of course, this is almost 550 years later, or so. It then says that “many died of old age” in Alma 46:41, which doesn’t seem to support an argument for lots of young deaths.
Also, remember–they were Mormons! This is a people who remembers that children are a blessing of the Lord, and they desire to have as many children as possible; on the other hand, the Lamanites might have figured that the more children they had, the easier it would be to accomplish what many might have seen as their “purpose in life”–to have victory over the Nephites. It seems that land was not a problem for the Nephites, as we see in the few available instances that everyone had enough land to sustain themselves (as in Alma, 3 Nephi ). Not only that, but by obeying the Lord, they were prospered in the land by Him, which means that they were definitely not in the same category as a modern “less developed country.”
My grandparents each had about 14 siblings, most all of whom grew up and had quite a few, too. Look at many Utah/ Idaho families. It is still not unheard of for Mormons to have 10-14 children now. Lots of very poor families in Mexico, Latin America, and Guatemala (hmmm…) currently have lots of children. Now imagine that they are all church members, and that they know that all needs are supplied.
Nor did Lehi and Ishmael seem to have any problems with having lots of children. Most children from large families have many children, too. By being isolated, most of their children would have thought it the norm and expected to have that many children. Ten children would not be anything extraordinary.
And let’s take it a little further: if Sariah and Ishmael’s wife had borne twins or multiple children, which are more likely to bear twins, then perhaps some of their children had twins, and on down.
What if Nephi’s married sisters were all older than the sons? If Lehi’s siblings were all two years apart; and there were two-four older daughters, then they would have been possibly eight years older than Laman, and fourteen years older than Nephi. Had they married young, as females, they could have been married when Nephi was born. It wouldn’t be impossible if the oldest had had 8 children by the time Nephi got married! These children would also have been much, much older than Jacob and Joseph.
Also, remember the possible servants and journey-joiners others.
It is extremely hard for me to come to any other conclusion than this: that to propose and use a population growth model that is based on modern “experts” is ludicrous.
So, let’s go to the higher end of the scale, and make it somewhat extreme, yet possible: were each person in the group to have 10 children who reached maturity– married and started bearing at the age of 20 (though I don’t doubt most married younger than that), and finished when they were 46–and each succeeding generation the same, then you have a whole lot of people in a very short time, and it especially seems that way if everyone is spread out farming and herding instead of living in high-rise apartment buildings downtown. After 120 years–that’s six generations of 20 years each, with no deaths (of course they died, so figure to count that in later)–the Nephites could–let’s say five couples at start, each 10 children each bearing 10 children…–that’s 10 people… then 50… then 250… then 1,250… then 6,250… then 31,250 in the sixth generation, and 156,250 in the seventh. Um, that’s a heck of a lot of people… Right, that’s not including deaths, but it’s also no including anyone from the previous generation being counted in for a total count, either. Do you know 156,000 people? (That’s 780 wards of 200 people each.) Yeah, neither do I. No need for others!
**** Likewise, “many wives and concubines” need not mean 1,000 women per man; wouldn’t a few women satisfy that definition, especially for a very strict, upright man like Jacob?
Also, one striking major problem with polygyny for a smaller group would have been not only the sin, but the small, limited number of sexually-reproductive women if all the men wanted them all. Who would the other growing-up young men marry and establish a family with and reproduce with? And with the lack of female choices, how young were the young women when they were being chosen–16? 14? 12? 10? Thus, polygamy was not just the sin of not delighting in the chastity of women, it also meant the lack of marriage for other men, and a greater negative effect of Nephite society being out of balance.
It is also probable that some men died in those wars and contentions, leaving more women and also widows, possibly with children. So, it’s easy to see that the women could outnumber the men, yet the group remain very small. Who wants to bear another man’s burden, without reaping his reward? The remaining living men could easily think, why would I want to support a woman (and her children) if I weren’t married to her? Especially if the group was limited to a few families, it would make sense that if a married men died in battle, his brother would marry his wife (law of Moses).
This could easily lead from the limited/ special case polygamy of the law of Moses, to generalized polygyny. We see a similar situation of bearing the burden of widows with Limhi’s people, another small group, though as king he commanded the men to support other widows.
With a large number, you wouldn’t think as much about having many wives and concubines as you would if you were in a smaller group–the closeness between the people and the disproportion is greater, clearer, and stays with you more.
Here’s the introduction to the polygamy part:
“Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites” (Jacob 1:13).
“But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings” (Jacob 1:14).
“And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son” (Jacob 1:15).
Jacob transitions directly from naming everyone (minus “others”) to polygny. No mention of others, no mention of trade, very problematic situation to explain for believers in “others”.
Jacob 1:13-14 is probably the most perverted verse in the argument of others. “See, ‘Lamanites’ “seek to destroy the people of Nephi”, so that means EVERYONE who tries to do that! And ‘Nephite’ just means ANYONE “friendly to Nephi”! This is a classic example of taking something out of context to fit a viewpoint. Note that before this explanation, Jacob clearly distinguishes the tribes, then immediately says he will summarize them all into two groups; there is no mention any other group or people. No one else, no mention of “others”. The definition of “seek to destroy the people of Nephi” and “those who are friendly to Nephi” are not given to include “others” that Jacob DOESN’T mention, but to separate the already clearly-mentioned tribes into two peoples for clear reference; in other words, Jacob is saying that the main leader of each group of tribes, represents the entirety of the tribes that shared the same beliefs. Reading 1 Nephi and especially 2 Nephi really puts that in perspective. And in fact, this is what Lehi had prophesied to Zoram and Sam (2 Nephi 1).
Then, this is just how Jacob defined “Nephite” and “Lamanite”.
Later, the use of terms like “Gadianton robbers”, “Amlicites”, “Amalickiahites” in the Book of Mormon also shows that “Lamanite” does not include everyone who seeks to destroy the people of Nephi.
And how is it possible that any other hamlet/ hamlets of previous people(s) would so easily melt into Nephite culture, when the Nephites were the outnumbered outsiders? This would be most likely if there were a king or small group of leaders who could decide for everyone; but with members of the same race spread out in hamlets, how could that happen? Arguing that outsiders are already in the Nephite group from soon after the landing seems to be a circumlocution argument.
If the Nephites were marrying outsiders as wives and concubines, one might expect Jacob to talk about the dangers of doing so, in addition to it not being right. But Jacob only mentions polygamy and how some probably excused themselves through the Bible. He doesn’t mention anything about outside influences leading to this situation of polygamy, but he relates this happening to David and Solomon in the Bible, which to me seems to mean that the Nephites were excusing themselves because of it (, perhaps while the Lamanites, not having the Bible, wouldn’t, or didn’t. Jacob says that the Lamanites remember the commandment given to Lehi, but the Nephites don’t.) He does not use the abundant examples in the Old Testament about marrying outside religioners. In fact, he doesn’t mention anything about marrying non-believing wives or its dangers. Jacob does not talk about Solomon and how his non-believing wives led him astray, nor does Jacob say anything about the tribes marrying other people with other beliefs and how that affected the covenant, nor does he talk about how marrying outside the covenant affects the children. So it is much safer to assume that the extra wives, and concubines, were already in the group, and “believers”.
The only other scenario I can see is that (1) this part was excluded from the records or (2) the outsiders were also the covenant people of the Lord. In Jacob 3:10, Jacob says “Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.” Jacob mentions that the fathers’ examples and filthiness affect the children, but he says nothing about outside mothers’ false beliefs, customs, etc.
Which brings up another point. When the Lord curses the Lamanites, he gives the reason for it:
“And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction” (Alma 3:8).
Notice that this curse is only on those in Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families:
“And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women” (Alma 3:7).
It seems that the Lord doesn’t worry about them mixing with “others”; why? Why didn’t the Lord o worry about them mixing with “others”–such as in Jacob 2?
Something I do find interesting is that Jacob writes: “Now Nephi began to be old, and he saw that he must soon die; wherefore, he anointed A MAN to be a king and a ruler over his people now, according to the reigns of the kings” (Jacob 1:9). This seems strange. It wasn’t Jacob, the next in line; nor seemingly Nephi’s oldest son. Written this way, I infer a man who would be a stranger to us, and not of their family, possibly even a person somewhat remote to their group. Yet then, a few verses later Jacob writes this:
“Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites.”
“But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings” (Jacob 1:13-14).
An analogous case that John L. Sorenson fails to mention is the problem of wealth among the early Nephites. Jacob informs us:
And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully. And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they. (Jacob 2:12-13)
These verses give the appearance of a direct relationship between gold and silver and the wealth that they have obtained. This makes sense to a culture raised on the Western notions of intrinsic value in the metals, but in the context of an early Nephite culture both of these verses are nonsense unless others are in the land.
Our first problem with Jacob’s sermon is that he is presenting what would be an impossible situation if we assume the city of Nephi is isolated in the land. He suggests that they have become wealthy because of the gold and silver that they have found, elements that he calls abundant. This should be impossible. First of all, in a Mesoamerican economy, gold and silver had no intrinsic value. They continued to lack intrinsic value for Mesoamerican populations up to the time of the Conquest when the Spaniards rather forcibly imposed their own values for gold and silver. Secondly, it is hard to get rich from gold and silver ore.
****First, let’s see the whole picture as Brant Gardner sees it: “this surely takes place in Mesoamerica… and, the text in the Book of Mormon doesn’t match what I think we think we know about Mesoamerica at that time period… so, I have to change the Book of Mormon to match what I think we know about Mesoamerica!” That is incorrect.
Why all the mention of “brethren” by Jacob if there are so many others among them? Is this being used only in the church manner?
Why is this “nonsense”? Didn’t the “early Nephite culture” come from, relate to, and remember the old world? Didn’t the wealth that Lehi had at Jerusalem consist of “his gold, and his silver, and his precious things” (1 Nephi 2:4, 3:22)? Would it be so hard to believe that Nephites and Lamanites (see Alma 17:13-14), familiar with gold, silver, and precious things (including “precious ores”), would use it as a measure of wealth? Or, that a monetary system could grow from it? In fact, doesn’t the Book of Mormon say that “Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value. And the names are given by the Nephites, for they did not reckon after the manner of the Jews who were at Jerusalem; neither did they measure after the manner of the Jews; but they altered their reckoning and their measure, according to the minds and the circumstances of the people, in every generation, until the reign of the judges, they having been established by king Mosiah” (Alma 11:4)? The Nephites “altered” the system–“in every generation, until the reign of the judges”–sounds like every generation would include from the beginning. Didn’t Nephi teach his people to work metals? Why wouldn’t that have had any implications? So in fact, the fact that they used gold and silver makes very clear evidence that they were isolated–*especially* if they were in Mesoamerica. If there were others already there that had joined with them from the beginning, don’t you think that there would have already been a system of barter or such among them? And if others had joined them at the beginning as John L. Sorenson and Brant Gardner assume, wouldn’t this have been a speech for Nephi’s time, not now?
What about King Noah? If Brant Gardner’s reasoning were all true, it seems that one must assume that this group of Nephites, which is in Lamanite bondage, is not really cut off from other groups–because king Noah taxed his subjects’ precious metals and food for the support of himself and the other leaders (see Mosiah 11:3-4). If they were not really cut off, how come “outsiders” play no part in any of the lonely Nephite situations? How do all these “outsiders” mingle so freely and wander among, and trade with, both the Lamanites and the Nephites, especially when the Lamanites like to take these things by force? Or perhaps he traded with the Lamanites? Oh, I forgot, he also used the metals for his temple! Why would he do that if they didn’t have any value? He could have just as well polished tapir dung and strung it up! Perhaps it is to provide consistency of not mentioned “others”–even in those records? Ummm… I wouldn’t say so.
Later, we see that both the Lamanites and the Nephites have lots of gold, silver, etc., and it seems that it is because of the trading ONE WITH ANOTHER, not with “others”:
“And it came to pass that the Lamanites did also go whithersoever they would, whether it were among the Lamanites or among the Nephites; and thus they did have free intercourse ONE WITH ANOTHER, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire.”
“And it came to pass that they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites; and they did have an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north” (Helaman 6:8-9)
And once more, there is plenty of precious metals in all the land.
Why is it hard to get rich from gold and silver ore? As long as there are commodities, that’s fine.
Third, it is difficult to get rich on anything that anyone can find in abundance. Verse 12 discloses that gold and silver (and “all manner of precious ores”) are plentiful in the land. The very fact that they are plentiful is a direct dismissal of their economic value.
Value is a relative term, and nothing that is plentiful-no matter what it is-makes one wealthy if one’s neighbor has an equal amount of it.
****”Plentiful” does not dismiss their economic value–it just possibly changes the system a little. For example, land and crops are plentiful for all in an agrarian society, and land and flocks for all in a shepherding society; yet, there are certainly differences in wealth.
The last sentence is key here, and it’s interesting that Brant Gardner assumes that every Nephite has “an equal amount of [gold, silver, and precious things]”. Just because they are plentiful does not lead that everyone will attain as much as they want without any effort or expenditure of resources, and that all will obtain alike. What does Jacob say about this assumption? Here it is: Jacob says that the reason some are richer than others is because “the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have OBTAINED MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN THAT OF YOUR BRETHREN…” Well, there it is–it is very abundant; maybe everyone CAN get it–but some get it more than others, and maybe only due to “the hand of providence”–“luck”, or something where there is not a strong correlation between effort and reward. One might strike a vein, while another might pan a few ounces a week, etc.
Notice that Jacob gives no relationship between “obtaining precious metals = trade = greater wealth”; only “obtaining precious metals = greater wealth”. Trade is mysteriously left out (even more than “others” is mysteriously left out of the Book of Mormon…).
Also, if gold and silver are plentiful all over the land, and plentiful to everyone in the land–not just Nephites and Lamanites–why would it be of value to the Nephites and Lamanites, only in the case of trade? In other words, if the people they were trading with already had gold, silver, and precious ores–plentiful in the land–what worth would they have, according to this, unless they were trading with “others” that were way out of the land? Remember, there was “an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north” (Helaman 6:9) Interestingly enough, in the verse previous to that, Helaman 6:8, we read that “And it came to pass that the Lamanites did also go whithersoever they would, whether it were among the Lamanites or among the Nephites; and thus they did have free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire”. Lamanites and Nephites, “one with another”–not with any outside group(s). And if precious metals were so plentiful, and led to great trade, why didn’t Nephites and Lamanites have constant wars defending it from “outsiders”? True, they could also have been left out of the text.
If two people have a billion dollars and can live a comfortable life, they aren’t rich? If half a group has a billion dollars each, and the other half has a million each, is there a difference?
Even manna sent from heaven, which required no work to produce nor diligence to grow, was not eaten in the same amounts by all–if you didn’t gather, you didn’t eat! I’m sure precious ores are a little more complicated than that.
In the case of gold and silver, we assume that the metals are valuable because they can purchase things. If we think of an early Nephite population isolated from all other populations, what could gold or silver “buy”? In a barter world, where the necessities of food and shelter are paramount, piling up gold and silver rocks in the back of one’s home doesn’t lead to wealth but to time taken from more productive and important chores. You cannot trade gold for food if everyone has gold. It has no exchange value.
****I guess this is the explanation for why American farmers are so poor? ;)
Everywhere, food and shelter are paramount. But if you already have them, then what?
This is saying that even a righteous people can easily distinguish between needs and wants–is this something one sees with, let’s say, modern Utah LDS? Anything can buy anything, depending on people’s wants and values.
Everyone has money, but I can still buy stuff with it–in other words, it still has “exchange value”. Just that some have more than others.
“It has no exchange value.” Hearing this from an American is very interesting, because the paper money the USA uses now has no intrinsic value other than the paper, nor even representative value–and hasn’t for quite a while. Though there’s plenty of it created every day from thin air, the economy has kept on for over half a century.
Though you can’t burn precious metals to keep warm…
And like we don’t buy expensive “wants” for ourselves, even when we don’t have our needs.
A barter system is used/ can be used only for “necessities”? Hardly! I’ll trade you my painting for your gold.
All throughout the Book of Mormon, precious metals have value and/ or are used as a system. Even when it seems to be only the Nephites (and Lamanites) versus the Gadianton robbers (Lamanites and Nephites), the Nephites still keep their gold, silver, and precious things:
“And it came to pass that they had not eaten up all their provisions; therefore they did take with them all that they had not devoured, of all their grain of every kind, and their GOLD, AND THEIR SILVER, AND ALL THEIR PRECIOUS THINGS, and they did return to their own lands and their possessions, both on the north and on the south, both on the land northward and on the land southward” (3 Nephi 6:2).
Jacob 2:13 indicates even more clearly that others must have been present and that the Nephites had active commerce with them. A result of the “wealth” of the Nephites is that they begin to wear costly apparel. Again our modern sensibilities trick us into an assumption that this would be logical. However, if no others are present and the Nephites are isolated as a small group, how does one obtain costly apparel? In a society without stores, in which everyone must make his or her own clothing from the locally available fibers and dyes, where would “costly apparel” come from? If all members of the society have access to the same materials and dyes, they simply copy the style-they do not have anything that anyone else does not have, and they certainly do not “purchase” it to render it costly. They make it. These two verses describing the economic conditions of this early Nephite society make sense only if the Nephites are a larger population and are trading goods with other communities.
Finally, we have the manifestation of this wealth in “costly apparel.”9 This is another situation that should not exist. In an isolated community with no department stores, clothing is made by the community. The same materials are available to all; the same dyes are available to all. Even stylistic changes tend to be widely copied. It is quite common for villages to have an almost uniform dress rather than a segregation created by dress. Under the assumptions that are commonly brought to the Book of Mormon text, that of a group of people alone in the land, it should be virtually impossible to have “costly apparel.”
****I wonder if this section is the most opinionated in the entire paper… At the least it is truly full of assumptions due to a Mesoamerica culture.
“Clothing is made by the community”–where is that in the text?
“The same materials are available to all”–unless I have more gold or commodities, and then some might not be.
“The same dyes are available to all”–unless I have more gold or commodities, and then some might not be.
Perhaps Brant Gardner has never heard of “monopoly”? Don’t you think the most-skilled artisan could be hired? (Hey, is that what happened in “The Testaments”?!)
Surely the rich could have integrated gold and silver into their clothing. I shag my dress with gold ornaments, I put gold plating on my chest, etc. How does this relate to “trading goods with other communities”?
The author assumes that any two people in the same community can do the same thing; but in separate communities, no two people can do the same thing, or copy. Don’t most Americans have access to the same clothes? Let’s face it–most all of us have the same materials available. But, we still don’t wear the same clothes. Why? Price is probably the biggest reason. Then there’s appeal. Some wear costly apparel nowadays that is high-priced brand names, for example–where the price is high, but for an “unworthy” reason, many would say. Is that an America-only, present-day only thing?
Also, it’s a matter of allocation of resources–including time, interpretation of value, and values.
This whole argument of “others” based on economics like this is useless.
There is a condition, however, that explains all of Jacob’s economic problems. That condition is trade. As will be noted, not just any trade, but trade in Mesoamerica at this particular point in time. As noted for the coastal region of Guatemala, there were others in the land when the Lehites arrived, and archaeology tells us that there are other populations and cities in the general land when the Nephites arrive at the location of their city, presumed to have been in the Guatemalan highlands. If we assume that the gold and silver were being worked, using metalworking skills Nephi could have taught them, then these worked goods would have exchange value with other cities, and the resulting importation of goods creates a situation where those engaged in the trade accumulate more unique prestige goods than those who do not trade outside of their own city. Thus trade provides precisely the conditions Jacob is combating.
The process of trade would have brought not only esoteric goods, but also a mechanism for the very social differentiation that Jacob excoriates. This is the cultural problem behind the “costly apparel” that will become one of the hallmark themes of the competing religious ideas throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon. In Mesoamerica, the time period of the early Nephites saw developing social stratification, and an increasing pressure towards kingship in the cities of the Maya lands. This social differentiation was supported by the accumulation of esoteric goods, often displayed on the clothing of the elite. As Schele and Mathews put it, “People throughout Mesoamerica wore these currencies as jewelry and clothing to display the wealth and enterprise of their families.”10 Bringing in clothing and adornments from other locations is a way to create a differentiation in dress. When the clothing itself becomes the display mode for elite consumption goods, then the costly apparel in and of itself becomes the marker of the increasing economic and social distance between developing classes. It is important to remember that Jacob’s issue is never wealth, but rather the social stratification that was based on wealth. The costly apparel was a unique Mesoamerican mode of creating and displaying that social separation. The pressures for creating social stratification that we see beginning in the city of Nephi mirror the greater trend in the entire Mesoamerican cultural area at just this point in time.
The presence of trade relations with other Mesoamerican communities therefore provides a context in which we may understand Jacob’s sermon denouncing social stratification through wealth, particularly wealth manifest through costly apparel.
****Hold on, I’m quite confused–I thought we just read, from Brant Gardner, that: “First of all, in a Mesoamerican economy, gold and silver had no intrinsic value. They continued to lack intrinsic value for Mesoamerican populations up to the time of the Conquest when the Spaniards rather forcibly imposed their own values for gold and silver.” So, do they have value in Mesoamerica or not? Which one is it: “[no value in Mesoamerica]”, or “[high value right next door, and all over Mesoamerica]”? If precious ores are all over the land, how come gold and silver are not in the mountains (maybe a few miles away?), but down in the valleys and by the seashore? Is this where they are usually found?
If you want to go the trade route, a very outside “other”, such as by shipping or long journey trade, seems much more plausible.
All throughout the Book of Mormon, precious metals are used as a system. Here’s the strongest point for trade: even when it seems to be only the Nephites (and Lamanites) versus the Gadianton robbers, the Nephites still keep their gold, silver, and precious things: “And it came to pass that they had not eaten up all their provisions; therefore they did take with them all that they had not devoured, of all their grain of every kind, and their GOLD, AND THEIR SILVER, AND ALL THEIR PRECIOUS THINGS, and they did return to their own lands and their possessions, both on the north and on the south, both on the land northward and on the land southward” (3 Nephi 6:2).
Why would the Gadianton robbers want that stuff, if they couldn’t eat it? If the robbers were all brothers and shared together, what good would it be to have? Unless, they could trade it with other groups of peoples. But, who would be willing to trade with Gadianton robbers? Maybe someone was…
Were the Lamanites involved in this war? It doesn’t say that they were. But, wouldn’t the Gadianton robbers have attacked them, the easy prey, first, and taken their things? When food was scarce, wouldn’t the Gadianton robbers have killed the Lamanites to avoid fighting with them over eating wild animals? The only other reason I can think of is that the Nephites believed that they would triumph and society would continue pretty much as they knew it.
On the other hand:
How could any group possibly survive outside of the Nephites and Gadianton Robbers, especially at the time in the book of 3 Nephi, especially when the Gadianton Robbers inhabited and infested the mountains (which is usually the last place of refuge)?
. . . we again must note that Jacob’s denunciation of polygyny is problematic for multiple reasons, none of which have to do with the obvious difference between Jacob’s denunciation and historical LDS polygamy.
First, Jacob consistently equates having more than one wife with whoredoms and unchastity. This is as impossible as valuable gold that is easily found. Note that Jacob clearly speaks of wives, not of harlots. All societies that accept multiple wives have legal regulations that legitimize the union. A plural wife is a wife, and relations with a wife do not fall under the rubric of whoredoms in any society. Thus, Jacob is somehow in the position of having a type of union that someone recognizes as a wife, but which he (and the Lord) do not.
****I agree that riches, multiple wives, and trade with others COULD be related–it’s a possibility, but definitely not a necessity–just like BMW’s, stock market, and California blondes could be related.
It’s not hard to imagine that some men, reading about David and Solomon, married more than one woman and called them both wives, and were committed to them and supporting them. It doesn’t have to mean that society accepted it or not, or whether it was legal or not–and Jacob never says anything about that.
It’s not the easiest to prove that a woman is married to a man, or even that they are committing whoredoms. To these men, and to a few others, the woman is a wife. To their first wife, and to society in general, the woman might or might not be. Look at Taiwan. Some men, especially the older wealthy ones, have illegal second (or more) wives, maybe even concubines. It is usually not a huge secret, though they usually don’t go around telling everyone (especially their first wife!). They can’t excuse it on scripture, either, unlike the Nephites. And no, they didn’t learn it from or because of trade–it’s their own history, just like with the Nephites.
David and Solomon had wives and concubines, but never does it mention that they slept with harlots. Do you see the reasoning, the excusing behind what the Nephites were doing, and why Jacob used only David and Solomon as examples–out of the many stories they must have had about harlotry, fornication, adultery? “The scriptures are clear: no whoredoms. But… it was ok for David and Solomon to have many wives and concubines. Let’s do the same! We aren’t breaking the commandments of fornication, adultery, or coveting in this way.” (Kind of like the BYU Las Vegas shotgun weddings type of thing…)
Once more, Brant Gardner assumes many things that aren’t supported by the text, but only by a forced interpretation of missing text made to fit purported Mesoamerica history.
. . .Jacob also describes the fate of the wives and children in ways that make no sense. He speaks of the daughters of Jerusalem being led away captive11 and their children being brought into destruction.12 It is hard to see how the very fact of multiple wives can be equated to captivity, and cause the destruction of their children. Many factors in a marriage might be considered to yield such an end, but not the very fact of a marriage.
Once again, the cultural context of Mesoamerica gives us a way of seeing this text and removing those difficulties. The same context of trade provides the answer. The development of social segregation in Mesoamerica has been the subject of multiple theories and studies, but one study uses the archaeological information to support the hypothesis that the development of “institutionalized social inequality and political privilege”13 was due to the internal social pressures of personal advancement. In terms of this theory, such seekers of advantage are termed “aggrandizers.”
“Aggrandizers simply strive to become more influential. It is the successful deployment of resources and labor that ultimately ensure the social and political longevity of an aggrandizer.”14 Building renown commences in the nuclear unit of production. An aggrandizer first accumulates deployable resources by the sweat of his brow, and through the efforts of his wife (wives) and children. The more wives and children the better.”15
The linkage between economics and multiple wives is absolutely parallel between Mesoamerica and the situation we see in the city of Nephi. The communities with which trade would have been established would certainly have had men with multiple wives among the most influential, and those would also be the ones with the most excess production to trade. Along with the trade goods, the mechanisms of achieving the excess production for trade would be carried back to the Nephites. The Nephite men who were taking wives were precisely the same as those who were seeking to exalt themselves over their neighbors, using the trade-acquired “costly apparel.” These particular Nephites fit the description of the aggrandizers, and it would not be surprising that they would attempt to adopt the accumulation methods of those they saw as successful role models for trade. Their adoption of plural wives would be modeled after foreign law, not Nephite law, and therefore subject to Jacob’s denunciation as a non-sanctioned union, even though it could be seen as a legitimate wife in the greater cultural context of the region.
****Nowhere do I see in the Book of Mormon text this “linkage between economics and multiple wives” that “is absolutely parallel between Mesoamerica and the situation we see in the city of Nephi”. It might be absolutely parallel in Mesoamerica, but the Book of Mormon fails to mention any relationship.
Nor do I see in the Book of Mormon where it says that “the Nephite men who were taking wives were precisely the same as those who were seeking to exalt themselves over their neighbors, using the trade-acquired ‘costly apparel'”. In fact, of all the things one might expect to hear relating these two sermons and interwoven among them, would be Jacob saying so. He doesn’t. He shows no relationship, nor hints to one, at all.
However, I do see support that the Nephites might have had lots of children, and in a desire to get even more, had more wives–thus, big numbers for population that don’t require “others”.
The last piece of information that finishes elucidating the problematic aspects of Jacob’s denunciation of polygyny is the probable exchange of wives with another community. The practice of the social exchange of wives to establish close bonds is well understood in human history. We may easily imagine that a daughter who was brought out of Jerusalem, as noted in Jacob 2:32-33, who was sent to another village might consider her marriage as a form of captivity because of the separation from her known community and background. The children are under threat of destruction because of the foreign ideas being brought into the community. Certainly children born of Nephite women in other communities would have little opportunity to grow up with the Nephite god, and therefore be subject to spiritual destruction. If the Book of Mormon events of the early city of Nephi took place in highland Guatemala as John L. Sorenson’s correlation suggests, this scenario is more probable than any other, and fits the text of the Book of Mormon better than any other explanation.
****Captivity and destruction could also result from the promise made to Lehi: obeying the commandments would bring prosperity, but disobeying them would bring destruction. This is what we read in Jacob 3:5: “. . .the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father–that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.” It seems that Lehi received a commandment that they were to have only one wife; the will of God had been precisely given, and the matter was clear to all; yet, the Nephites broke this commandment–wouldn’t captivity and destruction be the result, according to the promise of the Lord?
Wouldn’t a daughter maybe also feel like a captive if she were being bought as a third wife to an older man instead of the young man of her choice? Or if she were leaving her village to go to another village (what you think after all this time there is still just one little village?)?
If Brant Gardner’s assumptions are correct, where is the denunciation of the Nephites selling/ giving their daughters away, or the reference to trading wives? Why doesn’t Jacob talk about this? Why does Jacob just talk against men having more than one wife, and concubines?
What Brant Gardner fails to mention, is that David and Solomon both had wives that were from “conquered” or foreign peoples, and that displacing a believing wife with a non-believing wife, who then teaches the Nephite children to not believe, also fits this description.