Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, October 14

“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 9: CRITIQUE OF ARGUMENT FOR OTHERS BASED ON THE MULEKITES by grego

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the Book of Mormon article ‘When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land[…] Did They Find Others There?’ by John L. Sorenson and other similar Book of Mormon articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.”


(c) 2004-2009


John L. Soreson:
The People of Zarahemla
The people of Zarahemla keep turning up when we consider possible “others.” Characterizing them adequately is difficult because of the brevity of the Nephite-kept record, which is, of course, our only source about them. Elsewhere I have presented a rather comprehensive body of data and inference about them. But my special concern now is the question of unity or variety in the composition of this element within Nephite society. How uniform a group was that immigrating party? It is very likely that non-Jews were in the crew of the vessel that brought Zedekiah’s son Mulek to the New World (see Omni 1:15-16). A purely Israelite crew recruited in the Palestine homeland would have been possible during some periods, but at the time Mulek’s party left, all the Mediterranean ports of the kingdom of Judah were in Babylonian hands. Most likely the crew of the ship (there could have been more than one, of course) were “Phoenician,” itself a historical category that was by no means homogeneous. Significant cultural, linguistic, and biological variety could have been introduced into American Book of Mormon populations through such a mixed crew, about which, unfortunately, the text tells us nothing.

****”Unfortunately” seems to be tempting …
In fact, it’s very possible; but is this really “Others”?

John L. Sorenson:
Our cryptic record tells of only one segment, those descendants from that shipload who ended up centuries after the landing under one Zarahemla. When Mosiah, the leader of the Nephites who had come from the land of Nephi, reached Zarahemla’s city, he is not reported to have stood in the way of Mosiah’s becoming king over the combined people. He put up no claim to royal descent himself, nor was he ever called a king. The name “the people of Zarahemla” carries their political standing no farther back than this living man. The fact that no ancestral name was applied to their city except that of the current leader, Zarahemla, indicates that they had no long history as a political entity. Probably they had not arrived in the area of the city of Zarahemla long before Mosiah found them, or at least the place had been insignificant enough that no one earlier than Zarahemla had named it. (Later Nephite custom named settlements after “him who first possessed them”; Alma 8:7.)

****Naming occurs earlier in the Book of Mormon, though maybe in a different way: the land of Nephi (1 Nephi 5:8). Then in Alma 2:20, there’s this: “…in the valley of Gideon, THE VALLEY BEING CALLED AFTER THAT GIDEON WHO WAS SLAIN BY THE HAND OF NEHOR WITH THE SWORD…”, later confirmed in Alma 6:7: “…Alma…went over upon the east of the river sidon, into the valley of Gideon, there having been a city built, which was called THE CITY OF GIDEON, which was in the valley that was called Gideon, BEING CALLED AFTER THE MAN WHO WAS SLAIN BY THE HAND OF NEHOR WITH THE SWORD.”

John L. Sorenson:
They or their ancestors had come “up” the river to that spot from the eastern lowland area where they had earlier lived (see Alma 22:30-31). Furthermore, this area they now inhabited was small. When King Benjamin later called the assembly where he named his son as his successor, the call reached the entire area concerned in a single day (see Mosiah 1:10, 18). Zarahemla’s group could only have been one part of those descended from Mulek’s party. No single ethnic label is applied in the record to everybody from the original ship, one hint of their diversity or disunity.
****If I’m not mistaken, “No single ethnic label” is clearly given to groups in the Book of Mormon. So what significance would this mean, or what hint would this be?
I also doubt “Zarahemla’s group could only have been one part of those descended form Mulek’s party”–why so?
Interesting thinking, in light of Omni 1:17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, THEY HAD BECOME EXCEEDINGLY NUMEROUS. Perhaps there’s another reason…

John L. Sorenson:
Had all descendants of the immigrant party remained together as a single society, they would probably have been referred to by a single name, something like “Mulekites.” (Latter-day Saints use that term as equivalent to the people of Zarahemla although it never occurs in the text; I usually put it in quotation marks to make clear that it is not an ancient term.) The statement that there had been “many wars and serious contentions” among those descendants underlines the lack of a unified history for them which is evident from the lack of a single name.

****Speculation with nothing in the text or otherwise supporting this. Once more, this goes back to the “people of Nephi” false premise argument.
Why does the “statement that there had been ‘many wars and serious contentions’ among those descendants” underline “the lack of a unified history for them which is evident from the lack of a single name”? Are you assuming, incorrectly, that any nation that has many wars and serious contentions lacks a unified history? Goodness gracious, a FAMILY can have many wars and serious contentions, and they are just a family. A unified history, and a single name, DO NOT necessarily lead to unity, and vice-versa.
This is probably also why there aren’t as many as one would expect, as mentioned in the immediately previous section–not because they had all broken up into splinter groups.
Also, just because the word “Mulekites” doesn’t appear, doesn’t mean it wasn’t an ancient term.
(Out of curiosity, where did the term “Mulekites” come from?)

John L. Sorenson:
Another statement in the record impinges on this matter. When Mosiah 25:2 speaks of the subjects ruled by Mosiah, it contrasts two categories of the population. The first is, of course, “the children of Nephi … who were descendants of Nephi,” that is, apparently, those who had arrived in the land of Zarahemla guided by the first King Mosiah. The second category is itself composite: “the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness” (Omni 1:13-14). Two readings of this statement make equal sense. If the comma after “Mulek” was inserted correctly (initially by the printing crew, who did most of the punctuation for the first English edition), then the meaning would be that the “Mulekites” consisted of people whose ancestors included both Mulek and others, “those who came with him.” But an alternative reading would be possible if the comma after “Mulek” should be omitted; in that case, Zarahemla himself would be represented as descended from both Mulek and others of Mulek’s party. I take the former meaning and suppose that other groups than Zarahemla’s coexisted with them (though apparently not at the capital, the city of Zarahemla). This may be part of the reason the man Zarahemla is nowhere called king–because he had political authority only over one of those groups springing from the Mulek party and that one very localized. Consequently a lesser title–something like “chief”–would have fitted him better. But the Nephite kings proceeded to extend their rule over a greater area. At least by the day of Mosiah 2, the borders of the greater land of Zarahemla had been greatly expanded compared with Benjamin’s time. I consider it likely that the expansion of their domain over the territory between the city of Zarahemla and the original settlement spot of the “Mulekites,” probably the city of Mulek located near the east coast, came to incorporate additional settlements of “those who came with him into the wilderness” but who had had no political connection with chief Zarahemla.

****Most of this is all major speculations, unfounded on the text, and as such, not worth commenting much on. One may speculate as much as one wants, but one begins to wonder, when the previous many speculations were shown to have major problems with the text, what new thing will the new speculations in the same vein bring?

John L. Sorenson:
More evidence that the people of Zarahemla were not a unified group who followed a single cultural tradition can be seen in Ammon’s encounter with Limhi. The Zeniffite king reported to Ammon that not long before, he had sent an exploring party to locate Zarahemla, but, it turned out, they reached the Jaredite final battleground instead. At the point when Limhi told about that expedition, Ammon was oddly silent on one related point. Since he was himself “a descendant of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 7:13), we might have anticipated that he would recall Coriantumr, the final Jaredite king as described for us in Omni 1:20-22. Why did Ammon not remember that chief Zarahemla’s ancestors had this dramatic tradition of an earlier people, the Jaredites, who occupied the land of Desolation and who became extinct except for this wounded alien ruler who lived among the Jewish newcomers for nine months?

****Who knew it would have been the same place? I’ll bet many people reading the Book of Mormon don’t put the two together for the first (or second or tenth) time.
And is that central to the story, or a minor tangent?
“King Zarahemla” could also just as well been used here in place of “chief Zarahemla”.
(What happened to the “many leftover Jaredites” theory here?)

John L. Sorenson:
Surely he would immediately have related the twenty-four gold plates and the corroded artifacts to the tradition to which Limhi referred. Instead, Ammon seems as ignorant of Coriantumr as Limhi was. This suggests that different segments of the “Mulekite” population did not all share the same traditions.

****”Surely”? Nope. “Suggests”? Nope.
Once more, assumptions and speculations.
John L. Sorenson assumes that warrior/ scout/ group leader Ammon is intelligent, learned, and able to make connections, even when the pieces he is working with are very unclear, and in a new, exciting situation.

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