Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, October 15

“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.” PART 13: A CRITIQUE OF THE ARGUMENT THAT NEPHITE RECORDS SHOULD NOT MENTION OTHERS EXPLICITLY 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. Sorenson:
Why the Nephite Record Does Not Comment on “Others”
Why, given the points we have been examining, didn’t Nephite historians mention “other” people more explicitly in their record? Several reasons may be suggested. First, note that the record does clearly mention the people of Zarahemla and the descendants of others who arrived with Mulek and even tells us that they outnumbered the Nephites by descent (see Mosiah 25:1). Yet these writers remain uninterested in the “Mulekites” as a group, not even offering a name for them in their entirety. The entire body of information on them would hardly occupy a single page in our scripture.
****The name is “people of Zarahemla”.
And yet, the people of Zarahemla are clearly mentioned.
Look at the quizzical looks from anyone who reads the “Ox argument”. “I’ll mention lots of animals, and even hint/ say they are domesticated, but I won’t mention that we met people here that were tending them!” How likely??

John L. Sorenson:
This lack of concern has to do with the fact that the focus of the record is the Nephites. To the Nephite record keepers, all others were insignificant except as they challenged Nephite rulership.

****Of course the focus of the record is the Nephites. To the Nephite record keepers, that might have been somewhat true. To the Book of Mormon writers, not. The Zeniffites and Alma’s group weren’t threats to Nephite rulership. Neither were the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. Nor the repentant Zoramites. Etc.

John L. Sorenson:
Apparently the “Mulekites” never did so as a group unified by their origin.

****Right, they joined together instead of fighting–amazing thought, eh? This has been discussed at least once already.

John L. Sorenson:
Probably no such challenge occurred because they never saw themselves as a single group.

****No, it occurred because they joined, not fought (already discussed).

John L. Sorenson:
A comparison might be made to the descendants of the early American colonizing ship, the Mayflower; there is minor prestige in being a descendant of someone on that ship, but there has never been a Mayflower movement in our country’s politics.

****Right, because most are Americans, not Mayflowerites apart and separate and contending with America.

John L. Sorenson:
Similarly, it appears that no powerful origin account or belief system united those on the ship that brought Mulek (as there was for Nephites and Lamanites). Instead they only constituted a residual category of interest to us in historical retrospect. When there was challenge to Nephite control, it is said to have come from “dissenters,” or “Amlicites,” or “king-men,” some or all of whom might have been of “Mulekite” descent, but that fact was evidently incidental. No doubt a majority of the “Mulekites” went right on peacefully accepting domination by Nephite overlords, as Mosiah 25:13 makes clear.
****How does this fit in with all the previous talk about dissenters of Mulekite origin, with Jaredite names, etc.? It doesn’t. Much speculation here…
How’s this for a “powerful origin account or belief system”:
Omni 1:15 Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon.
Omni 1:16 And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth.
Mosiah 25:2 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.
Helaman 6:10 Now the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south.
Helaman 8:21 And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem? But behold, this is not all–
Not bad, huh? Much better than the powerful origin account of the Lamanites, built on lies, probably changing a few times at the beginning…

“Peacefully accepting domination by Nephite overlords, as Mosiah 25:13 makes clear”–where’s that? Mosiah the bad man king, the OVERLORD!! Yes, of course! What does Mosiah 25:13 say? Here:
Mosiah 25:13 And now all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi.
Now where is that part about “Nephite overlords”, “domination”, etc.?
What about anywhere else in the Book of Mormon? Can we find “Nephite overlords” or “domination” elsewhere? Let’s see…
Omni 1:12 …Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he BEING WARNED OF THE LORD THAT HE SHOULD FLEE out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness–
Omni 1:13 And it came to pass that HE DID ACCORDING AS THE LORD HAD COMMANDED HIM. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would HEARKEN UNTO THE VOICE OF THE LORD; and they were LED BY MANY PREACHINGS AND PROPHESYINGS. And they were ADMONISHED CONTINUALLY BY THE WORD OF GOD; and they were LED BY THE POWER OF HIS ARM, through the wilderness UNTIL THEY CAME DOWN INTO THE LAND WHICH IS CALLED THE LAND OF ZARAHEMLA.
Omni 1:14 And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla. Now, **THERE WAS GREAT REJOICING AMONG THE PEOPLE OF ZARAHEMLA; and also ZARAHEMLA DID REJOICE EXCEEDINGLY, BECAUSE THE LORD HAD SENT the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews.
Any hint of “domination by Nephite overlords”? I don’t see any.

John L. Sorenson:
What view of the Lamanites did the Nephites have that sheds light on the question of “others”? We may see a clarifying parallel to the Nephite-Lamanite relationship in how Mormons viewed “the Indians” in western America during the nineteenth century. Pioneer historical materials mention “Indians” about the same proportion of the time as the Nephite record mentions the “Mulekites,” that is, rarely. This was not because the natives were a mystery. On the contrary, Latter-day Saint pioneers had an explanation for “the Indians” which they considered adequate–they were generic “Lamanites.” With a few exceptions at a local level, no more detailed labelling or description was ever considered needed. Overall, “Indians”/”Lamanites” were of only occasional concern, as long as they did not make trouble. When they were a problem, the attention they received was, again, normally local. Periodic attempts to convert the Indians rarely had much practical effect, and this positive concern for them tended to be overwhelmed by the “practical” aim to put the natives in their (dominated) place. Wouldn’t the Nephites have dealt with their “Lamanites” about like the Latter-day Saints with theirs? (Notice the mixed message–hope for converting the benighted ones but tough military measures, too–familiar in early Utah history, found in Enos 1:14, 20, and 24.)

John L. Sorenson:
Thus Nephites in a particular area might have noted differences between one group or subtribe of “Lamanites” and another, while people who talked about the situation only from what they heard in the capital city would have generalized, with little interest in details.
****Of course–though maybe not the “with little interest in details” part.

John L. Sorenson:
For example, it is only in the detailed account of Ammon’s missionary travels that we learn that Lamoni and his people were not simply “Lamanites” in general but tribally distinct Ishmaelites inhabiting a region of their own (see Alma 17:19, 21).

****At least, we learn more about them.
Lamoni, though descended from Ishmael, also had a father who was king over all the Lamanites, so I’m assuming the big Lamanite king was Ishmaelite, too; Lamoni, the king’s son, was given a kingdom to rule over, under his father, which follows the established pattern of Lamanite rule at that time; nevertheless, Lamoni could have ruled over a place that was mostly Ishmaelites. (See Alma 18:9, 22:1)

John L. Sorenson:
At the level of concern of the keepers of the overall Nephite account, nevertheless, one “Lamanite” must have seemed pretty much equivalent to any other “Lamanite,” as Jacob 1:14 assumes. The Nephites’ generic category of “Lamanite” could have lumped together a variety of groups differing in culture, ethnicity, language, and physical appearance without any useful purpose being served, in Nephite eyes, by distinguishing among them.

****Jacob assumes that? Of course he doesn’t. He does generalize, and give broad definitions that are simple yet effective for his purposes. Like with the Nephites.
Yet Jacob also CLEARLY DEFINES THE LAMANITES ACCORDING TO TRIBES, and there aren’t any “others” there.
The Lamanites ARE sometimes distinguished, when it helps clarify things for the record:
Alma 22:28 Now, THE MORE IDLE PART OF THE LAMANITES LIVED IN THE WILDERNESS, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.
Helaman 6:18 And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band. But behold, they were more numerous AMONG THE MORE WICKED PART OF THE LAMANITES. And they were called Gadianton’s robbers and murderers.

John L. Sorenson:
(Of course the original records may have gone into more detail, but all we have is Mormon’s edited version of those, plus the small plates of Nephi.) A final reason why the scripture lacks more explicit mention of “others” may be that the writers did not want to waste space on their plates telling of things they considered obvious or insignificant. For example, they nowhere tell us that the Nephites made and used pottery. Any ancient historian would be considered eccentric if he had written, “And some of our women also made pottery.” To anyone of his time it would seem absurd to say so because “everybody knows that.” The obvious is rarely recorded in historical documents because it seems pointless to do so.

****Slight difference between pottery and other PEOPLE.
Anyway, let’s see how true this is: look at these sections of the Book of Mormon:
1 Nephi 18:24-25;
2 Nephi 5:15;
Jarom 1:8;
Mosiah 9:9;
Mosiah 10:4-5;
Mosiah 11;
Alma 1:29;
Alma 62:29;
Helaman 3:14;
Helaman 6:11-13;
3 Nephi 3:22;
Ether 2:1-3;
Ether 10:23-27.
Is John L. Sorenson’s point here true?

John L. Sorenson:
“The people of Zarahemla,” “the Lamanites,” “the Amalekites,” and the like get mentioned in the Book of Mormon, not because of who they were but because of particular things they did in relation to the Nephites. They were historically significant actors in some ways at certain moments from a Nephite point of view. But neither Mormon nor any other Nephite writer would waste time and precious space on the plates by adding pointlessly, “Incidentally, there were some other bunches of people hanging around too.”

****Ok, so let’s assume that no space in the Book of Mormon is wasted, How much space would it have taken to leave out one line and write (or perhaps even in the margin somewhere): “There were Others in the land with us”??
If there were Others, there must be other reasons.

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