Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2011, March 3

“Book of Mormon: Alma 51:33—“Heat of the Day”: Evidence of a Book of Mormon Mesoamerica Geographical Setting or a New York Geographical Setting?” by grego

Book of Mormon: Alma 51:33—“Heat of the Day”: Evidence of a Book of Mormon Mesoamerica Geographical Setting or a New York Geographical Setting?

grego
(c)2010

In the Book of Mormon, there is a verse about the temperature:
Alma 51:33 And it came to pass that when the night had come, Teancum and his servant stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah; and behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.

Does this clue us that it’s hot in December, so the setting must be in Mesoamerica, as John Sorenson and the following FAIR article say?:
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“Different from Joseph Smith’s World
The Book of Mormon’s consistent representation of the seasonality of Mesoamerican warfare bodes poorly for the theory that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. A significant battle scene (one in which the long-term survival of the Nephite nation might have been at stake) is described in Alma 51: at the end of the year—around December. After heavy fighting and major marches, both sides were very tired because of their “labors and heat of the day.” This takes place on the east coast, “in the borders on the beach by the seashore” (Alma 51:32).

In Mesoamerica, at this season, the rain-swollen rivers have subsided, but the east region (which would correspond to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec area under the limited geography model) is still rather wet, low, and hot. The hottest weather was still months away, but down on the coast it was hot and muggy enough to contribute to the fatigue of the rapidly traveling troops.

Alma 51 shows that the land of the Book of Mormon peoples was not a cold, snow-covered place in winter, as upstate New York was for young Joseph Smith. If Joseph created the book based on what he knew, he would have had fighting occur in the summer, not during winter. The internal consistency of many passages dealing with war during the proper season of war for Mesoamerica is also remarkable—and has not been noted or recognized until the late twentieth century. Though it is a minor point in the text, the geographical and climatic information provided fits and makes sense. It must be considered as one of the many “mundane” but powerful evidences for authenticity.”
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That all sounds good on the surface… Let’s dig a little and see.

“…labors and heat of the day” near the end of the year…

First, is the Nephite calendar established in regard to the seasons (like it can be reasonably or at least plausibly concluded that December=end of the year)? If so, where, and to what degree? (I imagine and assume so, but…?)

Second, if the armies usually fight in the hot summer, and then “heat of the day” comes up near the end of the year, does that mean it was especially hot in that season, or on that day, or what?

If it had been 45F for the past few days, and typically was around 45F for the season, and the armies were dressed for 45F weather, with their protection on top of it—and then it happened to be 65F that day—that would be a plausible conclusion, right?

Third, how much of the tiredness is due to the labor, and how much to the heat of the day? Sure, war is always a tiring thing. Note, though, that they had Amalickiah, the War Starter, on the run, and were beating him soundly, all the way until it was likely too dark to see anymore. That was a lot of running to get away and to chase.

Also unfortunately, it seems there might have been an oversight or a little lack of scholarship among people pushing Mesoamerica. I found this article, and ouch is what I think when I read it. It not only rebuts “common sense” thinking, and arguments made by many Mesoamerican proponents, but provides scholarly, historical evidence that supports a New York setting based on Alma 51:33 and other Book of Mormon verses. (I have copied the article to here and edited it very slightly (shorter), but if the original author finds this unacceptable, let me know!):
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http://www.bookofmormonlands.com/link%20eight.htm
The Weather During Book of Mormon Times

It is interesting, that the most often asked question about the northern setting regards the weather, supposing it was too cold for the Lamanites, who the scriptures say wore nothing but loin cloths. However, the loin cloth noted beneath the blanket on the Algonquin of the Canadian northeast in this 18th century watercolor prove the descendants of the Lamanites dressed in the same way their ancestors did back in Nephite times. Even his wife is nearly naked except for a short skirt beneath her blanket covering.

And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites … wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven… (Enos 1:20.)

The French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, actually described the Iroquois and Algonquians of New York and along the St. Lawrence River as going entirely naked in his writings and drawings in 1602, a scene he captured in the accompanying illustrations. Sier de Roberval, the first Governor General of America’s “New France,” said of the Iroquois along the St. Lawrence River (a New York based tribe), “. . . are a people of goodly stature and well made; they are very white, but they are all naked, and if they were appareled as the French are, they would be as white and as fair, but they paint themselves for fear of heat and sunburning.”(Malory, p. 170.)

The reference to sunburning adds impetus to the fact that it gets hot in the northeast, not just in the tropics. Moreover, it is not likely that they would wear heavy skins in the tropics which remains hot all year long. However, the Book of Mormon mentions that the Lamanites in Book of Mormon territory wore very heavy skins, which we can take to be bear or buffalo hides, often worn to withstand the blows of their enemies, but likely also during periods of extreme cold.

Now the leaders of the Lamanites had supposed, because of the greatness of their numbers, yea, they supposed that they should be privileged to come upon them as they had hitherto done; yea, and they had also prepared themselves with shields, and with breastplates; and they had also prepared themselves with garments of skins, yea, very thick garments to cover their nakedness. (Alma 49:6.)

It would be good to remember that cold weather was also implied in the scriptures, for hail was mentioned twice, and Nephi mentions snow when he was recording the Tree of Life. He said: “and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” (1 Nephi 11:8) While a gentle snow falls in Israel about every seven or eight years, it melts away rather quickly. Thus, Nephi likely did not experienced driven snow, the kind that blows in with a snow storm, until after he arrived in the promised land and had secured the ore he needed to record the experiences of his family. Rain, or the lack of it, is also mentioned in the Book of Mormon, usually in reference to the Lord’s sending it or withholding it according to the righteousness of the people. Thus, we have four separate weather conditions, heat, hail, snow and rain.
More important than looking for heat or cold in the scriptures is the need to find an area where all the ordinances of the law of Moses could be kept, which means an area with four distinct seasons such we find in the temperate climate of the northeast, for the observance of the Law of Moses is dependant upon the ripening of specific crops at different times of the years, such as wheat, corn, and barely, each of which are grown in abundance in New York.

Unfortunately, a comment by John Sorenson to the effect that the promised land of the Nephites should be place in the tropics because of one lone statement to heat in the scriptures (see Alma 51:33) seems to have stuck in the minds of many, for it is the most often asked question by those investigating New York as the proposed setting for the Book of Mormon saga. He said:

“The promised land was quite surely located in the tropics since no indication of cold or snow is given in the text while heat is.” [1]

As important as the weather patterns and seasons seems to be… (Here the author gives the typical argument about writing important things, like the proponents of ”

Nevertheless, since it is a subject of much interest, a discussion of the weather patterns of the northeast during the Book of Mormon era, both Nephite and Jaredite, seems appropriate here.

The Archaic Period

The close of the last Ice Age saw the weather patterns in the northeast change from bleak and cold to warmer than it is today which precipitated the melting of the great glaciers covering so much of Canada and the northeastern United States. This warm condition persisted until around 1000 B.C., when it became somewhat moister and cooler, although still warmer than currently. Another drop in temperature took place around the time of Christ and has persisted relatively unchanged until our present day—notwithstanding various fluctuations over the years, such as the little ice age which is thought to have begun somewhere between 1250-1600 and ended around 1900.
New York Archaeologist, William A. Ritchie explains that the archaic period, (that being the era of the Jaredites), experienced the latter portion of the hypsithermal episode, which is believed to have considerably surpassed the present in average warmth.[2] Moreover, for a thousand years between 2000-1000 B.C., little rainfall came, with the result that the northeast experienced a number of devastating droughts, just as was noted in the account of the Jaredites who lost a great many of their people to the famines which followed.

And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the earth; and the people began to revive again, and there began to be fruit in the north countries, and in all the countries round about. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine. (Ether 9:35.)

Ritchie instructs us that when the last remnants of the ice sheets disappeared from the northeast, forests of mixed evergreens and hardwoods covered much of the land. Many of the existing mucklands were shallow lakes in those days, and “the streams flowed clearer, deeper, and certainly more constantly than now due to the thick spongy covering of the forest floor.”[3] Fossil samples indicate that the relatively warm, humid conditions made it especially favorable for hunting and fishing and gathering wild plant foods, especially fruits and nuts. Ritchie points out that while the expansion of people also took them into lower Ontario, the archaic population was more numerous in New York, with its milder winters and probably more abundant wildlife than in lower Ontario, with the possibility that the weather was becoming increasingly warmer and drier during this era.[4]

The Nephite Era

The weather remained the same during the first 600 years of Nephite occupation in the land, only changing again after the birth of Christ when pollen samples indicate a cool, moist climate phase began to prevail over most of the area,[5] much as it does today. Yet, while New York enjoys a temperate climate, the regions to the east of the lakes can sometimes be hit rather hard during the colder winter months. Thus, since Book of Mormon territory appears to extend along much of the region to the east of Lake Erie, there can be little doubt that the Nephites experienced harsh winters at times during the last 384 years of their existence in the land. Yet their summers would have been as moist and hot as they are today as well, a condition hard to travel in, let alone fight in. The time period given the episode which speaks of Teancum’s army successfully overpowering the Lamanites because they were fatigued due to their labors and the heat of the day came in 67 B.C., according to Book of Mormon footnotes, which was before the climate change which took place at the time of Christ. But, whether before or after, the region would have endured hot, humid summers in either case. Thus, it seems foolish to discount New York as a plausible setting for the Book of Mormon saga simply because of one lone reference to the heat of the day, which some speculate can only be referring to the tropics. People still die in New York in the summer months, due to the heat and high humidity.

And it came to pass that when the night had come, Teancum and his servant stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah; and behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day. (Alma 51:33.)

Such hot moist conditions also promote the spread of various fevers in the land, another fact mentioned in the scriptures (see Alma 46:40). Malaria is a bad fever, and has plagued the people of the northeast for centuries. Literally hundreds died of the dread disease while building New York’s Erie Canal.
Regardless of the hot moist summers and the heavy snowfall which falls in New York at times, the state is still said to enjoy a temperate climate. But, even in the harshest conditions, Native Americans have been inhabiting this region for millennium and have survived nicely without central heating or electricity. Moreover, Joseph Smith, as well as numerous early Saints lived in New York without such conveniences and without complaint until forced from their homes by angry mobs. Thus, the Nephites no doubt also lived comfortably in the region after the weather turned cooler. The lush timberlands surrounding them would have provided them with plenty of firewood to keep them just as warm as the pilgrims and early gentile settlers of the past few centuries.
As for Alma 3:5 referring to the Lamanites wearing nothing more than loin clothes, the Native American Indians in New York continued that practice until modernized by the Gentiles who made every effort to civilize them. Many of the early colonizers were amazed by the Indians ability to go so scantily clad even during some of the harshest winters without the cold seeming to bother them. Yet, we must not overlook the fact that the scriptures also refer to the Lamanites wearing heavy clothing made from animal skins, which was the more common dress among them during colder weather.

Now the leaders of the Lamanites had supposed, because of the greatness of their numbers, yea, they supposed that they should be privileged to come upon them as they had hitherto done; yea, and they had also prepared themselves with shields, and with breastplates; and they had also prepared themselves with garments of skins, yea, very thick garments to cover their nakedness. (Alma 49:6.)

Notes:
1-John Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, p. 351. F.A.R.M.S.
2-William A. Ritchie, The Archaeology of New York State, p. 32.
3-William A. Ritchie, Indian History of New York State, Ed Leaflet, No. 6, p. 6.
4-William A. Ritchie, Indian History of New York State, Ed Leaflet, No.6, p. 10.
5-William A. Richie, Prehistoric Archaeology and the New York State Museum Ed Leaflet, No. 22, p. 5
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