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 12: A CRITIQUE OF THE ARGUMENT FOR JAREDITE “OTHERS” 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:
The Lingering Jaredites
There is conclusive evidence in the Book of Mormon text that Jaredite language affected the people of Zarahemla, the Nephites, and the Lamanites. Robert F. Smith has pointed out that the term “sheum,” applied by a Nephite historian to a crop for which there was no Nephite (or English) equivalent (see Mosiah 9:9), “is a precise match for Akkadian (i.e. Babylonian) , which means ‘barley’ (Old Assyrian, ‘wheat’), the most popular ancient Mesopotamian cereal name.” Its phonetic form appropriately fits the time period when the Jaredites departed from the Old World. This plant was being grown among the Zeniffites in the land of Nephi. We have already seen that the “corn” emphasized among the Zeniffites had to have passed down from pre-Lehite people. Still another crop, “neas,” bears an untranslated plant name and is mentioned with corn and sheum, so it must also be of non-Nephite origin.
*** These names occur in Mosiah 9:9, a time that follows the discovery and translation of Jaredite records. Thus, there is another perfectly fine explanation.
Why “must [it] also be of non-Nephite origin” for that reason? Is the assumption that everything Nephite was translatable, so if it wasn’t translated, it had to be Jaredite? Is that a necessarily true assumption?
(Does that mean that the untranslated animals mentioned with the Jaredites were there in the land, before the Jaredites arrived?)
It’s possible the Nephites brought them over. (Maybe they even discovered something to eat in the eight years in the wilderness…?) Maybe the plants were native to the Book of Mormon lands, and the Nephites gave them names. It’s possible the plants grew wild and were discovered and used by the Nephites. Etc. Possible? Yes. Likely? Not really.

John L. Sorenson:
The two names and three crops may be presumed to be of Jaredite origin and likely came down to the Nephites and Lamanites via the people of Zarahemla if not some more exotic intermediary population. There is also evidence from personal names that [show that] influence from the Jaredites reached the Nephites. Nibley identifies some of these and notes, “Five out of the six whose names [in the Nephite record] are definitely Jaredite [Morianton, Coriantumr, Korihor, Nehor, Noah, and Shiblon] betray strong anti-Nephite leanings.

**** After a quick search, these names are used by both Jaredites and Nephites (list from Book of Mormon; may be incomplete):
-Shiblon (Ether 1:11; Alma 11:15, Alma 31:7)
-Morianton (Ether 1:22; Alma 50:25, 30)
-Shiblom (Ether 13:30; Mormon 6:14)
-Gilgal (Ether 13:30; Mormon 6:14)
-Nehor (Ether 7:4, 9; Alma 1:15)
-Noah (Ether 7:14; King Noah in Mosiah)
-Coriantumr (Ether 8:4, etc. Here, though, Coriantumr was known to the Mulekites, and no mention of this name occurs among the Nephites before that time.)
In addition: Bible names mentioned in Ether: Seth, Aaron, Levi, Noah. However, since Bible names would have been known to the Nephites through the Brass Plates, they don’t seem to count in this discussion, so I doubt Noah was a Jaredite source name.
Do ANY of the Jaredite names appear in the Book of Mormon BEFORE the discovery of the Jaredite records? No–not one!
Are there people today in the church named Alma, Ammon, Nephi, Moroni, Jordan, etc.? Yes, even though these names are completely out of connection with the society these members live in, and are hardly related. Are there any people named Jonah, even though this character is negative in the Bible? Are there any people named Jezebel, or Judas? Does the name necessarily fit each time? If your parent names you Magus, does that mean that you personally believe in and follow Simon or the gnostics?
The comment by Nibley means the people with these names were mostly very wicked men, in which case, it seems much more likely that they would take the “Jaredite name” upon themselves as a new name or nickname or such to denote their wickedness/ anti-Nephite leanings (look at gang member names or Chinese name changes for better fortune), not that they were given that name at birth and then cultivated to become a wicked person to fulfill their name.
Which brings us to another problem–it would seem that one must assume that all the remaining Jaredites (if there were) were all wicked–now how in the world did THAT happen? If the Lord were to have spared any Jaredites at all, surely they would have been righteous ones, right?
(See also the arguments about Jaredites earlier in this paper.)
Is it possible they came down from the Mulekites? Sure. Any Babylonians/ Assyrians (Akkadian speakers/ “sheum”) among the Phoenicians? Maybe? Any need to get them from the Jaredites? No. The Book of Mormon says the Nephites brought seeds; does it say the Jaredites brought over seeds? No.

John L. Sorenson:
Their anti-Nephite bias may well reflect a viewpoint held by some among the people of Zarahemla or other groups of related origin that one of them, not any descendant of Nephi, ought by rights to be king.

****It might. Or perhaps of someone else.
It just seems a little strange to me that, while the introduction is given to the situation, and many negative things result from it, this split is never mentioned as the cause or reason, not even in the face of the king-men situation; and goodness knows, we could use that in these latter days, if that’s who Mormon was writing for. Yet in the Book of Mormon, many of the other times there are problems, especially those discussed in detail, reasons are given for the problem. Still, there might be something there…

John L. Sorenson:
Nibley also emphasizes that terms in the Nephite system of money and grain measures described in Alma 11 “bear Jaredite names,” obvious examples being “shiblon” and “shiblum.” Can we tell how these foreign words came into use among the Nephites? One possibility is that Coriantumr learned enough of the language of the “Mulekites” in the nine final months of his life which he spent among them to pass on a number of words. Another possibility is that the terms came from Mosiah’s translation of Ether’s plates (see Mosiah 28:11-13, 17). But Alma 11:4 makes clear that the names of weights and measures were in use among the Nephites long before Mosiah had read Ether’s record.

****Yeah, right. Nine months, older, lost everything, and on the top of his mind is teaching this people measurements and grains… Ok, maybe. And yes, even though nine months is a drop in the ocean, language would not be needed to learn the names of those measurements and grains.
Sorenson comes to some very… interesting… conclusions based on the text. Let’s take a look at what Alma 11:4 really says: “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.” It was King Mosiah–who had the Jaredite plates and their translations–who established them. Now, were the names and the reckoning and the measure changed too? Continuing reading, it says, “Now the reckoning is thus–a senine of gold, a seon of gold, a shum of gold, and a limnah of gold” (Alma 11:5)…”A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain” (Alma 11:7).
Then, “Now this is the value of the lesser numbers of their reckoning–” (Alma 11:14)
“A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for half a measure of barley” (Alma 11:15). It seems that the name of the reckoning is included.
Well, if the reckoning changes, then when in his reign did he do this? It sounds like he set it up for the new ruling of the judges (“until the reign of the judges”)–which means long after the records of the Jaredites were translated. King Mosiah could have seen the wisdom of and used the Jaredite system, including the names–that he had read about in the records–to establish the Nephite system, and found it easier to call them by their original names.
ONCE MORE, FIRST the Jaredite records, THEN the Jaredite names/ things.

John L. Sorenson:
And the crop plants themselves, and especially the methods of cultivating them, must have come through real people, not through the pages of any book. Moreover we would not expect that a decrepit Jaredite king whose mind was on the history of his ancestors would have known about or bothered with such mundane matters as seeds and the names of weight units.

****Where does “decrepit Jaredite king whose mind was on the history of his ancestors” come from? After thinking about the phrase for a while, I imagine that John L. Sorenson is assuming that Coriantumr couldn’t have told the Mulekites about seeds and weight units in those nine months, and therefore someone else had to have done it. Well, that sounds somewhat ridiculous–that’s saying a king doesn’t understand the basic things of his own people; how likely would that be for them? Perhaps Sorenson is thinking about European king sons of king fathers? Being a king, one SHOULD know all these matters. Remember, the Jaredites didn’t have one long, peaceful, unbroken line of kings–thus the support of the common man was necessary for a king (or rebel), and how would one relate to the common man if nothing about the common man was known and understood? Especially if the rebel kings grew up in a large family in bondage…
And if Coriantumr of Ether 12 is the same one as in Ether 8:4, then we see that he probably spent the first part of his life in captivity, with his father, who was in captivity. What did these men do in captivity? Just sit around? I imagine hardly that. Train to be kings? Heck no. So in captivity, they might have learned about and done a lot more mundane things than one might imagine, including manual labor–such as farming, etc.
Also, there are the records.

John L. Sorenson:
The people who passed on workaday items like those would have been commoners. And if they had time and opportunity to pass on agricultural and commercial complexes, surely they would have communicated other cultural features as well, probably including cultic (“idolatrous”) items. The idea that part of the Jaredite population lived beyond the battle at the hill Ramah to influence their successors, the people of Zarahemla and Lehi’s descendants, is by no means new. Generations ago both B. H. Roberts and J. M. Sjodahl, for example, supposed that significant Jaredite remnants survived.

****Once more, somehow the Jaredite surviving remnants are wicked… : (
“Surely”–why must that be?
“Calling on the ancients” is, unfortunately, not a logical argument–it just means that someone else thought about this idea–or possibly had the wrong idea–first.

John L. Sorenson:
So far four lines of evidence of Jaredite influence on their successors have been mentioned–the Coriantumr encounter, Jaredite personal names among the later peoples, three crops plus the names of two of them, and the names of certain Nephite weights and measures. A fifth type of evidence is the nature and form of secret societies. The Nephite secret combination pattern is obviously very similar to what had been present among the Jaredites. Was there a historical connection? It is true that Alma instructed his son Helaman not to make known to their people any contents of Ether’s record that might give them operating procedures for duplicating the secret groups (see Alma 37:27-29). A later writer says that it was the devil who “put into the heart” of Gadianton certain information of that sort (see Helaman 6:26). Yet an efficient alternative explanation of how the later secret groups came to look so much like those of the Jaredites is direct transmission of the tradition through survivors of the Jaredites to the people of Zarahemla and thus to Gadianton. This process probably would have been unknown to Alma or other elite Nephite writers, who must have had little to do directly with the mass of “Mulekite” folk. Support for the idea comes from a statement by Giddianhi, one-time “governor” of the Gadianton organization. Their ways, he claimed, “are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us” (3 Nephi 3:9).

****Let’s examine this. This does happen often with gangs, for example. However, it is hard to imagine, and not necessarily so, that every secret society is connected to every other one through direct relations.
Once more, John L. Sorenson assumes that the surviving Jaredites were wicked people–not just wicked, but the most wicked people. How likely is that, in light of 3 Nephi 8-10 and Ether 13-15? God destroyed the righteous, and saved the wicked! There was no promise extended to them like to the Lamanites; but they were told they would be destroyed; were they?
We could, of course, actually believe that “the later writer says that it was the devil who “put into the heart” of Gadianton certain information of that sort”… nah, let’s pretend that’s not true so we can have some more support for our remaining Jaredites hypothesis!
Isn’t it more likely that the Brass Plates contained records about Cain and his society, as in the books of Genesis and Enoch? In fact, didn’t the Jaredites themselves get this secret society from the records brought with them (Ether 8:9)?
Heck, CAIN could be the connection to them all, and could have handed them down to them himself, with the explanation of who he was and where they had come from. I like that much better than, and think it more likely, than the “surviving Jaredites” hypothesis.
Or, this could be one of their traditions/ myths/ legends regarding their society, similar to the Masons nowadays, for example–you know, the more ancient and mysterious, the better they must be. Besides, it’s best for marketing a product to either be an “ancient Chinese secret” or the newest, most advanced thing there is. It’s either “Since 1894” or “Under New Management”.
Moroni says that secret combinations are all over, and pretty much the same. And the serious ones seem to be. Surely, no doubt, it must be, John L. Sorenson believes that surviving Gadianton robbers have traveled all over the world since 400 AD promoting their society for this to be the case…?

John L. Sorenson:
Where the Jaredites lived gives us another clue that more of them than Coriantumr alone must have interacted with the later people of Zarahemla or Nephites. It is commonplace for students of the geography of Book of Mormon events to suppose that the Jaredites dwelt only in the land northward. True, at one point in time centuries before their destruction, during a period of expansion, the Jaredite King Lib constructed “a great city by the narrow neck of land” (Ether 10:20). At that time it was said that “they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game” (21), but it is unlikely such a pattern of exclusive reserve could continue. The fact is that it makes no sense to build a “great city” adjacent to pure wilderness. Rather, we can safely suppose that, in addition to whatever limited area was kept as a royal game preserve, routine settlers existed southward from the new city and that they provided a support population for it. At the least there would have been peoples further toward the south with whom the city would trade whether or not they were counted as Lib’s subjects.

****What? I clearly miss the logical thinking here. “More of them than Coriantumr alone MUST HAVE interacted…” Why is that?
Why does it “[make] no sense”? Why can one “safely suppose”? Why would “routine settlers” have to have existed “southward from the new city” and “[provide] a support poulation for it”? The amount of imagination and speculation here makes my head spin…

John L. Sorenson:
As population grew over the nearly thousand years of Jaredite history after Lib’s day, more local settlements in parts of the land southward could have developed due to normal population growth and spread. Not all of those peoples would have shown up at the final slaughter at Ramah. Likely some of the survivors in the land southward became mixed with descendants of Mulek’s group, thus accounting for part of their “exceedingly numerous” force and, of course, the presence of corn, sheum, and neas.

****Why wouldn’t they have shown up? Any evidence for this?
“Likely”? How likely? Any strong evidence for this? Nope. I mean, no doubt the old king couldn’t have done it, but the remnant not only could, but did do it; huh?
Let’s see what the text says:
Ether 14:1 And now there began to be a great curse upon all the land because of the iniquity of the people, in which, if a man should lay his tool or his sword upon his shelf, or upon the place whither he would keep it, behold, upon the morrow, he could not find it, so great was the curse upon the land…
Ether 14:17 Now the name of the brother of Lib was called Shiz. And it came to pass that Shiz pursued after Coriantumr, and he did overthrow many cities, and he did slay both women and children, and he did burn the cities.
Ether 14:18 And there went a fear of Shiz throughout all the land; yea, a cry went forth throughout the land–Who can stand before the army of Shiz? Behold, he sweepeth the earth before him!
Ether 14:19 And it came to pass that the people began to flock together in armies, throughout all the face of the land.
Ether 14:20 And they were divided; and a part of them fled to the army of Shiz, and a part of them fled to the army of Coriantumr…
Ether 15:13 And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for Coriantumr were gathered together to the army of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz were gathered together to the army of Shiz.
Ether 15:15 And it came to pass that when they were ALL GATHERED TOGETHER, EVERY ONE to the army which he would, WITH THEIR WIVES AND THEIR CHILDREN–both MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN BEING ARMED WITH WEAPONS OF WAR…
Hmmm… I’m not sure, but it seems to me, there is no Jaredite remnant!

John L. Sorenson:
But aside from the likely presence of Jaredite descendants incorporated into Zarahemla’s group, entirely separate peoples could also have resided within interaction range. Archaeological, art, and linguistic materials make clear that ethnic variety is an old phenomenon everywhere in tropical America where the Book of Mormon groups might have been located (mainline archaeologists who have not examined the literature on this topic continue generally to ignore that variety). Even Joseph Smith recognized such a possibility. He once “quoted with approval from the pulpit reports of certain Toltec legends which would make it appear that those people had come [to Mexico] originally from the Near East in the time of Moses.” And why not, Nibley continued? “There is not a word in the Book of Mormon to prevent the coming to this hemisphere of any number of people from any part of the world at any time, provided only that they come with the direction of the Lord; and even this requirement must not be too strictly interpreted,” considering the condition of the “Mulekites” after their arrival. A particularly interesting case of such external evidence involves a scene on a monument located at an archaeological site that I consider to be the prime candidate for the city of Mulek. As explained elsewhere, the site of La Venta in southern Mexico qualifies remarkably well as the city of Mulek. It was one of the great centers of Olmec civilization, whose distribution and dates remind us of Jaredite society. Stela 3 at La Venta is a basalt slab fourteen feet high and weighing fifty tons.21 It is thought to date to about 600 B.C., or a little later, at or just after the late Olmec (Jaredite?) inhabitants abandoned the site. Carved on the stone is a scene in which a person of obvious high social status, whose facial features look like those shown in some earlier Olmec art, confronts a prominent man who appears to a number of (non-Mormon) art historians like a Jew. This scene has been interpreted by archaeologists as a formal encounter between leaders of different ethnic groups. For instance, the late expert on Mesoamerican art, Tatiana Proskouriakoff, considered that Stela 3 shows “two racially distinct groups of people” and that “the group of the [Jewish-looking] bearded stranger ultimately gained ascendency.” She concluded, thus, that “the culture of La Venta [thereafter] contained a strong foreign component.” Latter-day Saints may wonder whether Mulek or some other person in his party might even be represented on Stela 3, considering the date and the location at a site very suitable to have been the “city of Mulek.” At the least we see that ethnic and cultural variety existed in Mesoamerica where and when we would expect evidence of Mulek’s group to show up.

****It’s a possible idea, as far as I can tell.
I’m missing “the city of Mulek” in my Book of Mormon…?
Let’s take a look at the text:
Ether 11:20: “And in the days of Coriantor there also came many prophets, and prophesied of great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would EXECUTE JUDGMENT AGAINST THEM TO THEIR UTTER DESTRUCTION;
The Lehites. Nevertheless…

2008, June 2

Book of Mormon: King Mosiah and Kings to Judges

I think that the study on kings by King Mosiah is brilliant. As recorded in Mosiah 29, it is short, concise, and dense. I’ll write later about that.

But what I want to talk about is the situation that king Mosiah had and how he dealt with it.

King Mosiah wanted to pass the kingdom on down to his sons. That was his plan; that had been his plan. I don’t think he had ever considered that they wouldn’t want it. But they didn’t want to be king; none would accept.

This caused King Mosiah to be blocked; stuck; up the creek without a paddle. It seemed like a really bad thing. This is *not* what King Mosiah wanted. But, he got to it. Instead of plowing ahead with an easy answer that wasn’t good, or just taking a step back, he really pulled back and took a look at the course of things. Fortunately, God had prepared his mind for this situation, through many experiences. I imagine these are some of the things King Mosiah considered:

*He had the history of the Nephites, kings and priests on the plates of Nephi.
*He knew about Lamanites and kings and wars.
*His grandfather, King Mosiah1, had melded his people with the Mulekites/ people of Zarahemla, and become the king (Omni 1:19). While it doesn’t explicitly say it, I assume that Zarahemla was king at the time (Omni 1:18, 19). Perhaps King Mosiah2 saw where they were and what they had been through, and maybe potential future problems about ruling/ kings.
*He had two Jaredite records–the smaller one from his grandfather interpreted (Omni 1:20-22), and the 24 plates found by the people of King Limhi (Mosiah 8:9, 28:11). I assume King Mosiah had the words of the brother of Jared about not having kings (Ether 6:23), and most likely two accounts of king after king all the way down to King Coriantumr and the Jaredite destruction.
*He had the story of King Noah and the problems he and his priests had caused, brought by King Limhi and his people.
*He had the words of Alma refusing to be king and a reason or two why (Mosiah 23:6-14); yet Alma was just the Church, not a “nation” including nonbelievers; and at that time there was a big problem with the nonbelievers who remained Nephites (Mosiah 26, 27). In fact, four of his sons were nonbelievers for quite a while, and I think he saw how easy it was for one generation to turn.
So these groups–Mulekites, Limhites, Almaites–with kings (real or basically), united with the Nephites at Zarahemla…

Any answers anywhere?
*King Mosiah had the brass plates, and so I imagine, the records of judges and kings/ Samuel/ Saul.
*He had the prophecies about the land, the land being a land of liberty, people serving God or being destroyed when they were ripe, what that meant, a history of this promise being fulfilled by God.

So, he put it all together and presented their problem and potential future problems, his solution, the reasons for changing, and more about his solution, etc. By commands, I believe it to be clear that this was inspiration/ revelation.

So, what do we do when things don’t go as planned, especially with something major? How do we make our decisions? Where do we look for answers? Do we consider that maybe God has, through time and our experiences, prepared us for new things? Do we remember that we can and are supposed to turn to the scriptures, His word, and Him for direction, help, and confirmation? Do we consider the possibility that Plan B, which we never wanted because we were very happy and content with Plan A, might be 10x better than Plan A ever thought of being? Can we stop, step back, and ponder? Can we look for better ways–maybe not just on the surface, but deeper? Do we have the ability to “let go” of Plan A so that we are free for Plan B? Are we courageous enough to follow the path we see we’re supposed to take? Are we courageous enough to be dependent on the Lord and ourselves, and independent of others’ contrary opinions and harpings? Do we think it out, explain ourselves well, and burn our bridges when they need to be burned? Are we willing to give up something like our descendants being king, in order for something better for everyone? Do we see our solutions through to an end?

King Mosiah’s sons refuse, he remains king until death, and then the system of judges–already in place and judges elected (at least some)–and the laws–already in place–take effect. A smooth transition from kings to judges.

And Alma, the first chief judge and the high priest of the church, had such a great opportunity to be king; yet he set a wonderful example for the people and the following rulers. Perhaps the people saw a need for a great leader who was not only a good man, but had been the son of a man who had already spoken against having kings and displayed passing up the opportunity when he had been asked earlier to be king.

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