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.”

PART 9: CRITIQUE OF ARGUMENT FOR OTHERS BASED ON THE MULEKITES

grego
(c) 2004-2009

PART 9: CRITIQUE OF ARGUMENT FOR OTHERS BASED ON THE MULEKITES

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.

2008, September 8

Critique of One Section of “The Book of Mormon – Artifact or Artifice?” by Scott Orson Card

Critique of One Section of “The Book of Mormon – Artifact or Artifice?” by Scott Orson Card

by grego

While I differ and disagree with many parts of this article (found at: http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-bookofmormon.html ), it’s a very fascinating and insightful read on a brilliant topic: the Book of Mormon as fiction, by a highly-acclaimed (science) fiction writer. I have read of critics trying to show what should have been in there but isn’t (jaguars, macaws, etc.) and what was around Joseph Smith in the 1820’s and was in it (religious topics, Masons, etc.); this talks about what was around Joseph Smith in the 1820’s and should have been in it, but wasn’t, and other aspects of what a fiction “should” have been like.

Here’s one part, though, that was just too big, too out-there, to leave alone:

-=-=-=

“Speculation on Zarahemla.
Let me offer an aside on the matter of Zarahemla and the Mulekites. Much has been made of the statement by King Zarahemla that his people were descended from the youngest son of King Zedekiah. Extraordinary and completely unconvincing efforts have been made to find such a son, overlooked by the Babylonian captors of Jerusalem; just as much effort has been devoted to explaining how a good Jaredite name like Mulek could show up in the family of an Israelite king. But is this really necessary?

In Meso-American culture, every ruling class had to assert an ancient ancestor who was a god or, at the very least, a king in an admired culture. Whoever ruled in the Valley of Mexico always had to claim to be descended from or heirs of the Toltecs. Rival Mayan cities would play at ancestral one-upmanship. Imagine, now, the vigorous and dangerous Nephites, coming down the valley of the Sidon River from the highlands of Guatemala. King Zarahemla is negotiating with King Mosiah. Mosiah tells him of his ancestry, of course, and the story of how God led Lehi and Nephi out of Jerusalem at the time when Zedekiah was king of Israel.

To Mosiah, what he is doing is bearing his testimony and asserting the divine guidance that he receives as the legitimate king of a chosen people. To Zarahemla, what he is doing is claiming that his lineage gives him the right to rule over the people of Zarahemla and displace him from the kingship. So what does Zarahemla do? Well, Mosiah admits that his ancestors were not kings in Israel. So Zarahemla picks his most noble ancestor, Mulek, and then declares him to be the son of that last king of Israel. Thus if anybody has the right to rule over anybody, it’s Zarahemla who has the right to rule over Mosiah and his people. But Mosiah kindly points out that if Zarahemla and his people are descended from Israelites, they certainly seem to have forgotten the language and writing, and therefore have obviously degenerated from the high culture of Israel. The Nephites, on the other hand, have preserved a writing system that no one else uses, and which Zarahemla can’t read. They have a history accounting for every year since they arrived in America, which Zarahemla of course cannot produce.

In the end, whatever negotiation there was ended up with Zarahemla bowing out of the kingship and his people becoming subject to rule by the Nephites. But the story of Mulek served a very useful purpose even so — it allowed the people to merge, not with the hostility of conquerors over the conquered, though in fact that is what the relationship fundamentally was, but rather with the idea of brotherhood. They were all Israelites. Thus no one had any reason to question the Mulek story, because, while it failed in its original purpose, to allow Zarahemla to prevail over Mosiah, it still served the valuable function of uniting the newly combined nation as a single tribe. It wasn’t completely successful, of course, or there wouldn’t have been a later revolt of Kingmen against Nephite Freemen, but considering that the people of Zarahemla outnumbered the people of Mosiah by quite a bit, the Mulek story may well have contributed to the ultimate victory of the judges in that struggle.

If this speculation is true, it does not imply that the Book of Mormon is somehow false. No one in the Book of Mormon ever claims that the story of Mulek came to anybody by inspiration. The source is never more than Zarahemla’s assertion during his negotiations with Mosiah. That Mormon and other writers believed the story does not prove it true or false, it simply proves that it was part of the Nephite culture. And if my speculation is right, and Mulek was no more a son of Zedekiah than I am, we are spared the confusion of trying to reconcile this account with the utter lack of convincing evidence that Zedekiah had a boy named Mulek who escaped the Babylonians without generating a vast amount of Jewish tradition looking for the return of the lost son of the last king of Judah. We don’t have to account for a migration to America led by the Lord but without the same kind of preparation and commandments given to Lehi and Nephi. We don’t have to account for the fact that we think of America as being the inheritance of Manasseh and Ephraim, while in fact two thirds of the Nephites would have been descended from Judah — which to my mind, at least, would make hash of the literality of the application of the parable of the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah to the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

But this is only speculation, and if I’m wrong, and there really was a Mulek led to America by the Lord, I’m not going to lose my testimony about it! I just think it’s something to think about, a possibility to consider.”

-=-=-=

Yes, that is “only speculation”–in fact, there’s an incredible amount of speculation throughout the entire line of thinking to!!

But I see four big wrenches in this line of thinking:

1. Mormon writes about these Mulekite “others” as if there is something big and different; he never writes about any other “others”. For those who don’t believe there were many others, that’s not a problem; but for those that do, there’s some explaining to do: if the Nephites were always assimilating, from the start to the end, why only this mention?

2. Zarahemla had an interesting reaction: “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” (Omni 1:14).

Why would anyone other than a descendant of the Jews be interested in, or care about, much less “rejoice exceedingly”, over that?

3. Zarahemla knows the story:
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.”

How would Zarahemla know:
from Jerusalem, at the time that Zedekiah was king of Judah, carried away captive into Babylon, journeyed in the wilderness, came across the great waters? He got all that info from Mosiah, and used it for his story?

4. Zarahemla gives his lineage: Omni 1:18 “But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates.”

So… what, they meet, Mulek learns a few Nephite names (not Jewish names), maybe he reads/ hears some Brass Plates stuff, and then he gives a lineage of his fathers, from that time (279-130 BC) all the way back to 600 BC? I don’t think so. Not only that, but everyone there in Zarahemla already has a name–had the names all become corrupted to, or did they have to give fake Jewish/ Phoenician/ who-knows-what names to everyone else?

So, even though it’s a pretty cool thought, it seems the text doesn’t really allow this line of reasoning.

P.S. “which to my mind, at least, would make hash of the literality of the application of the parable of the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah to the Book of Mormon and the Bible.”
Not so–the Book of Mormon was written by descendants of Joseph–the Nephites–not the Mulekites.

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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