Saturday, December 2, 2017

Holocaust Survivors in the Book of Mormon

Upon entering the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, visitors pass a stark black marble wall with the single engraved phrase "You Are My Witnesses" from Isaiah 43:10.
Entrance to US Holocaust Memorial Museum
It is a stunning architectural reminder of the holocaust mantra "Never Again."

Holocaust survivors lived in an evil parallel universe and they carry deep psychological wounds from the horrors they experienced. Psycho therapists group these terrible emotional scars under the classification "Holocaust Survivor Syndrome." Among the characteristics holocaust survivors exhibit are:
  • Death imprint. Extreme anxiety about death. Recurring mental images of violence and death.
  • Death guilt. Uncertainty. Aimlessness. Wondering why one survived when others did not.
  • Psychic numbing. Insensitivity or diminished ability to feel.
  • Suspicion and distrust. Foreboding sense that everything, even life itself, is an illusion.
  • Witness imperative. A sense of mission to bear witness to future generations.
The deep and abiding impulse to testify of one's experience helps a holocaust survivor create some personal sense of a moral and rational universe. See Dori Laub and Andreas Hamburger, editors, Psychoanalysis and Holocaust Testimony: Unwanted Memories of Social Trauma (London and New York: Routledge, 2017) and Sandra Williams, "The Impact of the Holocaust on Survivors and Their Children," written while she was a student of Judaic Studies at the University of Central Florida.

The Nephites experienced a holocaust and many evidences of "Holocaust Survivor Syndrome" show through in Mormon's and Moroni's words.
  • Death imprint. Mormon 4:11 "... the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people ..." Mormon 5:8 "... such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes ..." and Mormon 6:7 "... that awful fear of death ..." 
  • Death guilt. Mormon 8:3-5 "... whether they will slay me I know not." "... whither I go it mattereth not." "... I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not."
  • Psychic numbing. Mormon 3:12 "... the hardness of their hearts" Moroni 9:5 "they have lost their love, one towards another ..." and Moroni 9:20 "... they are without principle, and past feeling ..."
  • Suspicion and distrust. Mormon 1:18,19 "the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery... " "... sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics ..." and Mormon 2:10 "... no man could keep that which was his own ..."
  • Witness imperative. Mormon 3:16 "... I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard ..." and Moroni 9:22 "... to witness the return of his people unto him, or their utter destruction ..."
The Book of Mormon can be profitably read from dozens of perspectives. In this case, trauma psychology helps us better understand its authors and their powerful messages.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Gareth Lowe's Maps

John L. Sorenson's 1992 The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book pp. 115-119 includes Book of Mormon maps and commentary by Gareth W. Lowe (1922-2004). Who was Gareth Lowe? He ran the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) from 1959 to 1987. He and John L. Sorenson were fellow graduate students at BYU in the early 1950's. They worked together in the first (privately funded) NWAF field season in Tabasco in 1953. Lowe went back down to Mexico with the second (Church funded) NWAF field season in 1955 and never left. He was one of a handful of LDS Mesoamericanists who rose to the highest levels in the profession (others that come to mind are John E. Clark, Allen J. Christenson, and Richard D. Hansen). Lowe was the world's expert on Chiapas in his day. He was one of the top dirt archaeologists in the world and an indispensable source on pre-classic southern Mesoamerica. See the blog article "Zarahemla ca. 1955" for more information about Gareth Lowe and some of his renowned colleagues. Lowe's daughter, Lynneth Lowe Negron, is a leading archaeologist in Mexico today.
Classic 1968 Photo of Gareth W. Lowe 
Even though the Church invested millions of dollars in NWAF over the years and important Church leaders such as Howard W. Hunter chaired its board, the professional staffers seldom mentioned the Book of Mormon. Many were not members of the Church.

For years Gareth Lowe and John Sorenson were a formidable tag team - Lowe in Mexico and Arizona directing a first-rate archaeological enterprise, Sorenson in Utah and California analyzing, synthesizing, and interpreting field reports with an eye to Book of Mormon implications.
About Half of the NWAF Field Reports
The photo above shows my personal collection of the NWAF Papers series. I have been collecting these for years and still lack many titles. This series represents Gareth W. Lowe's life's work.

So, where did Gareth Lowe think the Book of Mormon took place?

In July, 1960, he envisioned the setting in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala with the Ulua as the Sidon and Cumorah in southern Belize.

By October, 1960, he had changed his mind. He imagined the setting in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico with the Usumacinta as the Sidon and Cumorah in the Tuxtlas of southern Veracruz. The narrow neck he correlated with sand bars along the Tabasco coast. Tonala, Chiapas was his boundary between the lands northward and southward. The city of Zarahemla he placed in the vicinity of Tonina, Chiapas.

In 1960, Lowe was thinking out of the box in three important ways. 1) He may have been the first to suggest coastal sandbars (a peninsula rather than an isthmus) as the narrow (small) neck of land. 2) He was considering the Olmec culture core boundary as the dividing line between lands northward and southward which makes considerable sense since the two land designations originated with the Jaredites. 3) He was envisioning Zarahemla considerably downstream on the Sidon rather than just beyond the headwaters region.

By the early 1970's, Lowe re-thought his correlation and shared his most complete Book of Mormon map. He was the first to propose some correlations I previously thought were original with F. Richard Hauck whose Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon appeared in 1988.
  • Lowe envisioned the narrow (small) neck of land as the coastal sandbar seaside from Tonala, Chiapas. Ric Hauck, Joe V. Andersen, Javier Tovar, and I agree. This is a crucial point. See the blog article "Red Herrings."
  • He thought the Bountiful/Desolation border which was also the land southward/northward border skirted around Tonala, Chiapas on the Pacific side and La Venta, Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico side. This located all of the Olmec heartland in the land northward. Javier Tovar and I agree.
  • His hill Cumorah was in the Tuxtla mountains of southern Veracruz. Ric Hauck, Joe V. Andersen, Javier Tovar, and I agree, as do most of the contemporary Mesoamericanists studying the Book of Mormon including John Sorenson.
  • Lowe correlated the Sidon with the Mezcalapa/Grijalva. Sorenson and the Allens agree.
  • Lowe placed the city of Zarahemla at the site of Santa Cruz, Chiapas. I believe he was the first to propose this correlation which I find more convincing than Sorenson's Santa Rosa further upstream.
  • He put the narrow pass near his narrow neck on the Pacific coast at the site of Los Horcones where Cerro Bernal forces the trans isthmian railroad almost into the ocean. Lowe was convinced this was the most naturally defensible place along any coastline in southern Mesoamerica and a point at which the Nephites could have controlled northward movement along the relatively narrow Pacific coastal plain. Ric Hauck, Joe V. Andersen, Javier Tovar, and I agree.
  • Ammonihah he located at Chiapa de Corzo, east of the big river. V. Garth Norman came to this same conclusion in 1966, that Ammonihah was east rather than west of Sidon. Javier Tovar and I agree. This is another crucial point. See the article "Red Herrings."
  • Moroni's fortified line referenced in Alma 50:10,11 Lowe envisioned as a straight east-west line connecting Pijijiapan with La Libertad, Chiapas and beyond. Most interpreters equate this with the narrow strip of wilderness mentioned in Alma 22:27. Almost all current Book of Mormon Mesoamericanists agree with Lowe in principle, although many of them would locate the line further south along the Polochic Fault or the Sierra de las Minas.
  • Lowe identified the head of Sidon as the point geographers consider the head of the Mezcalapa/Grijalva - the confluence of the Cuilco with the Selegua. This idea that the head of the big river is a confluence of tributaries is gaining increased support among modern Book of Mormon mapmakers. Garth Norman, Javier Tovar, and I agree with the concept even though we think the Usumacinta is the stronger candidate river.
  • Lowe correlated Mar Muerto with the sea west and Laguna de la Joya with the component of that sea that was east mentioned in Alma 50:34. Ric Hauck, Joe V. Andersen, Javier Tovar and I are in basic agreement even though we differ slightly on the details.
When a generally accepted map finally brings order to the chaos currently surrounding the Book of Mormon geographic context, I believe some of Gareth Lowe's ideas will prove to have been prescient.
Gareth Lowe's 1970's Book of Mormon Map
Like Joe and Blake Allen, Lowe was comfortable with the archaeology of the Central Depression of Chiapas, but insistent on cardinal directionality.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How Many were Many and Few?

The article "Test #6 Relative Distances" explains why we need to understand the Nephite meaning of our English word "many." I am patiently working through John L. Sorenson's foundational series of Book of Mormon geography works (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon 1985 415 pages, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book 1992 revised edition 415 pages, Mormon's Map 2000 158 pages, and Mormon's Codex 2013 826 pages), appreciating his prodigious effort while documenting his myriad inconsistencies. 2 Nephi 5:7 says Nephi and his followers traveled many days in the wilderness to get from the coastal land of first inheritance to the city of Nephi. How far would that have been?

One day's travel in Nephite parlance was probably about 15 air kilometers. See the article "Land Southward Travel Times" referenced frequently in this blog. But, how many were many days? Contemporary English speakers would not call 2 days "many." What about 3, 4, or 5 days?

The problem for Book of Mormon interpretation is on the low end of the range. It is clear from the text that on the high end "many" can refer to dozens 1 Nephi 13:1, hundreds 3 Nephi 7:4, thousands Ether 10:17, tens of thousands Helaman 3:5, or even millions Mosiah 14:12.

Helaman 6:32 tells us that a little over 1 year (67th year of the reign of the judges) was considered not many years.
Helaman 11:26 tells us that 2 years (79th and 80th years of the reign of the judges) were considered not many years.
Helaman 4:26 tells us that 3 years (57th through 59th years of the reign of the judges) were considered not many years.
Helaman 7:6 tells us that 3 years (67th through 69th years of the reign of the judges) were considered not many years.
Helaman 14:21, 26 coupled with 3 Nephi 8:19 tell us that at least 3 and likely a little more were considered many hours.
Words of Mormon 1:2 tells us that approximately 3.8 were considered many hundred years.
Helaman 8:18 tells us that approximately 4 were considered a great many thousand years from Adam until Jesus Christ. This curious phrase "a great many thousand" also shows up in 3 Nephi 3:24 where it refers to tens if not hundreds of thousands of people.
Helaman 1:3-4 tells us that 4 or more were considered many sons.
Jacob 4:4 and Jacob 7:7 tell us that approximately 5.4 were considered many hundred years.
Alma 51:26 tells us that 6 were considered many cities. (Note: this verse is one of the few known scribal errors in the text. Inland "Nephihah" should be coastal "Moroni." See Alma 51:25.
Alma 16:11 coupled with Alma 49:2-3 tell us that 7-9 were considered many years.
1 Nephi 17:4 tells us that 8 were considered many years.
Mosiah 10:3 tells us that 22 were considered many years.
Mosiah 7:4 tells us that 40 were considered many days.

These remarkably consistent data show that 3 or less of something would generally not have been considered "many" while 4 or more of something could definitely have been called "many" in Nephite usage. So "many days" travel was 4 or more days travel which equates to a minimum of about 60 air kilometers.

So, to answer the initial question, we would expect the land of first inheritance to be at least 60 air kilometers distant from the city of Nephi (Kaminaljuyú is the most widely-proposed candidate).
60 Air Kilometer Radius around Kaminaljuyú
This means any place along the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Guatemala, or El Salvador likely fits the "many days" criteria.

When Almaleft Ammonihah traveling toward Aaron, his guardian angel intercepted him and told him to rejoice and return to the apostate city Alma 8:16,17. Alma began fasting (rejoicing D&C 59:13,14), turned around, and traveled back to Ammonihah. His return trip took "many days" Alma 8:26, Alma 10:7. This means that Ammonihah and Aaron are probably more than 60 air kilometers distant from each other.
57 Air Kilometers Ammonihah to Aaron (Sorenson Correlation)
This means the Sorenson correlation probably locates these two cities too close together to comfortably fit the text.
--
"Many" contrasts with "few" in Alma 26:31. How many were few?

 3 Nephi 6:3-4, 9-10, and 16 tell us that 3 were considered a few years.
Zeezrom asked Amulek 8 questions Alma 11:21-38 which he considered a few questions Alma 11:21.
3 Nephi 8:19 tells us that 8 plus a few others such as Mary Whitmer were considered a few witnesses of the plates Moroni delivered to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Mosiah 20:5 tells us that 24 were considered few Lamanite daughters.
--
A stock phrase in the Book of Mormon is "many waters" referring generally to the ocean 1 Nephi 13:10-13, 1 Nephi 17:5, Ether 2:6. The land of Ramah/Cumorah which was among many waters Mosiah 8:8 could be partially surrounded by ocean or the phrase "many waters" could also have meant inland bodies of water which is the likely sense of Mormon 6:4. Either way, our candidate for Ramah/Cumorah fits the text.
Tuxtlas Showing Surface Water
The Tuxtlas jut into the ocean so they are "among many waters." The green icons (from INEGI) on the map above represent surface water which is relatively abundant in the rainy Tuxtlas. This region certainly qualifies as a "land of many (surface) waters" or a "land of the ocean."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Peopling the Americas

For decades we Mormons walked around with an inferiority complex. The Book of Mormon says three groups of ancient immigrants came to the New World across the open ocean in boats. Conventional wisdom held that the first Americans walked across the Bering land bridge during the most recent ice age, then stopped coming when the glaciers receded, sea levels rose, and salt water inundated what had been a convenient terrestrial highway. Native Americans, so the theory went, were snugly ensconced in their private hemisphere free from any significant outside cultural influence until Columbus came along with his guns and smallpox virus and began to wreak havoc on the natives. Because we Mormons believed the Book of Mormon story, we were "diffusionists," a term that carried pejorative baggage with most anthropologists. "Isolationists" aka "independent inventionists" carried the day for generations because the idea of autochthonous development stroked nationalist egos and provided a tidy, continental-scale laboratory for validating Darwin's theory of evolution. Americanists since John Wesley Powell (1834 - 1902) who founded the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian in 1879 have vigorously denounced evidence of ancient Old World influence in the Americas as crackpot archaeology on the lunatic fringe, unworthy of real scientists.

For many years the diffusionist camp was a rag-tag army of laymen with the occasional rebel scientist or academic willing to go rogue and oppose mainstream thought. Not anymore. There has been a literal sea change of scholarly opinion and it is no longer politically incorrect for Americanists to talk about ancient sea voyages between the hemispheres. The "kelp highway" (marine navigation along the Pacific Coast) is now generally recognized as the principal way the first Americans arrived in the New World from Asia because we have abundant evidence of human occupation in the western hemisphere before the last glacial maximum and subsequent sea rise.

Peer-reviewed academic journals are ranked based on their "impact factor." Nature founded in 1869 is the most prestigious journal in the world with 53,000 subscribers and a 2016 impact factor of 40.137. Science founded in 1880 is the next most prestigious with 130,000 subscribers and a 2016 impact factor of 37.205. The November 3, 2017 issue of Science has an article entitled "Finding the First Americans" written by:
The article says Asian sea voyages to the Americas pre-date the Clovis people who specialists believe walked across the Bering land bridge. According to the article, this new understanding is a "dramatic intellectual turnabout."
November 3, 2017 Edition of Science
This map shows Clovis and pre-Clovis sites around the Pacific rim.
Peopling the Americas - Early Sites, Science Vol. 358, Issue 6363
This is not validation of the Jaredite, Lehite or Mulekite voyages, but since people were coming to the Americas 15,000 years ago in boats, the Book of Mormon ocean-going voyage narrative is now plausible and in step with mainstream scientific opinion rather than quirky and problematic. See the article "Ancient Ocean Crossings."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mesoamerican MTC Mural

On Friday, October 13, 2017, Pres. Henry B. Eyring dedicated two new six story buildings known as "T3" and "T4" at the Provo MTC. These magnificent structures, the finest the Missionary Department has ever built, have been carefully designed to help missionaries train, study, and meditate in beautiful, light, airy, peaceful, uplifting surroundings. The architecture and furnishings in these new buildings are as attractive as you are likely to see in any LDS temple. Among the most impressive interior features are "disciple spaces" featuring life-size, back-lit, photo-realistic murals that depict outstanding missionaries from history. Multiple copies of this particular mural showing the four sons of Mosiah about to enter a Lamanite city are on display throughout the buildings. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Stunning MTC Mural of the Four Sons of Mosiah
Photograph by LDS Church News
The scene portrays the land of Nephi with stepped pyramids, in a tropical or sub-tropical setting with palm trees and low-latitude shrubs, beside a lake, surrounded by spectacular, densely-forested mountains.
Another Copy of Back-lit Photo Mural Depicting the Land of Nephi
Photograph by LDS Church News
Zooming in shows a scene very much like the ancient valley of Guatemala where we (and many others) think the city of Nephi was located.
Representation of the Land of Nephi Set in Mesoamerica
Photograph by John W. Welch
Tropical Kaminaljuyú (KJ), our candidate for the city of Nephi, was built on Lake Miraflores and is surrounded by imposing, densely-forested volcanoes. See the article "Kaminaljuyu" for dozens of correspondences between KJ and the Book of Mormon text. These parallels are convincing enough that KJ is on our list of outstanding archaeological evidences. See the article "Top 10 Archaeological Evidences for the Book of Mormon."
Scene Similar to Kaminaljuyú on Display in Provo MTC Mural
Photograph by John W. Welch
All nine contemporary Mesoamerican correlations of which I am aware (Joe & Blake Allen, Ric Hauck & Joe Andersen, Kirk Magleby & Javier Tovar, Elder Clate W. Mask, Jr., Garth Norman, Bob Roylance & Richard Terry, Shelby Saberon & Mark Wright, John L. Sorenson, Aric Turner) place the city of Nephi within 85 air kilometers of Kaminaljuyú in the Guatemalan highlands.
Proposed Locations for the City of Nephi
It is gratifying to know that hundreds of thousands of missionaries entering the field in coming years will leave the MTC with a striking mental image derived from the best current LDS and Restoration Branch (formerly RLDS) scholarship on Book of Mormon lands.
Missionaries Studying in New Provo MTC
Photograph by LDS Church News
Kudos to the Missionary Department.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Flocks and Herds

The Book of Mormon uses some variant of the term "flocks and herds" 23 times e.g. 2 Nephi 5:11, Mosiah 21:16, Helaman 6:12, Ether 10:12. Up to this point, evidence of ancient domesticated animal husbandry besides the dogs and rabbits that were commonly kept for meat has been sparse. That may be changing. The Mirador Basin LiDAR mapping project has produced images of what Richard Hansen calls a network of roads, canals, and corrals or animal pens.
Mirador LiDAR Image Showing Likely Animal Pens
Hansen said that the "sophisticated system of corrals is evidence that meat production in the Mirador Basin may have existed on an industrial level." This intriguing possibility will almost certainly be the topic of some graduate student's dissertation. Dozens of universities from around the world collaborate on the massive Mirador Basin Project investigating the cradle of Maya civilization.
Widely-circulated Artist's Rendering of El Mirador ca. 100 BC
More information about Hansen and El Mirador can be found in the articles "Roads and Highways" and "Hansen and Coe."

Roads and Highways

The Book of Mormon describes roads 3 Nephi 6:8 and highways Helaman 7:10, 14:24, 3 Nephi 8:13 about the time of Christ. We now have spectacular evidence of roads and highways in Mesoamerica about the time of Christ.
Mirador LiDAR Image
LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging. This remote sensing technology uses a small plane that flies in a grid pattern over a target area. The plane carries laser equipment that fires 560,000 bursts per second and builds a massive point cloud of data. Hours of processing on a supercomputer then render a topographic image that can help a researcher identify man-made objects buried beneath a jungle canopy or other ground cover. Combining 2D and 3D images creates highly accurate maps of otherwise hidden features. LiDAR is very expensive. In Guatemala's Mirador Basin, Richard Hansen used 38 hours of flying time and surveyed 700 square kilometers at a cost in excess of $500,000. Because it can show archaeologists exactly where to dig, hopefully before looters destroy a new site, LiDAR is a coveted technology in the profession.

Mirador Basin Causeway from the Air
Hansen is a BYU graduate who got his PhD at UCLA. 34 universities from several countries currently collaborate on his massive Mirador Basin Project which has an annual budget in the $2 - 3 million range. It may be the largest archaeology project on earth. I visited El Mirador in January, 2016. I went in via helicopter. The alternative was a 3 day hike or mule ride from the nearest town with a road. Today El Mirador is remote. At the time of Christ, though, it was a busy center connected to neighboring sites via an extensive network of limestone roads (called sacbes in Mayan).

Hansen's survey revealed 240 kilometers of roadways connecting 17 different ancient communities. Up to 40 meters wide, 6 meters thick, and 38 kilometers long, these massive public works projects linked the 200,000 - 250,000 people living in El Mirador with the estimated 1 million people in the surrounding areas. The earliest roads were built ca. 600 BC. The latest were built ca. AD 100. El Mirador achieved apogee ca. 90 BC and was abandoned ca. AD 150. See this Smithsonian article published February 3, 2017.

This poorly-done but informative YouTube video shows Hansen atop one of the Mirador roadways.

Ancient feedlots or stockyards may also have existed at El Mirador. See the article "Flocks and Herds."

Monday, October 16, 2017

Top 10 Literary and Linguistic Evidences for the Book of Mormon

In an article begun in May, 2017, I summarized the ten archaeological evidences for the Book of Mormon I find most convincing. This article will summarize ten literary and linguistic evidences for the Book of Mormon that strike me as compelling.

1. Chiasmus. Ancient literary traditions in largely oral cultures used narrative structures as mnemonic devices in their texts. One of the best known is chiasmus, aka reverse parallelism, associated primarily with Semitic texts and in recent decades widely recognized throughout both the Old and New Testaments. . In a chiasm, narrative motifs build up to a climactic center, then repeat themselves in reverse order in the second half of the pericope. A good example is Mosiah 5:10-12. This beautiful six-element chiasm, the first one recognized in the Book of Mormon in modern times, was discovered by Jack Welch in the early morning hours of August 16, 1967 while he was serving as an LDS missionary in Regensburg, Germany:
A whosoever will not take upon him the name of Christ
      B must be called by some other name;
            C therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
                  D And I would that ye should remember also,
                        E that this is the name ...that never should be blotted out,
                              F except it be through transgression;
                              F therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress,
                         E that the name be not blotted out of your hearts
                  D ...I would that ye should remember to retain the name ...
            C that ye are not found on the left hand of God,
      B but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called
A and also, the name by which he shall call you.
There are dozens of impressive chiasms in the Book of Mormon, including the masterful Alma 36 which may be the most elegant chiastic structuring of any passage known from any ancient literature.
See the article entitled "Recent Book of Mormon News" for links to excellent videos shown during and resulting from the remarkable Chiasmus Jubilee held on BYU Campus on August 16, 2017. The Jubilee followed the first-ever academic conference on chiasmus where eminent scholars from Jewish, Catholic, Evangelical, and Latter-day Saint faith traditions presented their research.

2. Paronomasia. Ancient writers were masters of puns and other plays on words deployed for rhetorical effect. In recent years, many profound examples have been found in the Book of Mormon. Matthew Bowen, a member of the BYU-Hawaii Religion faculty, has led this scholarly endeavor, publishing several influential articles in Interpreter. See for example "Father Is a Man: The Remarkable Mention of the Name Abish in Alma 19:16 and its Narrative Context." Here are some examples of naming word play I find particularly insightful:
  • Alma in Hebrew means "youth." When Almais first introduced in Mosiah 17:2, he is described as "a young man."
  • Alma can also carry the connotation "hidden" and in Mosiah 18:5 he explicitly hides from King Noah's troops.
  • Noah in Hebrew means "rest" with the pejorative connotation "lazy." Mosiah 11:6 accuses Noah and his priests of laziness.
  • Jershon in Hebrew means "inherit." The first time Jershon is mentioned in the text the land is given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi for their inheritance Alma 27:22-24.
These gems are just the tip of the iceberg. More are being discovered all the time. According to Taylor Halverson and Brad Wilcox, such plays on words demonstrate the "brilliant literary sophistication" of the Book of Mormon authors. See "The Surprising Meanings Behind 'Enos' and 'Noah': Insights into Book of Mormon Names."

3. Early Modern English. Through the diligent efforts of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack, we now know that the language of the earliest Book of Mormon translation was closer to the Early Modern English spoken when Shakespeare was a youth than the Jacksonian American English codified in the 1828 Websters Dictionary. See the articles "Early Modern English" and "English in the Book of Mormon." Without help from an external (divine) source, a mono-linguist simply cannot dictate a long (268,000 words) and complex text over the course of approximately 65 working days in a language that neither his mother nor his father nor their mothers nor their fathers spoke.

4. Stylometry. Computerized statistical tests run against blocks of text can often distinguish the words of Author A from the writings of Author B. Authors have writing styles that consciously or sub-consciously pervade their work. Many such tests run by different teams over decades demonstrate with high degrees of confidence that the Book of Mormon was written by multiple authors whose varied styles differ in statistically significant ways. The work that launched this area of inquiry was published by Wayne A. Larsen, Tim Layton, and Alvin C. Rencher. See "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints" in BYU Studies 20:3, Spring, 1980. Layton, a friend of mine, is currently serving as Mission President in California, Bakersfield.

John L. Hilton, a physicist who taught at UC Berkeley and worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, took up the challenge of verifying the Larsen, Layton, Rencher results using improved statistical techniques. He worked for years with an interfaith team of colleagues in the East Bay area. In the end, they not only verified but strengthened the 1980 results. See "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship" in Noel B. Reynolds, editor, Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited (Provo: FARMS, 1997).

The current standard-bearer in this area is Paul J. Fields, a statistical analyst who holds a PhD from Penn State. See Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, and G. Bruce Schaalje, "Stylometric Analyses of the Book of Mormon" in Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 21/1 2012.

5. Intertextuality. Book of Mormon authors had access to a version of the Hebrew Bible contained on the plates of brass 1 Nephi 5:10-13. When the Savior visited the Nephites in land Bountiful after his resurrection, he shared additional scriptures with them 3 Nephi 23:6 which were recorded in official national annals. Therefore, it should not be too surprising that Book of Mormon writers quote, allude to, echo, and expand upon biblical passages. The Book of Mormon is remarkable for the sheer volume of intertextual references, and for the creative, meaningful ways the Nephite record weaves the two texts together. David J. Larsen is an Old Testament scholar who holds a PhD from the University of St Andrews (Scotland). His 104 page "Overview of the Use of Biblical Psalms in the Book of Mormon Text" is currently in private circulation. Larsen has identified 60 instances of intertextuality between the Book of Mormon and the Psalms, many of which also interweave phrases and concepts from additional sources such as Proverbs, 2 Samuel, and Ezekiel.

Some "Royal Psalms" extol David. The writers on the small plates (Nephi and Jacob) tend to avoid them and seem influenced by the Deuteronomistic reforms that had recently been introduced in the Jerusalem of Lehi's day. Psalms generally attributed to the exilic or post-exilic period in Judaism are far less frequently referenced in the Book of Mormon than earlier compositions, as we would expect.

6. Semitic and Egyptian Influences in Mesoamerican Languages. Brian Stubbs is a noted linguist, one of the world's experts on the Uto-Aztecan language family which includes Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. In his 2015 Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan (Provo: Grover Publications), Stubbs finds hundreds of cognates as well as syntax, morphology, and pattern shifts over time that all point to Semitic contributions into Uto-Aztecan at about the Book of Mormon time period. My Jewish-LDS philologist friend, Adan Rocha of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, corroborates Stubbs via somewhat different methodology. Robert F. Smith extends Stubbs by showing Semitic and Egyptian influences in the Otomanguean language family which includes Oaxacan Mixtec and Zapotec. See Sawi-Zaa 2016 Version 3.

7. Internal Consistency. The Book of Mormon is large and complicated with many plot twists, flashbacks, and literary genre changes. Specialists have studied it for decades using the tools of various disciplines. Most diligent students come away with a profound appreciation for its integrity and constancy bordering on predictability. The Book of Mormon has a high, even astonishing degree of internal consistency. Nibley, Welch, Sorenson, Skousen, the Hardys, the Rosenvalls - people who know this text very well - have all commented on its steady uniformity and dependable rationality. It demonstrates strong editing for conformity to persistent organizing principles.

My own work has dealt largely with geography and potential correlations between the text and the real world. Across several hundred phrases with geographic implications, I have found only a handful of irreconcilable passages. See the article "Scribal Error." I seldom compose a single page without an egregious faux pas. The Book of Mormon's near perfection is simply breathtaking. I have no problem accepting Joseph Smith's description of the Nephite text as "the most correct of any book on earth."

8. Source Complexity. When we first organized Book of Mormon Central in 2015, one of our first projects was what we call the "Book of Mormon Redaction Chart." It continues to be a popular, albeit large and therefore slow to download, item in our archive. When we display this impressive chart in a public setting, people spend minutes poring over the details. Most are unaware of the subtle complexity behind the multiple sources that all came together to form our current Book of Mormon. See the excellent article by John L. Sorenson entitled "Mormon's Sources" in Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, 20/2 2011.

9. Plan Under-girding the Book of Ether. Beginning with Ether descended from Coriantor in Ether 1:6, the Book of Ether lists a 30 person genealogy in reverse chronological order ending with Orihah son of Jared in Ether 1:32. Ether 1:33 then begins a history in precisely the opposite order that introduces each person starting with Jared and goes through the list one-by-one ending with Ether in Ether 11:23. Many historical details and plot elements intervene, but the author (Ether) and abridger (Moroni) stay true to this meticulous master plan throughout the book. Book of Mormon Central's KnoWhy #235 has some great graphics illustrating this 30 element scrupulous backwards then forwards pattern.

10. Parallelisms. Words in a sentence convey meaning, but words organized into parallelistic literary structures add balance and rhythm, elevating mere prose into great literature, even poetry. The repetition of words and forms inherent in parallelisms can facilitate the smooth flow of ideas and make passages more persuasive. Parallelisms abound in the Book of Mormon, a divinely-commissioned work designed to convince "Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations." Title Page of the Book of Mormon.

Parallelistic literary devices in the Book of Mormon include synonymous, antithetical, repetitive numerical, and circular repetitive forms. See Donald W. Parry, "Research and Perspectives: Hebrew Literary Patterns in the Book of Mormon" in Ensign, October, 1989. Parallelisms are so pervasive in the text that people have published entire re-formatted editions of the Book of Mormon highlighting the structures they see:

  • Wade Brown, The God-Inspired Language of the Book of Mormon: Structuring and Commentary (Clackamas, OR: Rainbow, 1988).
  • Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted According to Parallelistic Patterns (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992). 
  • Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Maxwell Institute, 2007).
  • Alan C. Miner is currently preparing a multi-volume work with extensive textual apparatus to highlight parallelisms.
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The Book of Mormon is miraculous, beautiful, and true. This Book of Mormon Central blog article introducing the second evidence video in a planned series highlights some of its remarkable sophistication.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ear Ornaments

The Book of Mormon mentions "ear-rings" 2 Nephi 13:20 in an Isaiah citation. The text uses the word "heavy" to describe ears 2 Nephi 16:10, also in a passage from Isaiah. The Book of Mormon associates some variant of the word "open" with ears as in 1 Nephi 20:82 Nephi 7:5Mosiah 2:9, and 3 Nephi 11:5.

Elites throughout Mesoamerican history wore circular ear spools aka ear flares or ear plugs that literally opened ear lobes, made ears heavy, and could easily be described as ear-rings.

La Venta Offering 4 now in the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico
Notice that all these Olmec figurines from ca. 800 BC are wearing ear spools.

Copan Stela A in the Museo de Esculturas, Copan, Honduras
Photo by Kirk Magleby December 28, 2015
Copan Stela A depicts Waxaklajun Ub'aah K'awiil (18 Rabbit), the 13th ruler, wearing large ear spools. This stela was dedicated on Maya Long Count date 9.14.19.8.12 (January 30, AD 731).

Mixtec Ear Spools
These greenstone (jadeite) ear spools from Oaxaca ca. AD 1200 are in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Similar artifacts are found throughout Mesoamerica in almost all time horizons. See, for example, Thomas A. Lee, Jr. "The Artifacts of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico," Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, Number 26 (Provo: BYU-NWAF, 1969) page 191.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Flammable Books

The Book of Mormon describes writing on flammable materials in the city of Ammonihah ca. 82 BC Alma 14:8. Our current correlation places the city of Ammonihah at the site of El Hormiguero II in the NW corner of Peten, Guatemala. Writing on plaster coated amate bark-paper (from Ficus [fig] or Morus [mulberry] trees) is attested archaeologically from two southern Mesoamerican sites in early to middle classic time horizons.

1. Two congealed codex fragments were recovered from Mounds 9 (burial 22) and 10 (burial 30) at Mirador, Chiapas. Both date to the Laguna-Nuti phase (AD 300 - 500).
Deteriorated Codices from Mirador, Chiapas
Pierre Agrinier, Mounds 9 and 10 at Mirador, Chiapas, Mexico, Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, Number 39 (Provo: BYU NWAF, 1975). These fragments are now in the custody of INAH in Mexico City.

2. Fragments of a congealed codex were recovered from structure A-1, pyramid C, burial A6 at Uaxactun, Peten, Guatemala. The burial dates to AD 400 - 600. Structure A-1 itself was begun in the late Pre-classic (AD 1 - 250).
Deteriorated Codex from Uaxactun, Peten
Nicholas P. Carter and Jeffrey Dobereiner, Multispectral imaging of an Early Classic Maya codex fragment from Uaxactun, Guatemala, Antiquity, 90 351 2016. The Uaxactun fragments are now in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. These fragments had 2 different plaster layers applied, the only known attestation of the early Maya scribal practice of erasure and re-inscription on codices. Resurfacing and repainting on murals is well-attested. Writing on plaster overlaid gourds is known from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cerén, El Salvador (volcanic ash fall covered an entire village, leaving unusually well-preserved remains a la Pompeii); Baking Pot, Belize; and a royal tomb at El Zotz, Peten, Guatemala dating to AD 300 - 400.  

All codex fragments and some of the gourds were found in mortuary contexts. See for example the Uaxactun image in the blog article "Partake of the Fruit." The Book of Mormon explicitly correlates words and death Mosiah 17:20.
Relative Locations of Referenced Sites
Some depictions of bark-paper codices on stone, painted ceramic vessels, and murals are much earlier than these decayed fragments. See, for example, the Olmec bound screen-fold codex illustrated in the article Cylinder Seals. Mayan epigraphic inscriptions reference 'paper' or 'books' (hu'n) and 'writers' (aj tz'ib).

Many Classic Maya depictions of scribes at work painting codices have survived. Here is one example:
Justin Kerr Rollout Photograph of Maya Vase K1185
The figure on the right is carving a mask. The figure on the left is the maize god as a scribe with a paint pot in his left hand, a brush in his right, and a bark paper folded codex on the ground in front of him.

Article updated on November 8, 2017.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Cylinder Seals

The Book of Mormon uses some form of the word "seal" more than two dozen times. Writings are sealed to come forth unadulterated at a later date 1 Nephi 14:26, 2 Nephi 26:17. Writings are sealed to keep them hidden from unworthy readers 2 Nephi 27:7-8. Writings are sealed to place them in divine hands for safekeeping 2 Nephi 30:3. Things are sealed or bound and then later loosed 2 Nephi 30:17. Prophets seal their words as testimony that will be used later in court proceedings 2 Nephi 33:15. Righteous people can be sealed to God Mosiah 5:15. Martyrdom seals the truthfulness of a prophet's words Mosiah 17:20. Wicked people can be sealed to Satan Alma 34:35. Priesthood power can seal things reciprocally on earth and in heaven Helaman 10:7. Authors personally sealed epistles delivered to political rivals. 3 Nephi 3:5. Accompanying objects could be sealed along with writings Ether 3:22-23. Writings, Interpretation of writings, and holy objects could all be sealed together Ether 4:5. Sealing physical objects was a caching, archival or repository function Ether 5:1. Sealing was an act of completion or finality Moroni 10:2.

The act of sealing something, particularly writing, was important enough in the Nephite worldview that it would not be surprising to find seals in the Mesoamerican archaeological record, and we do. This collection of roller stamps or cylinder seals is housed in the Snite Museum on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The seals were used to make impressions in plastic materials such as wax or clay, and to ink patterns on paper, skin or fabric. Most of these seals came from a single cache at the Olmec site of Las Bocas, Puebla.
Olmec Cylinder Seal with Net Design, Unknown Provenience
This seal has an image of the sun god in profile.
Olmec Roller Seal from Las Bocas, Puebla ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
This seal shows the stylized earth monster.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Pubela, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with floral motif.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with serpent and Venus symbols.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with net and serrated panel.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with flaming eyebrow motif.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with opposed paws design.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with waves and checkerboard motif.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with serrated lines and squares.
Late Classic Veracruz Roller Seal, ca. AD 600 - 900
Seal with harpy eagle symbolism.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with triangles and arcs.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with stylized toads.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Even more germane to the Book of Mormon is this ceramic bowl depicting a bound, tied, or sealed screen-fold codex.
Olmec Earthenware Pot, Tlapacoya, Mexico, Mexico
Ayotla Phase, ca. 1,500 - 1,300 BC
This map shows the locations of Las Bocas, Puebla and Tlapacoya, Estado de Mexico.
Locations of Tlapacoya and Las Bocas
Cylinder Seals were used extensively in Mesopotamia where nearly every elite person carried one around their neck or attached to their arm. In that culture, a seal was used much like a person's signature nowadays. Some cylinder seals had handles like a rolling pin. Others had concave surfaces on either end for holding between one's fingers. Most were hollow in the center so a stick or cord could be inserted as an axle. In Mesoamerica, cylinder seals are known from Yucatan, Patzcuaro (Michoacan), Xochimilco (Mexico City), and Tlatilco (Mexico City). Tim Tucker, working for BYU's New World Archaeological Foundation, excavated a cache of cylinder seals inside a stone box at Chiapa de Corzo. See Thomas A. Lee, The Artifacts of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico (Provo: BYU New World Archaeological Foundation Paper #26, 1969). Other cylinder seals have been found at Tres Zapotes, La Venta, and Kaminaljuyu.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ancient Ocean Crossings

I just finished reading an excellent new 508 page book by Stephen C. Jett entitled Ocean Crossings: Reconsidering the Case for Contacts with the Pre-Columbian Americas, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2017.
Important New Book
Jett is an emeritus professor of geography, textiles, and clothing at the University of California, Davis. He holds a PhD in geography from Johns Hopkins. He is the founding editor of Pre-Colombiana: A Journal of Long-Distance Contacts.

Jett acknowledges the pioneering work of his friend, John L. Sorenson (BYU emeritus), and Sorenson's collaborators, Martin H. Raish (BYU Idaho) and Carl L. Johannessen (University of Oregon emeritus).

Diffusionist literature is often scientifically shallow. Not this volume. Jett is source critical, balanced, and logical. This work is clearly a capstone to a lifetime of careful scholarship. The bibliography runs for 60 pages. The author lines up many standard isolationist arguments and knocks them over like pins in a bowling alley. Along the way, his erudition and common-sense practicality seldom fail to impress. His command of nautical terminology and the details of vessel design is extraordinary.

Jett is ably corroborated by Alice Beck Kehoe's earlier Traveling Prehistoric Seas: Critical Thinking on Ancient Transoceanic Voyages (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).
Another Important New Book
Kehoe is an emeritus professor of anthropology at Marquette.

A 2012 blog article describes a most interesting book by Stephen C. Compton entitled Exodus Lost. Compton marshals dozens of evidences to demonstrate a cultural connection between the Olmec of southern Mexico and the Hyksos who ruled Egypt between 1650 and 1550 BC.

Two 2015 blog articles talk about the important book from Brian D. Stubbs entitled Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan. The article "Uto-Aztecan" introduces Stubbs' thesis and the article "Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan" shows the book.

Compton's 2011 book, Stubbs' 2015 book, and now Jett's 2017 book preceded by Kehoe's 2016 book combine to offer compelling evidence from multiple disciplines that ancient cultural contacts occurred between the Old World and the New.

For some observations from eminent Mesoamericanist Michael D. Coe (Yale, emeritus) on transoceanic cultural diffusion he sees from Southeast Asia into the Maya area, see the article "Hansen and Coe.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Recent Book of Mormon News

July 19, 2017 an important new edition of the Book of Mormon began appearing on bookstore shelves. Entitled A New Approach to Studying The Book of Mormon, this edition organizes the text episodically into 214 events. Every word appears just as it does in the LDS 2013 edition, but in a re-formatted structure that honors narrative boundaries rather than dividing the text up as Orson Pratt did when he published the 1879 edition with our modern chapter and verse designations. So, for instance, Jacob's extended olive tree metaphor (event 36) includes all of Jacob chapters 4, 5, and 6. This edition also highlights quoted passages typographically and shows narrators, speakers, locations, and dates in the margins. Click here for an animated demo.
Re-formatted Edition of the Book of Mormon
The result is aesthetically pleasing and intuitive reading. An advanced binding system allows this paperback book to lay flat on a reading surface. The father son team of Lynn and Dave Rosenvall (The Olive Leaf Foundation) have been pre-eminent scriptural scholars for decades. They wrote the original Gospel Library Scriptures app (now distributed and maintained by the Church) most of us use regularly on our mobile devices. They are also the force behind the highly original and very thoughtful Baja model of Book of Mormon geography.
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August 16, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of Jack Welch's discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon and we had quite a celebration.
Robert Pack Painting of Paul Gaechter and Jack Welch in Innsbruck in 1968
Click here to watch the entire 2 hour program held in the JSB Auditorium on BYU Campus.
Click here for Jack's son Greg's clever 10 minute video of the discovery.
Click here for Book of Mormon Central's moving 8 minute video of the discovery narrated by Jack himself.
Click here for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's brilliant closing remarks entitled "The Greatness of the Evidence."
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September 1, 2017 The first 137 Book of Mormon Central KnoWhys, published as a handsomely-illustrated book by Covenant Communications, began appearing on bookstore shelves.
Knowing Why by Book of Mormon Central
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September 23, 2017 was going to be Book of Mormon Central's first-ever conference in Mexico City. Nearly 1,500 people had registered. Then a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico on September 19, killing 363 people in Oaxaca, Puebla, the state of Mexico, Morelos, Guerrero, and Mexico City. While Brant Gardner and I (Kirk Magleby) were in the air en route, the government of Mexico City declared 3 days of mourning and banned large public gatherings. We re-grouped, helped serve earthquake victims, trained our staff, and visited the sites of Cholula, Tula Hidalgo, and Teotihuacan.
Book of Mormon Central Visit to Tetitla Compound, Teotihuacan September 23, 2017
In the back row from L to R are Javier Tovar of Atotonilco de Tula, Hgo; Adan Rocha of San Luis Potosi, SLP; and Benjamin Monroy of Salt Lake City, UT. To the left is Noe Correa of Eagle Mountain, UT. In the front row from L to R are Jesus Inda of San Quintin, BC; Brant Gardner of Albuquerque, NM; and Kirk Magleby of American Fork, UT.

The Mexico City conference is re-scheduled for November 18, 2017.
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September 20, 2017 the LDS Church acquired the printer's manuscript from the Community of Christ (known as the RLDS Church from 1872 until the year 2000) for $35 million. The sale price set a new world record for a manuscript. The Book of Mormon is not as important today in Community of Christ affairs as it was in previous generations. It continues to be a vital part of religious life in many Restoration Branch congregations who have dissociated themselves from the Community of Christ.
Printer's Manuscript of 1 Nephi Chapter 1
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September 30, 2017 Pres. Russell M. Nelson gave a great talk about the Book of Mormon in the Saturday afternoon session of LDS General Conference. "The full power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period."
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October 1, 2017 Elder Tad R. Callister gave a terrific talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon in the Sunday afternoon session of LDS General Conference. "This book is the one weight on the scales of truth that exceeds the combined weight of all the critics' arguments."
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Warren Aston will travel soon to the Hill Cumorah in New York with a geologist. They will attempt to shed light on the stone box that Moroni built ca. AD 421 to hold the plates.