Saturday, December 27, 2014

Strahler Stream Order

In 1952 Arthur Newell Strahler (1918 - 2002), a professor of geoscience at Columbia, published an influential article entitled "Hypsometric (Area-Altitude) Analysis of Erosional Topography" in Geological Society of America Bulletin 63. Strahler introduced a numbering system he called "stream order" to quantify the hierarchical branching networks that typify watercourses in drainage basins. A 1st order stream is very small and has no tributaries. The confluence of 2 or more 1st order streams creates a 2nd order stream. If a 1st order stream flows into a 2nd order stream, the result remains a 2nd order stream. But, when 2 or more 2nd order streams converge they form a 3rd order stream. Obviously, as a stream increases in upstream network complexity its stream order number increases.

The Allegheny and Monongahela are both 7th order streams as they converge at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ohio is an 8th order stream at its confluence with the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. The Columbia is a 9th order stream as it discharges into the Pacific downstream from Portland, Oregon. The Mississippi is a 10th order stream at its mouth below New Orleans. The Nile is an 11th order stream as it flows through Egypt into the Mediterranean. The Amazon, largest river on earth, is a 12th order stream by the time it reaches the Atlantic.
Strahler Stream Order Classification System
Stream order has proven so useful it has become a global standard among limnologists. In contemporary usage, 1st - 3rd order watercourses are called headwaters streams or small streams. 4th - 6th order streams are called medium streams. 7th - 12th order streams are considered significant rivers or large streams. The Usumacinta, our candidate for river Sidon, is a 7th order stream. Other 7th order streams of note include the Colorado, Hudson, James, Potomac, Rio Grande, Susquehanna, and Trinity, The Tennessee is an 8th order stream, as is the Rhone south of Lyon, France. The Missouri is a 9th order stream by the time it reaches St. Louis as is the Illinois which joins the Mississippi 37 kilometers upstream.

The journal of the International Society of Limnology (SIL from the Latin) is Inland Waters. An important article appeared in Inland Waters (2012) 2 entitled "Global Abundance and Size Distribution of Streams and Rivers." It was written by John A. Downing of Iowa State University and 9 other co-authors from 6 different countries. Depending heavily on satellite imagery, they have compiled data estimates from more than 36 million streams of water across the planet. Their results show startling consistency that will help us understand what to expect as we analyze the Sidon.

J.A. Downing, et al. Anaylsis of all Streams Worldwide
Going from left to right, the first column is the Strahler stream order number. The second column is the total number of streams of surface water on the planet. The third column is the mean stream length from the source in kilometers. The fourth column is the combined length of all streams in kilometers and the fifth column is the mean stream channel width in meters. There is only one 12th order stream on earth, the  Amazon, while there are an estimated 28.55 million 1st order streams. These tiny brooks average 1.6 km in length and .8 meters in width. It is important to note that only one of the five 11th order streams - the Nile - is an independent river flowing to the sea. The other four 11th order streams are all tributaries of the Amazon. And, only three of the 10th order streams are independent rivers flowing to the sea, the Mississippi being one of them and the Niger in western Africa another. The other twenty 10th order streams are all tributaries of either the Nile or the Amazon.

These columns demonstrate what the authors call "well-defined scaling laws" that apply to branching patterns "applicable across diverse geological and geographical regions." For example, column two in the chart shows generally a 1 to 5 relationship between main streams and lesser streams of a lower order. In other words, any given stream will have an average of five tributaries of the next lower order. Column three shows generally a 1 to 2 relationship between tributaries and the length of their main stream. In other words, as two streams of a lesser order join, the resulting higher order stream will be on average twice as long as the tributaries. The actual branching algorithms involve more elegant math, but you get the idea. Drainage basins, like many other kinds of networks with branches and nodes, follow the tenets of branching theory whose laws and coefficients are so consistent as to be "tautologous" and "statistically inevitable" (J.A. Downing, et al.). Trees and blood vessels also follow branching theory laws.

Any given river may vary considerably from the norm. This chart shows the relationship between stream order and width for 400+ well-documented main streams. The dotted line plots median stream channel width in meters with data points scattered in normal distribution patterns.
J.A. Downing, et al. Analysis of 400+ Well-Known Streams
The relatively narrow Nile, the only 11th order main stream on earth, is an obvious outlier. Wetter regions have wider streams. For example, one study of the River Tyne basin in NE England found 1st order streams with a mean channel width of 3.5 meters and 2nd order streams with a mean channel width of 6 meters.

So what does all this imply for the river Sidon in the Book of Mormon? We know that Almaand his converts traveled a distance of 21 Nephite "days" to get from the city of Nephi to the local land of Zarahemla Mosiah 23:3, Mosiah 24:20, Mosiah 24:25. Our best estimate of the distance they traveled in one day is 15 air (straight-line) kilometers (see the blog article Land Southward Travel Times). This makes the city of Nephi/local land of Zarahemla distance about 320 air kilometers. We know the head of Sidon was south of Manti in the narrow strip of wilderness that separated the greater lands of Nephi and Zarahemla Alma 22:27, Alma 22:29, Alma 43:22, Alma 50:11. So, the distance head of Sidon/local land of Zarahemla probably did not exceed about 250 air kilometers. How far was it from the local land of Zarahemla to the sea? The land Bountiful lay north of the local land of Zarahemla Alma 22:29 (see the blog article Downstream from Zarahemla). The distance local land of Zarahemla/seacoast probably did not exceed about 200 air kilometers. So, the entire length of the river from head of Sidon to the sea likely did not exceed about 450 air kilometers. According to the chart above, we would expect the river Sidon to be a 7th or 8th order stream. A 9th order stream (mean global length 1,256 kilometers) seems long, even taking sinuosity (the tendency of a river to meander) into account. A 10th order stream (mean global length 2,891 kilometers) is entirely out of the question. Keep in mind there are only 5 rivers on earth that are 10th, 11th or 12th order streams flowing to the sea. Conversely, a 6th order stream (mean global length 103 kilometers seems short. A 5th order stream (mean global length 45 kilometers) is  entirely out of the question.

The fact that our candidate for Sidon - the Usumacinta - is a 7th order stream puts it in the ballpark of reasonableness. From our head of Sidon (the Salama/Chixoy Negro confluence) to salt water at the mouth of the Palizada (distributary of the Usumacinta) on the Laguna de Terminos is 382 air kilometers and to the principal mouth of the Usumacinta at Frontera is 435 air kilometers or 936 river kilometers. Principal tributary, the Chixoy Negro, adds another 175 river kilometers for a total length source to mouth of 1,111 kilometers. The Usumacinta, among the 50 largest independent rivers on earth by annual average volume of water discharged (2,271 cubic meters per second), is a large 7th order river.
Usumacinta - Candidate for River Sidon
Geographers place the head of the Usumacinta at the Pasion Confluence which is 328 air kilometers or 590 river kilometers from the principal mouth at Frontera, Tabasco. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva since 1675 has been a tributary of the Usumacinta (See the blog article "Wandering River"). Their combined annual average streamflow is 3,664 cubic meters

Stream orders point out another important characteristic of water flow nomenclature. Headwaters streams (1st, 2nd & 3rd order) are generally not called rivers. They may be brooks, creeks, rivulets, forks, runs, burns or becks, but not rivers. The term "river" implies a certain size and a minimum level of upstream network complexity. Large streams (7th order or higher) are universally called rivers. Medium streams (4th - 6th order) are sometimes called rivers based on local custom. If a stream flows to the sea it is more likely to be called a river. If a stream is wide or carries a relatively high volume of water it is more likely to be called a river. These are the rivers of England. The noted Thames flowing past London is a 5th order stream, as are most English rivers. The Severn, longest river in the UK at 354 kilometers, is a 6th order stream.
The Rivers of England
The language of the Book of Mormon text that fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph is now thought to be Early Modern English. See the article "Early Modern English." On the streets of London when Shakespeare was a child (ca. A.D. 1570) it is unlikely the term "river" would have referred to a stream smaller than 5th order.

The map above shows that many of England's rivers are longer than the 44.8 kilometers we would expect given the mean length of 5th order streams worldwide. The Thames, for example, is 346 kilometers long (7.7 X mean), the Trent measures 297 km (6.6 X mean) and the Great Ouse runs for 230 km (5.1 X mean). Compare that with our Sidon, which at 1,111 kilometers, is 4.7 X the global mean length of 7th order streams (237.4 km).

The following two images are from a spreadsheet listing well-known 7th order streams from 5 different countries.
Length of Selected 7th Order Streams a
56 rivers comprise our sample set.
Length of Selected 7th Order Streams b
8 7th order streams in our sample are longer than the Usumacinta, although none carries a greater volume of water.

Additional relevant information is in the article "OED on Rivers."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sermon at the Temple

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 - 7 may be the single most influential religious text in all of recorded history. It defines the essence of Christianity for multitudes past and present. The fact that a very similar sermon appears in 3 Nephi 11 - 18 has provided fodder for critics of the Book of Mormon who contend that Joseph Smith simply lifted this iconic text from the King James Bible. Upon close examination it is now clear both the Matthew and 3 Nephi versions have significant dependencies on much earlier temple texts. Two key players in this unfolding exegetical drama are Margaret Barker who read theology at Cambridge and John W. (Jack) Welch who read Greek philosophy at Oxford.

Dr. Barker, an English Methodist preacher, is widely recognized as the founder of Temple Theology, a branch of inquiry within Biblical (primarily Old Testament) Studies.She was elected President of the Society for Old Testament Study (SOTS) in 1998 and edited the Society's second monograph series published by Ashgate. Barker is the author of 16 books. She was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree in 2008 by the Archbishop of Canterbury "in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important new fields for resrearch." In 2008 she and others founded the Temple Studies Group which believes the Temple in Jerusalem had a formative influence on the development of Christianity. (One is reminded of Hugh W. Nibley's 1959 Jewish Quarterly Review article "Christian Envy of the Temple" published in Mormonism and Early Christianity, vol. 4 in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1987). The North American Academy for Temple Studies headquartered at Utah State University spun off from the UK-based Temple Studies Group. Jack Welch, Philip Barlow and Gary N. Anderson form the Academy for Temple Studies executive committee. For some intriguing Book of Mormon connections with ancient Temple lore, see the blog article "Temple Conference 2013."

Welch, Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, BYU and Editor-in-Chief, BYU Studies, formed the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS, now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU) in 1979. Jack studied history, philosophy, Latin and Greek at BYU, Greek philosophy at Oxford (St. Edmund Hall), then law at Duke where he edited the Law Journal. While at Duke, Welch studied with James H. Charlesworth, now George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Welch is a member of the steering committee of the BYU New Testament Commentary.

Welch's book Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount: An Approach  to 3 Nephi 11-18 and Matthew 5-7 (Provo: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 1998) broke new ground as it compared the two texts and found many concepts, phrases and symbols clearly derived from earlier temple literature.
Reading the Sermon on the Mount as a Temple Text in Light of 3 Nephi 11
The Cover Painting is by Minerva Teichert
Margaret Barker has long been popular among LDS scholars because her Temple Theology bridges the Old and New Testament worlds just as the Book of Mormon and contemporary Mormonism do. Many Christian thinkers like to see the New Testament as a completely new and revolutionary worldview. Barker and most Jewish scholars view the New Testament as a late expression of pre-existing ideas, traditions, customs and symbolism from an earlier era. The Book of Mormon fits comfortably in the Barker - Jewish camp. Barker liked Welch's book and appreciated how beautifully the Book of Mormon elucidates and expands upon the Bible while dovetailing seamlessly with it. (For an Evangelical turned Catholic articulation of the same idea, see the blog article "Mormon Christianity" which discusses the work of Stephen H. Webb). This idea of Book of Mormon as extension of and reinforcement to the Bible is expressed powerfully in 1 Nephi 13 and 2 Nephi 29.

Barker asked Welch to do another treatment of his Sermon on the Mount material minus the Book of Mormon content for mainstream Old Testament scholars. At first Welch was hesitant. Leaving out the Nephite text would handicap him. After all, it was 3 Nephi that clarified many of the Old Testament - New Testament relationships in the first place. As he got into the project, though, Jack discovered rich new veins of material to work with in the Psalms as well as post-exilic Old Testament sources. In his 1998 analysis, he had limited his use of the Old Testament to texts that would have been on the brass plates of Laban spirited out of Jerusalem ca. 600 B.C. In 2009 Welch's The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple appeared in the Society for Old Testament Study Monograph Series edited by Margaret Barker and published by Ashgate.
Reading the Sermon on the Mount as a Temple Text
The Book of Mormon only appears once in this work, at the end of the final chapter as another example of the Sermon on the Mount in a Temple setting.

Welch's use of the terms 'illuminating' in 1998 and 'light' in 2009 are not coincidental. Temple liturgy as revealed by the Prophet Joseph in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times Ephesians 1:10, Doctrine & Covenants 128:18, etc. is a restoration of Temple worship in Old Testament times and the Temple clarifies and brightens our understanding of Matthew 5 - 7. Matthew, of course, was the Gospel writer who specifically targeted a Jewish audience. When Jack discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon on August 16, 1967 in Regensburg, Germany, the voice that startled him said "if it is evidence of Hebrew style in the Bible (referring specifically to the Book of Matthew), it must be evidence of Hebrew style in the Book of Mormon." John W. Welch, "The Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Forty Years Later" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16/2 (2007). A PDF of the article is available here.

As Neal Rappleye deftly observed in Welch's office on Friday, December 19, 2014 these two John W. Welch books are a formidable vindication of 1 Nephi 13:40. A work of Book of Mormon scholarship led directly to significant Biblical scholarship. We now understand the Bible better because of insights gleaned from the Book of Mormon.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon

Neal Rappleye and I spent the afternoon yesterday with Jack Welch in his office. He described his presentation in July to the Jewish Law Association Conference at the University of Antwerp. His paper was entitled "Narrating Homicide in the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Mormon." The Nephite text early on tells the story of a gripping homicide (1 Nephi 4) and many others are mentioned. The theme of the conference was "Judaism, Law and Literature." This snippet from the conference program helps put Jack's presentation in context.
Jewish Law Association Morning Conference Sessions
July 15, 2014, Antwerp, Belgium
From the time he left private practice in Los Angeles to join the BYU Law Faculty over thirty years ago, John W. Welch has been an avid student of Biblical Law in both Jewish and Nephite literature. Students in his ancient law classes through the years have authored hundreds of papers, many of which bear on aspects of Biblical Law evident in the Book of Mormon text.

Welch's important book The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (Provo: BYU Press and Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2008) is an accessible introduction to a major aspect of the Book of Mormon unfamiliar to most students. Written for a general audience and highly readable, it highlights just how much jurisprudence is in the Nephite text, and the astonishing degree to which Nephite legal process followed pre-exilic Jewish patterns.
Jack Welch's 2008 Book
I consider this hard-cover book so important - it pioneers an entirely new genre within Book of Mormon Studies - I will send a copy free of charge (while supplies last) to anyone who requests it via old-fashioned paper letter sent to Ancient America Foundation, PO Box 1538, American Fork, UT 84003-6538. Be sure to include your return postal address. If you prefer Amazon, click here. Before I read Welch's book, I had read the Book of Mormon dozens of times, often with considerable care. After reading The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon, I will never read the Book of Mormon the same way again. It opened my eyes to many points of ancient judicial process that I had not previously recognized in the text because like most, I am not trained in Biblical Law.

Jack Welch is not only a student of Biblical Law in the Book of Mormon. He is a significant contributor to the global Biblical Law discipline generally and has been a member of the Jewish Law Association (JLA) for decades. He has served on the steering committee of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Section on Biblical Law. Through his tireless efforts and the manpower provided by his students over decades, BYU is an important source of bibliographic reference materials in the field.

Apostolic Witness

One of the strongest testimonies of the Book of Mormon I have heard was given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in October, 2009 General Conference. His stirring witness was redacted into a powerful 4 1/2 minute 2010 Mormon Message. The image below is not interactive, even though it shows the video play symbol. Click on either of the two preceding text links to watch video.
Elder Holland Holding Hyrum Smith's Copy of the Book of Mormon
I appreciate Elder Holland's eloquence, reminiscent of Elder Neal A. Maxwell. I love his passion and respect his intellect. This phrase in particular caught my attention: "As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness." The context is the role the Book of Mormon played in the lives of Joseph and Hyrum Smith immediately preceding their martyrdom.

I was in Jack Welch's office yesterday. Since the late 1960's he has participated in the scholarly research, editing and publication of many of the "thousand elements" Elder Holland referred to. (The Apostle specifically mentioned "literary and Semitic complexity" in the text.) This resonates with me because my own experience has been a gradual increase in the depth of my understanding of and appreciation for the Nephite scripture. In my current calling as Bishop of a large and diverse ward, I have tried to help many members through faith crises. No matter if their doubts stem from Joseph Smith's plural wives, arcane episodes in Church history, Book of Abraham facsimiles, contemporary Church finances or their own moral turpitude, testimonies ultimately come back to the Book of Mormon. I bear unequivocal witness the Book of Mormon is an ancient record translated by the gift and power of God. The Book of Mormon is the safe harbor Elder Holland mentions that will help all find healing, hope and peace through Jesus Christ. In the Apostle's words, "for [184] years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart ...and still it stands." For decades I have heard alternative explanations for the Book of Mormon's origin and they all ring hollow. They are "frankly pathetic" as Elder Holland says compared with the grandeur, sophistication and subtlety of the text itself.

I find it vital to recognize both divine and human elements in the Church. If I infer humanity where there is divinity, I miss the awe. If I infer divinity where there is humanity, I have unrealistic expectations. The Book of Mormon is foundational. It is bedrock. It is in Elder Holland's articulation "one of the Lord's powerful keystones..." The Book of Mormon is the most divine object most of us will have the blessing to experience this side of the veil.

"I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2009 General Conference address entitled "Safety for the Soul"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Benjamin Cluff Expedition Route & Distances

While Benjamin Cluff (1858-1948) was President of Brigham Young Academy, later BYU, he led an audacious group of explorers on a hemispheric quest to find the city of Zarahemla which they thought was on the west bank of the north-flowing Magdalena in the modern nation of Colombia. Leaving Provo in 1900 and returning in 1902, the group traveled to northern South America on horseback, on foot and in small boats.
The Cluff Expedition Leaving Provo on April 15, 1900
The size of the group gradually dwindled as sickness, waning enthusiasm and meager finances all took a toll.
The Cluff Expedition on the Trail in 1902
The data below comes from the journal of expedition member Heber Lorenzo Magleby (1874-1941), my great-great uncle.
Heber Lorenzo Magleby in 1896
The original autograph of Magleby's journal is in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections of the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. A typescript is in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the  U of U. Cluff and Magleby were among the stalwarts who made it the entire way from Utah to Colombia and back. The two of them later returned to Mexico and ran rubber plantations in Tabasco.

On February 17, 1901 the expedition left Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico and 67 days later on April 25, 1901 they arrived at Copan, Copan, Honduras. During this time they traveled 1,074 air kilometers in 22 legs of travel. They had 57 travel days and 10 rest or sight-seeing days during this period. Traversing much of the area we now identify as the Book of Mormon land southward, their journey helps establish a benchmark for pre-industrial travel rates in southern Mesoamerica.

Route of the Cluff Expedition through Southern Mexico and Guatemala
The northern legs of their route allowed them so see the impressive ruins of Palenque. These are the 22 legs of their travel.
Cluff Expedition Air (Straight Line) Distances Traveled
In the blog article "Land Southward Travel Times" we analyzed a number of pre-industrial journeys in southern Mesoamerica, the earliest dating from AD 378, in an attempt to deduce a likely value for the Nephite standard unit of distance measure "one day's travel." We concluded 15 air kilometers per day was a reasonable metric. The Cluff Expedition median of 16.70 and mean of 17.89 lend credibility to our derived value of 15 air kilometers per day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Test #8 Limhi Expedition

Ca. 121 B.C. beleaguered King Limhi dispatched an expedition from the city of Nephi to find the land of Zarahemla and request aid Mosiah 21:25. The 43 explorers never found Zarahemla. They found the ruins of the Jaredite nation Mosiah 8:8-9, Ether 1:2 in the land the Nephites would later call Cumorah. As the diligent exploring party returned to Nephi bearing Jaredite artifacts, they thought they had found Zarahemla and their fellow citizens, including King Limhi, also believed they had found the sad remains of the once-great Nephite nation.

In the 2 generations since their grandfathers had gone down from Nephi to Zarahemla and then come up from Zarahemla to reclaim Nephi, the people of King Limhi had clearly forgotten the precise route back to their ancestral homeland. Zeniff, King Limhi's grandfather, had made the Nephi to Zarahemla round-trip twice. Zeniff was a meticulous record-keeper and his grandson not only possessed his archive but continued his grandfather's record-keeping tradition Mosiah 25:5. So, Limhi's exploring party likely had some general knowledge of these key relationships:
  • Direction of Zarahemla from Nephi
  • Distance of Zarahemla from Nephi
  • Elevation of Zarahemla relative to Nephi
  • Location of Zarahemla relative to river Sidon
  • Location of Zarahemla relative to the mountains, fall line, coastal plain and seacoast
Latter-day Saint Mesoamericanists generally agree that the land of Nephi was in highland Guatemala with Kaminaljuyu a leading candidate for the city of Nephi. There is broad consensus that the land of Cumorah was in the Tuxtla Mountains of southern Veracruz with Cerro Vigia a leading candidate for Hill Ramah - Cumorah.

We have established that a reasonable size for the local land of Zarahemla would be on the order of 2,000 - 3,500 square kilometers. See the blog article Test #7 Land Areas. A land with dimensions 50 X 50 kilometers would have a surface area of 2,500 square kilometers. We have established that a reasonable distance from the city of Nephi to the local land of Zarahemla would be on the order of 320 air kilometers. See the blog articles Test #6 Relative Distances and Land Southward Travel Times. If you set an origin point 320 air kilometers distant from a 50 X 50 kilometer area the vectors from origin will diverge by slightly more than 9 degrees of arc.
Hypothetical Area 320 Air Kilometers from Point of Origin
With this background in mind, any viable text to map correlation will include a route for Limhi's exploring party that reasonably explains these 9 criteria:

1. The arc between the vectors Nephi/Cumorah (the route Limhi's explorers actually traveled) and Nephi/Zarahemla (the route they should have traveled) will likely exceed 10 degrees. Vectors closer than 10 degrees of arc imply the Limhi expedition should have found Zarahemla.

2. The arc between the vectors Nephi/Cumorah and Nephi/Zarahemla will likely not exceed 45 degrees. Vectors more than 45 degrees divergent depreciate the Zeniff colony records. Zeniff himself traveled the Nephi/Zarahemla route 4 times with large groups of people and he wrote a detailed history Mosiah 9:1 so Limhi's explorers probably had a general idea of the direction they should travel.

3. The distance Nephi/local land of Zarahemla will likely be about 320 air kilometers.

4. The distance Nephi/land of Cumorah will probably not be less than 160 air kilometers (320/2).

5. The distance Nephi/ land of Cumorah will almost certainly not exceed 640 air kilometers (320 X 2). In other words, the distance Nephi/land of Cumorah will probably not be greater than 2X the distance Nephi/local land of Zarahemla. An analogue: If a person sets out to travel from Cedar City, Utah to Lehi, Utah (320 air kilometers), by the time they arrive in Idaho Falls, Idaho (648 air kilometers), the diligent traveler will probably realize they have gone too far.

6. The land of Cumorah will be lower in elevation than the land of Nephi since one always went up from Zarahemla to Nephi Mosiah 9:3.

7. The land of Cumorah will be west of a large north-flowing river Limhi's explorers could have mistaken for the Sidon since the local land of Zarahemla was west of Sidon Alma 6:7.

8. The local land of Zarahemla will likely be in the coastal plain downstream from the mountains and the fall line since that is where the best current analysis thinks Limhi's explorers were when they found what they thought was Zarahemla.

9. The lay of the land and direction of river flow should offer a plausible explanation of where and why the Limhi expedition went wrong such that they ended up in Cumorah rather than Zarahemla.
In our correlation, Kaminaljuyu = City of Nephi, Nueva Esperanza - Calatraba = City of Zarahemla, the Pilapa in southern Veracruz = eastern border of the land of Cumorah, and Boca del Cerro = southern border of the local land of Zarahemla. The arc between our Nephi/Cumorah and Nephi/Zarahemla vectors varies from a minimum of 26 degrees to a maximum of 32 degrees.
Vectors from Proposed Nephi to Cumorah & Zarahemla
Criteria 1 & 2 satisfied.
The distance from Kaminaljuyu to Boca del Cerro is 325 air kilometers. Criterion 3 satisfied. The distance from Kaminaljuyu to the Pilapa River is 608 air kilometers. Criterion 4 satisfied. 325 X 2 = 650 air kilometers. Criterion 5 satisfied.
Kaminaljuyu sits astride the continental divide at an elevation of 1,550 meters. A handful of volcanic peaks in the Tuxtla Mountains rise to elevations of 1,600 - 1,650 meters. The surrounding countryside slopes abruptly down from these summits. Over 80% of the surface area of our proposed land of Cumorah has an elevation lower than 500 meters. Criterion 6 satisfied,
The Limhi explorers could have mistaken the large, north-flowing Coatzacoalcos for the Sidon. Our proposed land of Cumorah lies to the west of the Coatzacoalcos.
Map with Coatzacoalcos River Indicated
Criterion 7 satisfied.
The green line on the map below is the 100 meter fall line along the Mesoamerican Gulf of Mexico coast. This is the line where the southern highlands end and the northern coastal plain begins.
100 Meter Fall Line Limit of the Coastal Plain
Our proposed local land of Zarahemla, shown in red, lies almost entirely within the coastal plain. Criterion 8 satisfied. The black vectors approximate the journey of Limhi's explorers from Nephi to the land of Cumorah. 28% of the distance the 43 expedition members would have traveled was in the coastal plain downstream from the fall line.
On the map below the Chixoy - Usumacinta system is in red, the Mezcalapa - Grijalva system is in blue and all other river systems are in yellow. The black vectors represent the approximate route the Limhi expedition would have followed from Nephi to Cumorah. The white vectors represent the approximate route they could have followed to reach Zarahemla (the actual ancient route went through the Salama Valley around the point we call head of Sidon). The explorers would have traveled through five major river basins, three of which are shown on the map.
  • approx. 77 kilometers or 12% of the distance traveled was in the Motagua basin
  • approx. 43 kilometers or 6% of the distance traveled was in the Usumacinta basin
  • approx. 328 kilometers or 49% of the distance traveled was in the Grijalva basin
  • approx. 216 kilometers or 33% of the distance traveled was in the Coatzacoalcos & Papaloapan basins
Motagua, Usumacinta & Grijalva River Basins
If our correlation is correct, the Nephites in the local land of Nephi were very familiar with the Motagua River. Our hill north of Shilom where King Noah built one of his towers Mosiah 11:13 lies across the Motagua from the local lands of Nephi and Shilom. The Nephites probably knew the Motagua flows eastward to empty into what they called the east sea. They probably also knew that the Sidon flows northwesterly. Crossing the Usumacinta basin, they likely noted the eastward flow of the rivers and thought they were still on a tributary of the Motagua. Pushing northward and westward they found rivers in the Grijalva basin flowing northwesterly. Thinking they had found the Sidon drainage, they followed the Grijalva to the coastal plain without success before moving westward to the Coatzacoalcos and beyond. They successfully crossed the Motagua as they should have done. They erred is traveling NW across the Motagua when they should have gone counter-intuitively NE around the head of Sidon. Criterion 9 satisfied.
Our proposed correlation comfortably fits all 9 textual and inference criteria. Any viable correlation should show a similarly high degree of fit to the text.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


We find the term "borders" 75 times in the Book of Mormon, once referring to the bounds of a person's home or property 3 Nephi 22:12 (citing Isaiah 54:12), once referring to the extent of the Kingdom of God upon the earth also symbolized by the Stakes of Zion Moroni 10:31 (cited in D&C 82:14 which is a gloss on 2 Nephi 8:24 & 3 Nephi 20:36, both of which cite Isaiah 52:1), and 73 times referring to Book of Mormon places we expect to eventually locate on the modern map. The singular "border" never appears. We saw earlier there is a strong affinity between the words "borders" and "by" in the text. See the blog article "By and By." This post will analyze all occurrences of "borders" in an attempt to shed light on the Nephite meaning of the term. Potential synonyms "edge," "margin," "littoral," "boundary," "bounds," and "perimeter" were not used in the version of the record we have today. Antonyms "center" and "heart" are attested in the text and will be included in our analysis where they are used in spatial contexts. We will also look at the 4 instances of the word "bordering" and the 2 instances of the word "bordered." We will first address the questions "Which geographic entities had borders?," "What nearby features were associated with these border regions?" and "What actions took place at the borders?" Explanatory information will be in square brackets, proximate features and actions in parentheses.

Entities with borders in the Nephite worldview
- City of Ammonihah Alma 49:2 (armies of the Lamanites, Moroni's army, fortifications)
- Land governed by King Noah Mosiah 18:4,5, Mosiah 18:31, Mosiah 19:6 [The name "Lehi-Nephi" was a politically correct term used only during the sojourn of the Zeniff colony among the Lamanites. Before and after that time the Nephites referred to both the city and the land as simply "Nephi." The original land grant from the king of the Lamanites to Zeniff included the cities of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom and the land round about each Mosiah 7:21. In other words, Lehi-Nephi and Shilom were classic city states. King Noah expanded the territory he inherited from his father in two different directions. He named Mormon, a sylvan place in the borders of Nephi Alma 5:3 and he built a tower north of the land of Shilom Mosiah 11:13. In the records of the Zeniff colony, Mormon was merely a "place" Mosiah 18:4, 7, 16, 30. One generation later, Alma2 called it a "land" Alma 5:3. Mormon also called it by its more elevated name "land of Mormon" 3 Nephi 5:12.] (Mormon had a fountain of pure water, Mormon had wilderness characteristics with seasonal infestations of wild animals, Alma's converts traveled to Mormon, army of the Lamanites)
- Land governed by King Limhi which he inherited from his father, King Noah Mosiah 21:2 [local land of Nephi, land of Shilom, place of Mormon, hill north of  Shilom] (oppressive Lamanite taskmasters)
- Land of Helam Mosiah 23:25 (land of pure water, army of the Lamanites)
- Land of Jershon Alma 43:22 (on the east by the sea, army of Zerahemnah)
- Land of Melek Alma 8:5 (west of river Sidon, by the wilderness side of Melek)
- Land of Moroni Alma 62:34 (armies of Moroni, Lehi & Teancum; wilderness south of Moroni; wilderness east of Moroni)
- Local land of Nephi Mosiah 21:26, Alma 5:3 (Limhi explorers, waters of Mormon)
- Land of Shemlon Mosiah 19:6 (army of the Lamanites)
- Greater land of Zarahemla Alma 3:23 [land of Minon] (armies of the Lamanites)
- Greater land of Zarahemla Alma 16:2 [city of Ammonihah] (wilderness side of Ammonihah, armies of the Lamanites)
- Local land of Zarahemla Alma 2:36 (armies of the Lamanites, Amlicites)
- Northern kingdom of Israel destroyed by the Assyrians ca. 721 B.C. 2 Nephi 20:13 [citing Isaiah 10:13 where the Book of Mormon "borders" is translated variously in different Bible versions as "bounds," "boundaries," "defenses" or "territory."] (army of the Assyrians)
- Wilderness between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba 1 Nephi 2:5 (travel, near the shore of the Red Sea)
- Wilderness east of the Gulf of Aqaba 1 Nephi 2:5, 1 Nephi 2:8 (travel, nearer the Red Sea, near the mouth of river Laman)
- Wilderness east of the Red Sea 1 Nephi 16:14 (travel, near the Red Sea)
- Wilderness west of Mulek Alma 8:3 (west of river Sidon)

Things associated with borders
- Wilderness
- Water
- Travel
- Military & para-military actions
- Fortifications

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BMAF 2014

The 12th Annual Book of Mormon Lands Conference sponsored by the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF) was held on Saturday, October 18, 2014 at the Salt Lake Sheraton. Robert Starling chaired this year's conference.

Geologist and paleontologist Wade E, Miller gave the first presentation on dealing with alleged faunal anachronisms in the text. Miller has advanced degrees from the University of Arizona and UC Berkeley. He has been on the faculty at Fullerton College, Santa Ana College and BYU. Author of more than 80 scientific papers, he has been a paleontology and geology advisor to many institutions and governmental agencies throughout the western U.S. and Mexico. Retired from BYU, he is now a research associate with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County where he is one of the experts classifying and cataloging the millions of bones recovered from the tar pits at Rancho La Brea. He travels into Mexico frequently to collect fossils and ancient skeletal remains. One of the defining moments in his career was a presentation to LDS young single adults in Italy where many of our young people were going away to college and losing their testimonies. That led to his publication of Creation of the Earth for Man: Views of an LDS Geologist and Science and the Book of Mormon: Cureloms, Cumoms, Horses & More, both in 2010. Miller and Matt Roper are co-authors of the excellent 2014 article "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives" published in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. Miller gave several examples of animals, long thought to be extinct, that have been found still living in unexpected habitats. He used this as a backdrop to explain the process of extinction which can proceed slowly over centuries or millenia. He discussed over 100 species indigenous to North America that are candidates for the animals mentioned in the text. Some items that stood out:
  • The geology and paleontology implied in the text fit Mesoamerica. They do not fit the much more stable situation in northeastern North America. Volcanism is often accompanied by fierce lightning and suffocating particulate emissions. Plate tectonics and volcanism explain the destructions recorded in 3 Nephi. Both the Cocos Plate and the Caribbean Plate cross Mesoamerica, making it one of the most active seismic and volcanic zones in the world.
  • Cement is found at Teotihuacan and Tula, Hidalgo. The notion that people in the land northward built with cement because they had no trees is untenable. They may have lacked trees suitable for timber, but they must have had wood they could burn.  A great deal of fuel is consumed in the process of burning limestone to create cement.
  • 4 Nephi 1:24 says the people had all manner of fine pearls. Miller showed a photograph of a lovely string of pearls from Mexico. Gem-grade pearls are found in tropical and some sub-tropical waters. Pearls do form in cold waters, but they are small and unattractive. This is another indication the text is set in Mesoamerica.
  • Very little gold exists naturally in the northeastern U.S. Industrial scale gold mining is well-attested in ancient Mesoamerica.
  • Rancho La Brea had horses whose remains date to A.D. 1300. Many dry bones cannot be dated. Collagen in a bone is necessary for radiocarbon dating.
  • Pre-columbian bos taurus cattle remains have been found in Yucatan caves.
  • Pre-columbian euceratherium (shrub ox) remains have been found in Mexico. 
  • The woodland musk ox is now known from ancient Mesoamerica.
  • Peccaries could be the swine mentioned in the text.
  • The true goat oreamnos harringtoni was in Mesoamerica.
  • Red brocket deer, rocky mountain sheep and columbian mammoths were all in Mexico.
  • Mammoths were elephants of the order proboscidea. Mammoth remains have now been found as late as 2,000 B.C.
  • The American mastodon was in Mesoamerica.
  • Antilocapra, the goat deer, is known from Mesoamerica.
  • Llamas have been found at Rancho La Brea. They may have been the very useful cureloms and cumoms mentioned in the text.
  • Equs, the horse, originated in North America. Pre-columbian horse and ass remains have recently been discovered in Carlsbad, CA.
  • Some animals in the Jaredite record that are not mentioned in Nephite times (elephants, cureloms, cumoms in Ether 9:19) probably went extinct before the Nephites encountered them.
When he ventured outside his field and dabbled in archaeology, Miller was a little too speculative for my tastes. When he displayed a slide of Copan stela B with a figure that could be an elephant, Mark A. Wright responded that Mayanists generally interpret the image as a macaw with its long beak. Within his area of expertise, though, Miller was the most articulate and convincing presenter I have ever heard discuss Book of Mormon fauna.
Miller's 2010 Book
Scott Hoyt gave the next presentation on the Andean Viracocha and other white, bearded god figures known from Peruvian and Mesoamerican ethnohistory. Hoyt is a retired attorney who practiced with Gibson Dunn in Los Angeles and Dallas. He now divides his time between homes in Dallas, Texas and Midway, Utah. He served a mission to Peru and his book entitled Two Years of Eternity is one of the best first-person mission memoirs currently available. (Full-disclosure: Scott and I [Kirk Magleby] were zone leaders together in Arequipa.) He began his presentation with a headline published in the Lima newspaper La Prensa "Estuvo Cristo en el Peru?" "Was Christ in Peru?" leading to an article by Franklin Pease, one of Peru's foremost authorities on pre-columbian ethnohistory. Drawing on sources such as Pedro Cieza de Leon, Juan de Betanzos, Cristobal de Molina and Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, Hoyt drew relationships between legends of an ancient white, bearded god who visited the Andes, the Guatemalan Popol Vuh recently corroborated by murals and friezes unearthed at the Peten sites El Mirador and San Bartolo, the various books of Chilam Balam from Yucatan and the Book of Mormon account in 3 Nephi. Some interesting points:
  • The ancient American creator god organized pre-existing matter, contra the Catholic conception of creation ex-nihilo. The Popol Vuh, for example, characterizes the creator as dominator of chaos.
  • Viracocha had two helpers as he created the earth. The Popol Vuh describes three creator gods.
  • Viracocha's visit to Peru was preceded by massive destruction as in 3 Nephi 8.
  • Some indigenous iconography such as the portada del sol in Tiahuanaco depicts a weeping god. 3 Nephi 17:21-22.describes the Savior weeping.
  • Viracocha was the source of both light and heat, the power behind the sun. This is the same advanced conception of God described in D&C 88:7-13.
  • The principal Andean deity figure is often called the "staff god." The staffs are serpents he holds in both hands, often with feathers or other avian characteristics. The feathered serpent image famous from the Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan is mirrored all over the Andes from Chavin to Inca times. 1 Nephi 17:41 describes fiery, flying serpents as does 2 Nephi 24:29.
  • A large face with full beard carved into the mountainside opposite the ruins of Ollantaytambo represents Viracocha. Granaries as a headdress atop the figure represent the rays of the sun.
  • A gold statue of Viracocha stood four feet tall in the Coricancha, Cuzco's main temple.
  • A 30 foot high statue of Viracocha was in the largest Inca structure, the 300+ foot long Temple of Viracocha at Raqchi. Adherents traversed zig zag passages to reach the effigy.
Viracocha image carved into the mountain at Ollantaytambo
Look for an article by Scott Hoyt in an upcoming issue of BYU Studies.
John L. Lund's keynote address was a tour through the law of Moses as practiced by pre-exilic Israel, the Book of Mormon peoples, and the Jews in exile influenced first by Babylonian ideas and then by Persian Zoroastrianism. The law of Moses is a very significant part of Book of Mormon life from 1 Nephi 1:1 through 3 Nephi 15:4. The Nephites practiced this law very differently than their counterparts in Jerusalem after their return from exile because the Nephite version of the scriptures on the brass plates was pristine while the Jewish version of the scriptures after their sojourn in Babylon was contaminated with other ideas. Jesus, the Messiah, is both a lion and a lamb. He was the lamb sacrificed to effect the Atonement in His first coming. He will be the lion destroying evil and ruling the world in His second coming. After their exile, the Jews expected a political Savior, the Messiah in His lion aspect. Some noteworthy ideas:
  • There are no references to the lion of the second coming during Old Testament times in the Book of Mormon. The only mention of this symbolism comes after the Savior's resurrection. 3 Nephi 20:16, 3 Nephi 21;12, Mormon 5:24.
  • In the Hebrew Old Testament, on the other hand, the lion of the second coming appeared hundreds of years before the meridian of time Micah 5:8.
  • The lamb - atonement relationship is centered on Isaiah 53.
  • 4 animal images of Christ are the eagle, serpent, lion and lamb. (Editor's note: Most ancient cultures worldwide associated their deities with apex predators.)
  • After their Babylonian captivity, the Jews expected their Messiah to be a lion who would deliver them from their political enemies. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, portrays the future Messiah as a lamb. 1 Nephi 10:10.
  • Lund identifies the 7 dispensations as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter and Joseph Smith. All except Moses had the Melchizedek Priesthood widely available. All except Peter and Joseph Smith offered animal sacrifices in anticipation of the sacrifice of the Lamb.
  • The law of Moses is the glass half full. You still have faith, repentance, baptism, etc. The law of Christ is the full glass.
  • Jews in the pre-Christian era practiced philos, brotherly love. John 13:34 enjoins them to practice agape or charity, the higher form of Christ-like love.
  • Charity, the highest form of love, is found in the Book of Mormon during the law of Moses era 2 Nephi 26:30.
  • The Jewish calendar began in the spring. Lund thinks the Nephite calendar also began in the spring.
  • The phrase "God delivers X into your hands" appears 192 times in the Old Testament, 152 times in the Book of Mormon.
  • Lund really likes John W. Welch's book The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon. It is one of the finest books ever written about the Book of Mormon. It summarizes 30 years of research and writing by Welch and his law students. Most people read the Nephite text and fail to note the many subtle references it contains to Biblical law.
  • The Persian Cyrus was a Messiah figure to the exilic Jews.
  • The Book of Esther promotes the idea of a political Savior. It contains 190 references to Kings of Persia, none to God. The Essenes had no use for the Book of Esther. It is not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The 2014 Father Lehi and Mother Sariah award was given to Ruth Fetzer Carr and posthumously to her late husband, Stephen Lamoni Carr. Dr. Carr, a retired pediatrician, had a life-long love for the Book of Mormon, ornithology, trains, history and the Boy Scouts of America. He was one of the founders of the Heber Creeper historic railroad and one of the founders of BMAF. He was serving as President of BMAF at the time of his death in January, 2014. Steve authored 3 articles posted on this blog: "The East Seacoast Cities of the Nephites," "All References to Narrow, Small, Neck, Pass and Passage," and "Other Peoples in the Promised Land." He authored the following internal reconstruction of Book of Mormon places a number of years ago.
Steve Carr's Internal Model
Steve's insights and wisdom continue to inform this effort. He was not a man of many words. Doug Christensen, current President of BMAF, paid him this high compliment: "His was the steady, quiet voice of reason. He never spoke frivolously or out of anger."

Past BMAF Father Lehi Award Recipients
2003 Dale T. Tingey
2005 Juan O'Donnell
2006 Bruce W. Warren

Past BMAF Father Lehi & Mother Sariah Award Recipients
2007 Robert E. & Helen Wells
2008 Ted E. & Dorothy Brewerton
2009 John L. & Helen Sorenson
2010 Hugh W. (posthumous) & Phyllis Nibley
2011 Joseph L. & Rhoda Allen
2012 F. Richard & Laura Hauck
2013 V. Garth & Cheryl Norman
2014 Stephen L. (posthumous) & Ruth Carr
During lunch, Garth & Cheryl Norman showed a video about their participation in sacred Maya rituals in Guatemala and Mexico in 2010. The Maya Conservancy organized a tour of six archaeological sites where a dozen Maya scholars and about the same number of Maya priests and elders came together and performed fire ceremonies based on the 260 day ritual calendar and the cardinal directions. You can view the five minute Maya Conservancy video record of these ceremonies here.
I was the next speaker. I presented a methodology for solving the Book of Mormon geography problem using the 2009 Yale edition to answer the question What does the text say?; the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to answer the question What did this word or phrase mean in Early Modern English? and Google Earth to build and test correlation models. Assumptions provide an interpretive framework for textual exegesis. Criteria based on those assumptions itemize points any viable correlation should exhibit for a Book of Mormon place. I demonstrated the methodology with 16 assumptions about the text and 30 criteria for the narrow (small) neck of land. I tested two correlations 1) the Sorenson/Norman/Allen model where the narrow (small) neck of land is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and 2) the Hauck/Andersen/Magleby model where the narrow (small) neck of land is Barra San Marcos on the coast of Chiapas near Tonala. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec correlation satisfies 10 of 30 textual + lexical criteria for a 33% score. The Barra San Marcos correlation satisfies 30 of 30 criteria for 100%. I managed my allotted time poorly, so did not present any of the other 300+ criteria that have been developed to date or the 7 tests any viable correlation should pass. I was unable to go over the geographic features in the text whose correlations have proven convincing enough to make them candidates for consensus. I likewise had to skip 7 independent corroborations of the narrow (small) neck of land - Barra San Marcos correlation. I concluded with the idea that the Yale Edition, the OED and Google Earth enable reproducible results, and science advances based on reproducible results. This gives me hope we can solve the Book of Mormon geography conundrum soon. My 9 page lecture notes are here. My 91 slide powerpoint that partially illustrates the notes is here. The numbers in the upper right hand corner of each powerpoint slide correlate with the points and sub-points in the lecture notes.
Unfortunately, I was so busy visiting with people after my presentation I did not hear much of Michael R. Ash's talk on the multiple meanings of historicity as it applies to the Book of Mormon. Ash is a talented and highly articulate defender of the faith.
Neal Rappleye is a young scholar with a bright future. He gave a fine presentation on three different methodological approaches to Book of Mormon geography: 1) prophetic priority, 2) anthropological priority, and 3) geographic priority. Writers who give priority to prophetic evidence pay particular attention to statements by Joseph Smith and his associates, and prophecies in the text. Authors who give priority to anthropological evidence start with antiquities, cultures and sites and build correlations around them. Geographic priority means creating a hypothetical internal model from relationships in the text and then fitting that model to the real world map. Rappleye chose three authors (all of whose initials are "J.L.") to illustrate the different approaches.
  1. John L. Lund in his Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon: Is This the Place? starts with the Prophet Joseph's 1823 - 1827 visions of Nephite civilization that were vindicated when he received a copy of Stevens and Catherwood's 1841 Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan from John M. Bernhisel in New York. Lund and most other scholars believe the many statements in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons proposing a Mesoamerican setting for the Nephite text resulted from Joseph Smith's aha moments as he looked at Catherwood's remarkable drawings and recognized the cultures he had seen in vision.
  2. Joseph L. Allen and Blake J. Allen in Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon dive right into the archaeology and line up textual evidences they believe support their correlation. These are brethren who have crisscrossed the highways and byways of Mesoamerica for decades as tour guides to thousands in their travel business. They focus on dates of occupation, trade routes, linguistics, and physical site characteristics with lavish illustrations that help readers visualize how particular ruins might correlate with the text. For the Allens, a dearth of sites from a particular time period is conclusive evidence Nephites never lived in that region.
  3. John L. Sorenson takes the high road and creates an internal model in his Mormon's Map which he deftly overlays on Mesoamerica (with some sleight of hand regarding directionality) in his incomparable Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book. John incorporates prophetic evidence and extensive information about sites and their relationships, but his primary focus is always on the text and its explicit or implied nuances of geographic and cultural details.
Interesting people at the conference included Larry R. Stay and his wife, Joyce, recently returned from presiding over the Guatemala City South Mission and David Torres, former Guatemala City North Mission President and his wife, Maria. Sister Torres currently serves on the General Relief Society Board. Shirley R. Heater made the trip to Utah again from her home in Missouri. She is one of the foremost Book of Mormon scholars in the Restoration Branch movement split from the former RLDS Church. Heater edits the quarterly newsletter Quetzal Codex. She is working on a review of John L. Sorenson's Mormon's Codex. Other scholars in the room included Steve Densley, Jr., Vice President of FairMormon; Brant A. Gardner, author of the very important Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon series; and Mark A. Wright, member of the BYU Ancient Scripture faculty and author of the highly recommended "Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography" presented at the 2013 FairMormon Conference.

Elders Ted E. Brewerton and Merrill C. Oaks were both in attendance with their wives. These brethren have been stalwart supporters of rigorous Book of Mormon research for decades. Jim Hawker came up to me and shared the exciting information that speleothems (cave formations such as stalagmites) are proxies of ancient climate changes. He has followed research in Mexico and Belize that may help us identify the drought described in Helaman 11 in the depositional layers laid down over centuries in Mesoamerican limestone caves.
At the BMAF board meeting following the conference, Joe V. Andersen suggested it is time to convene a research group tasked with achieving consensus on a Book of Mormon New World geographic correlation. Joe's idea was accepted and work is now underway toward that laudable goal.

Meet the Mormons

My wife and I saw "Meet the Mormons" for the 4th time last night. Our first viewing was an Internet stream sent out to LDS Bishops. Our next experience was with 25 family members on October 10th, opening night. On Saturday, October 11th we bought out the theater and hosted 270 ward members. Then last night, we invited a couple in our ward to come with us for family home evening because the husband was unable to attend on the 11th. All four times we laughed and we cried. After all three theatrical showings the packed house erupted in spontaneous applause. We highly recommend this movie. It may be the finest film the Church has ever produced.

An indirect Book of Mormon connection is in the segment featuring Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. The first settlers in Annapolis surveyed their land in 1651 at the place called "Annapolis Neck." This neck of land, bounded by Crab Creek, Annapolis Harbor and Chesapeake Bay, is 1.71 kilometers wide at its base.
Base of Annapolis Neck, Maryland
U.S. Zip Code 21403 is called Annapolis Neck, Maryland. There are literally hundreds of similar necks of land along the Atlantic seaboard of the U.S., most named during the 1600's. We analyzed over 100 of them in the article "Necks of Land." Annapolis Neck is yet another example demonstrating that during the Early Modern English era a small peninsula was routinely called a "neck."

Additional examples not documented in the aforementioned article include Horseneck near Westport, Bristol County, MA; Haddam Neck near East Hampton, Middlesex County, CT; Colts Neck in Monmouth County, NJ; Throggs Neck in Bronx County, NY; Mason Neck near Lorton, Fairfax County, VA and Durants Neck in Perquimans County, NC.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Test #7 Land Areas

For several years, this blog has used the terminology "local land" to refer to a regional Book of Mormon polity and "greater land" to classify a continental-size administrative unit. Ric Hauck and Joe V. Andersen use the terms "lesser land" and "greater land." Upon consideration, I believe their nomenclature is superior, so I will adopt it going forward.

Based on textual criteria and Mesoamerican topography, I have created a preliminary map for 31 Lehite lesser lands mentioned by name or description in the Book of Mormon. The text describes most of them as classic city states Alma 43:25 with a principal city and the lands round about Mosiah 7:21, Mosiah 23:25. The city state land use pattern is well-known worldwide and forms the basis for local and regional administrative entities in many countries. Test #7 compares the sizes of our proposed Book of Mormon lands with known geographic entities that could reasonably be considered analogues for Nephite and Lamanite lesser lands. Continental-scale lands in the text such as Bountiful, Desolation, Greater Zarahemla and Greater Nephi are purposely excluded from this analysis because their extent clearly exceeded that of a typical city state. This test is admittedly crude in some ways, but it does indicate whether or not our correlations are in the ballpark of reasonableness based on known ways humans have grouped themselves in local and regional administrative units in a wide variety of geographies and time periods.

Preliminary sizes of named or described Book of Mormon lesser lands. All areas are in square kilometers.
  1. Ammonihah 842
  2. Antionum 2,390
  3. Antum 1,978
  4. Land between Zarahemla and Bountiful 1,157
  5. Cumorah 2,570
  6. Land of First Inheritance 9,095
  7. Gideon 1,848
  8. Ishmael 834
  9. Jashon 1,282
  10. Jershon 4,307
  11. Jerusalem 3,899
  12. Joshua 710
  13. Lehi 3,107
  14. Manti 2,083
  15. Melek 1,238
  16. Middoni 930
  17. Minon 1,354
  18. Morianton 1,661
  19. Mormon 2,268
  20. Moroni 3,594
  21. Most capital parts of the land 3,115
  22. Land near Bountiful 1,194
  23. Nephi 1,116
  24. Nephihah 3,529
  25. Noah 962
  26. Shem 690
  27. Shemlon 711
  28. Shilom 359
  29. Sidom 617
  30. Siron 2,069
  31. Zarahemla 3,520
mean: 2,098
median: 1,661
min: 359
max: 9,095
31 Proposed Lesser Lands in the Book of Mormon
33 Counties in Scotland at the time of the 1951 census
mean: 2,328
median: 1,263
min: 141
max: 10,907
33 Counties in Scotland
32 Counties in Ireland
mean: 2,629
median: 2,050
min: 826
max: 7,500
32 Counties in Ireland
40 Historic Counties in England at the time of the 1831 census. These geographic entities are also called the "Ancient Counties." They date from Anglo Saxon times.
mean: 3,214
median: 2,656
min: 395
max: 14,850
39 Ancient Counties of England in 1851
Note that Monmouthshire was considered part of England in 1831. By 1851 it was considered part of Wales. Note also that the largest county, Yorkshire, had 3 subdivisions called Ridings. This tells us a county with 14,850 square kilometers of land area was unwieldy to administer.
110 Provinces in Italy. Many of these date to Roman times.
mean: 2,738
median: 2,461
min: 212
max: 7,400
110 Provinces in Italy
62 Counties in New York
mean: 2,270
median: 2,102
min: 87
max: 7,306
The smallest county, New York, is basically Manhattan, which has one of the highest population densities of any land area on the planet.

62 Counties in New York
22 City States in Ancient Greece (areas are approximate)
mean: 3,566
median: 2,392
min: 82
max: 22,968
The smallest city state, Aegina, was a small island off the coast of Athens.

22 City States in Ancient Greece
We know the Maya area had many city states that have been compared with counterparts in Ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy. Maps of those city state boundaries at particular time periods are still in their infancy as archaeological data about alliances, tribute and trade patterns continues to evolve. We know Maya polities tended to be more dispersed than similar Old World polities. This means there were large tracts of wilderness interspersed between settled areas, precisely as the Book of Mormon describes. We can deduce some rough estimates of city state land areas in the Maya world.

The A.D. 378 route of Teotihuacan-affiliated Sihyaj K'ahk' (Fire is Born) is well documented. He first subdued El Peru and eight days later conquered Tikal. This means El Peru and Tikal were neighboring polities in A.D. 378. Naachtun, Uaxactun and La Sufricaya also figure in the narrative. We place a circle with an area of 2,098 square kilometers around El Peru and a similar circle around Tikal. 2,098 square kilometers is the mean land area of the 31 proposed Nephite and Lamanite local lands described above. This comparison is flawed in many ways. We know, for example, that in A.D. 378 Tikal was larger and more powerful than El Peru so it probably maintained influence over a broader territory. Nevertheless, overlaying El Peru and Tikal with our best current estimate of typical Book of Mormon land areas does demonstrate reasonableness. Our hypothesized Nephite and Lamanite land areas are in the Mesoamerican ballpark.
El Peru & Tikal, Peten, Guatemala
Six sites in the Pasion river basin in Guatemala are included in what archaeologists commonly call the "Petexbatun State." We place a circle with an area of 2,098 square kilometers around these six sites.
Sites in the Petexbatun State, Peten, Guatemala
Three sites in the San Pedro river basin in Guatemala are included in what archaeologists commonly call the "Hix Wix Kingdom." We place a circle with an area of 2,098 square kilometers around these three sites. The white line is the approximate kingdom boundary recognized by archaeologists.
Sites in the Hix Wix Kingdom, Peten, Guatemala
Recent archaeological excavations have identified the Anaite Rapids as the boundary between rival Usumacinta river basin states Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan. See Charles Golden and Andrew Scherer, "Border Problems: Recent Archaeological Research along the Usumacinta River" in The PARI Journal, Vol. VII, No. 2, Fall 2006. This border was fortified on the Yaxchilan side. We place a circle with an area of 2,098 square kilometers around Piedras Negras and a similar circle around Yaxchilan.
Border between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan
Peter Matthews studied Maya polities based on emblem glyphs and concluded that political entities ranged between 1,000 and 3,000 square kilometers in size with the average size about 2,500 square kilometers. Peter Matthews, "Maya Early Classic Monuments and Inscriptions" in Gordon R. Willey and Peter Matthews, editors, A Consideration of the Early Classic Period in the Maya Lowlands, Institute for Mesoamerican Studies Publication No. 10, SUNY Albany, 1985. Another derivation of mean Maya city state size (2,448 square kilometers) in the southern lowlands is in the article "Hansen and Coe.

Calakmul was the most powerful state in the Maya lowlands during much of the middle classic. It consisted of a 20 square kilometer site core surrounded by a rural population spread over a large regional state with an area of about 13,000 square kilometers. Total population probably reached 1.75 million.

In the 2015 book The Maya: Voices in Stone, second edition, published by Turner and UNAM, Ana Luisa Izquierdo y de la Cueva in her article "Introduction: Maya Identity" says the entire Maya area covered roughly 325,000 square kilometers and was home to 70 ajawlel or ajawil city states. The mean size of a city state in the entire Maya area, including surrounding wilderness, was about 4,643 square kilometers.

We have one other control on the size of a land area referenced in the Book of Mormon. The Nephite text mentions the "land of Jerusalem" in the Old World thirty-nine times. We have a good idea of the boundaries of the southern kingdom in the 930 B.C. - 586 B.C. era. when the Dead Sea was to its east, the kingdom of Edom to its south and the Philistine states to its west. Its land area was about 3,762 square kilometers including the cities of Jerusalem, Lachish, Hebron and Beersheba. This means the Levantine land of Jerusalem was similar in size to the other geographic areas we have examined.
Kingdom of Judah 930 B.C. to 586 B.C.
These results show consistent patterns. Humans living in pre-industrial civilizations tended to create local and regional administrative entities whose land areas fall within limits of reasonableness. The distance a man could typically ride or walk in one day played into this pattern. Any proposed Book of Mormon correlation for the 31 listed lesser lands whose mean area falls below 1,000 square kilometers is probably too small. Any single land whose absolute area falls below 100 square kilometers is probably too small. Any proposed Book of Mormon correlation for the 31 listed lesser lands whose mean area exceeds 5,000 square kilometers is probably too large. Any single land whose absolute area exceeds 20,000 square kilometers is probably too large. Our correlation with its mean lesser land area of 2,098 square kilometers, ranging from a minimum of 359 to a maximum of 9,095, is reasonable and defensible compared with known settlement patterns from antiquity and history. Any viable Book of Mormon text to map correlation should have similarly reasonable lesser land areas.

Article updated December 11, 2016