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

Friday, October 10, 2014

OED on Narrow

To better understand Alma 22:32, Alma 63:5 and Ether 10:20 we looked at all textual occurrences of the words "narrow," "strait" and "small" in the Book of Mormon to get a sense of the Nephite meaning of those terms. We concluded any geographic feature exceeding 20 kilometers in width is completely out of the question - the Nephites would not have called it narrow or small, with 5 kilometers a much more likely upper limit. See the blog article "Narrow and Small Things."

The language that fell from the Prophet Joseph's lips in the moment of translation was Early Modern English as we saw in the blog article "Early Modern English." This makes it important for us to understand the sense of meaning the word "narrow" carried in the A.D. 1470 - A.D. 1700 Early Modern English era. We will examine the Oxford English Dictionary to see how the term "narrow" was used in geographic contexts in Early Modern English. The word "narrow" appears over 4,000 times in the OED, so we have abundant data to work with.

The general sense of meaning for narrow is something slender or constricted, whose breadth or width is small in proportion to its length. An urban street with houses on either side is narrow. A tree-lined country lane is narrow. A brook or rivulet is narrow. The strip of earth between furrows in a plowed field is narrow. Shakespeare bundled narrow lands in allusion with urban alleys and woodland creeks. "One that countermands The passages of allies, creekes, and narrow lands." William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors, 1616.

"Hee did shut them [Irish rebels] up within those narrow corners and glynnes [glens] under the mountaines foote." Edmund Spenser, A Veue of the Present State of Ireland, 1596. Reading Spenser in context it is clear the mountains he refers to are Mourne Mountains rising to elevations in excess of 600 meters in Newry and Mourne Council, Northern Ireland. This is a Google Earth image of one of the narrow glens at the foot of Mourne Mountains. This glen is 1.41 kilometers wide at the point indicated.
Narrow Glen at the foot of Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
"The small narrow streight of Menai." William Camden (Philemon Holland, translator) Britain; or A chorographicall description of England, Scotland and Ireland (London: G. Bishop and I Norton, 1610). Menai Strait is a stretch of tidal water separating the Isle of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland. It is .77 kilometers wide near Bangor.
Narrow Menai Strait in Northwest Wales
"The haven of Messina is...compassed almost round with the city on one side, and a narrow languet or neck of land on the other." John Ray, Observations topographical, moral, and physiological..., 1673. The word "languet" derives from the Middle French word "languete" meaning "tongue." We saw in an earlier post that other Romance languages use the phrase "tongue of land" as their equivalent of the English "neck of land." See the blog article "Romance Languages." We see here that John Ray considered "tongue" and "neck" of land synonymous in English as well. This is the Sicilian land form described as a narrow neck of land in Early Modern English. The curved peninsula is .40 kilometers wide at its base.
Narrow Tongue or Neck of Land, Messina, Italy
In the Elizabethan era, Sir Francis Drake sacked the Spanish town of Cartagena on the north coast of modern Colombia. The noted English historian William Camden wrote that a narrow neck of land lay between Cartagena's harbor road and the ocean. "A narrow necke of land betweene the innermore rode [road] of the hauen [haven or harbor], & the Ocean." William Camden (Robert Norton, translator), The historie of the most renowned and victorious princesse Elizabeth, late Queene of England, 1630. The yellow line on the map below shows the harbor road around Cartagena. The narrow neck of land is .59 kilometers wide at the point indicated.
Narrow Neck of Land, Cartagena, Colombia
"Wawne [Walney] Iseland wch is a narrow screed of land lying before Fourness..." Henry Slingsby, The diary of Sir Henry Slingsby of Scriven Bart, 1644. Walney Island is .65 kilometers wide at the point indicated and 1.29 kilometers wide at the triangular-shaped airport on its northern end.
Narrow Walney Island, Cumbria, England
"Creeks of the sea is an inlet cornered into the main land, shooting with a narrow passage into some angle of the land...and this appears on that great arm of the sea on Humber, where it runs betwixt Lincolnshire and Yorkshire." Robert Callis, The Reading of the Famous and Learned Robert Callis, Esq.upon the statute of sewers, 1642. The tidal inlet Callis refers to goes by the name "River Humber" today. River Humber is 1.91 kilometers wide at Humber Bridge.
Narrow Passage between Lincolnshire & Yorkshire, England
"The pass is narrow...Between those Hills." Tiberius Catius Silius Italicus (Thomas Ross, translator) The second Punick War between Hannibal and the Romanes, 1661. The narrow pass referred to here is the section of the Appian Way between Forchia on the west and Arpaia on the east in the province of Benevento, Italy. This pass is .56 kilometers wide at the point indicated.
Narrow Pass 31 air kilometers NE of Naples, Italy
"Beyonde the which I find a narrow going or stricktland leading from the poynte to Hirst [Hurst] Castle." William Harrison, Historicall Description of the Island of  Britain, 1577. The word "strict" here has the sense of "narrow." The narrow land leading from the point to the castle is only 12 meters wide at its neck.
Narrow Land near Hurst Castle, Hampshire, England
"Through which narrow streights, Alexander...made his armie to pass." Nicolas de Nicolay (Thomas Washington, translator) The navigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie by Nicholas Nicholay, 1585. The narrow straits are the Cilician Gate, a pass through the rugged Taurus Mountains in south central Turkey. The Cilician Gate is 1.90 kilometers wide at the point indicated.
Narrow Cilician Gate or Gulek Pass, Mersin, Turkey
"Which, by a very narrow Isthim or necke of land groweth to the rest of the Iland." William Camden (Philemon Holland, translator) Britain, 1610. Camden is describing the Ards Peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland. Ards Peninsula is 4.79 kilometers wide just south of Greyabbey and Ballywalter.
Narrow Neck Ards Peninsula, Northern Ireland 
These results corroborate our findings from the text. Many long, slender geographic features less than 5 kilometers wide were called narrow in Early Modern English.

In addition, some features wider than 5 kilometers were also called narrow in the Early Modern English era. Moscow, Russia is on the Moskva, tributary to the Oka, which is tributary to the Volga which empties into the Caspian Sea. The Don, anciently considered the boundary between Europe and Asia, flows into the Sea of Azov which communicates with the Black Sea and ultimately the Mediterranean. The Volga and the Don flow within 60 kilometers of each other, with tributaries much closer than that. Today, canals and locks join the two waterways. In former times, river men traveled down the Volga, hauled their boats over a portage on wagons, and continued down the Don. This is a description of the portage: "A little Isthmus or narrow slippe of lande." Giles Fletcher, Of the Russe common wealth, 1591. This portage was 5.56 kilometers long.
Narrow Portage between the Volga and the Don, Russia
Numerous sources in the Early Modern English era use the word "narrow" to refer to the land between the River Forth emptying into the Firth of Forth and the River Clyde emptying into the Firth of Clyde in southern Scotland. Here is one example: "Agricola began...a Wall or Vallum, upon that narrow space of Land that lies between the two Fryths." William Temple, An introduction to the History of England, 1699. The distance from Glascow to Stirling or Hamilton to Falkirk is about 35 kilometers. The distance from the Dumbarton tidal flats to the Grangemouth tidal flats is 51.07 air kilometers. 
Narrow Space of Land between the Firth of Clyde
& the Firth of Forth, Scotland
Today we call this Roman construction begun in A.D. 142 the Antonine Wall, not to be confused with the better known Hadrian's Wall further south that was begun twenty years earlier.

In the blog article "OED on Necks of Land" we give several examples where the Isthmus of Panama [Darien] was called narrow by Early Modern English writers. The distance from Colon on the Atlantic side to Panama City on the Pacific Side is 54 kilometers.
Narrow Isthmus of Panama 56 kilometers wide X 900 kilometers long
From this brief look at Early Modern English usage of the word "narrow" in geographic contexts, we conclude that a feature wider than 100 kilometers would not have been called narrow in the 1470 - 1700 time period. Features smaller than 5 kilometers wide were routinely called narrow. Features between 5 and 56 kilometers wide were sometimes called narrow when compared with large adjacent land masses (Scotland, Russia, the Western Hemisphere). In all cases, something narrow was slender or constricted with a width much smaller than its length.

A Nephite

This article will examine all 7 occurrences of the phrase "a Nephite" in the text in an attempt to clarify the sense of meaning that term held for the authors of the Book of Mormon.

Alma 8:20 "And the man [Amulek] saith (1981 & 2013 LDS editions read 'said') unto him [Alma2]: I am a Nephite." This was Amulek's declaration of political and religious affiliation. Amulek lived in Ammonihah which was the headquarters of the Nehorite/Amlicite apostasy. Five years prior to Alma's visit a major schism resulted in many former Nephites becoming political and religious Amlicites Alma 2:11. Amulek affirmed that he did not vote for Amlici in the ca. 87 B.C. plebiscite Alma 2:5-7.

Alma 19:18 "And they also saw Ammon - and behold, he was a Nephite." Lamanites in the court of King Lamoni could distinguish a foreigner in their midst. Ethnically and culturally a person of Nephite descent stood out when surrounded by Lamanites.

Alma 22:32 "And now it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite on the line between the land (the 1981 & 2013 LDS editions omit 'between the land') Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea;" Was a day and a half's journey for a Nephite an exceptional or heroic distance? No. It was neither inordinate nor impressive. The sense of the diminutive word "only" means something on a modest, pedestrian scale. "A Nephite" means a citizen of the Nephite polity. This verse tells us the Nephites had a standard unit of distance measure (1 day's journey) just as they had standard units for weight or volume (measure of barley) Alma 11:7 and value (shum, seon, etc.) Alma 11:9. The heading to 1 Nephi, Mosiah 23:3, Alma 8:6 and Helaman 4:7 all attest to this standard unit of distance measure in use among the Nephites.

Alma 49:25 "their king Amalickiah, who was a Nephite by birth," A person born to Nephite parents was considered a Nephite in the ethnic sense of that word even after they had renounced their Nephite citizenship, moved abroad and become politically active in their new homeland.

Alma 55:32 "if their wine would poison a Lamanite, it would also poison a Nephite." Here "a Nephite" is a broad term referring to any member of the Nephite nation or soldier in the Nephite army.

Helaman 4:7 "it being a day's journey for a Nephite on the line which they had fortified." Ca. 90 B.C. the Nephites stationed a military garrison on the Bountiful side of an east-west line separating the land Bountiful on the south from the land Desolation on the north. This line, terminating in the west sea, was 1.5 day's journey long Alma 22:32-33. The line described in Alma 22 is not the same as the line described here in Helaman 4 which was established ca. 35 B.C. Both lines ran from a point in the east to the west sea, but the Helaman 4:7 line was shorter by one-third and it was south of the longer line. How do we know this? Helaman 4:6 says the shorter line was entirely contained within the land Bountiful which along the Nephite west coast was south of the Bountiful/Desolation border. As we have seen above, "a Nephite" refers to any Nephite national whether citizen or soldier.

Helaman 5:35 "one among them who was a Nephite by birth." This Nephite dissenter was born to Nephite parents. He was an ethnic Nephite who had become a Lamanite in his political and religious affiliations and now resided among the Lamanites.

These verses present a clear and consistent picture. "A Nephite" was any member of the Nephite polity, a common man, an ordinary foot soldier. The hunt for elite Nephite equivalents of ultra marathoners, Olympic gold medalist distance runners or kayak racers who could have traversed the wide (216 kilometer) Isthmus of Tehuantepec in a day and a half (following Alma 22:32) or a day (following Helaman 4:7) is unwarranted and atextual.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Day for the Book of Mormon

In between general conference sessions on Sunday, October 5, 2014 the Church broadcast perhaps the finest documentary ever made about the Book of Mormon. Written and directed by Russ Holt (How Rare a Possession: The Book of Mormon [the Vincenzo Di Francesca story], 1987; Special Witnesses of Christ, 2000; The Work and the Glory, 2004) and filmed by T.C. Christensen (Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail, 1997; American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith, 1999; The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd, 2000; The Work and the Glory, 2004; Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, 2005; Emma Smith, My Story 2008; Forever Strong [the story of Larry Gelwix and the Highland High School Rugby Team], 2008; Gordon B. Hinckley: A Giant among Men, 2008; That Promised Day: The Coming Forth of the LDS Scriptures, 2010; 17 Miracles, 2011, Ephraim's Rescue, 2013), the work entitled "New Day for the Book of Mormon" documents the coming forth of the book, its impact around the world, and its increasingly favorable reception in the scholarly community. One comes away from this high quality production with the sense the Book of Mormon's star is definitely rising. You can watch it on BYU TV here.

The piece begins with the quote: "All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642). It ends with the quote: "Of all American religious books of the nineteenth century, it seems probable that the Book of Mormon was the most powerful. It reached only a small percentage of the people, but it affected this small percentage so powerfully and lastingly that all the people of the United States have been affected, especially by its contribution to opening up one of our great frontiers." Henry A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States, 1941 - 1945. In between it interlaces segments from 13 different interviews listed in order of first appearance in the film.
  1. Candid interviews on the streets of New York. This is the same way the Church's first movie in theatrical release, "Meet the Mormons," opens.
  2. Paul C. Gutjahr, Evangelical, Professor of English, American Studies and Religious Studies at Indiana University. Gutjahr is the author of The "Book of Mormon": A Biography published in 2012 by Princeton University Press in their Lives of Great Religious Books series.
  3. Stephen H. Webb, Catholic theologian. The blog article "Mormon Christianity" has notes from a lecture Webb gave at BYU in May, 2014.
  4. Amy Easton-Flake, LDS, Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU.
  5. Lynn Ridenhour, Baptist minister from Missouri.
  6. Terryl L. Givens, LDS, Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. Givens' By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (New York City: Oxford University Press, 2002) was a milestone, a first-rate sympathetic treatment of the Book of Mormon published by a major academic press.
  7. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, LDS, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  8. John W. Welch, LDS, founder of FARMS and Professor of Law, BYU. The people in our dispensation who have done the most to help us understand the Book of Mormon are 1) Joseph Smith Jr. who taught us to revere the text as an inspired document, 2) Hugh W. Nibley who taught us to read the text as an ancient document, 3) John W. [Jack] Welch who taught us to read the text as a Hebrew document, 4) John L. Sorenson who taught us to read the text as a Mesoamerican document, and 5) Royal Skousen who taught us to read the text as an Early Modern English translation document. Welch taught us that every word is important. Skousen taught us that every letter is important.
  9. Michael H. Mackay, LDS, historian with the Church History Department.
  10. Catherine M. Stokes, LDS, former Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Health.
  11. Katty P. Dowdle, LDS, entrepreneur.
  12. Richard D. Rust, LDS, former Professor of Literature at the University of North Carolina.
  13. Orson Scott Card, LDS, novelist.
Voice over historical re-enactments share words from Joseph Smith and Lucy Mack Smith. Givens in one of his interview segments refers to prominent LDS historian Richard L. Bushman and the interaction the two of them have had with Ann Taves, Professor of Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara.
Striking visuals in the production include title pages from:
  • 1830 edition
  • Grant Hardy, editor, The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition (Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2003) [1920 LDS edition]
  • Joseph Smith, Jr., translator, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (New York, etc.: Doubleday, 2004) [1981 LDS edition]
  • Joseph Smith, Jr., translator, The Book of Mormon (New York: Penguin Classics, 2008) [1840 Nauvoo edition]
  • Royal Skousen, editor, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009)
The film presents 2 evidences for the authenticity of the text. John W. Welch recounts the well-known story of his discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon on Wednesday, August 16, 1967 in Regensburg, Germany where he was serving as a missionary in the South German Mission under President Orville C. Gunther. This is not Welch's strongest retelling of the gripping account (on other occasions he has said the voice told him, "if it is evidence of Hebrew influence in the Gospel of Matthew, it is evidence of Hebrew influence in the Book of Mormon"), but it is effective and the background visuals are excellent. Chiasmus remains the strongest internal evidence we have from the text of its ancient origin. Welch explains that the literary form shows Hebraic circularity in thought processes as opposed to the more familiar Greek - Western linearity. Terryl L. Givens talks about the two stone altars in the vicinity of Naham in modern Yemen dating from ca. 600 B.C. that bear the inscription "to the people of Naham (or Nahum, Nahom, Nahem, Nehem. Ancient Semitic inscriptions lack vowels.) This is a Google Earth image of modern Naham showing the ridge line of Mount Naham towering to the north west. The Yemeni capital, Sana'a, is 52 air kilometers to the southwest.
Naham in modern Yemen
The blog article "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten" shows a photograph of one of the altars referencing Naham. It was Ross T. Christensen who first called our attention to this place in the August, 1978 Ensign comment "The Place Called Nahom." Christensen noticed the name on a 1763 Danish map. This is a clear and convincing example of a Book of Mormon place name successfully correlated with the modern map, corroborated by appropriately dated archaeological remains found in situ. The ancient Arabic term NHM connotes death or mourning as in 1 Nephi 16:34-35.

Some memorable lines (paraphrased) from the lavishly illustrated film:
  • Since 1830 the Book of Mormon has been maligned, scrutinized and revered by millions.
  • Its very existence is more of a miracle than most people will ever realize (Welch).
  • The book in infused with undeniable physicality and radical supernaturalism (Givens).
  • Almost all of the text we have today was translated (dictated) in approximately 65 working days between April 7, 1829 and the end of June, 1829 (Welch).
  • 20% of the original manuscript is extant (Welch). This is an error. Jack meant to say 28%. See Royal Skousen's preface to the Yale edition, page xxix.
  • The Book of Mormon from the beginning has appealed to both the spiritual and the intellectual faculties of the believers (Givens).
  • The book was first offered for public sale in Palmyra, NY on March 26, 1830. 
  • The first missionary in this dispensation, Samuel H. Smith, gave a copy of the book to Phineas  H. Young in Mendon, NY about 23 kilometers from Palmyra, who in turn gave it to his younger brother, Brigham.
  • There is more Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon than there is in the Bible (Webb).
  • Joseph Smith was a literary genius and also a theological genius (Webb).
  • The Book of Mormon is an inexhaustible well of meaning (Rust)
  • I have read the Book of Mormon through many times, to create timelines and a geography, to identify themes and cultural characteristics (Card).
  • When you make it on the Penguin list, it says you are a major American author. It credentials the text (Gutjahr).
  • I didn't get past the first page of 1 Nephi before I was as we say here in Missouri, sideswiped by God. I feel like I have been born again, again (Ridenhour).
  • The Book of Mormon is more Baptist than the Baptist Hymnal (Ridenhour).
  • There is no room in the narrative for allegorical or figurative meaning (Givens).
  • The authors of the Book of Mormon wanted us to be better people, happier people (Card).
  • The Book of Mormon has been subjected to a withering examination and it still stands. It will be a witness for Christ until he comes (Holland).
Highly recommended. As they say in the movie business, five stars and two thumbs up.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Between Things

The Yale edition of the Book of Mormon text uses the word "between" 33 times in a meticulously consistent way. Entity A is between entities B and C when B & C are analogous but A is apart and dissimilar. This is precisely what we would expect from the OED etymology of the word "between" (by twin or by twain) and its examples of word usage from Early Modern English.

"A peace made betwene the Emperorure and the Kinge." Charles Wriothesley, A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, ca. 1600. The emperor and the king are of the same genre, while peace is something else entirely.

"Which beddes are deuises made of Cotten wooll, and hunge vp betweene two trees..." Archbishop George Abbott, A briefe description of the whole worlde, 1599. The trees are twins. The hammock is distinct.

"The place where his tent was at ye first, betwene Bethel and Ay." Coverdale Bible, 1535. The two toponyms are analogues. Abraham's tent is different.

This same pattern of outlier A by correlates B & C holds throughout the text. The following verses document all unique phrases containing instances of the word "between" in order of first attestation.
Enos 1:24 wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Omni 1:10 much war and contention between my people the Nephites and the Lamanites
Omni 1:24 a serious war and much bloodshed between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Mosiah 21:22 disturbance between the Lamanites and the people of Limhi
Alma heading: a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Alma 1:15 there [up on the top of Hill Manti] he [Nehor] was caused or rather did acknowledge between the heavens and the earth
Alma 22:32 the line between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation (Only in the Yale Edition, not in the 1981 or 2013 LDS editions. A line is a political or ecological boundary while lands are contiguous territories.)
Alma 22:32 a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward (the small neck of land was a substantively different land form separate from either the land northward or the land southward)
Alma 27:23 we will set our armies between the land Jershon and the land Nephi
Alma 40:9 a space between the time of death and the resurrection
Alma 40:11 the state of the soul between death and the resurrection
Alma 40:21 a space between death and the resurrection
Alma 50:11 the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Alma 50:11 [the line] between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi
Alma 50:14 a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron (a foundation for a city is of a different nature than established cities)
Alma 50:26 a warm contention between them [the land of Morianton and the land of Lehi
Alma 50:35 a battle commenced between them [Teancum's forces and the people of Morianton]
Alma 50:36 a union took place between them [the people of Morianton] and the people of Lehi
Alma 51:1 peace between the people of Lehi and the people of Morianton
Alma 52:20 plains between the two cities [the city of Bountiful and the city of Mulek]
Alma 62:35 this great and lasting war between them [the Nephites] and the Lamanites
Alma 62:41 the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Helaman 2:1 peace between the Nephites and the Lamanites
3 Nephi 2:17 war between the robbers and the people of Nephi
3 Nephi 3:23 the land which was between the land of (the word "of" is not in the LDS 1981 & 2013 editions of the text) Zarahemla and the land Bountiful. (There are 3 major ways this curious "land between" was different from the land of Zarahemla, the land Bountiful, or any other traditional Nephite land. 1) It had no name, only a description. 2) It was a narrow defensive military corridor and refugee camp 3 Nephi 3:22. 3) It was abandoned after the war ended and it had served its temporary purpose 3 Nephi 6:1,2.)
3 Nephi 24:18 Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked (citing Malachi 3:18)
3 Nephi 23:18 [ye shall discern] between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not
Mormon 1:8 war between the Nephites [and the Lamanites]
Mormon 1:8 this war was between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Mormon 2:1 war again between the Nephites and the Lamanites
Ether 9:12 war between the sons of Akish and Akish
The text is scrupulously consistent in its usage of the word "between." In every case, entity A is adjacent to but separate from and substantively different than twin, correlate or parallel entities B & C. This pattern has a profound implication for Book of Mormon geography. It means the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (or any other wide isthmus) cannot be the small neck of land described in Alma 22:32. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is an unbroken continuum, a major land mass including continental divide and rivers flowing toward both oceans. Tehuantepec as the small neck, integral with both the land northward and the land southward on either side of it, overtly contradicts the textual pattern.

Most of the boundary between the land northward and the land southward may still pass through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Virtually all LDS Mesoamericanists who treat the Book of Mormon believe the Coatzacoalcos River was an important boundary on the Gulf of Campeche. Limhi's exploring party could still have traveled through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The text never says those 43 intrepid men passed through the narrow (small) neck of land. It only says they made it from the land of Nephi to the land of Cumorah and back again. Conjecture on the part of many that the narrow (small) neck of land is an isthmus and therefore all land movement between the lands northward and southward must have passed through it is not supported in the text. The narrow (small) neck of land is a coastal feature Ether 10:20 associated with one and only one sea, the west sea Alma 22:32, Alma 63:5 which means it is a narrow peninsula. See the article "Red Herrings."

Our correlate for the narrow (small) neck of land could hardly fit the text and its Early Modern English sense of meaning more precisely. Barra San Marcos is a long, slender peninsula separated from the mainland by a series of coastal lagoons.
Barra San Marcos & Environs near Tonala, Chiapas
The text uses the similar word "betwixt" 6 times, sometimes as a synonym for the Book of Mormon usage of "between" and other times with unique meanings. This is precisely what we would expect from the OED senses of meaning for the archaic "betwixt."
2 Nephi 15:3 inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge I pray you betwixt me and my vineyard (citing Isaiah 5:3). This is a parable where the house of Israel is compared with a well-tended vineyard 2 Nephi 15:7 whose master, Jehovah, has done everything necessary to bring forth good fruit 2 Nephi 15:4. The Israelites themselves have willingly embraced sin and corruption to such an extent Jehovah has decided to destroy them 2 Nephi 15:5-6. As a witness that His harsh judgement is just, Jehovah asks the Israelites themselves to decide whether the master of the vineyard (me) or the people (my vineyard) caused the bad fruit leading to destruction. This self-evaluation is what David did unwittingly when the prophet Nathan told him the parable of the ewe-lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-5). Sinners thus condemn themselves as in Job 15:6 and Luke 19:22. In 2 Nephi 15:3 inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah A must judge betwixt Jehovah B and Jehovah's vineyard C. In this case, A & C are analogues while B is exceptional. This is a very different pattern than we saw with the word "between" above, but this usage of "betwixt" is attested in Early Modern English.

"To arbytrate, deme, and judge betwixt the said Citie and ... John Wayte." Selections from the records of the City of Oxford 1556. In this case the judicial authority A and the city B are parallel while the individual John Wayte C is of a different order.

Mosiah 15:9 standing betwixt them [the children of men] and justice. The Savior is our intercessor, satisfying the demands of justice on our behalf. This pattern has no parallel elements. Jesus Christ A, mortals B and eternal justice C are three very different entities with the Redeemer as mediator. This usage of "betwixt" to show a relationship between divinity, humanity and a concept is attested in Early Modern English.

"Upon the near affinity which Pythagoras...conceived to be betwixt the gods and numbers..." Thomas Stanley, The history of philosophy 1650. Here we have a human A perceiving a relationship between the gods B and impressive mathematical precision C.

Alma 35:13 a war betwixt the Lamanites and the Nephites. In this verse "betwixt" shows the familiar relationship we saw above for "between." War A is adjacent to yet separate from the twin nations Lamanites B and Nephites C.

Alma 40:6 a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection.. Again, this  usage follows the familiar form we observed with the word "between" above. Alma 40:9 and Alma 40:21 show that "betwixt" and "between" are functionally equivalent in this context.

3 Nephi 3:23 the line which was betwixt the land Bountiful and the land Desolation. This phrase is from the Yale edition. The 1981 and 2013 LDS editions use the word "between." This is the same line referenced in Alma 22:32 which Royal Skousen in the Yale edition renders "the line between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation." The line A is a political or ecological boundary between the related lands Bountiful B and Desolation C. This is another example of synonymity with "betwixt" and "between."

Moroni 9:17 the armies of the Lamanites are betwixt Sherrizah and me.[Mormon]. This pattern of an entity preventing a first person narrator from accessing another entity is attested in Early Modern English.

"This screene, that stands betwixt me and the fire..." Bishop Joseph Hall, Occasionall meditations, 1633.

3 of the instances of "betwixt" are used precisely as the Book of Mormon uses "between." This is typical of Early Modern English when, according to the OED, the two words were often used interchangeably. The other 3 instances of "betwixt" have usage patterns very different from the Book of Mormon standard for "between." All 3 patterns unique to the word "betwixt" are attested in Early Modern English.

Article updated March 26, 2016.