Monday, January 15, 2018

Maya Place Names

An important monograph entitled Place and Identity in Classic Maya Narratives (hereafter Place) was published in 2013 by Dumbarton Oaks (part of Harvard University). It is an updated version of Alexandre Tokovinine's Harvard PhD dissertation published in 2008. Tokovinine spent many years working on the famed Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (CMHI) alongside William and Barbara Fash. He specializes in toponyms and curates the world's leading database of over 2,300 instances of place names in ancient Mayan. He makes the database freely available in Microsoft Access format. Some of the toponyms are mythological, but an increasing percentage of place names can be correlated with known archaeological sites. Tokovinine's monograph incorporates many of the latest advances in rapidly-evolving Maya epigraphy, building on the foundation laid by David Stuart and Stephen Houston in their seminal 1994 Classic Maya Place Names also published by Dumbarton Oaks.
Study of Place Names in Ancient Maya Texts
The cover illustration is Heather Hurst's rendition of Mural 6N, Structure 1, La Sufricaya, which was commissioned no later than AD 379 just one year after the noted "entrada" of Sihyaj K'ahk' (Fire is Born) from Teotihuacan into the Peten. Mural 6N is generally interpreted as a visual representation of a 1,000 kilometer pilgrimage from the Maya Lowlands to Teotihucan in Central Mexico. Might students of the Nephite text be interested in a Mesoamerican map drawn during Book of Mormon times? I read Tokovinine with considerable anticipation and was well-rewarded for my effort.

Place p. 7 mentions the common Maya phrase uhtiiy translated as "it happened." LDS and Restoration Branch (formerly Community of Christ) scholars have compared this phrase with the ubiquitous Book of Mormon "it came to pass" 1 Nephi 1:4-7 (and more than 1,300 other instances).

Place p. 7 references lakam ha' as one of the ancient Maya names for Palenque. The ha' suffix denoting "water" is a component in many ancient Maya place names such as sak ha'. We find a similar suffix in the Book of Mormon place names Ammonihah Alma 8:6-9, Moronihah 3 Nephi 8:10, Nephihah Alma 50:14, and Onihah 3 Nephi 9:7.

Place p. 8 says Maya toponyms often reference mountains, rocks, lakes, rivers, and springs. We find similar referents among Book of Mormon place names:
Place p. 8 says some Maya toponyms end in la. A handful of Book of Mormon place names end in "la" or "lah:" Zarahemla Omni 1:12, hill Riplah Alma 43:31,45, Angola Mormon 2:4.

Place p. 9 mentions corn (maize) as an important component of Maya toponyms. Corn is attested in the text Mosiah 7:22, 9: 9,14.

Place pp. 10, 43 describes the Maya notion of kaaj ordered, settled space versus k'a'ax "chaotic wilderness or forest." The Book of Mormon demarcates settlements from adjacent wilderness Alma 16:2Alma 58:13-14.

Place p. 10 says the Maya used the term ti' (edge/mouth of) in a similar way the Book of Mormon uses the term "borders" Alma 8:3,5, Alma 50:14. The component "ti" is attested in Book of Mormon place names: Manti Alma 16:6,7, Ani-Anti Alma 21:11. Manti is one of the places the Book of Mormon text explicitly correlates with borders Alma 22:27Alma 43:32.

Place p. 11 mentions the term te' (tree) as a component of Maya toponyms. The Book of Mormon city name Teancum Mormon 4:3, 6-7 contains a similar element.

Place p. 11 says many Maya place names incorporate the component naah (buildings). One Book of Mormon place has "nah" in its name: city of Gadiomnah 3 Nephi 9:8

Place p. 13 identifies one of the mountains towering over Palenque with the Maya Yehmal K'uk' Lakam Witz, a place where the king performed rituals. V. Garth Norman identifies 588 meter Mirador hill which towers over Palenque with hill Manti Alma 1:15, the place where Nehor was executed for murder.
Palenque and Proposed Hill Manti (Mirador Hill)
Place p. 13 says the Maya occasionally used double place names. The Book of Mormon peoples occasionally used double place names such as Lehi-Nephi Mosiah 7:1-2, 4 and Ani-Anti Alma 21:11.

Place p. 14 reports that two stelae from the site of Dos Pilas talk of "binding" carved monuments containing writing. The Book of Mormon talks of "sealing up" written records Ether 4:5, Moroni 10:2.

A major problem in Book of Mormon geography right now is the relative scale of distance we should expect between sites. Some mapmakers interpret the text to mean that the Nephite saga played out on a small, intimate landscape such as a single region within modern Costa Rica. Others imagine a vast, sprawling landscape such as North America from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. The classic Maya world gives us a very useful model of demonstrable relationships from which we can calculate accurate distances. Maya city states in the AD 300 to AD 900 time frame operated in a world where 20 to 250 air kilometers was a routine distance but 1,000 air kilometers was an exceptional distance traveled by elites perhaps once in a lifetime. Place in dozens of instances mentions pairs of archaeological sites with an association of some kind that got memorialized in a hieroglyphic text. Summarizing some of these associations gives us a firm idea of the distances between sites that were typical in the classic era.
  • p. 16 Dos Pilas and Cancuen 55 air kilometers
  • p. 16 Calakmul and Oxpemul 20 air kilometers
  • p. 17 Dos Pilas and Oxpemul 212 air kilometers
  • p. 17 Rio Azul and Los Alacranes 23 air kilometers
  • p. 54 La Sufricaya and Teotihuacan 1,042 air kilometers
  • p. 71 Moral-Reforma and Palenque 88 air kilometers
  • p. 71 Palenque and Tortuguero 47 air kilometers
  • p. 71 Dzibanche and Calakmul 126 air kilometers
  • pp. 81, 111 Calakmul and Cancuen 233 air kilometers
  • p. 105 Dos Pilas and Naranjo 136 air kilometers
  • p. 113 Naranjo and Machaquila 129 air kilometers
  • p. 116 Tikal and Dos Pilas 146 air kilometers
These results concur closely with our analysis of relative distances in the Book of Mormon documented in the article "Things Near and Far." John L. Sorenson's conclusion that the Book of Mormon internally requires a location hundreds but not thousands of kilometers in extent seems vindicated.

Place on the other hand directly contradicts Sorenson's much-maligned system of skewed directionality. The phrase "cardinal directions" appears perhaps a dozen times in Tokovinine with several maps and illustrations showing precisely what the Maya meant when they used the terms "east," "north," "west," and "south." Tikal (pp. 95-97) offers a clear example. From the perspective of Tikal at the center of its dominion, Altun Ha was east, Edzna north, Palenque west and Copan south. All four vectors radiating out from Tikal to these places are within a few degrees of the astronomically-derived cardinal directions.
Tikal at the Center of its Quadripartite World
Aligned to the Four Cardinal Directions
Teotihuacan is referenced in several early classic Maya inscriptions. It is always described as west of the Maya lowland sites of Tikal, Ucanal, Pusilha, Machaquila, Dos Pilas, and Yaxchilan (Place p. 95).
Teotihuacan West of Maya Lowland Sites
This mainstream understanding of ancient solar-based Mesoamerican directionality is further documented in the articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten," "Test #5 North South East and West," "Quichean Directionality," and "Light from L.A."

I am convinced the interpretation of "narrow neck of land" as "isthmus" causes much of the confusion that currently dominates Book of Mormon geography thinking. See the article "Red Herrings." Place p. 24 adds another data point to the discussion. It says the Maya word "neck" in spatial context connotes "edge" or limit. This fits well with our correlation of the narrow neck of land as Barra San Marcos running along the edge of the Chiapas coast.
Proposed Narrow (Small) Neck of Land
Place p. 25 examines a term found frequently in ancient Maya toponyms: ch'e'n meaning "cave, opening, hole, hollow, or cavity." One is reminded of the Book of Mormon phrase "cavity of a rock" describing the hiding places of Nephi and his brothers 1 Nephi 3:27 and the prophet Ether Ether 13:13-14, 18, 22.

Place p. 16 mentions the Maya place name Haluum ending in "um." The Book of Mormon contains several place names ending in "um:" Antionum Alma 31:3, Antum Mormon 1:3, Irreantum 1 Nephi 17:5, Mocum 3 Nephi 9:7, Moriantum Moroni 9:9, Ripliancum Ether 15:8, Teancum Mormon 4:3, 6-7.

Place p. 16 mentions a precious and powerful royal hierloom passed down from king to king. The Nephite crown jewels (plates of brass, sword of Laban, Liahona) were precious royal hierlooms passed down from king to king Mosiah 1:16.

Place p. 16 identifies Chi'k Nahb and Huxte' Tuun as ancient Maya names for Calakmul and the surrounding area. The Book of Mormon mentions cities with "land round about:" Shilom Mosiah 7:21, Helam Mosiah 23:25.

Place p. 16 indicates that the wall of the Calakmul North Acropolis was prominent enough to have its own name: Chi'k Nahb Kot. The Book of Mormon describes cities with prominent walls: Nephihah Alma 62:20-24, Zarahemla Helaman 16:1-2.

Place p. 17 mentions a Maya place name incorporating the element ton. The Book of Mormon has a place name incorporating the element "ton:" Morianton Alma 50:25-26.

Place p. 19 says the Maya had different words for city (kaj) and land (kab). Cities and lands are fundamental polities in the Book of Mormon Alma 58:10, 33.

Place p. 28 lists sites whose dynasties had remote origins: Palenque, Bonampak, Piedras Negras, Calakmul, Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and Cancuen. Mosiahfounded a non-local dynasty at Zarahemla Omni 1:19.

Place p. 29 indicates one Maya name for temple, uwitzil uk' uhuul, was related to the name for hill or mountain, witz, and meant "the mountain of the god." The Book of Mormon, quoting Isaiah, relates mountains and temples as houses of the Lord 2 Nephi 12:2-3.

Place p. 33 says common Maya words for warfare were the verbs burning pul and chopping ch'ak.
Burning was a major part of warfare in the Book of Mormon Mormon 5:5, Ether 14:17.

Place p. 43 explains the Maya word for agricultural lands, luum, associated with urban areas, kaaj, and wilderness, k'a'ax. Kab was a more general term referring to property or the earth in general. The Book of Mormon has all four landscape classifications: fields Alma 34:20, 24-25, villages and cities Alma 23:14, wilderness Alma 43:22-24, and the generic possessions Alma 58:3. The Book of Mormon also uses the term "earth" in a general sense Alma 5:16,17.

Place p. 47 describes the couplets kab, earth, and chan, sky, which when paired connote the totality of the whole earth. The common Book of Mormon variant is "heaven and earth" Alma 11:39.

Place p. 48 talks about sky, earth, and water bands as pictorial conventions in Maya iconography. This same tripartite division of the world is attested in the Book of Mormon Mosiah 13:12.

Noted BYU archaeologist John E. Clark believes the Book of Mormon idea that trees can grow from humans Alma 32:28, 37, 41 is one of the strongest evidences of the book's authenticity. The idea is relatively unique and highly arbitrary. This man-tree notion is well-attested in Mesoamerican iconography. See the article "Anthropomorphic Trees." Place p. 48 describes images on the side of K'inich Janaab' Pakal's sarcophagus in the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque depicting ancestors of the entombed king sprouting as fruit trees.
Female Ancestor of Pakal as Fruit Tree
Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson
Place p. 52 indicates the Maya associated wilderness with mountains. The Book of Mormon explicitly associates wilderness and mountains Helaman 11:28,31.

Place p. 53 reproduces a wall painting with mountain and cave imagery from Rio Azul Tomb 1. The style and some of the motifs are similar to those on Kaminaljuyú (KJ) Stela 10.
Rio Azul Tomb 1 Wall Painting
The trefoil eye, aka "death eye," is generally interpreted to mean the figure represents a deceased person.
Kaminaljuyú Stela 10, Drawing by Lucia Henderson

Henderson in her superb 2013 PhD dissertation mentions strong stylistic relationships between KJ and the lowland Maya centers San Bartolo and Rio Azul.
KJ Influence in the Maya Lowlands
This is of interest because KJ is a leading candidate for the city of Nephi. See the article "Kaminaljuyu."

Place p. 54 interprets a late pre-classic facade from Holmul as a feathered serpent being exhaled from a mountain cave. Tokovinine says this image shows the idea of wind emanating from a mountain. Flying serpents are attested in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 17:41. Nephi's Jesus Christ is represented by both avian and serpentine symbols 2 Nephi 25:13, 20. The feathered serpent deity in Mesoamerica was associated with wind. Quetzalcoatl in Aztec times was represented wearing a wind breastplate or wind jewel. The Book of Mormon explicitly attributes the source of wind to deity Ether 2:24.

Place p. 55 discusses the map depicted on the monograph cover at the top of this article. It was painted as part of a mural at La Sufricaya in AD 378 or 379. A similar scene was painted at Copan about this same time. In both cases, the scenes show Maya lords travelling to Teotihuacan, probably on a pilgrimage to receive an investiture of authority. What were the Nephites doing in AD 378 - 379 when these emissaries were traveling to Central Mexico? They were in the land northward, regrouping at Jordan and environs after being routed out of Boaz. Mormon had re-taken command of the Nephite military. Mormon had moved the Nephite record repository from hill Shim to hill Cumorah because the security situation around hill Shim had become unstable. In AD 379 the Nephites were a mere six years from annihilation at hill Cumorah.
Known and Proposed Locations of Historical Events
AD 375 - 379
A great deal of land was devoted to agriculture in the Maya world, but Place p. 55 says luum, the Maya term for cultivated fields, seldom appears in hieroglyphic inscriptions. Maya lords and scribes were simply interested in other things such as lineage, ritual, and conquest, and took humble agricultural pursuits for granted. We see the same under-representation of agriculture in the Book of Mormon. This is the number of instances certain words appear in the text:
  • crop 1
  • wheat 2
  • plow 2
  • corn 3
  • seed (not referring to human posterity) 14
  • grain 25
  • field (not all instances pertain to agriculture) 27
  • weapon 52
  • contention 81 
  • battle 125
  • war 167
  • faith 222
  • king 426
Nephite scribes clearly followed Nephi's instructions in 1 Nephi 9:4 and 1 Nephi 19:4 to record primarily political and military events on the large plates.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Refugee Eagle Scouts

5 young men from Great Salt Lake Council's Troop 1262 were awarded Eagle Scout badges this evening at a ceremony in the South Salt Lake Stake Center. This troop, consisting primarily of youth from Burmese (Myanmarese) refugee families living in Salt Lake, has awarded 29 Eagles in its 10 years of existence.
Five  New Eagle Scouts
Troop 1262's story is so compelling a four-man crew from CBS has been in Salt Lake for the last several days filming an episode that will air soon on CBS Sunday Morning.

The Karen and Karenni peoples are persecuted minorities in Myanmar and a number of them have been resettled from refugee camps on the Thai/Burmese border to Utah. Children in these refugee families often struggle to adapt to US life ways.

Ten years ago, Bob Roylance invited 5 Karen boys into his home in an effort to keep them from recidivism back into the Utah juvenile justice system. He and his wife, Susan, determined that what these young men really needed in their lives was scouting. The first troop meetings were held in the Roylance home in South Jordan.

Fast forward 10 years and 250 young men are active in Salt Lake refugee troops serving formerly at-risk youth from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. A delegation of refugee scouts, assisted by Senator Orrin Hatch's office which expedited immigration paperwork, attended the 2015 World Scout Jamboree in Yamaguchi, Japan. The program is so successful that with cooperation from the State of Utah 500 young men will likely be enrolled in Salt Lake refugee troops by the end of 2018. Most of the adult leadership comes from native Utahan Latter-day Saints. Fortunately, adult refugee participation is increasing.
Venturing Scouts Receiving Denali Awards 
Many of these young men end up being baptized, serving missions, and going to college.

Bob Roylance is now 80 years old. His career was in agriculture as a farm and ranch specialist working with LDS AgReserves properties.
Bob Roylance Addressing the Refugee Scout Court of Honor
Much of Bob's time these days is spent trying to decipher Book of Mormon geography. He and retired BYU soil scientist, Richard Terry, have developed the "Pasión River Model" that places Nephi at Tzalcam, Baja Verapaz; Zarahemla at Seibal, Alta Verapaz; and Hill Cumorah on the Quintana Roo side of the Rio Azul (Rio Hondo).
Bob Roylance's Pasión River Model
Now for the back story. While I (Kirk Magleby) was serving my mission in Peru from 1972 - 1974, I corresponded with Elder Milton R. Hunter of the Seventy, sharing some of the interesting things my companions and I were discovering on our P Days (the "P" stood for "preparation" in our era). Elder Hunter, whom President David O. McKay had designated the point man among the brethren for Book of Mormon studies, arranged for me to remain in South America doing research for 2 months at the end of my mission. During those 2 months, a "Book of Mormon" tour group visited Peru and I met Newell and Cora Gene Anderson from eastern Washington who had a strong interest in the Nephite scripture.  A few years later I happened to meet the Andersons again along with their children and spouses at a hotel in Guatemala City. We visited archaeological sites together for a couple of days. That was when I first met Susan Roylance, the Anderson's oldest daughter, and her husband, Bob. In 1978, Susan was the Republican nominee for US Congress from House District #4 in the State of Washington. She has played a significant role in women's, family, and health issues at the UN and globally for decades. This Deseret News article speaks to her effectiveness as an advocate for family-friendly causes in an often family-hostile political world. In retirement, Bob has helped impoverished farmers in Africa and elsewhere improve yields, build storage infrastructure, and develop viable cash crops.

By 1982, Bob and Susan had moved to Murray, UT. I was working with John W. (Jack) Welch and John L. Sorenson getting FARMS up and running. Susan Roylance came on board to assist us with fund-raising. She was very helpful in those early days with branding and promotion. Susan guided us to polish the FARMS Newsletter (Insights, an Ancient Window) into an effective communication organ that soon began to reach thousands.
Bob and Susan Roylance on Sunday, January 7, 2018
One of the Most Remarkable Couples in the LDS Church
Susan's mother, Cora Gene, now 94, lives with the Roylances. This evening I was privileged to update them on some of the exciting projects we are currently working on at Book of Mormon Central. Susan described a Book of Mormon drama she envisions by and for the Karen refugees she and Bob serve. The Book of Mormon is not yet available in the Karen or Karenni languages, but its powerful narratives have universal appeal.

The closing prayer at tonight's Eagle Court of Honor quoted Mosiah 2:17 "...when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

Friday, December 15, 2017

Museum of the Bible

Jasmin Gimenez, Daniel Smith, and I were privileged to spend Thursday, December 7, and Friday, December 8, 2017 in the breath-taking new Museum of the Bible (MOTB) just off the mall in Washington D.C. There are many great museums (several in D.C.) and I have been to quite a number of them. I have experienced 7 of the top 10 most visited museums in the world (numbers are 2016 visits) including:
In addition, I have enjoyed visits to other notable institutions including:
I have spent rich, full days exploring the treasures showcased in these significant cultural repositories, and I have returned to some of them for subsequent visits in later years. Only once, though, have I spent two consecutive days in a single museum, and that was last week in the MOTB. I appreciated every minute and will return the next time I am in D.C. Our nation's capital, despite its seeming political dysfunction, is now an even more attractive travel destination. I consider myself something of a museum aficionado, but I am currently a dues-paying member of only one museum on the planet - the MOTB three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. What is so special about the MOTB besides the delicious Near Eastern food served on the 6th floor Manna Restaurant? It is not the lavish architecture, although that is stunning. It is not the ubiquitous technology, although that is captivating. It is not the vast collection, although that is monumental. What I profoundly love at the MOTB is the spirit, the mission, the sheer joy of the place. These are people who read, live, and celebrate the Bible. This brand-new world-class facility is just the impressive infrastructure inviting visitors to engage the living Word John 1:1. This is much more than a museum. I felt like I had come home.
Popular Souvenir
Our Book of Mormon Central delegation went to Washington D.C. to learn from experts so we can more effectively share the Book of Mormon with the world. The MOTB is not preachy or judgmental. It honors scholarship but communicates in the vernacular. It exudes quality but invites hands-on participation. It showcases the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible but eschews interpretation. This brilliant approach avoids divisiveness and simply lets the Book speak eloquently for itself.

Prominent MOTB partners include Israel Antiquities AuthorityVatican Library and Museums, and Ets Haim Jewish Library in Amsterdam, all of whom currently have traveling exhibits in the facility 2 blocks from the Smithsonian's popular National Museum of Air and Space. Museum President Cary Summers has significant theme park experience and serves as CEO of the splendid Nazareth Village in Israel.

The MOTB was originally planned for Dallas. New York City was also briefly considered. Its headquarters are actually in Oklahoma City where founding family Steve and Jackie Green (owners of Hobby Lobby) reside. Parts of the Green collection of Biblical artifacts traveled the US beginning in 2011 before going to the Vatican in 2012 and Havana, Cuba in 2014. The Washington D.C. property atop the Federal Center SW Metro station was acquired in 2012 and the museum opened to the public on Friday, November 17, 2017.

Insightful design is everywhere in the MOTB, beginning with the logo which artfully combines the letters "B" and "M" into a visual representation of Moses' tablets from Sinai and an open book.

Exterior Entrance Logo
The capitalized "Bible" emphasizes primacy.

The MOTB grand entrance features Genesis 1 from the 1454 - 1455 Gutenberg Bible in Latin on massive brass plates that cost $3 million. The plates flank a 32 foot high art glass panel from Germany representing the Bodmer Papyri with Psalms 19 etched in Greek. One of the MOTB treasures is a Bodmer Papyri fragment containing the 19th Psalm. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Front Entrance and Vestibule
Stepping off the sidewalk into the museum one literally engages the words of the Bible.

A small touch illustrates the immaculate attention to detail one finds throughout the MOTB. On Monday, December 11, 2017, my wife, Shannon, and I were privileged to tour the new T3 and T4 buildings at the Provo Missionary Training Center (see the article "Mesoamerican MTC Mural)." They are among the finest structures the LDS Church has ever built. They feature grand staircases flanked by translucent glass. As I walked up the stairs, I thought to myself "These are almost identical to the stairs in the MOTB" where I had been three days before. Except for one thing. The glass panels adorning the MOTB stairs are etched with a vine design reminiscent of the beautiful illuminated Bible manuscripts lovingly painted by monks and nuns in the Middle Ages.
Fourth Floor Stairway with Art Glass Panels
This kind of delicious embellishment doesn't just happen when an architect interacts with a building committee. It only happens when a design goes through an iterative process of refinement with multiple inputs supported by an almost open-ended budget. 

The MOTB integrates immersive themed environments with impeccable contemporary scholarship. That is no easy task. How do you make first-rate academics interesting, popular, even fun? We at Book of Mormon Central strive to answer that question every day. To create engaging guest experiences, MOTB leadership utilized the services of:
The result is part museum, part experiential theater, part interactive video game, part theme park adventure, part movie studio tour, and part historical re-enactment with actors in period dress.
History of the Bible Meets Indiana Jones
My colleagues were as anxious as I was to return to the MOTB for a second day. There were many more exhibits we wanted to experience, and some we wanted to see a second time.

The MOTB is grounded in reputable scholarship. Wandering through the exhibits, one sees influence from Oxford, Cambridge, Hebrew, Duke, Baylor, Pepperdine, Trinity Western, and Bob Jones Universities among many others. A "scholars initiative" was created early in the museum development process to do original research on artifacts in the collection. One result is the book Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection published in 2016 by Brill. The three editors are Immanuel Tov (PhD 1974, Hebrew University), Kipp Davis (PhD 2009, University of Manchester), and Robert Duke (PhD 2006 UCLA). While we were at the museum, Hershel Shanks was also there consulting with the content and curatorial staffs. Shanks founded the Biblical Archaeology Society and is editor emeritus of the noted Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR).

One exciting new museum project that came out of the scholars initiative is a working archaeological site - Tel Shimron about 8 kilometers west of Nazareth on the edge of northern Israel's Jezreel Valley.
Relative Location of Tel Shimron
The site was occupied over a 5,000 year span. It is mentioned in Joshua 19:15 as part of the land allotted to the tribe of Zebulun. Scholars estimate the site will be a viable dig for 25 years. The team heading up the excavation worked together previously at Ashkelon. Directors include Daniel Master (PhD Harvard), Mario Martin (PhD University of Vienna), and Adam Aja (PhD Harvard).

Does the MOTB try to prove the Bible's historicity? Not really. It does display replica artifacts that attest the Bible's historical accuracy such as the Tel Dan Stele referencing David as a monarch.
Replica of Tel Dan Stele Mentioning the House of David
The original of this artifact, dated to ca. 870 BC, is in the Israel Museum. The MOTB does not hit you over the head with hard-sell advocacy. It is clear to visitors that the MOTB assumes the Bible is authentic ancient history, but artifact descriptions are appropriately nuanced, scholarly protocols are followed, and the text is genuinely respected even with its ambiguities and apparent contradictions.

A note about MOTB replicas. They are about as good as science and technology can make them. At lunch on our first day in the museum, Daniel Smith exulted "The Isaiah Scroll replica is actually sewn with thread!" The replica on display in the Israel Museum is a photographic reproduction showing only an image of thread.

There were obvious LDS visitors in the museum the two days we were there - people wearing BYU sweatshirts and the like. These are some of the LDS connections we noted:
  • Bethany Jensen works at museum headquarters in Oklahoma City. She graduated from BYU's Ancient Near Eastern Studies program with an archaeology emphasis. A classmate of Jasmin Gimenez, Bethany graciously facilitated our meeting with Seth Pollinger, Director of Museum Content, and members of his staff.
  • A 1979 LDS Bible (King James Version) is on display on the 4th floor. This is the edition largely prepared by Ellis Rasmussen and his students working under the direction of Elder Bruce R. McConkie and the Church's Scripture Publication Committee. With only minor subsequent revisions in 2013, this is the English language Bible we use in the Church today.
  • An 1867 Plano, IL edition of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST, aka "Inspired Version") published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now Community of Christ) is also on display on the 4th floor. The JST manuscript remained in Emma's possession after Joseph Smith Jr.'s martyrdom in 1844. The Reorganized Church, active since 1852, began operating under Joseph Smith III's leadership in 1860.
  • The original of Arnold Friberg's "The Prayer at Valley Forge" is on display on the 2nd Floor. An armed guard stands watch about 5 feet away from this majestic piece. Prints of this work are common, but it was a thrill for me to finally see the large-format original.
As part of our visit, we were privileged to speak with Seth Pollinger, Director of Museum Content, Kristina Buss, Content Assistant, and Ilena Madraso, Exhibit Coordinator. Pollinger holds a PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. They were genuinely interested in feedback from an LDS perspective and we shared some observations:
  • In general, we were beyond impressed. This is probably the finest museum on the planet in 2017. We expected a little sloppiness here and there - some mis-characterizations, over-claiming, obsolete scholarship. We found none. We expected immersive learning experiences. The MOTB exceeded our expectations. All three of us were enthusiastic bordering on ecstatic about our two-day experience. We highly recommend the MOTB.
  • At the point where the Bible in America exhibit begins with Columbus and Saint Augustine, FL, we would have liked to have seen a little more content from Latin America. For example, by the 1540's portions of the Bible were already translated into the K'iche language of highland Guatemala.
  • The museum displays a copy of the Reina Valera Bible. It was almost as influential in the Hispanic world as the King James was in English. We suggested they might want to use the terrific video the Church produced about the fascinating history of the Reina Valera.
  • Where the museum treats Julia Ward Howe and her "Battle Hymn of the Republic" we would have liked to have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing their signature song. Ditto the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah." Wouldn't that be fun - MoTab in the MOTB?
  • The MOTB is fairly superficial when it comes to the Temples of Solomon and Herod. The Academy for Temple Studies, combining resources from USU, BYU, and USC together with Margaret Barker's UK group, could possibly be of assistance in this area.
  • The Bible gives short shrift to women and the MOTB reflects that. We suggested they may want to take a look at Julie Smith's upcoming volume on the Gospel of Mark in the BYU New Testament Commentary series as one example of the excellent work being done by LDS female biblical scholars highlighting feminine issues and perspectives in the text.
  • We suggested signage linking Arnold Friberg and Cecile B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." Friberg's artwork is all through the movie. We also let Seth and his team know about the Cecile B. DeMille archive at BYU.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are promised, but not yet much in evidence in the museum. We showed one example of the good work being done by the BYU Virtual Scriptures group in association with 4th Wall.
  • We would have liked to have walked out of the museum with suggestions for further engagement - web sites, curricula, quality videos, etc.  
  How much has all this cost? The MOTB has raised about $700 million to date and plans to raise another $300 million by 2019. Admission to the museum is free, although they are not shy about suggesting donations. Every museum memorializes major donors. The MOTB also has a "million name wall" where donors at all levels are recognized in microscopic calligraphy with an accompanying digital index.

This 3D model of the museum is helpful for context.

After two days on site, I greatly appreciated the MOTB. Returning home, I read Cary Summers' Lifting Up the Bible: The Story Behind Museum of the Bible. My appreciation grew. 
2017 Worthy Publication 
I then read Steve & Jackie Green's This Dangerous Book. My appreciation grew even more.
2017 Zondervan Publication
The Museum of the Bible is directly fulfilling the prophecy in 1 Nephi 13:19-20. Much of the controversy that has dominated mainstream media coverage is unfounded. This is an "innovative global educational institution" whose mission is to "invite people to engage with the Bible." I hope we as Latter-day Saints get excited to "experience the Book that shapes history."

One vignette was choice. The MOTB has a marvelous exhibit on biblical translations. An older fellow in a wheel chair asked if they had the Bible in Hdi, a language spoken in Cameroon and Nigeria. He explained that his daughter had helped translate the Bible into Hdi. A docent pulled the Hdi Bible down from a shelf and handed it to him. A tear streamed down his cheek as he opened the book and saw his daughter's name in the acknowledgements. Those of us nearby broke out in spontaneous applause.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Holocaust Survivors in the Book of Mormon

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Gareth Lowe's Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How Many were Many and Few?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Peopling the Americas

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

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

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