Friday, October 31, 2014

2,000 Year Old Tunnel in Mexico Reveals Startling New Finds

This article, Incredible New Artifacts Found In 2,000-Year-Old Mexican Tunnel, came across my Facebook timeline. Since I haven't written here in a while, I thought I'd share.

Here's one quote that caught my eye:
The archaeologists suspect it could be a tomb of the city's elite. It's there where the rules acquired divine endowment allowing them to rule on the surface, say the researchers. Archaeologists have yet to find any remains belonging to Teotihuacan's rulers.
Not that the LDS endowment would be the exact analogy to what researchers might find in this tunnel, but the form and motif aspect is very interesting.

And from the comments:
So many artifacts and pieces hinting at this complex huge society. There was a lot more going on in Mexico thousands of years ago than people realize.
I'm so glad to see that the public, and the scientific world, is finally shaking loose the shackles of ethnocentric thinking. They are beginning to realize that many, many things previously thought "impossible" for Mesoamericans anciently are now seen as more likely than not. Complex societies that built complex things and had complex lifestyles and beliefs and tools and so forth that we're only beginning to discover and understand? Check.

But we've been saying that since at least 1830. ;)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pssst. Want to see some golden plates?

Here are three. No, they're not THE Golden Plates, but they're as close to their description as has ever been found.

They're called the Pyrgi Tablets and were found in Italy in 1964. Written in Etruscan and Phonecian, these plates are very similar in size, description, and script to the ones Joseph Smith translated. They are thought to date from around 500 B.C., which is only about 100 years later than when Lehi left Jerusalem for the Americas carrying records engraved similarly on brass plates. The gold plates from which came the Book of Mormon weren't created until after Lehi's arrival in the Americas, but it's rather safe to assume that Book of Mormon gold plates were quite similar to these.

It's fascinating to compare the form and makeup of the characters on these plates with the ones copied to paper and shown to by Martin Harris Professor Charles Anthon at Columbia University. There are many similarities. One could be persuaded that perhaps Phonecian and Etruscan were related to or even a form of the Reformed Egyptian found on the gold plates.

See also: Golden Plates by William Hamblin

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book of Mormon Challenges: Elephants in America?

Could it be there were elephants in ancient America?

Key quote from the article:
While the jury is still out, there are a number of North American Indian traditions which recount legends of giant stiff-legged beasts which would never lie down, had a big head and large leaf-like ears, round footprints, forward-bending knees, and had a fifth appendage coming out of its head.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book of Mormon Challenges: Pre-Columbian horses?

What about "horses" mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

Key quote from the article:
There are at least two possible resolutions to the “horse” problem in the Book of Mormon: (1) definitions were expanded to include new meanings and (2) horses were present but their remains have not been found.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book of Mormon Challenges: Why anachronisms?

Why are there anachronisms in the Book of Mormon?

Key quote from the article:
The Book of Mormon has frequently been charged with containing numerous anachronistic items including certain animals, plants, metals, textiles, and weapons. In all instances, however, there is the possibility that (a) such things were once in the Americas but the evidence has either disappeared or has not yet been found, or (b) Book of Mormon labels are based on the re-labeling of New World items with familiar Old World labels. To claim that things did not exist because they have not been found is to commit the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance or silence. According to a famous and generally accepted archaeological dictum, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Book of Mormon Challenges: Taken from other manuscripts?

From Book of Mormon 1: Taken from other manuscripts?

Key quote from the article:
Even many years later, after Rigdon had apostatized from the Church, he denied ever having seen the Book of Mormon until it was introduced to him by the Mormon missionary Parley P. Pratt. Somehow the Spalding manuscript was lost and then resurfaced in 1884 in a pile of papers belonging to a man who had bought Howe’s business. Examining Spalding’s actual novel proved that the Mormons had been right all along; any similarities between the manuscript and the Book of Mormon were superficial.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why hasn't more compelling archaeological evidence surfaced of the Book of Mormon?

I get this question occasionally (not usually in a sincere way, and usually from folks who are trying to "catch me" in my words). The answer is that there is already a lot of archaeological evidence out there, but it has not been correlated to Book of Mormon texts by "mainstream" science. Secular scientists have no real compelling reason to examine Book of Mormon claims in light of accumulated archaeological findings because, well, the Book of Mormon is a spiritual text. They just don't see a need to delve into that relationship. They certainly cannot publish it and expect to have a career within the secular scientific community. The two are like oil and water.

That's why voices like mine and other faithful LDS apologists and scholars are necessary to the search for this knowledge through our interpretation of secular findings. And it's an important question to answer because the Book of Mormon has time and time again been proven to show that its origins can only have one of two explanations: either it is the most ingenious fraud ever concocted by one man (remarkable in itself), or it is the very word of God to people in the ancient Americas, recorded by the same.

Of course, I am irrevocably convinced of the latter explanation, with or without archaeological evidences, because the Holy Ghost has testified to me of its truth.

But one big reason we don't have more compelling physical evidences stands out in my mind. It has to do with the encroachment of modern civilization on the ancient remnants of American ruins.

It started with the Conquistadores, who brought Catholic missionaries with them who sought to bring the light of Gospel knowledge and salvation to whomever they could find. Their intentions, noble or not, were tarnished by their overzealous efforts to stamp out any remnant of pagan beliefs among the native Aztecs and Mayans. All but a few precious codices of the Mesoamerican people were burned to ashes and lost forever. Some oral traditions were later written down, several of which have astonishing parallels to and are riddled with motifs of Bible traditions. Some missionaries were intrigued by these stories and wrote them down to preserve them for study. Others, however, stopped at nothing to erase them from the collective conscious of the people they encountered. Even if that did lead to genuine faith in Jesus Christ among the natives, it was a crime against humanity to have censored all of that valuable history and those intricate origin stories.

An excavator destroys the main
structure at an archaeological
site in Caye Caulker, Belize. The
material excavated was used
for highway road bed fill.
As for artifacts, take, for example, this frustratingly tragic story from Caye Caulker, Belize. For convenience, here are the relevant quotes from the article:

Today we learned that a major Mayan Monument had been bulldozed for roadfill aggregate. 7news went to Orange Walk District, near the northern district boundary to find out that Noh Mul – or at least a large part of it – is no more. It’s a stunning development – and Jules Vasquez reports.
To give a broader sense of context – the site known as Noh Mul or “Big Hill” is scattered over a wide area about 12 square miles – and is estimated to have been home to 40,000 people between 500 and 250 BC. There are about 81 separate buildings – all on private property. But the one that has been destroyed is the namesake, the Big Hill – as it was the ceremonial center and main structure. 
"...this was around maybe 250bc and it would have been part of the ceremonial precinct, this would have been probably a public building or a building where the Nobels or the High Priest would have occupied. This building would have been probably the focal point. These mounds you are seeing around here and another group over there – they might have had connectivity between ceremonial administrative religious function here. This was sort of the epi-center of this settlement."
"Like a huge palace or building or a huge temple it would have had many rooms in there, multi-layered rooms so you have rooms for people living and you would also had several tombs in there of the people who lived in this area here."
"Belize is 8,867 square miles of jungle. We are only around 16 personell in the department. We can’t be in the Chiquibul and at the same time being at La Milpa. We applaud whoever can help us. It is our herritage and we all have to chip in and when things like this happen – it affects all of us."

I'm sickened that this happens. I also know it's inevitable and that God has a plan to eventually reveal to us what was lost. But, I can't help but wonder in dismay at who knows how many pages of scholarship this site could have generated. Its main center of worship, and likely "library" of useful cultural knowledge, is wastefully and tragically gone.

There are thousands more sites just like Noh Mul in Mexico and Central America that are in similar danger. I just hope that enough young people, especially LDS youth, will get into the field of archaeology, and enough concerned (and wealthy) individuals and governments will come together to help save what knowledge we have left.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Mayans and the Cahokia Mounds

I had prepared a blog post to tell you all about my trip to Cahokia mounds

But Google's Blogger.com ate it.

I was going to tell you all about how there are some interesting links between the Cahokian civilization and the Mayan civilization of the Yucatan, only 1,200 miles to the south, including Cahokian belief in a "Pale Prophet" who taught them Judeo-Christian commandments.

But Google's Blogger.com ate it.

I wanted to show how modern science acts like some dogmatic religions with detail about a conversation I had with a museum docent at Cahokia Mounds State Park who said there were "absolutely no links to the Mayans" rather than "no links have yet been found". 

But I can't retrieve the work Google's Blogger.com and it's lame "undo" feature took from me when I was inserting one last image.

Instead, I'll provide some video and images below to let you draw your own conclusions.

While you do that, I'll start working on moving my blog to Wordpress and a new domain name.

Signs of Mayans in Georgia, USA?

Drawing of Cahokian Chunkey (tchung-kee) player

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why the debate about Book of Mormon DNA is FAR from over

Today, during an unrelated Google search session I was doing, I came across an article from the blog of Discover Magazine. The article summarizes (rather lengthily) the research done up to 2010 regarding the tracking of ancient Jewish populations to modern-day locations after the Diaspora.

What caught my eye was the headline: "Genetics & the Jews (it's still complicated)"  That certainly sums up the argument of LDS apologists. They continue to defend the Book of Mormon origins in spite of some of our detractors.  Those seeking to disprove a divine origin for the Book of Mormon insist that because no clear genetic link exists between modern bloodlines of native American populations and any tribe of the Jews, then no link ever existed.

To further expose the logical fallacy that flawed thesis presents, here are some of the concluding statements from the Discover Magazine blog post.
So what’s the bottom line here? I think the bottom line is that there isn’t a bottom line, and that we need to proceed on a case by case basis. I’ve focused on Middle Eastern Jews in this post, but let’s put the spotlight on the Indian Jews, the Bene Israel of Bombay, who were separated from the Jewish Diaspora, and the Cochin Jews, who were more well integrated... 
What likely occurred in India was that generations of admixture between Jews and non-Jews resulted in the elision of differences between the two groups, despite the persistence of a cultural distinction. 
I suspect that it has to do with the relative lack of a special relationship between Jews and the host culture in India as opposed to the world of Islam or Christendom. In India Jews were just another group, not subject to particular exclusion or marginalization. Non-Jews could, and did, move into the Indian Jewish community, while this was taboo in the Islamic or Christian world. A similar process seems to have occurred to the Jews of Kaifeng, who intermarried and eventually lost their identity because of their greater eventual isolation from the Jewish Diaspora in comparison to the Indian Jews, especially those of Cochin.
What anti-Mormon DNA "researchers" often cast aside is the additional complexity of tracking more than just the tribe of Judah. In our case we're tracking mostly the tribe of Manasseh through the house of Joseph of Egypt (his wife was Egyptian, so his offspring were half-Egyptian, and no record exists of all the combinations that likely happened thereafter). We're also tracking a superimposition of the unknown genetic makeup of the people that likely already existed in the Americas upon Lehi's arrival, plus their interbreeding with the even more ancient Jaredite (likely Olmec) population, also of unknown genetic makeup. Now throw in the mind-bogglingly large principles of chance where millions of genes are mixed with mutations, haplotypes, dominant and recessive genes, etc.

As the gene network visualization graph (snapshot above) clearly shows, just for one species of the genus mus (musculusthe common house mouse), the Foxa2 gene that dictates the cell maturation and endocrine system development of this tiny creature exhibits a dizzying array of complexity. There are just way too many variables for anyone to state that the science is settled. I expect it will remain that way for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Extrapolating that level of complexity to the scale of tracking ancient migrations of unknown population sizes of homo sapiens for whom we have no original genetic samples, it appears, as we've stated in the past...that not enough genetic information exists in populations today to make conclusions about populations thousands of years ago. Nobody has the evidence or tools to make a definitive claim one way or the other as to the genetic linkage between modern native American populations and migrations of Jews from the Holy Land.

Again, the Book of Mormon, being a spiritual record, as is the Bible (if one only looks at it objectively as true science demands) challenges us to accept its provenance based on faith and not on external evidences alone.

But that is what God intended for both books. As confirmed by Matthew 16:17...

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

...the act of believing by faith is much more sufficient to create strong conversion that leads one to salvation than is the act of believing by sight alone.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What the Book of Mormon Doesn't Say

Book Of Mormon Scriptures
Book Of Mormon Scriptures (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking Mormons believe the Book of Mormon teaches everything there is to know about Jesus. I'm not sure how this myth got started, but it's certainly not something taught in LDS Sunday School or any other curriculum of the Church. Therefore, there's no reason for anyone outside of the Church to believe it either. 

Ironically, the Bible is also often held up against the Book of Mormon as a complete and perfect standard of all knowledge about everything...everything...about Jesus, even to the point that nothing more can or should be written. 

But that belief contradicts John 21:25, which says:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

The simple mathematical fact is that no one book can contain everything a person said or did. Any biographer can tell you this with 100% certainty. It's simply impossible for mortal ears and eyes to convert to writing the sheer volume of all events and speech in even one person's life. We were not meant to look at any work of scripture, Bible or Book of Mormon, as a universal compendium of everything there is to know about a person or events or even doctrine! 

Rather, the highlights and key events and doctrines in the lives and speech of the prophets and of Jesus Christ are recorded in these books as a way to unify truth into one great whole. 

More knowledge will be given to us later, if we can show that we're willing to believe and obey what we've already been given.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon included a statement by Nephi's younger brother, Jacob, about the fact that not everything the people of Nephi did could be recorded in one book, or even in many books.

And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings.

Indeed, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon affirm that there are other nations that had been touched by Gospel teachings. Those experiences were recorded.

Jesus Carrying a Lost Lamb

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.
 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:
 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
The following instances in the Book of Mormon show where more is mentioned or said that was not actually written, or that was or is 
yet to be written, or that was written and was subsequently lost (the 116 translated pages that Martin Harris lost) or not included (material that Mormon simply summarized or just didn't include in his abridgment), or that was written and we just don't know about it yet.

And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.
But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.

And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.

And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.
But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.
And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.
And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.
And behold, I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard; wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me; and I have written but a small part of the things which I saw.
For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.

And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
And as these plates are small, and as these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites, wherefore, it must needs be that I write a little; but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations. For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.

And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.

And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
 And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.

For behold, out of the books which have been written, and which shall be written, shall this people be judged, for by them shall their works be known unto men.

Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord.