Alma 63

 

The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


  

 

Alma 63:1 Shiblon:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, "Shiblon" (Alma 63:1) is a good Arabic name. It means young lion. A very popular name in Israel is Ari, which means lion. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 195]

 

Alma 63:1 Shiblon took possession of those sacred things which had been delivered unto Helaman by Alma (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]

 

Alma 63:4 (5400 Men + Wives + Children):

 

     The fact that "five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward" (Alma 63:4) certainly implies a significant migration, but one might be left wondering as to why they left. No hint is given as to the specific destination. One might ask, Is "the land which was northward" the same territory as referred to as "the land northward" (Alma 63:5; 22:32)? Another question is, How far did they go, or How far did they have to go? The Morianton affair showed that "the land which was northward" did not have to be that far away (see Alma 50:29-36). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 63:4 A Large Company . . . Departed out of the Land of Zarahemla into the Land Which Was Northward:

 

     John Sorenson notes that in the thirty-seventh year into the era of the reign of the judges (about 60 B.C.), 5,400 men, plus women and children, "departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward" (Alma 63:4). In the next year many more departed. Perhaps others departed from Lamanite country at the same time. More than curiosity must have impelled such numbers. What was it? Probably as much push as pull was exerted. We have seen earlier that the area in the land of Zarahemla that could boast good crop conditions was limited. We have also seen the population increasing over time. When too many bodies occupy a resource area, temporary accommodation may take place with increase in stress (as in the conflict with the king-men), but eventually some of the surplus people are likely to relocate. A reading of Alma 62:39-41 (note especially the "famines") suggests that crowding of the resource base had been one cause of the war just past, as much as it had been a result. In any case, the land northward lay before them with the prospect that it could accommodate some of the crowded southerners. They had already got into the pattern of wholesale resettlement under wartime conditions. But it is most unlikely that mere individuals would have gone off to northern colonies. Only "corporate," organized units would have the resources to undertake such an ambitious task. The groups likely would have to be strong in a military sense to take control of any areas of much value for it is a general ecological rule that all the better settlement areas would long since have been occupied. Lineage units are likely to have been the ones to carry off a successful move. As a result, the Nephite colonies may have been quite concentrated geographically (but note Helaman 3:8). . . .

     All this business of seeking new lands and new power sounds very Mesoamerican.40 Those going overland (undoubtedly the majority would mainly have moved via the narrow pass into just the zones Morianton had had his eye on, the eastern lowlands in the land northward near the narrow neck. Others took a sea route, settling along the west sea in the area in the land northward. By neither route would the migrants have traveled farther than necessary. We have no reason to think that distances of more than a couple of hundred miles were involved (but see Helaman 3:4). . . .

     Settlements of the first century B.C. have been found scattered along the coast of the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca [Mexico], a few hundred miles north of the isthmus.41 It is reasonable that some Nephite colonization and subsequent trade (see Helaman 3:10) was directed there, particularly since good timber is rare on that hot, dry strip. Later on, at least this area was definitely colonized by people from southern Mesoamerica.42 The colonists conceivably could have gone a considerable distance north, even to the state of Nayarit over 600 miles away, but if that was the case, they probably lost contact with their homeland, since even within the land southward over much shorter distances communication was often tenuous. (Note the ineffective, slow messages even among the top leaders in Alma 59; compare Mosiah 7:1.) [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 265-266,268]

 

Alma 63:4 A Large Company of Men . . . Departed out of the Land of Zarahemla into the Land Which Was Northward:

 

     According to Jace Willard, a textually supportable hypothesis connects Hagoth's departures with the migrations and settling that are archaeologically documented at the site of Teotihuacan (and other nearby sites) in the first century B.C.

     Teotihuacan, famous for its giant Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, lies in the Mexico Valley, about 45 minutes outside of Mexico City. The development of the Teotihuacan civilization is roughly divided into four periods. Of these four, our discussion concerns the first, which covers about 350 years (150 B.C. to A.D. 200), during which time the foundation of building and commerce was established. Although the society of this period was largely dependent on agricultural production, it also included such diverse occupations as painters, businessmen, architects, sculptors, priests, and government officials. by the close of Period One, Teotihuacan had an estimated 25,000 inhabitants, many of whom had migrated there from the lands southward.

     In determining the precise source of the Teotihuacan migrations, archaeologists are generally agreed that the people came specifically from the regions of Oaxaca and Chiapas. This they deduce by observing the close resemblance that Teotihuacan's Period One pottery and building structures bear to those of earlier settlements in these southern states.

     This information correlates remarkably with what we find at the end of the book of Alma, where migrations were occurring from Zarahemla (in the land southward) to the land northward at about 55 B.C. We read that "in the thirty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward." (Alma 63:4) To put this number into proper perspective, consider that 5,400 men would have been a full one-fifth of the total population at Teotihuacan even 350 years after its initial settling. Thus, the people apparently dispersed into various locations after moving northward.

     What were the motives for moving? When we look at the larger Book of Mormon pictures, these people departed directly after a series of wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, in which their government had even been temporarily overthrown (Alma 61). Only a few years later, Kishkumen's murder of Pahoran the second initiated another government overthrow (Helaman 6). Whether or not the anticipation of more military conflict was a moving factor, the motives for those who followed a few years later were clear: "And it came to pass in the forty and sixth [year], yea, there was much contention and many dissensions; in the which there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land" (Helaman 3:3). Obviously, the opportunity to gain land and escape the potentially volatile political climate of Zarahemla had its appeal.

     Whether any of these early migration parties actually were among the first at Teotihuacan itself cannot be absolutely stated, but the facts remain that Teotihuacan is in the land northward, in a land among lakes and rivers, a land of little wood and a great deal of cement, and it is a place that experienced major growth due to migrations from the south during the period under examination. [Jace Willard, "Hagoth's Trips to Acapulco: First Century B.C. Nephite Migrations to the Land Northward," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue II, 1999, p. 2] [See the commentary on Helaman 3:3]

     

Alma 63:5 Hagoth:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, the name "Hagoth" (Alma 63:5) is a very interesting name. It is a Mycenaean name--you'd expect that. Remember, in Lehi's day Israel was full of Greeks. The Egyptians were in occupation. Egyptian weights and measures and the Egyptian calendar were used. And the whole twenty-sixth dynasty was supported by Greek mercenaries. They occupied all the coast towns of Palestine in the time of Lehi [and Mulek]. . . . so you are going to get occasional Greek names in the Book of Mormon. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 195]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth Built a Ship (Narrow Neck of Land):

 

     In Alma 63:5 we find some important landmarks given relative to the "narrow neck" of land. There are four phrases that are interrelated:

           And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, [1] on the borders of the land Bountiful, [2] by the land Desolation, and [3] launched it forth into the west sea, [4] by the narrow neck which led into the land northward (Alma 63:5)

 

     Phrase 1 & 2: Hagoth was "on the borders of the land Bountiful." Maybe Mormon is again giving directions somewhat according to an X-Y axis on a graph. If Hagoth was "on the borders" which were "by the land Desolation," then he would have been by the northern (Y-axis) border line of Bountiful which ran from east to the west because in Alma 22:30, (if we interpret it correctly) "Bountiful bordered upon the land which they called Desolation."

     Phrase 3: Hagoth launched his boat "into the west sea." Depending on how we interpret Alma 22:32, Hagoth's launching site was probably within the distance of a day and a half's journey from the coast (X-axis). [See the commentary on Alma 22:32]

     In the preceding writings of Alma, most of the activity in Bountiful seems to have been located by the east sea, so we might wonder why this shipbuilding was happening on the west coast? After all, 5400 men plus women and children had supposedly found no trouble in making the trek by foot and apparently by way of the east coast if a Mesoamerican setting is assumed. If we follow John Sorenson's model, it might have been only a day and a half's journey from Hagoth's location on the west sea to link up (through the small neck of land) with those people presumably taking the east sea route. So then why is the shipping location on the west coast? One possible answer is that overland travel along the west coast might have been very difficult or impossible, and thus this effort at shipping was highlighted. Another reason could have been that an abundant supply of ship-building materials were located on the west coast. Perhaps a more thoughtful answer to the question, however, lies in the idea that shipping was going on at many points along all coasts (see Alma 63:10; Helaman 3:10). This location connected with Hagoth might have been inserted into the record because of some other reason besides identifying the location of the only shipping port of the Nephites.

     Phrase 4: The phrase "by the narrow neck which led into the land northward" gives us a very different connotation to the term "narrow neck" than what was given in Alma 22:32. In Alma 22:32 the "small neck of land" was just "between the land northward and the land southward" which might be interpreted as an "isthmus" or "dividing line." Here in Alma 63:5, one might get the feeling that the narrow neck may have constituted a travel route (maybe a major travel route), from the land southward to the land northward. If so, then the Nephite defense of the west coast (by Helaman and Antipus) seems reasonable. According to John Clark, the line from Hagoth to Bountiful would approximate the direction of the narrow neck and be running in an west--east orientation. However, if this narrow neck "led into the land northward," would it not run in a south--north direction"?

     We can make some sense of this situation by turning to a Mesoamerican setting. According to Joseph Allen, the "narrow neck which led into the land northward" could be associated with the old Kings Highway that runs along the Pacific side of Guatemala and Mexico by the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The Kings Highway then goes directly north (Sorenson's "east") for about 125 miles to the Gulf Coast of Mexico on the Atlantic side. Subsequent travel northward in the state of Veracruz along the Gulf coast (in "the land northward") takes one either to a point of departure on a curving route to Mexico City or in a continuing journey along the coast northward towards the United States. In the museum at La Venta, which represents the Olmec culture, which predated the coming of Lehi, there is a large picture representing the Olmec Culture core in the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, with a large arrow going down the Isthmus of Tehuantepec toward the Pacific Ocean (Gulf of Tehuantepec). This major historic trade route would give meaning to the phrase "the narrow neck of land which led into the land northward." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth . . . Built Him an Exceedingly Large Ship . . . and Launched It Forth into the West Sea, by the Narrow Neck:

 

     In Alma 63:5 we find that "Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward."

     John Sorenson notes that Hagoth was a major figure in promoting the northward migrations. The location of his home port is clear enough--exactly at the border between lands southward and northward that is right at the isthmus or narrow neck. On the "west-sea" or Pacific side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec are large shallow lagoons that have often invited maritime activity. In the hills just inland of the isthmus grows fine timber,43 which was so desirable that the Spaniards cut it, floated it downriver to the Atlantic side, and shipped it to Cuba for building ships. The lagoons and the timber resources were located in precisely the spot on the Pacific side of the neck that chapter 63 of Alma calls for. . . .

     There is concrete evidence that sea travel along the Pacific coast of not only Mexico but all the way to Ecuador in South America was an ancient, though probably not a regular, practice.44 The "ship" of Hagoth, if it was like craft known later on the Pacific coast, was either a very large dugout canoe with built-up sides or a log raft with sails. Whatever its form, it could hardly have been a complex planked vessel at all resembling European ships. There is no evidence so far that such ships were constructed or used in the New World until after the Spanish conquest, and it seems unlikely that so important a technological item would have left no evidence, even in art. Still, the large dugout canoe sighted by Columbus on one of his voyages off the coast of Yucatan was a very respectable size, capable of carrying scores of people for days at a time.45 And with so much cultural evidence of coastal voyaging between South America and Mesoamerica, we may yet find that the large sea-going rafts known off Ecuador or Peru, and which were able to reach the Galapagos Islands off South America,46 were also made and used off Mexico, although this has not yet been demonstrated. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 267-269]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth . . . built him an exceedingly large ship . . . and launched it forth into the west sea (Illustration): Hagoth built a very large ship and launched it into the west sea. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3, p. 3204]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth . . . built him an exceedingly large ship . . . and launched it forth into the west sea (Illustration): Hagoth, Builder of ships [Steven Lloyd Neal, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 5]

 

Alma 63:5 Into the West Sea, by the Narrow Neck:

 

     According to Verneil Simmons, geologists say the Pacific coastline has been rising since the beginning of the Christian era. It is estimated by professionals in that field that the rise has been as much as a foot a century. There is historic proof of this on the west coast, dating from the days of the Spaniards:

           From our observations, we infer that the whole coast is gradually rising. . . . We must also mention that in the past the Pacific Ocean swept much closer to Tehuantepec. In Burgoa's time (1674) the beach was less than 12 kilometers from Tehuantepec, today it is 17 kilometers. (Matthew Wallrath, "Excavations in the Tehuantepec Region, Mexico," p. 9. "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series," Vol. 57, Part 2, 1967)

[Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 113, 274]

 

Alma 63:5 Launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward (Illustration): According to David Palmer, either one of the two inland lagoons shown on the Pacific Ocean side of the map would have been ideal launching points for such a vessel. Map#4 shows a number of the ruins which definitely date to the Nephite period located in the general area of these lagoons. The NWAF has reported many other sites without a description of their age. (Delgado, 1965) [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 33,256-257] [See the commentary on Alma 50:33-34; Helaman 4:7; Alma 63:5; Mormon 3:5-7]

 

Alma 63:4-5 They departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward (Illustration): Proposed area where the 55 BC Nephite migration traveled to get to the Land Which Was Northward. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 103]

 

Alma 63:5 Launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward (Illustration): Possible ocean route of 55 BC Nephite migration. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 106]

 

Alma 63:7 The First Ship Did Also Return:

 

     The fact that "the first ship did also return" (Alma 63:7) raises some questions. In Alma 63:10 it says that Corianton had gone forth to the land northward "to carry forth provisions unto the people who had gone forth into that land." This might imply that there was some communication and knowledge, not only of the people who had gone by ship, but also of the people who had gone by foot. We also might assume that those people in the land northward were in a place which was not quite so abundant as to duplicate the cultural needs met in the land of Bountiful or the land of Zarahemla such that provisions needed to be sent to them.

 

Alma 63:8 Hagoth . . . They Were Never Heard of More:

 

     According to Robert Parsons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has shown deep interest in the Polynesian people almost from the time the Church was organized in 1830. Just thirteen years later, in 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith sent the first missionaries to the islands of the Pacific. The interest in the people of the Pacific comes from a brief account in the Book of Mormon of one Hagoth, a Nephite shipbuilder who left the Americas (from the west coast) and was "never heard of more" (Alma 63:8) . . . What happened to these lost ships? Only speculation and theories can be advanced, but the most common is that they were lost at sea. This is what the Nephites thought happened to them. A second theory is that they went to Japan. A third theory, (and the emphasis of this paper) is that they went to Hawaii. In speaking to the Hawaiians at Laie, Elder Matthew Cowley said to them: "Brothers and sisters, you are God's children -- you are Israel. You have in your veins the blood of Nephi: (Cole 384). Expounding this theory, some believe that they went not only to Hawaii, but also to other Polynesian Islands as well. . . .

     Does the Church have an official position on any connection between Hagoth and the Polynesians? In a letter to the mission president of the Samoan Mission dated September 6, 1972, and signed by N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney, under the letterhead of the First Presidency, they wrote: "In your letter of September 6, 1972, you ask if the Polynesian people are Lamanites or Nephites. There has been much speculation about the origin of these people. We have, however, no scriptural evidence or revelation from the Lord that would tell us exactly where these people came from or their background." [Robert E. Parsons, "Hagoth and the Polynesians," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, pp. 249-255]

     Note* What I believe the reader should understand in regards to the "Nephite" connection of some, even many, of the Polynesians, is that a specific connection doesn't necessarily have to come from pure descendants of Nephi; neither does that connection have to come through the man Hagoth, nor from the time of Hagoth, nor from the location from which Hagoth launched his ships. It could have even come much later than Book of Mormon times from righteous descendants of Lehi living on the western shores of South America (and thus far away from the final battles of the "Nephite" core population in Central America). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     For the benefit of the reader, the following is a sampling of pertinent information about the Polynesians presented by Cleon Skousen in his book, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3:

     The Pacific Ocean covers about one-third of the globe, and is the largest ocean on earth. Stretched across its broad expanse are literally thousands of islands. In the most ancient times, the islands nearest the Asiatic coast began to be penetrated by the brown-skinned people of Melanesia, the dark-brown Dravidians of India, and the black-skinned oceanic Negroids from the middle east. The heart of the Pacific, however, remained virgin territory. Here is the way Sir Peter Buck, a former professor of anthropology at Yale University, (and himself a Polynesian), describes it:

           For untold centuries after the boundaries of the Pacific (Asia and America) had been peopled by man, these islands remained isolated and unoccupied save by land shells, insects, reptiles, and birds . . . The uncharted seas awaited the coming of the Polynesian navigators." (Vikings of the Sunrise, London, Whitcome and Tombs Ltds, 1954, pp. 11-12)

 

     Early anthropologists had assumed that the entire Pacific was inhabited by native peoples drifting from west to east. This was obviously true of the Dravidians, Melanesians, and Oceanic Negroids, but not the Polynesians. The Polynesians came out of the east, a separate and distinct people who finally mixed with the other races on the western base of the Polynesian triangle (see illustration). . . .

     . . . On his first visit to Easter Island in the south Pacific, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl had observed "giants' heads cut in stone, with bearded chins and white men's features, brooding over the secret of centuries." (Kon Tiki, p. 176) These stone statues were almost identical with some he had seen in Peru. And the Peruvians had a story to tell about those heads. Here is the way Thor Heyerdahl reports it:

           The Inca Indians had their great empire in this mountain country when the first Spaniards came to Peru. They told the Spaniards that the colossal monuments that stood deserted about the landscape were erected by a race of white gods which had lived there before the Incas themselves became rulers. These vanished architects were described as wise, peaceful instructors, who had originally come from the north, long ago in the morning of time, and had taught the Incas' primitive forefathers architecture and agriculture as well as manners and customs. They were unlike other Indians in having white skins and long beards; they were also taller than the Incas. Finally they left Peru as suddenly as they had come; the Incas themselves took over power in the country, and the white teachers vanished forever from the coast of South America and fled westward across the Pacific (p. 3217). . . .

           . . . It is certainly striking that there is not a trace of gradual development in the high civilizations which once stretched from Mexico to Peru. The deeper the archaeologists dig, the higher the culture, until a definite point is reached at which the old civilizations have clearly arisen without any foundation in the midst of primitive cultures. (Kon Tiki, p. 175) (p. 3220) . . .

           . . . As I pursued my search [to find the origins of the Polynesians], I found in Peru surprising traces in culture, mythology, and language which impelled me to go on digging ever deeper and with greater concentration in my attempt to identify the place of origin of the Polynesian tribal god Tiki. And I found what I hoped for. I was sitting reading the Inca legends of the sun-king Virakocha, who was the supreme head of the mythical white people in Peru. I read:

           . . . Virakocha is an Inca [Ketchua] name and consequently of fairly recent date. The original name of the sun-god Virakocha, which seems to have been more used in Peru in old times was Kon-Tiki or Illa-Tiki, which means Sun-Tiki or Fire-Tiki. Kon-Tiki was high priest and sun-king of the Inca's legendary "white men" who had left the enormous ruins on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The legend runs that the mysterious white men with beards were attacked by a chief named Cari who came from Coquimbo Valley. In a battle on an island in Lake Titicaca the fair race was massacred, but Kon-Tiki himself and his closest companions escaped and later came down to the Pacific coast, when they finally disappeared overseas to the westward. . . .

 

     . . . The natives of Easter Island had memorized their ancestors clear back to Kon-Tiki, their founder, a total of 57 generations. The length of a generation can only be estimated, but it puts Kon-Tiki back around the meridian of time or not later than A.D. 400 . . . . (p. 3218)

 

     The original white, bearded men from whom the Polynesians claim their ancestry, were part of a civilization which possessed very advanced technical knowledge. Thor Heyerdahl says:

           The old Polynesians were great navigators. They took bearings by the sun by day and the stars by night. Their knowledge of the heavenly bodies was astonishing. They knew that the earth was round, and they had names for such abstruse conceptions as the Equator and the northern and southern tropics. . . . The Polynesians knew five planets, which they called wandering stars, for which they had nearly two hundred different names. A good navigator in old Polynesia knew well in what part of the sky the different stars would rise and where they would be at different times of the night and at different times of the year . . .

           Whence had the Polynesians obtained their vast astronomical knowledge and their calendar, which was calculated with astonishing thoroughness? Certainly not from Melanesian or Malayan peoples to the westward. But the same old vanished civilized race, the "white and bearded men" who had taught Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas their amazing culture in America, had evolved a curiously similar calendar and a similar astronomical knowledge which Europe in those times could not match. . . . (Kon-Tiki, pp. 197-199)

 

     It is interesting to note that most important staples for food in the Polynesian Islands had to be brought in by man. Thor Heyerdahl comments:

           Sweet Potatoes: When the first Europeans came to the Pacific islands, they found large plantings of sweet potatoes on Easter Island and in Hawaii and New Zealand, and the same plant was also cultivated on the other islands, but only within the Polynesian area. It was quite unknown in the part of the world which lay farther west. . . . Now as in known, America is the only place in the rest of the world where the potato grew before the time of the Europeans. And the sweet potato Tiki brought with him to the islands, Ipomoea batatas, is exactly the same as that which Indians have cultivated in Peru from the oldest times. . . In the South Sea islands the sweet potato will grow only if carefully tended by man, and, as it cannot withstand sea water, it is idle to explain its wide distribution over these scattered islands by declaring that it could have drifted over 4,000 sea miles with ocean currents from Peru. This attempt to explain away so important a clue to the Polynesians' origin is particularly futile seeing that philologists have pointed out that on all the widely scattered South Sea islands, the name of the sweet potato is kumara, and kumara is just what the sweet potato was called among the old Indians in Peru. (Kon-Tiki, pp. 134-135)

           Bottle Gourd: Another very important Polynesian cultivated plant we had with us on board the Kon-Tiki was the bottle gourd, Lagenaria vulgaris. As important as the fruit itself was the skin, which the Polynesians dried over a fire and used to hold water. This typical garden plant also, which again cannot propagate itself in a wild state by drifting across the sea alone, the old Polynesians had in common with the original population of Peru. Bottle gourds, converted into water containers, are found in prehistoric desert graves on the coast of Peru and were used by the fishing population there centuries before the first men came to the islands in the Pacific. The Polynesian name for the bottle gourd, kimi, is found again among the Indians in Central America where Peruvian civilization has its deepest roots. (Kon-Tiki, p. 135.) (p. 3220-22)

 

     Elder Matthew Cowley, the modern Apostle to the Polynesians used to frequently say: "Brothers and sisters, you are God's children--you are Israel. You have in your veins the blood of Nephi." (Matthew Cowley, Man of Faith, by H.A. Smith, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1954, p. 234)

     In 1858 Brigham Young said: "Those islanders . . . are of the House of Israel, of the seed of Abraham, and to them pertain the promises." (Israel in the Pacific, a Genealogical Text for Polynesia, by Cole and Jensen, 1961, Genealogical Society of Utah, p. 140).

     In the dedicatory prayer offered at the dedication of the New Zealand Temple, President David O. McKay made the following statement: "We express gratitude that to these fertile islands Thou didst guide the descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper, to develop and to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among mankind."

 

     Cleon Skousen summarizes by saying that after all these many years of investigation, the scientists are finally catching up with the scriptures and confirming the fact that the Polynesians are American in origin. They probably occupied the islands of the Pacific in a series of migrations over a period of several centuries. However, the fact that all Polynesians still share the same language derivatives would indicate that they have been in frequent contact with each other throughout the huge Polynesian triangle and have not been so long in the Islands of the Pacific that they have developed independent cultures. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3, pp. 3216-3227] [For an extensive treatment of the Polynesian connection to the tribe of Joseph, see Paul R. Cheesman and Millie Foster Cheesman, Early America and the Polynesians] [See the commentary on Helaman 3:14] [See Vol. 6, Appendix D]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth (Polynesians) [Illustration]: The Polynesian Triangle [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3, p. 3215]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth (Polynesians) [Illustration]: The Polynesian Triangle. [Bruce S. Sutton, Lehi, Father of Polynesia: Polynesians Are Nephites, p. 22]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth (Polynesians) [Illustration]: Migrations to the Western Hemisphere and Polynesia. [Bruce S. Sutton, Lehi, Father of Polynesia: Polynesians Are Nephites, p. 52]

 

Alma 63:5 Hagoth (Polynesian connection with the tribe of Joseph) [Illustration]: Lehi blessing his son Joseph, statuary at the L.D.S. Hawaiian Temple. [Paul R. Cheesman and Millie Foster Cheesman, Early America and the Polynesians, p. 27]

 

Alma 63:8 They Were Never Heard of Again:

 

     Supposedly, the reference to the fact that "they were never heard of again" (Alma 63:8) only refers to the ship or ships that were lost. In the following verse (Alma 63:9) we are told that "in this year there were many people who went forth into the land northward," so apparently there was a good consistent communication link between the people in the land northward and the land of Zarahemla.

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 63:4,6,7-12 Many People Go to the Land Northward (37th Year)

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 63:5,7-9 Hagoth Builds a Ship & Sails Twice--Is Lost (37th Year)

 

Alma 63:9 There Were Many People Who Went Forth into the Land Northward:

 

     Alma 63:9 states that "there were many people who went forth into the land northward." According to E. L. Peay, it was near this time (50 B.C.) when a group of white people settled in the Mississippi Valley area. Some claim they came from Mexico or the Central America area. Archaeologists call them the Temple Mound Builders. They have been identified in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. Their mode of building is similar to that of the Maya of Central America prior to the time of Christ.47

     The Mound Builders are also know as the Hopewell Indians because the mounds were noted on Mr. Hopewell's farm land. They were a society of well-organized people led by an elite upper class"48 They were a close knit people who worked for the good of the community. They were "the finest metal workers of their time, crafting tools and ornaments out of copper and, occasionally, silver and gold."49 They buried their dead in large mounds and erected temples on top of their mounds. The Mound Builders were a white people with greater intelligence and physical skill than the Indians living around them. Their "thatched houses sometimes resembled Mexican houses, the pyramids resemble the pyramids of Middle America and were topped by wooden temples in the manner of the earliest Maya, and were built in successive layers, probably in periodic renewal ceremonies, as in Middle America; an eternal fire was kept burning in the temple, as in Mexico, and was renewed at a new fire ceremony . . ."

     Why did the Nephites leave Zarahemla? Exploration of Central America today shows that the people of that time period were dredging the swamps and terracing their hillsides and waste places to raise crops.51 There is the possibility that they ran out of farming land or perhaps fled an epidemic. [E. L. Peay, The Lands of Zarahemla: Nephi's Land of Promise, pp. 94-96, 333-334] [See the commentary on Alma 62:52]

 

Alma 63:9 There were many people who went forth into the land northward (Illustration): Hagoth Ships Transported 5,400 People into the Land Northward [E. L. Peay, The Lands of Zarahemla: Nephi's Land of Promise, p. 331]

 

Alma 63:10 Corianton Had Gone Forth to the Land Northward in a Ship:

 

     President Spencer W. Kimball quoted President Joseph F. Smith as saying, "You brethren and sisters from New Zealand, I want you to know that you are from the people of Hagoth." President Kimball then stated, "Corianton was a member of that sailing party." (Conference Report, New Zealand Area Conference 1976, p. 3)

     A letter dated February 6, 1911, from the First Presidency (bearing the "imprint" of Joseph F. Smith) says the following:

           Brothers and sisters, let us pause a moment and raise the question in your own minds, why you, in common with others of your race inhabiting the isles of the sea, were to be more blessed and favored of the Lord than the rest of the House of Israel inhabiting this, our land of America? . . . it was simply because of your forefathers . . . the Lord in His superior wisdom, directed their course away from this continent to their island homes, that they might be separated from their more wicked disobedient brethren, that they might not be left to be preyed upon and destroyed by the more wicked part of the House of Israel . . .

[Bruce Sutton, Personal Communication] [See Vol. 6, Appendix D for a collection of authoritative statements on Book of Mormon geography]

     Note* Perhaps Hagoth was a leader or governor over that part of the Nephite lands from which the sailing party and Corianton departed.

 

Alma 63:12 Those Engravings Which Were in the Possession of Helaman Were Written and Sent Forth among the Children of Men throughout All the Land:

 

     According to E. L. Peay, the fact that the "engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land" implies that Helaman's people were a literate people who could read and write, using symbols written upon some sort of affordable material. Surely Helaman would not send out metal plates like their permanent records were engraven on. It is interesting that the Maya used a paper-like material made from tree bark.52 The ancient Maya also had a complete written language. [E. L. Peay, The Lands of Zarahemla: Nephi's Land of Promise, p. 97]

 

Alma 63:11 It became expedient for Shiblon to confer those sacred things . . . upon the son of Helaman, who was called Helaman (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]