Helaman 3

 

The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


 

 

Helaman 3:2-3 There Was No Contention among the People in the Forty and Fourth Year; Neither . . . in the Forty and Fifth Year. And It Came to Pass in the Forty and Sixth:

 

     According to Daniel Peterson, chapters 1-6 of Helaman cover fully thirty years and offer us a fairly good glimpse into how Mormon the editor worked. This section of the Book of Mormon is largely an example of what is often termed "annalistic" writing. "Annals," a type of historical record-keeping with many Near Eastern parallels, feature a narrative of events listed year by year. This is precisely what we find in these chapters. With only a single exception, everyone of the thirty years extending from the fortieth year of the judges up to the sixty-ninth (from 52 to 23 B.C.) is explicitly mentioned in these chapters.

     As Mormon read through the chronicles that came to him, he knew he could include only a small portion in his abridgment. Therefore, under the inspiration of the Lord, he commented on the material he selected. However, he was too honest, too conscientious and thorough, to simply leave whole periods out of the record. For example, when he came to his sources for the years 43-50 B.C., he found a host of events and details that he could not put into his book. But he drew a lesson from them and in this case, the moral he distilled from his source chronicles is the evil of pride. [Daniel C. Peterson, "Their Own Worst Enemies," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 92-93] [See the commentary on 4 Nephi 1:6]

     Note* The fifty and fifth year is missing in the annalistic writings (see Helaman 4:1-4). Is that missing year significant? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:3-4 An Exceeding Great Many . . . Went Forth unto the Land Northward . . . an Exceedingly Great Distance . . . (and) Came to Large Bodies of Water:

 

     It is hard to judge how far "an exceedingly great distance" (Helaman 3:3-4) was. Some have found in this verse a reason to believe that people traveled up to the Great Lakes area (Notice the reference to "large bodies of water and many rivers") However, a reference to a "land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water" is also found in Alma 50:29 and describes the land northward to which Morianton was fleeing to. The reader should note that "they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had NOT been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land" (Helaman 3:5). Mormon notes, however, that "NO part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate" (Helaman 3:6). The reader is thus left to ponder the parallels of this "land northward" with (1) part or all of the Jaredite lands, (2) part or all of the land the Nephites called Desolation, or (3) part or all of some other anciently inhabited lands on the American continent which are not specifically mentioned in the Book of Mormon narrative. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:4 They Did Travel to an Exceedingly Great Distance:

 

     According to E. L. Peay, if people "did travel to an exceedingly great distance" in the "forty and sixth year" (Helaman 3:3, 4), then it was nine years since the ship of Hagoth went into the land northward and many shiploads of supplies had apparently been delivered to them. Now there were other large groups of people moving out of the land of Zarahemla, apparently by land. Among these emigrants were the converted Lamanite people.

     Some people must have scouted out the land northward and found it safe and fertile. Thus a large group of the people of Ammon migrated to that land. The people in Zarahemla knew where they went and how they fared, even though they went an "exceedingly great distance." We know there was contact with these emigrants because Mormon, hundreds of years later, knew what happened to these people who went into the land northward. He gave us an overview and told how they spread over the many years (Helaman 3:9-14). [E. L. Peay, The Lands of Zarahemla: Nephi's Land of Promise, pp. 105-106]

 

Helaman 3:3-4 An Exceeding Great Many . . . Went Forth unto the Land Northward . . . an Exceedingly Great Distance . . . (and) Came to Large Bodies of Water:

 

     If we refer to the Mesoamerican map, what places would qualify according to the description given? According to Joseph Allen, from 150 B.C. to A.D. 750, the ceremonial center of Teotihuacan, in the Valley of Mexico flourished. Nephite immigrants may have moved into the Valley of Mexico beginning about 50 BC. Tradition reports that Teotihuacan was really a religious center. Also, the increase in population during this period was caused, in large part, by people who migrated to the valley and then settled in the city of Teotihuacan. Cement was utilized extensively in the construction of buildings and roadways. The temple of the Sun was built between 150 B.C. - A.D. 200, virtually as it stands today. The "bodies of water" and "many rivers" may refer to the lakes in the Mexico Valley. Three shallow lakes remained on the valley floor at the time of the Conquest of Mexico. Mexico City was literally built on a lake. If people migrated inland to the Mexico Valley, they most likely would have traveled the Veracruz route, which would have required them to cross many rivers, including the massive Papaloapan River system along the Gulf of Mexico. The distance from Chiapas (Zarahemla) to Mexico City is about 600 miles. Even today, in the Mexico Valley, most of the buildings are built out of cement. Lumber is very scarce. The type of lumber that is grown in the mountains around the Valley of Mexico is not of the size and quality of that grown in North America. Helaman 3:8 seems to imply that the people "spread" "from the land southward to the land northward, which might imply many people stopping off at various points short of the "exceeding great distance" traveled in Helaman 3:4. Helaman 3:13-15 talks about "many records kept of the proceedings of this people" which seems to imply a certain knowledge or communication which might limit the distance traveled. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 97-107] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 4:23; 7:12]

 

Helaman 3:3-4 An Exceeding Great Many . . . Went Forth unto the Land Northward . . . an Exceedingly Great Distance . . . (and) Came to Large Bodies of Water:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, it's more than 1,200 air miles from Guatemala to Mexico City. That's a long way to push, you see . . . The Central Highland of Mexico is described in all early accounts as a land of many waters. There are many waters and streams here, and, of course, there was much more water at that time. As you all know, Mexico City was built over the water. Edward Seler wrote the old four-volume classic on early Mexico; he collected more data than anybody else. It was in the early part of the century, but he did a great work. Seler maintains that the name usually translated as "Highlands," Anauac, really meant "land of many waters." [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 237]

 

Helaman 3:3-4 An Exceeding Great Many . . . Went Forth unto the Land Northward . . . an Exceedingly Great Distance . . . (and) Came to Large Bodies of Water:

 

     According to David Palmer, it is unlikely that these people would go so far as to cut off all kinship ties, and they apparently didn't go beyond the land inhabited previously by the Jaredites and Mulekites. Were the bodies of water mentioned the same as those mentioned with respect to Cumorah (Mormon 6:4)? The text does not say. In Mesoamerica there are two possible areas this could have referred to. One was in the valley of Mexico, where there was a very large inland lake (Texcoco). The other area is the large region of lagoons forming the Papaloapan basin in Veracruz. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 79] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Helaman 3:4 They Came to Large Bodies of Water and Many Rivers:

 

     According to Ammon O'Brien, Lake Texcoco is one of the several lakes which covered much of central Mexico in pre-Columbian times (see illustration). . . . The marsh conditions of this location were an inherent architectural challenge . . . Underneath Mexico City lie the remains of at least 4 distinct building phases from the former inhabitants of the land.

     Archaeological discoveries in Mexico City have come largely as a result of construction work. In one typical case, while a firm was preparing the foundations for a new building, as they were drilling holes for reinforced concrete pilasters, the drills suddenly dropped through into open spaces. Excavation of the area revealed that they were inside a room of an ancient building. Not surprisingly, the government promptly reserved this spot for archaeological research. However, the owners were determined to proceed with the construction plans, so a lawsuit was started. When the builders continued drilling again, and got down about 30 feet below the street, their drills dropped through again into a sunken chamber or room of yet an earlier building phase. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 6]

 

Helaman 3:4 They came to large bodies of water and many rivers: Lake Texcoco--After the Establishment of Nueva Espana (New Spain) and Dissolution of Tenochtitlan (the Aztec Capital). [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 6]

 

Helaman 3:4 They did spread forth into all parts of the land: (1) The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. The Pyramid of the Sun, covers about 550,000 square feet at its base, comparing closely to the largest of Egypt's pyramids--the Pyramid of Cheops--which covers 571,536 square feet, or about 13 acres. (2) Standing atop the Pyramid of the Moon, one embraces a view as shown here. (3) The Pyramid of the Moon prior to excavation. (4) 600 pyramids and 2000 residential compounds have been found at Teotihuacan. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, pp. 7-9]

 

Helaman 3:4 They did spread forth into all parts of the land: Figure 8-2 Pyramid of the sun at Teotihuacan near Mexico City (150B.C.--A.D. 200); Figure 8--3a City plan of Teotihuacan, showing the Pyramid of the Moon (Period II) and the Pyramid of the Sun (Period I); Figure 8--3b City plan of Teotihuacan (continued), showing the Citadel of Quetzalcoatl (Period II); Figure 8--4 Temple of Quetzalcoatl, which was built during Teotihuacan Period II (A.D. 200 to A.D. 350); [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 99-102]

 

Helaman 3:4 They did spread forth into all parts of the land: Excavations on the Great Pyramid at Cholula. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 16]

 

Helaman 3:5 They Did Spread Forth into All Parts of the Land:

 

     According to Ammon O'Brien, moving northeastward about 30 miles from Mexico City, we come into Teotihuacan, the location of one of the largest monuments of ancient Mexico--the Pyramid of the Sun. This colossal structure which rises to a height of over 200 feet, is surrounded by vestiges of hundreds of other buildings and pyramids which dominate the ground of Teotihuacan.

     Decades of excavation and research have given archaeologists the understanding that around 100 B.C., this location saw a surge in population, along with architectural and agricultural expansion. Evidence has also been uncovered that an earlier culture, generally know as the Olmec, occupied this site around 1000 B.C. Ultimately, the majestic image of Teotihuacan as portrayed by the structures of stone and cement which yet remain, stems from its apogee which occurred in the first four centuries A.D.

     From an article about Teotihuacan the "mysterious city" by Richard Bluer, we find the following observation:

           The Builders of Teotihuacan: The people responsible for constructing this great city of pre-Columbian times have not been identified. It was once believed that the Aztecs were its builders, but we have since learned that when this tribe discovered the city, it had already been in ruins for seven centuries. Indeed, the ruins so impressed the Aztecs that they named the place Teotihuacan, "the place of those who have the road of the gods." (The Atlas of Mysterious Places, 1987, p. 158)

[Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 7]

 

Helaman 3:5 They did spread forth into all parts of the land: (1) The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. The Pyramid of the Sun, covers about 550,000 square feet at its base, comparing closely to the largest of Egypt's pyramids--the Pyramid of Cheops--which covers 571,536 square feet, or about 13 acres. (2) Standing atop the Pyramid of the Moon, one embraces a view as shown here. (3) The Pyramid of the Moon prior to excavation. (4) 600 pyramids and 2000 residential compounds have been found at Teotihuacan. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, pp. 7-9]

 

Helaman 3:5 They did spread forth into all parts of the land: Figure 8-2 Pyramid of the sun at Teotihuacan near Mexico City (150B.C.--A.D. 200); Figure 8--3a City plan of Teotihuacan, showing the Pyramid of the Moon (Period II) and the Pyramid of the Sun (Period I); Figure 8--3b City plan of Teotihuacan (continued), showing the Citadel of Quetzalcoatl (Period II); Figure 8--4 Temple of Quetzalcoatl, which was built during Teotihuacan Period II (A.D. 200 to A.D. 350); [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 99-102]

 

Helaman 3:5 They Did Spread Forth into All Parts of the Land:

 

     According to Ammon O'Brien, located about 80 miles southeast of Mexico City is the valley of Cholula, famous for the fact that here Cortes found 365 ancient temples; one for each day of the year. Faithful to his quest, he tore them all down and built Catholic cathedrals over every one. . . . It is known that in ancient times this was a prominent center of Quetzalcoatl worship. Most of the temples and grand edifices here were built in his honor.

     Cortes endeavored to destroy one temple he thought was on top of a mountain which turned out to be an immense pyramid. In fact so immense that in terms of the area covered at its base, you could take the largest pyramid in Egypt (the Pyramid of Cheops) and fit three of them in the space of this one at Cholula and still have enough area left over for a football field. . . . The cathedral which now crowns the top was constructed primarily with stone and bricks from the pyramid's main stairway and facings. The remaining bulk of the ancient structure covers at its base over 42 acres and easily qualifies as the biggest pyramid in the world. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 16]

 

Helaman 3:5 They did spread forth into all parts of the land: Excavations on the Great Pyramid at Cholula. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 16]

  

Helaman 3:5 They Did Spread Forth into All Parts of the Land:

 

     According to Joseph Allen, a question that often arises is, If the people "spread forth into all parts of the land" (Helaman 3:5), what about the mound builders of the eastern part of the United States; why couldn't they be part of the Book of Mormon people?

     They could well be part of the Book of Mormon people. But a large enough cultural base does not exist from either the Hopewell or the Adena people of the Ohio Basin to form part of the heartland geographical base of the Book of Mormon.

     In the first place, Ohio is not New York. We cannot claim to have a strong Book of Mormon culture in New York where none has been discovered. Nor can we legitimately say that Ohio is close enough to New York to qualify it as Book of Mormon lands.

     The Hopewell and the Adena of Ohio both appear to have a Mesoamerica origin that ties in with the Olmec and the Maya Preclassic Time Periods. Indeed, the dating of the mound builders follows the same pattern as Mesoamerica--the dating ranges from 800 B.C. to A.D. 900 for the Adena and 600 B.C. to A.D. 1500 for the Hopewell. Early dates go back to 1000 B.C. Consistent with Mesoamerican dating, the Hopewell manifest carbon-14 dates of a cultural climax between 100 B.C. and A.D. 200--strictly Preclassic Mesoamerica and middle Book of Mormon time.

     Silverberg, in his book, Mound Builders of Ancient America, writes:

           The Mexican site most frequently discussed as a point of origin for the Ohio Valley mound-building concepts is La Venta, on an island covering two square miles, about a dozen miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico in a swamp near the Tonala River. (Silverberg 1968)

 

You will recall that La Venta is designated as the heartland of the Olmec culture in Mesoamerica.

     The above suggest that the Book of Mormon society may have reached into North America; however, the geographical heartland must still be in Mesoamerica. That situation is similar to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being located in Utah but with branches of the Church reaching both into Canada and Mexico. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 352]

     Note* The fundamental reasons for the Book of Mormon heartland not being in New York or Ohio are: (1) the lack of significant population centers; (2) the lack of correlated cultural development; and (3) the lack of written records for the time periods and peoples covered in the text. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:5 Whatever Parts It Had Not Been Rendered Desolate and Without Timber:

 

     The Book of Mormon mentions that the land northward had been "rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land" (Helaman 3:5). This made timber "exceedingly scarce in the land northward" (Helaman 3:10). As to some possibilities on how this Jaredite environmental disaster happened, Jerry Ainsworth notes a report in the New York Times by Richard Hansen of the University of California at Los Angeles, which was presented in the Thirteenth Annual Maya Conference at the University of Pennsylvania on April 11, 1995:

     You have to burn about twenty big trees and all their branches in order to make only a little pile of lime (to produce stucco) about one meter high. So they hacked down the forests. The deforestation led to soil erosion and that filled in the seasonal swamps where they had been collecting peat to fertilize their terraced agricultural gardens. They made these areas uninhabitable.

 

     Hansen added that the Olmec [Jaredites] made canals for waterways by raking muck from swamplands adjoining the Gulf of Mexico and using it to build agricultural terraces (see illustration). The practice of building with bricks and "slime" (stucco), of course, was known from the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:3). Nephites who emigrated to the land northward also learned the practice. They "became exceedingly expert in the working of cement" (Helaman 3:7). [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 119]

 

Helaman 3:5 Whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate without timber (Illustration-agricultural terraces): 67. Aerial view showing terraces and canals off the coast of Belize [but resembling those in Veracruz adjoining the Gulf of Mexico], now mostly filled by erosion. Used by permission of Science Magazine and B. L. Turner. 68. Artist's drawing of canals and terraces and how they were used by pre-Columbian cultures. Drawing by Terry Rutledge. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 120]

 

Helaman 3:5 Desolate and without Timber:

 

     In Helaman 3:5 we find that as the Nephites spread northward, they went into "whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land." According to Hugh Nibley, the deforestation of the land doesn't suit the vast forests of the north, but was a very serious problem in ancient Mesoamerica, as it is today in Mesoamerica. . . . We are told that in the valley of Oaxaca [in the fifth to ninth centuries] over-population "created a growing shortage of timber for construction and firewood and for cooking, apparently reaching such an alarming extent that the hills were completely stripped of forest."

     According to W.T. Sanders, among the major causes contributing to the rapid decline and collapse both in the highlands of Mexico and the Mayan country was the necessity of bringing more land under cultivation with "a corresponding decline in forest products."

     Nobody worried about deforestation in Joseph Smith's day. They thought the woods were endless. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 237]

 

Helaman 3:5 They did spread for into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land (Illustration): When the dried vegetation on the corn plots that are being prepared is set ablaze, typically in March or April, the atmosphere over wide regions is obscured by smoke. If this manner of burning was widely carried out in Jaredite times, it may have been a cause of the lack of timber noted by their successors (see Helaman 3:5-6). This scene is in southern Chiapas. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 35]

 

Helaman 3:5 The Many Inhabitants That Had before Inherited the Land:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, Latter-day Saints are disturbed when we read that remains much older than the Book of Mormon are found on the continent. Well, of course they are. We assume that everything that's found is either Nephite or Jaredite. But read Helaman 3:4-5 where he says, "And they did travel to an exceeding great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers. Yea, and even they did spread into all parts of the land, into whatever parts had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land." A very interesting thing. There were lots of people there before them. They'd wiped out all the timber, and when they wipe it out, it stays that way.

     The noncommittal term "the former inhabitants of the land," and the failure to mention Jaredites, even by way of speculation, make it clear the new pioneers had no idea who those people might have been, only that they had been there a long time--long enough to clean out the forest--and also that they had filled the land. They were very numerous. They were not Lamanites, for Lamanites were contemporary savages, not a lost civilization.

     Although in a different time period, yet in a similar manner, it is interesting to note that neither the Aztecs of the 16th century nor their predecessors, the Toltecs, knew anything at all about the people of Teotihuacan. They knew only the ruins of a fabulous city. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 238, 235]

     According to Hugh Nibley, until recently, most all scholars have clung to a simplistic and naive doctrine that everything that ever came to the Western Hemisphere entered by way of the Bering Strait. This was one man's idea, and they still cling to it. That was the famous anthropologist Hrdlicka, who came to Harvard and started working on this. He devoted his whole life to proving a passage along the Alaska land bridge, the Bering Strait. It's shallow there, and when the ocean goes down you can cross--people have. Well, there's no objection to their coming in that way at all. The Hopis call that "coming in by the back door." They were aware of that tradition, [but they don't represent all the people] . . .

     Anguiano says (Mexico antes do los Aztecas), "there are among the Indians Mongoloids, . . . Negroids. . . . [There certainly are] Southern European types [many of them], . . . giants [Semitic types, Mediterranean types], pygmies [Venezuela and Brazil]. Many anthropologists consider it impossible that all these types be traced to a single Bering Strait route from Asia. South American skulls and dialects both have strong Oceanian resemblances and indicate a Pacific crossing."

     The famous Edward Seler says: The two main native traditions have the ancestors coming from the east by sea and from the west by sea. They all agree that their ancestors came in boats. Well, if they keep saying that, shouldn't we pay some attention to their traditions? No! no! [the scholars say], they all crossed the land bridge across Alaska there. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 238-239]

 

Helaman 3:5 The Many Inhabitants That Had before Inherited the Land:

 

     G.A. Matson is a member of the Church, and he is the director of the National Blood bank in St. Louis. So all the types, all the data, passes through his hands. . . . They find at the blood bank that the dominant type among the American Indians is type O, though some tribes like the Blackfeet are 100 percent type A, as are the Hawaiians. Now Mongolians, on the other hand (people tell us that Indians are all Mongolians) are almost exclusively type B. You won't find type B among the Indians--it's very rare. And if there's anything that's conservative, it's duck lice and blood types. Those things never change through millions of years, they tell us. . . . A combination of O and A is found among the Indians in the same proportions as found among the Arabs and Jews. We're talking about rough proportions here. But the one thing that's missing is the Mongol type, which is exceedingly rare, the type B. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 239; see also Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 208]

 

Helaman 3:7 Expert in the Working of Cement . . . Houses of Cement:

 

     According to Helaman 3:7, the people who went into the lands northward became "expert in the working of cement" and built "houses of cement." According to David Palmer, the use of cement and concrete spread throughout Mesoamerica in a time span from at least as early as 100 B.C. through A.D. 400. The tourist sees it in great abundance at Teotihuacan (near Mexico City). At Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala City) the concrete mix was similar. Tiny pieces of volcanic stone, 0.5 to 2 millimeters in diameter, were mixed with clay and lime. After drying, a very smooth and durable surface is formed. An early manifestation of the use of cement is at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas where it was used to surface the temple known as Mound 1. This can also be seen at Monte Alban (Oaxaca).

     The knowledge of this use of cement in Mesoamerica has not been around for many decades. In 1929, Heber J. Grant, a former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made the following statement in general conference:

      . . . I have often said, and desire to repeat here that when I was a young unmarried man, another young man who had received a doctor's degree ridiculed me for believing in the Book of Mormon. He said he could point out two lies in that book. One was that the people had built their homes out of cement and that they were very skillful in the use of cement. He said there had never been found and never would be found a house built of cement by the ancient inhabitants of this country, because the people in that early age knew nothing about cement. He said that should be enough to make one disbelieve the book. I said: "That does not affect my faith one particle. I read the Book of Mormon prayerfully and supplicated God for a testimony in my heart and soul of the divinity of it, and I have accepted it and believe it with all my heart." I also said to him, "If my children do not find cement houses, I expect that my grandchildren will." He said, "Well, what is the good of talking with a fool like that?" (April 1929 Conference Reports, p. 128ff).

 

     The documentation of use of cement in Mesoamerica is now so overwhelming and obvious that President Grant's statement stands out as prophecy now fulfilled. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 121-122]

 

Helaman 3:7 Expert in the working of cement: Cement used to surface the temple at Chiapa de Corzo now known as Mound 1. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 121]

   

Helaman 3:7 The People Who Went Forth Became Expert in the Working of Cement:

 

     According to Joy Osborn, the enemies of Joseph Smith hooted with derision when the Book of Mormon mentioned many cities being built of cement here on the American continent. Many believed he had really exposed himself as a fraud and a false prophet this time, for cement had only recently been invented, they believed. In 1824, six years before the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph Aspdin had patented a process for making portland cement.

     Many years after the Book of Mormon was published, archaeologists discovered cement in the ancient Central American ruins of the ancient Mayans, which proved superior to any cement we have in our day. When John Lloyd Stephens discovered the ancient ruins of Yucatan in 1840, the world was amazed to find that the ancient peoples did, indeed, build their houses, cities, and temples, with this excellent quality of cement, which had survived through hundreds of years, buried in the overgrown forests of Central America and Mexico.

     Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, has sometimes been called the Cement City, for cement was used freely in the construction of this ancient city of the Toltecs. The city itself was four miles long and two miles wide. In the center of the city stood the great Pyramid of the Sun. With a base measurement of 720 feet by 760 feet, it rises to a height of 216 feet. Of this temple, Jack West wrote:

           Although the builders knew they were going to cover the whole face of this structure with plaster . . . how beautifully they lined up the rough stones diagonally . . . Their plaster broke off after having been covered with earth for centuries, but the cement which holds all the stones of this temple together is as good as ever. When they dug inside this structure, they found it was built over one of the mounds of the Archaic people.

 

     On one side of the Temple of the Sun stands the Temple of the Moon, and on the other side, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. West says the Indians "tell us the Temple of the Moon was built in honor of the Holy Ghost. The Temple of the Sun to the Father God and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl to the Son-God -- not s-u-n God, but Son-God." The Indians said the twelve small temples or pyramids that surrounded the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl represented the twelve helpers of the Son-God. A cement highway ran along in front of all three temples. [Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, pp. 149-151]

 

Helaman 3:7 Expert in the Working of Cement . . . Houses of Cement:

 

     Hugh Nibley cites Peter Thompkins, who quotes Katherwood about the mortar that was used at Labna, where the beautiful gate is and quite a bit of highway. These ancient highways are way up in Yucatan, not down in South America. Labna has a beautiful ceremonial gate and a highway leading to it. But there is lots of concrete used, and it was analyzed. Katherwood found that it was the very same mortar that was used in Puzaawoelana by the Romans with such effect in building with concrete. But there's a more recent study in the August 1980 National Geographic (page 216), quoting S.J.K. Wilkerson. He says, "In the use of poured concrete, says my engineer colleague David Hyman, El Tajin's builders excelled at a technique remarkably similar to today's." So it wasn't just mortar between bricks or stones; it was poured concrete. When they say it was cement, it was real cement--which comes as a surprise. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 238]

 

Helaman 3:7 The People Who Went Forth Became Exceedingly Expert in the Working of Cement:

 

     Helaman 3:7-11 reports that Nephite dissenters moved from the land of Zarahemla into the land northward and began building with cement. The Book of Mormon dates this significant technological advance to near the year 46 B.C. According to an article by Matthew Wells and John Welch, recent research shows that cement was in fact extensively used in Mesoamerica beginning largely at this time. One of the most notable uses of cement is in the temple complex at Teotihuacan, north of present-day Mexico City. According to David S. Hyman, the structural use of cement appears suddenly in the archaeological record. Its earliest sample "is a fully developed product." The cement floor slabs at this site "were remarkably high in structural quality." Although exposed to the elements for nearly two thousand years, they still "exceed many present day building code requirements."

     After its discovery, cement was used at many sites in the Valley of Mexico and in the Maya regions of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Mesoamerican cement was almost exclusively lime cement. The limestone was purified on a "cylindrical pile of timber, which requires a vast amount of labor to cut and considerable skill to construct in such a way that combustion of the stone and wood is complete and a minimum of impurities remains in the product." The fact that very little carbon is found in this cement attests to the ability of these ancient peoples."

     The presence of expert cement technology in prehispanic Mesoamerica is a remarkable archaeological fact, inviting much further research. It is also a significant factor in locating the Book of Mormon lands of Zarahemla and Desolation, for Zarahemla must be south of areas where cement was used as early as the middle first century B.C. Further enhancing the location of Book of Mormon activity in Mesoamerica is the interesting fact that the use of cement "is a Maya habit, absent from non-Maya examples of corbelled vaulting from the south-eastern United States to southern South America." Until samples of cement are found outside of the areas just described, one may reasonably assume that Book of Mormon lands were not far south of the sites where ancient cement is found. [Matthew G. Wells and John W. Welch, "Concrete Evidence For the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pp. 212-213]

 

Helaman 3:7 The people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement (Illustration): Extensive use of cement begins in Teotihuacan, in the Valley of Mexico, around the time of Christ. This corresponds significantly with the description of cement given in Helaman 3. Photograph courtesy of John W. Welch] [Matthew G. Wells and John W. Welch, "Concrete Evidence For the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, p. 214]

 

Helaman 3:7 Cement (Illustration): The use of cement appears abruptly in Mesoamerican archaeology around the first century A.D., as, for example, in these cement buildings at Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico. [Daniel Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 174]

 

Helaman 3:8 [The Nephites] Went Forth into the Land Northward . . . to an Exceeding Great Distance . . . and Did Spread Insomuch That They Began to Cover the Face of the Whole Earth:

 

     While Mormon's style of writing seems to be annalistic, that is he seems to be listing what happens year by year, Mormon notes in a number a verses chronicling the 46th year how the Nephites departed into the land northward and spread to exceeding great distances, and how they multiplied and spread to cover the face of the whole earth (see Helaman 3:3,4,5,8). For all this to happen and for the knowledge of it to return to the record keeper Helaman in one year would be remarkable. Either Helaman or Mormon seems to be taking some liberties with the annalistic protocol, or the distances involved here were not that great. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:8 From the Sea South to the Sea North, from the Sea West to the Sea East:

 

     According to John Clark, there is a passage in Helaman which refers to the spread of the Nephites into the land northward and the land southward. In Helaman 3:8 we read that the Nephites "did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.

 

     According to John Clark, when taken in context this passage refers to the land northward and the land southward and may have been meant in a metaphorical rather than a literal way:

           Explaining away difficult passages as metaphors goes against one of my guiding assumptions for dealing with the text, but in this case I think it is well justified. North and south sea probably have no more concrete meaning than the phrases 'filling the whole earth' and 'as numerous as the sands of the sea.' Mormon waxes poetic whenever describing the Nephites' peaceful golden age of uninterrupted population growth and expansion. This is understandable given the circumstances under which he wrote, and his knowledge of the certain doom of his people. It is interesting that in a parallel passage describing the same sort of population expansion no north or south sea is mentioned:

                 And thus it did come to pass that the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to build up their waste places, and began to multiply and spread, even until they did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the sea west to the sea east. (Helaman 11:20)

 

           I am convinced that the reference to a north sea and south sea is devoid of any concrete geographical content. All specific references or allusions to Book of Mormon seas are only to the east and west seas. Any geography that tries to accommodate a north and south sea, I think, is doomed to fail.

[John Clark, "A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 1, 1989, pp. 63-65]

 

     Note* In view of Clark's scriptural argument and his assertions, one might be led to believe that the existence of a "sea south" and a "sea north" would be illogical and close the door to further consideration. That is the rub. The fact that a geographical feature (in this case a "sea north" or "sea south") appears metaphorical, or is specifically referred to once (or maybe not at all), does not negate its existence.

     Most Book of Mormon scholars place the overwhelming cultural evidence for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is nearly surrounded by seas: on the north (the Gulf of Mexico), on the east (the Caribbean Sea), on the south and west (the Pacific Ocean). In view of that perspective, and with continued effort, we might eventually find additional clues in the text that would provide us with a glimpse of a model that has more seas than just the east sea and the west sea.

     If we turn to Alma 22:32 we find that "the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward" (emphasis added). Since the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi were both in the land southward, and since they "were nearly surrounded by water," and since the only exception mentioned was a small neck of land on their north, perhaps a "sea south" is implied.

     In the middle of a description of Nephite, Lamanite and former Jaredite lands, we find the words in Alma 22:30 that "it [the land Desolation] being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken" (emphasis added). These bones were apparently those of the former inhabitants of "the land Desolation," who were the Jaredites. An expedition led by Limhi stumbled on to these bones in their travels to find the land of Zarahemla. The expedition traveled apparently northward from the land of Lehi-Nephi, ultimately traveling beyond the land of Zarahemla in "a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts" (Mosiah 8:8, emphasis added) If Limhi's expedition traveled northward beyond the land of Zarahemla in a land among "many waters," perhaps a "sea north" is implied. It is interesting that in 1 Nephi 17:5 we find the following: "And we beheld the sea which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters" (emphasis added).

     Thus, in spite of Clark's statement to the contrary, the reader does at least have allusions, if not specific references, for both a "sea south" and a "sea north."

     Without disagreeing (or agreeing) with Clark's assessment of a metaphor, or delving too deeply into his taking exception to his own "guiding assumptions," all I will say is that despite the fact that his viewpoint is well reasoned, I do very much object to the idea of "shutting the door" to any other geographical interpretations within a Mesoamerican setting by his stating that "Any geography that tries to accommodate [any other viewpoint] is doomed to fail." I believe a better approach is to allow the accumulation of internal and external evidence to make it's own case. In this case there is sufficient internal evidence and external evidence (with respect to a Mesoamerican perspective) which might lead one to accept the idea that the four seas referred to in Helaman 3:8 were more than just metaphorical. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Vol. 2, Appendix B]

     Note* Lowell Bennion has written the following:

              When modern science was born, its findings and methods came into sharp conflict with prevailing views of life and the world based on the Bible. The reason for this conflict was that in prescientific days, devoted souls took the Bible--the word of God--as their guide in all areas of living. References to nature were taken literally. For instance, Isaiah's statement that the Lord would "assemble the outcasts of Israel . . . from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12) was proof that the earth was square or oblong. These readers of holy writ did not realize that its authors were religious men concerned with God and his dealings with humankind, and that references to nature were incidental to their earnest religious declarations. It was inevitable that these religious authors would refer to nature in the everyday language of their countries and culture in a prescientific age. (Lowell L. Bennion, The Book of Mormon: A Guide to Christian Living, pp. 3-4)

 

     It is interesting to note that this phrase in Helaman 3:8 could be practically applied to Mesoamerica. While technically there is not any part of the American continent of appropriate size that is ideally surrounded by four different seas (only an island would qualify), Mesoamerica is an appropriate size for Book of Mormon lands, and it does have seas on four sides of it. It is also interesting to note that the Nephite location was referred to as an "isle of the sea" (2 Nephi 10:20). (See the commentary on Helaman 11:20) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Vol. 2, Appendix B]

 

Helaman 3:8 From the Sea South to the Sea North, from the Sea West to the Sea East:

 

     In Helaman 3:8 it says that the people "did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east." According to Hugh Nibley, in the Codex Ramirez, which is published in Mexico City, we are told how the first Montezuma conquered almost from sea to sea and he ruled to the sea southward, and in another direction to the limits of the great sea, 300 leagues to the south. So he ruled almost from sea to sea. There was the sea on all sides there. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 237]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Helaman 3:3 Many Depart to the Land Northward (46th Year)

           

Helaman 3:8 People Cover the Face of the Earth (46th Year)

 

Helaman 3:10 Timber Was Exceedingly Scarce . . . and They Did Send Forth Much by the Way of Shipping:

 

     According to Helaman 3:9-10, "the people who were in the land northward did dwell in tents, and in houses of cement . . . and it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping." One might wonder if the economics of shipping might limit the proposed distances here. Where did the shipping originate? Was it from somewhere in the land northward to another place in the land northward? Was it from the land Bountiful to the far north? Was it from the general land of Zarahemla? If it was from the general land of Zarahemla, we have to ask, how much of a task would it have been to load and carry timber possibly hundreds of miles (by boat?) and then transport this timber possibly many miles inland? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     According to the Mesoamerican model of David Palmer, if the wood was being shipped to southern Veracruz, it may have come from along the coast of Tabasco, otherwise known as the Chontalpa region. That region served as an important source of building wood just after the Spanish conquest of the area. Sisson reported, "Logwood became an important natural resource, attracting English logwood cutters and pirates." [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 186] [For the view of Joseph Allen, see the commentary on Alma 63:4-5]

 

Helaman 3:12 Many of the People of Ammon . . . Did Also Go Forth into This Land:

 

     Jerry Ainsworth notes that those who were converted by Ammon and his brothers never did fall away. As Mormon records:

           they were called by the Nephites the people of Ammon; therefore they were distinguished by that name ever after." And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end. And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it. Therefore, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take the sword or cimeter to smite them. And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord. (Alma 27:26-30)

           And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time. And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them--yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away. For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren. (Alma 23:5-7)

 

     Mormon also records large migrations into the land northward by the people of Ammon and by groups of Nephites around 46 B.C.:

           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. And they did travel to an exceedingly great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers. Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land. . . . And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement.

           And it came to pass that there were many of the people of Ammon, who were Lamanites by birth, did also go forth into this land. And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them. But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work. But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites. (Helaman 3:3-5, 11-15)

 

 

     According to Ainsworth, such a description of the people of Ammon by Mormon as "a righteous people" who "never did fall away" and that migrated northward to a somewhat unknown distance and location from a wicked and wartorn land of Zarahemla might exclude them from the wicked Nephite nation which was finally destroyed by wicked Lamanites at Cumorah.

 

     Ainsworth notes that according to some scholars, although Teotihuacan, in the state of Mexico, was initially settled around 1500 B.C., it actually grew into a large settlement between 150 and 1 B.C. (Thompkins, Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids, p. 233). Both estimates may be correct. Because Teotihuacan was not far from the heartland of the Jaredites, it is reasonable to expect that the Jaredites settled the area around 1500 B.C. On the other hand, after the Jaredites' destruction that land would have been a prime location for a new settlement.

     Maria Longhena in her book Ancient Mexico states that around 100 B.C. "a true ceremonial center began to take shape and the oldest sacred buildings perhaps date from this time period."55 This appears to be in concert with the time frame in which the people of Ammon were migrating into the land northward.

     Phil Weigand and Patricia Anawalt stated at the 1998 conference on the Pre-Columbian people of West Mexico that there were well-developed trade routes from Teotihuacan to the west coast of Mexico, in the states of Colima, Guadalajara, and Jalisco. These trade routes went from the west coast to the northern border of Mexico to Casas Grandes.

     When the Spaniards arrived on this continent and began exploiting the Indians and destroying their culture, they encountered a group of Indians on the west coast of Mexico that would not fight. These Indians claimed a history of never having fought and stated they would not commence at that point56

     Mexican history records that before A.D. 1600 the Pacific Ocean was called El Mar del Sur--the "Sea South;" around A.D. 1600 it was renamed El Oceano de los Pacificos--the "Ocean of the Peaceful People." The name change was attributed to the belief that no major wars had occurred among the people of the Pacific coast of Mexico.57 [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 126, 129, 131, 133]

     Note* Mormon apparently did not attempt to correlate the wickedness in the land northward with the people of Ammon. He makes no specific mention of them in his description of the rejection of Nephi's preaching in that land at around 23 B.C. (see Helaman 7:1-6). This would have been only about 40 years from the miraculous battles of the sons of Helaman. I doubt they would have ever rejected Nephi. Such a drastic turnabout would not have escaped Mormon's record. For the benefit of the reader:

     Behold, now it came to pass in the sixty and ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of the Nephites, that Nephi, the son of Helaman, returned to the land of Zarahemla from the land northward.

           For he had been forth among the people who were in the land northward, and did preach the word of God unto them, and did prophesy many things unto them;

           And they did reject all his words, insomuch that he could not stay among them, but returned again unto the land of his nativity.

 

     If Nephi could not stay among the wicked people, what does that imply about the people of Ammon. Would they also have migrated farther northward? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Moroni 9:16]

 

Helaman 3:13 There are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them (Illustration): A Classic-era painted plate shows a Maya dignitary (or perhaps a deity) painting a codex with a brush. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 161]

 

Helaman 3:13 There are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them (Illustration): An artist has accurately reconstructed the processes of papermaking, ink preparation, and codex painting among the Maya. The basics were the same throughout much of Mesoamerica. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 163]

 

Helaman 3:14 The Account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and . . . and . . . and . . . and:

 

     There are a total of 18 "ands" in Helaman 3:14. According to Dr. Sami Hanna, an Egyptian especially schooled in the Arabic language, each of these "ands" is necessary; the omission of any of them totally disallows meaning to the verse. Because no commas were used in Semitic writing, each of these function words was necessary. [Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 34]

 

Helaman 3:14 Their Shipping and Their Building of Ships:

 

     According to Bruce Sutton, it is easy to conceive of a connection between the people in the Americas and the Polynesian people. The Book of Mormon not only tells of Hagoth building ships (Alma 63:4-9), but also reveals that "Corianton had gone forth to the land northward in a ship" (Alma 63:10). Helaman also states, "a hundredth part of the proceedings of the people [who went forth into the land northward], yea, the account of . . . their shipping and their building of ships . . . cannot be contained in this work" (Helaman 3:14).

     A tradition teaches that Hotu Matua and Machaa traveled to Rapa Nui with 300 of their people in two ships. Polynesians usually refer to oceanic craft as canoes. Certainly, these ships needed to be, as the Book of Mormon says, "exceeding large ships," for Hotu Matua and Machaa had "exceeding large ships" (Thor Heyerdahl, American Indians in the Pacific, London, Geo. Allen & Unwin, Ltd. 1952, pp. 211-214). If Hagoth could build large ships, it is reasonable to assume that other groups of the Nephite nation could also have built large seafaring ships using as a pattern the ship built by Nephi, as commanded by the Lord some 350 years earlier (see 1 Nephi 17:1-55; 18:1-25). Certain examples of stone-age stone-age drawings have also been found in caves, and on cliffs, in the South Island of New Zealand. These paintings and petroglyphs are ancient. It is interesting to note that in one of the caves in the South Island of New Zealand, there is a drawing of a ship with three masts. In another section of this same cave, there is another painting of a three-masted ship. Some authorities feel they were made by the earliest Polynesian inhabitants of the island. (Stevenson, G. B. Maori and Pakeha in North Otago, Wellington, A.H. & A. W. Reed, 1947.)

     When Polynesian explorers discovered and settled new lands, it was customary for them to have a priest (tohunga) on board their vessels. This was important for a couple of reasons: the priest was responsible for implementing and performing the religious rites and ceremonies of his people, and he also held the keys to the genealogies of the tribe. It is of great significance that the royal lineage be preserved to ensure the right of the tribe to officiate in its religious performances and duties. The tohunga of the tribe was the law giver. This is very interesting, as the Nephite nation was ruled in exactly the same way, with Corianton's father being the first Chief Judge and religious head of state.

     Thor Heyerdahl, in his treatise titled American Indians in the Pacific, devotes several pages to the subject of astronomy and the calendar system. He shows that the calendar year in nearly all Polynesian Islands, and among most of the Native American tribes of North, Central and South America, and its beginning with the rising of the Matariki stars (the Pleiades). [Bruce S. Sutton, Lehi, Father of Polynesia: Polynesians Are Nephites, pp. 61-63, 78, 80 ] [See the commentary on Alma 63:5, 63:8]

 

Helaman 3:15 There Are Many Books and Many Records of Every Kind:

 

     According to Glenn Scott, ancient Americans wrote in codices (books) of paper made from the pulp and fiber of the maguey plant, the bark of the fig tree, or upon deer skin. Each was coated with lime and folded accordion fashion. Being organic material, they would, of course, deteriorate if not carefully preserved. However, deterioration was not as serious a problem as was the deliberate burning of entire native libraries by the Spanish priests who followed the conquistadors in the sixteenth century. Very few of those native books escaped, and those few that did are now in European museums. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, pp. 110, 112]

 

Helaman 3:15 There are many books and many records of every kind: Scribes were Highly Regarded in Ancient America. (1) The sculpture illustrated here represents the patron of Maya scribes. It was found at Copan, Honduras. Note he is holding a brush and a conch shell paint pot. (2) Drawing of the Tablet of the Scribe from Palenque. (3) A typical PreColumbian codex (book) usually made from pounded bark, the pulp of the maguey plant, or deerskin. The example illustrated here is the Codex Vaticanus, one of the few which have survived. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 111]

 

Helaman 3:15 And They [the Many Records] Have Been Kept Chiefly by the Nephites:

 

     Monte Nyman notes that in commenting upon his recording only a hundredth part of what he had available to him, Mormon wrote that there were many other particular and very large records of every kind that had "been kept chiefly by the Nephites" (Helaman 3:13-15). The word chiefly indicates that the Lamanites also kept some records and implies that they were known to Mormon at the time he abridged the Nephite records. It is not stated how he knew of them or whether they were in his possession and had "been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites" (Helaman 3:16). [Monte S. Nyman, "Other Ancient American Records Yet to Come Forth," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, p. 60]

 

Helaman 3:15 But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites (Illustration): The Codex Borgia. This startlingly vivid codex is an undisputed example of pre-Columbian American hieroglyphic writing and one of only sixteen to survive contact with western civilization. It is named the Codex Borgia for the famous Italian family who purchased it for their collection and later gave it to the Catholic church. Thought to have been produced in Western Oaxaca in southern Mexico in the fourteenth century, it consists of thirty-nine skin leaves, brilliantly painted on both sides, and screenfolded into a book containing a 260-day ritual calendar used in religious ceremonies. The leaves measure approximately ten inches square. (Vatican Library, Rome.) These codices have not been dated precisely, but recent archaeological excavations have uncovered three more. One, dating from about A.D. 450, was discovered in 1970 by the BYU-New World Archaeological Foundation at Mirador, Chiapas, in Mexico. It was too badly decayed to be unfolded and therefore cannot be deciphered. Finds which also appear to be remains of ancient codices dating perhaps as early as the first century B.C. have been reported from excavations at Altun Ha in Belize and Cerro de las Mesas in Veracruz, both in Mexico. [Paul Cheesman, "Ancient Writing on Metal Plates," The Ensign, October 1979, p. 46]

  

Helaman 3:15 But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites (Illustration): A Facsimile of the Codex Borgia. A facsimile of the codex Borgia, which was discovered in central Mexico and reports dynastic events and conquests going back as early as A.D. 700. It is a folded deer-skin "book" identical in form to the codices of the Maya, which were written on paper made from the pounded bark of wild fig trees, which was then covered with lime plaster and painted in multicolors with both figures and hieroglyphs. [John L. Sorenson, "Digging into the Book of Mormon," The Ensign, October 1984, pp. 18-19]

 

Helaman 3:15 There are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites (Illustration): The transmission of sophisticated elements of cultural knowledge through the generations in Mesoamerica depended on written records. This fine Jaina-style figurine from around A.D. 700 underlines how the control of books conferred power on the lowland Maya elite, one of whom is shown here, and on the elite in other Mesoamerican societies. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 159]

 

Helaman 3:16 Lamanites:

 

     According to Daniel Ludlow, in the days of Helaman, the word Lamanites was being used to refer to the wicked people who had joined with the blood descendants of Laman and his early followers in fighting against the Nephites. Thus they were "no more called Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites" (Helaman 3:16). [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 239-240]

     Note* Thus as the story proceeds, the reader should be aware, for example, that some of the "Lamanites" converted by Nephi and Lehi in the prison were really apostate Nephites. As proof of this we find that one of these "Lamanites" named Aminadab said that they had had the gospel preached unto them by "Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom" (Helaman 5:41). So far as the Book of Mormon relates, the only missionary venture engaged in by these three men together was to the apostate Zoramites who were then living in the land of Antionum (Alma 31:3-6). [See the commentary on Helaman 5:41]

 

Helaman 3:21 They Began to Grow up unto the Lord:

 

     Something happens in Mormon's annalistic style of writing that seems odd. While in the process of listing what happens seemingly year by year, Mormon notes that in the forty and eighth year that Helaman "had two sons" (Lehi and Nephi), and then he mentions that "they began to grow up" (Helaman 3:21). One gets the image of two young children, yet just 16 verses and 5 years later (in the fifty and third year) Mormon states that "Helaman died, and his eldest son Nephi began to reign in his stead." So one has to wonder why Mormon chose to mention Helaman having two sons and their "growing up" just 5 years previous to this, since in order to succeed Helaman and fill the judgment-seat, Nephi would have had to of been somewhat mature.

     The resolution to this dilemma might be found in the phrase "they began to grow up unto the Lord." There is an implication of a covenant process here. Mormon had just barely explained in verse 20 that Helaman,

           did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land.

 

     These words imply a process of covenant obedience, which Mormon relates to "grow[ing] up unto the Lord." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:23 Secret Combinations-Established in the More Settled Parts of the Land:      

 

     According to Helaman 3:23, the secret combinations had been established by Gadianton the robber "in the more settled parts of the land." We might then assume that these secret combinations worked well in populated areas. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:23 There Was Continual Peace Established in the Land, All Save It Were the Secret Combinations:

 

     Critics of the Book of Mormon have long argued that, since the book uses the term "secret combinations" (Helaman 3:23) and since that term was indeed used in New York in the 1820's to refer to a supposed conspiracy among the Freemasons, the Gadianton robbers must simply represent a memory of the Masons (presumably worked into the Book of Mormon by an anti-Masonic Joseph Smith). Such an argument is illogical and flawed in many ways, and it was eventually dropped by Alexander Campbell, its original proponent.

     The use of the term combination to mean "conspiracy" or "monopoly" was not unusual at the time of Joseph, as Noah Webster's 1828 American dictionary makes clear. The word also occurs in George Washington's "Proclamation on the Whiskey Rebellion" (1794) and in his "Farewell Address" (1796) . . . and can easily be found elsewhere. But what of the phrase "secret combination"? On June 25, 1831, Frederick Robinson, a journalist and Massachusetts legislator, wrote to Rufus Choate attacking the bar association as a "secret brotherhood." This "secret society," he says, is attempting to seize control of the American judicial system and to establish itself as a kind of aristocracy. "

     Evidently, the terms combination and secret combination were not special code words in Joseph Smith's day referring solely to the Masons. They were normal words for conspiracies of all kinds in Joseph's day. [David R. Benard, John W. Welch, and Daniel C. Peterson, "Secret Combinations," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pp. 227-229]

 

Helaman 3:30 To Sit Down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob:

 

     In Helaman 3:29-30 Mormon writes the following:

           Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked--and land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

 

     Hugh Nibley comments on the phrase "to sit down"--it uses that a number of times in the Book of Mormon. Remember, you're invited to go into the tent and sit down--have place with us. What he's talking about is the old Mosaic law, which was abolished after Lehi left Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed. It was never the same after that. These people were familiar with the old custom--that going in and sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is very important. That's the yeshiva, which is the atonement. Yeshiva means "sitting down." This is a very important part of the atonement, talking about the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. This is the way it's given in Deuteronomy. The Lord parts the veil of the tent, which is the kippur, the covering, and he says he's ready now to converse with Moses. Moses is supposed to come in. After they have conversed and [he has] passed the test, then he comes in and sits down. But the sitting down is very important. That's the yeshiva, and yashav. Yashav means to settle down in a place permanently, and yeshiva means to take a seat by somebody.

     The word atonement is only found once in the New Testament [Romans 5:11]. It's found a number of times in the Old Testament. And it's not found at all in the Revised Standard Version. They don't use atonement at all. The word doesn't even appear in the New Testament. They use instead reconciliation, keeping it quite literal from reconcilio. Reconciliation means "to return and sit down beside somebody again." And, of course the yeshiva goes along with the teshuva. Yashuv means "to return." So you have yeshiva and teshuva. You return and then you sit down. You sit down by the side of the Lord, and you sit down again because you've been there before. It's reconciliation. It is redemption. It's the redeeming. This means buying back something that he had before. We weren't just created out of nothing, you see. We are returning to his presence. We've been there before and the whole thing is a sense of returning to his presence. That's what reconciliation, is, which is the equivalent of atonement, and you can see where that comes from. You know this, of course. This is at-one. It is not a Latin word. It's not a Greek or Hebrew word. Atonement is a good old English word, a theological word. At-one-ment, being at-one with the family, to go out no more, as [Mormon] says, "with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." . . .

     This is a return to what? Separated from what? It isn't a return to Eden, you see; It's a return to the tent. You have the tent of covenant, and that's what the kippur is. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 214]

 

Helaman 3:31 All the Land Which Was Possessed by the Nephites:

 

     In Helaman 3:31 we find that in the forty-ninth year, "there was continual rejoicing in the land of Zarahemla, and in all the regions round about, even in all the land which was possessed by the Nephites." This phrase seems to imply that the Nephites "possessed" much more area than the land of Zarahemla. Does the word "possessed" mean politically controlled? or overwhelmingly occupied? Did the Nephites politically control or overwhelmingly occupy the land northward? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Helaman 3:36 Great Pride . . . Because of Their Exceeding Great Riches and Their Prosperity:

 

     According to Allen Christensen, as outlined in the books of Helaman and 3 Nephi, the problem was not that the Nephites engaged in long-distance trade relationships, but that they used the profits to create a new elite class which placed itself above those with less wealth and sought to deprive them of their liberty (Helaman 3:36; 6:17,39; 3 Nephi 6:11-14)

     Communities which participate in international trade tend to build comparatively large, centralized city-states with a bureaucracy of wealthy and powerful merchants and officials. Those who oversee these lucrative trade activities rapidly form a new elite class, and this leads to a gap in wealth between those who participate in the trade of expensive items and those who do not (Sanders and Price 131). [Allen J. Christenson, "Nephite Trade Networks and the Dangers of a Class Society," in The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According to Thy Word, pp. 223-231]

 

Helaman 3:36 The Fifty and Second Year:

 

     According to Dr. Sami Hanna, the numbering system throughout the Book of Mormon is clearly Semitic. As illustrated in Helaman 3:36, there is a connective word "and" between each digit: "And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace."

     If Joseph had been merely writing his own book, it would have been natural and expected for him to write "fifty-second year." But again, he was only translating from the hieroglyphics placed before him. [Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 34]

 

Helaman 3:37 Helaman died, and his eldest son Nephi began to reign in his stead (Nephite Chief Priests) [Illustration]: Nephite Chief Priests. Adapted from [John W. Welch and Morgan A. Ashton, "Charting the Book of Mormon," Packet 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1997]

 

Helaman 3:37 Helaman died, and his eldest son Nephi . . . did walk in the ways of his father (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]