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Ether 9


A Confirming Covenant Witness

      Mormon 8 -- Moroni



Ether 9:3 Omer . . . Came over and Passed by the Hill Shim, and Came over by the Place Where the Nephites Were Destroyed:


     Moroni writes that,

           Omer . . . departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and cam over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent. (Ether 9:3)


     Because of the terms and places that are mentioned here, it might be a good time to review some geographical relationships not only between the hill Shim and the hill Cumorah, but between those locations and other geographical landmarks.

     1. The terms "came" and "over": What does it mean when it says that Omer "came over" by the hill Shim, and from there "came over" by to the place where the Nephites were destroyed (the hill Cumorah), and from there "came to a place called Ablom by the seashore"? If we assume that the term "came" implies the location of the writer, then Moroni might have been writing from a location near "the seashore" and not too far from "the place where the Nephites were destroyed." This leads to the next question: Does "over" imply elevation? Omer was apparently coming from the land of Moron. If the land of Moron was "up" (Ether 7:5), and if the "place where the Nephites were destroyed" was near "the seashore," then perhaps the term "over" is appropriate (although one might wonder why the term "down" is not used).

     2. The last Jaredite Battles: In fleeing "southward" from the waters of Ripliancum, the armies of Shiz came to "a place which was called Ogath" (Ether 15:10) while the armies of Coriantumr pitched their tents by the hill Ramah, "and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred." (Ether 15:11). Mormon hid the records up in the hill Cumorah (see Mormon 6:6). No mention is made of the Jaredite armies passing by the hill Shim, which Omer did in his flight. The text says that after passing by the hill of Shim, Omer "came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed (Cumorah), and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore" (Ether 9:3). If the armies of Shiz and Coriantumr came from the north (they were fleeing "southward"), and if they were apparently near an "eastern" seashore, then Omer's path would probably have come from the west or from the south. Thus one might conclude that from the hill Ramah/Cumorah, one would travel either west or south to reach the hill Shim.

     However, assuming this is true, one would still have to correlate this geography with the land of Heth because there is also no mention of the hill Shim or the hill Cumorah when Nimrah flees the land of Heth and comes over and dwells with Omer at Ablom. (Ether 9:9)

     3. Other Jaredite References: In the context of the Jaredite account to this point, all flights to other lands have been of a distance such that the rebel could "draw away" people in the original land of Moron through "cunning words" (see Ether 7:4; Ether 8:2). Thus, the hill Shim and the hill Ramah/Cumorah might not be an extended distance apart.

     4. Ammaron and Mormon: Ammaron directed a ten year old Mormon to a hill Shim in the land Antum where the Nephite records were deposited (Mormon 1:2-3). At age eleven, Mormon went "into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla," which implies that Mormon and Ammaron were earlier in the land northward. If, during the final Nephite battles, the Nephites were driven northward, and if it was necessary to transfer the records from the hill Shim to the hill Cumorah, then we might assume that the hill Shim was closer to the land southward than the hill Cumorah, otherwise, there would have been no need to transfer the records.

     5. The Final Nephite Battles (Chronology): A total of five to six years passed from the time Mormon went to the hill Shim to retrieve the records (375 A.S.), and when Mormon wrote to the Lamanite king about the possibility of the Nephites gathering at the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:2). At the time Mormon retrieved the records from the hill Shim, the Nephite-Lamanite wars of extinction had started in Zarahemla and had been going on for 54 years. The final 26 of those years can definitely be located by the narrow pass. Once again, if the Nephites didn't move much beyond the narrow pass in 26 years, how far were they going to move in the 6 years from the hill Shim to the hill Cumorah (Ramah)? Thus, the hill Shim and the hill Cumorah were probably not that far from the narrow pass.

     The last land that Mormon makes mention of in the Nephite retreat before the hill Shim is the land of Desolation (Mormon 4:2) If the hill Shim is in or near the land of Desolation; and the land of Desolation is near the land Bountiful (Alma 22:31) and also near the small neck of land (Alma 22:32) and also near the narrow pass (Mormon 3:5) and also near where the Jaredites were destroyed (Ramah-Cumorah)(Alma 22:30), then the hill Shim and the hill Cumorah were probably not far from the narrow pass or small neck of land which was between the land northward and the land southward, and which was between the land of Desolation and the land Bountiful. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 9:3 The Hill Shim:


     According to Warren and Palmer, the "hill Shim" (Ether 9:3) may have been "Corn Hill" in the Tuxtla mountains of Veracruz, Mexico. This hill Shim identification is based on linguistic evidence from Mayan languages, using their word for corn or maize. It is "sim" (transliterated "Shim"). There is no hill called Shim today in Southern Veracruz. However, there is a mountain with the same meaning. In Aztec language, "Cintepec" means "corn hill" (Warren, 1983). This hill Cintepec is located near Lake Catemaco in the Tuxtla mountains (see illustration). It is also close to the coastal plain, so that a trip from this hill to the Cerro Vigia (the proposed place where the Nephites were destroyed) would probably have been carried on the plains, skirting the mountains themselves. Thus, a journey from Laguna de los Cerros (the proposed land of Nehor) to Cintepec (the proposed hill Shim), to the Cerro Vigia (the proposed hill Cumorah), and finally to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico (the proposed location of Ablom) would make sense. [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, p. 7-3, unpublished]


Ether 9:3 The hill Shim (Illustration): Hill Cintepec [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, p. 7-2, unpublished]


Ether 9:3 [Omer] Came [from the hill Cumorah] to a Place Which Was Called Ablom, by the Seashore:


     With the phrase (Omer) "came" (from the hill Cumorah) to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore" (Ether 9:3), we get a possible implication that there was a sea "eastward" from the hill Cumorah and from the hill Shim. How far eastward we are not told. What the name of the sea was we are not told.


Ether 9:3 Omer came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed (Illustration): The two peaks of the Hill shim (right) and the Hill Ramah/Cumorah (left) on site in Veracruz, Mexico. Photographer: Ian Miller in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. I, Issue IV, 1998, p. 13]


Ether 9:3 Ablom:


     According to Warren and Palmer, archaeological ruins in the area of Roca Partida, situated at the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla mountains in Veracruz, Mexico, present the most logical spot to propose for the location of "Ablom" (Ether 9:3). Although various sites were observed and photographed along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the sites have not been seriously explored because they are in an extremely remote area. [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, p. 7-4, unpublished]


Ether 9:3 Ablom:


     On the suggestion of John L. Sorenson, a ten-day expedition was conducted between December 27, 1989 and January 6, 1990 to the Gulf of Mexico side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. The principal objective of this trip was to find a plausible site for the Book of Mormon city first called "Bountiful" (Alma 52:17). Additionally, plausible sites were investigated for the Jaredite place called Ablom (Ether 9:3). At the time, John Sorenson felt that an informed amateur could possibly accomplish more than a professional archaeologist because of the laws regarding the ancient mounds, so he arranged funding and asked Dr. David A. Palmer to head the expedition. He was assisted by Dr. Robert E. Fisher who did videotaping, and Elder Octaviano Tenorio, a regional representative of the LDS Church, as he was born and raised in a community called Tilapan, Veracruz, about ten miles from the Cerro Vigia (a proposed location for the hill Cumorah / hill Ramah).

     A number of flights were made over the Isthmus area near the Gulf Coast. During the flight around the hill Vigia and toward the coast (see illustrated map below) the group saw not one, but three ancient sites on the Gulf Coast near Roca Partida. Those sites have potential for great antiquity as a place for the people of Omer (Ether 9:3) and Nimrah (Ether 9:9). They date to roughly 2400-2500 B.C. Therefore, the group wanted to drive over to the coast to investigate. The Veracruz mission president, Leonardo Ramirez Rivas offered a ride in his Suburban. The road was pathetic, however, and by the time they arrived at the coastal village called "Salinas," they were too exhausted to proceed to Roca Partida. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher and John L. Sorenson]


Ether 9:3 Ablom (Illustration): Map of the route of the flight around the hill Vigia and over Roca Partida. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher and John L. Sorenson]


Ether 9:3 Ablom (Illustration): Video: Second Flyover of Cerro Vigia and Roca Partida. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher]


Ether 9:3 Ablom (Illustration): Photo: Ruins at the Gulf Coast. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher]


Ether 9:4 Jared[2] Was Anointed King over the People:


     Ether 9:4 tells us that "Jared[2] was anointed king over the people," but it does not tell us from what location Jared2 ruled. Did Jared2 set his throne in the land of Heth or in the land of Moron?


Geographical Theory Map: Ether 9:5 - 9:26 Omer Restored to Power (Chronology):


Ether 9:5 Akish . . . Sought the Life of His Father-in-Law:


     When Jared2 was anointed king over the people, he gave unto Akish his daughter to wife. But Akish was apparently not content, for he, sought the life of his father-in-law; and he applied unto those whom he had sworn by the oath of the ancients, and they obtained the head of his father-in-law, as he sat upon his throne . . . and Akish reigned in his stead. And it came to pass that Akish began to be jealous of his son, therefore he shut him up in prison, and kept him upon little or no food until he had suffered death.

           And now the brother of him that suffered death, (and his name was Nimrah) was angry with his father because of that which his father had done unto his brother . . . and he fled out of the land, and came over and dwelt with Omer.

           And it came to pass that Akish begat other sons, and they won the hearts of the people . . .wherefore, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them.

           And there began to be a war between the sons of Akish and Akish, which lasted for the space of many years, yea, unto the destruction of nearly all the people of the kingdom, yea, even all, save it were thirty souls, and they who fled with the house of Omer. (Ether 9:5-12)


     According to Warren and Palmer, there is an external source which may be relevant to the name Akish and the development of secret combinations in the Jaredite culture. It is found in a Guatemalan (Quiche-Maya) account known as the Popol Vuh. It mentions a person, Cakix (pronounced Caw Kish), and his two sons. Their names were Cipacna and Cabracan. They exalted themselves among the sun, planets, and stars, and became desirous of great riches, power and conquest. They were so abusive that the gods decided they must be destroyed. The account describes the birth of the hero twins who would carry out the task of the gods, destruction of the father and his two malevolent sons.

     Akish of the Book of Ether, could conceivably be Cakix (Caw Kish) of the Popol Vuh account. He beheaded his father to get the throne, and then starved to death one of his sons. Other sons eventually warred with him and they were killed. It is not clear who the hero twins may have been. Many illustrations can be given from codices and Late Classic Maya polychrome vessels which have scenes dealing with the hero twins and the downfall of Cakix and his two sons. [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, 7-11, unpublished]


Ether 9:5 Akish (Illustration): The Hero Twins [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, 7-11, unpublished]


Ether 9:6 Jared Was Murdered upon His Throne and Akish Reigned in His Stead:


     According to Ether 9:6, Akish "reigned in [Jared's] stead, but does that mean that Akish set his throne in the land of Heth or in the land of Moron?


Ether 9:6 Akish reigned in his stead (Illustration): A Projected Chronology of Jaredite History. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust: New Light on an Ancient American Record, p. 46]


Ether 9:9 Nimrah . . . Came over and Dwelt with Omer [at Ablom]:


      From either the land of Moron or the land of Heth, Nimrah "came over" to Ablom. This phrase is consistent with the commentary on Ether 9:3. From where Nimrah was (either Moron or Heth) the total distance to Ablom must not have been too great, because Nimrah apparently had no trouble locating Omer. Additionally, when the opportunity arose, Omer was restored to the "land of his inheritance," which was probably the land of Moron (Ether 7:20,21,22, 8:1). Because of this we might assume that there was no great distance between the land of Moron and Ablom. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 9:11 The Sons of Akish Did Offer Them Money, by Which Means They Drew Away the More Part of the People:


     According to Hugh Nibley, not only was the Jaredite practice of seeking to "draw away" to one's own side the followers of a rival in the best Asiatic tradition, but the method of doing it was likewise in the best accepted tradition. Thus Akish bound his followers around the nucleus of his of his family by lavish gifts, for "the people of Akish were desirous for gain, even as Akish was desirous for power; where, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them" (Ether 9:11)

     In the sixth century, Menander--a Roman ambassador to the court of the Grand Khan--beheld five hundred wagons full of gold, silver, and silken garments, that accompanied the monarch on his wanderings, for "the ancient law of the Khans" was that none enters the presence of the ruler empty-handed nor departs hence unrewarded. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 199-200]


Ether 9:12 A War . . . unto the Destruction of Nearly All . . . Save It Were Thirty Souls:


     Just before Omer was restored to the land of his inheritance, we are told that "all, save it were thirty souls" (Ether 9:12) were destroyed in the battle between Akish and his sons. In his "old age" Omer had a son named Emer and "he anointed Emer to be king to reign in his stead. The people began to prosper under Emer such that after "sixty and two years they had become exceeding strong, insomuch that they became exceeding rich. Later, we are told that by the reign of Emer's son, Coriantum, the Jaredites were able to "build many mighty cities" (Ether 9:23). Omer had initially fled with "his sons and his daughters, and all his household save it were Jared and his family" (Ether 9:3). Would that have been enough people to "build many mighty cities" within two generations? Or were the 30 survivors mentioned here just representatives of royalty? Hugh Nibley cautions us that we should not equate destruction among the Jaredites with annihilation. We also might be careful to not underestimate the number of years the Jaredite kings reigned. We are told that Coriantum "lived until he was an hundred and forty and two years old" (Ether 9:24). We are not told how long Emer or Omer lived. From the destruction to the "many mighty cities" could have taken as many as 300 years. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the Commentary on Ether 13:21 and 15:29]


Ether 9.12 9.26 (Illustration) People spread again over all the Land


Ether 9:15-35 (Cycle of Great Prosperity and Tragic Wickedness):


     Ether 9:15-35 shows a pattern repeated many times in the Book of Mormon:

     1. During the righteous reigns of Emer and Coriantum the people prospered exceedingly (see vv. 15-25)

     2. Under the reign of Heth, the people began to join together in secret combinations, and they turned to wickedness (see vv. 26-27)

     3. The Lord sent prophets to warn the people of their terrible circumstances (see v. 28).

     4. The people of Heth rejected the prophets (see v. 29)

     5. The judgments of God fell upon the people (see vv. 30-33).

     6. The people humbled themselves and repented and the Lord blessed them again with prosperity (see vv. 34-35).


     While the fall from prosperity to wickedness is lamentable, what is also worthy of note here is that the Jaredites were able to be wealthy and remain righteous for more than 225 years (see vv. 15-25). [CES, Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 140]


Ether 9:17 Having All Manner of . . . Grain:


     According to Warren and Palmer, if we assume a Mesoamerican setting, then with the phrase "all manner of . . . grain" (Ether 9:17), we might postulate that Maize cultivation may have made its great leap forward during the reign of king Emer, son of king Omer. This accomplishment may have been due to advances in plant breeding as well as the development of irrigation techniques (Flannery, Kirby, Kirby, and Williams; 1967:445) [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, p. 7-9, unpublished]


Ether 9:17 Having All Manner . . . of Silks, and of Fine Linen:


     According to Verneil Simmons, linen was not always made from flax. Herodotus, in the fifth century B.C., reports the Thracians making hempen garments which could not be told from true linen except by the most expert (Book 4:74). The native agave plant, commonly called the maguey, is a source of hemp-like fibers from which many textiles are manufactured today in Mexico. A few scraps of agave-fiber cloth have been found in Mexican tomb excavation. Jaredite women were not without the means of making "fine twined linen" (Ether 9:17).

     "Silk" (Ether 9:17) has been produced in the New World. The quality is not up to Chinese standards and it cannot compete on the cost level, but the "raw material" is available. The Indians of Guatemala are still familiar with the various sources of fibers that produce silklike materials. (See Indian Crafts of Guatemala and El Salvador by Lilly de Jongh Osborne, pp. 31-32). Wallrath reported that wild silk used to be gathered by Zapotec women and woven into fabrics which sold with high profits. (See Excavations in the Tehuantepec Region of Mexico, Vol 57, Part 2, May 1967. p. 12) Both in the United States and in Mexico there are native silkworm moths -- butterflies to most people. The tropical variety are of the Saturnidae family.

     (Note* Neither linen nor silk was used in ancient Peru, but rather cotton, and wool from the alpacas and llamas) [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 46, 273]


Ether 9:17 Having all manner . . . of silks, and of fine linen (Illustration): Agave fibers drying, for use in textiles -- Northern Mexico; photo by Wayne E. Simmons. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 122]


Ether 9:17 Silks:


     According to Glenn Scott, it is not surprising that no trace of silk has been found in Mesoamerica for silk oxidizes completely in damp climates. However, it is said that silk was produced in China as early as 3000 B.C., 110 and this knowledge may have been brought to the New World by the Jaredites.

     Possibilities from the land of promise include a silk-like fabric known at the time of the Conquest, which was spun from filaments of the cocoon of native Saturniidae moths.111 Another possibility is a native fabric which Fr. Diego de Landa described as "silk," spun from fibers of the Ceiba tree.112 [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 51]


Ether 9:17 Having All Manner . . . of Gold:


     Under the reign of Emer, the Jaredites became rich, "having all manner of . . . gold" (Ether 9:17). According to Verneil Simmons, at 2700 B.C., the Sumerian craftsmen could do nearly all that can be done by a modern goldsmith, and could do it nearly as well. Whether it was sheet metal for vase or bowl, repousse, chasing, inlay, riveting, or soldering, he was master of them all. He could cast gold or bronze in sectional or closed molds or use the cire perdue (lost wax) process, a most sophisticated technique. The technique of "granulation" in which minute beads or grains of gold are arranged to form a pattern and then soldered to a solid back, was used on objects found in the royal cemetery. The secret of this process was eventually lost and only rediscovered in the 1930s! (See Leonard Woolley, the Beginnings of Civilization, p. 287) [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 44]


Ether 9:17 Having All Manner . . . of Precious Things:


     According to Glenn Scott, the "precious things" referred to in Ether 9:17 could refer to jade, for it was as precious in Mesoamerica as it was in China. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 51]

     According to Verneil Simmons, as for the expert craft skills that were known to the artisans of Sumer, the apparent homeland of the Jaredites in the Old World, there are two special crafts related to the artifacts that are today found in Mexico. The Sumerian artists made obsidian pots that were ground down to the thinness of blown glass, which must have involved immense time and labor. One of Mexico's ancient art treasures is a black obsidian monkey pot, ground down to unbelievable thinness. In addition, conch shells from the Persian Gulf were worked into ornaments in ancient Sumer. Shells from the Caribbean Gulf made into ornaments are found in all the early cultures of Mexico. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 46]


Ether 9:17 Having all manner . . . of precious things (Illustration): [The Obsidian Monkey Pot]


Ether 9:17 Having all manner . . . of precious things (Illustration): Pottery lasts forever, and in southern Mexico, early culture levels contain a black tripod pottery vessel with legs like full, pendant breasts very similar to that of the Yang Shao civilization in China, a territory that would have been known in the Jaredite travels. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 47]


Ether 9:18-19 And of . . . and of . . . (Polysyndeton):


     According to Donald Parry, parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry. (p. i)

     Apparently, the prophets and writers of the scriptures employed the repetition of alternating parallel lines for the purpose of reinforcing their teachings and doctrines. (p. x)

Polysyndeton is a Greek word used to describe the repetition of the conjunction "and," found at the beginning of successive phrases or sentences. This figure binds a passage or verse together into a central thought or unified idea. A good example of Polysyndeton is found in Ether 9:18-19:

     And also all manner of cattle, of oxen,

     and cows,

     and of sheep,

     and of swine,

     and of goats,

     and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.

     And they also had horses,

     and asses

     and there were elephants

     and cureloms

     and cumoms;

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., p. 467

Note* Richardson, Richardson and Bentley note that other uses of polysyndeton in the Book of Mormon are found in 1 Nephi 2:4; 49; 2 Nephi 33:9; Enos 1:21; Alma 1:29; 7:27; 8:21-23; 9:21; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 4:7; 11:19-20; 17:13-25; 4 Nephi 1:5-7; and Mormon 8:37. [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 262.


Ether 9:18 All Manner of Cattle:


     According to Glenn Scott, as to the "cattle" referred to in Ether 9:18, not only were bison a known food of earlier natives, but in 1959, Richard Shutler found at Falcon Hill, Nevada, bones of a Euceratherium (shrub ox) together with basketry, indicating slaughter by man. The bones were below items of the Lovelock culture dating to 2000-500 B.C. Similar bones were found in New Mexico dating to 5470 B.C. +/- 370 years.113 [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 51]


Ether 9:18 Swine:


     According to John Sorenson, it is interesting that "swine" and "sow" are mentioned in the Nephite portion of the Book of Mormon with a tone of disgust (3 Nephi 7:8; 14:6). That's what we would expect among people who even nominally followed the constraints of the law of Moses on eating pork. But the non-Israelite Jaredites reveal no sensitivity about using "swine" as food (Ether 9:18). The peccary or wild pig was abundantly present throughout most of Mesoamerica, being valued both for its flesh and because it kills snakes in the wild. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 297]


Ether 9:19 And They Also Had Horses and Asses:


     A FARMS report notes that the Book of Mormon mentions horses, yet these animals seem not to have been known to native Americans who greeted the Spaniards upon their arrival in the New World in the sixteenth century. Moreover, archaeological evidence for the presence of the horse in the pre-Columbian Americas is presently scant and inconclusive. How can this be explained? Careful consideration of this question begins with an examination of what the Book of Mormon says and does not say about horses.

     Horses are mentioned only once in the land northward during the Jaredite period--that is, during the prosperous reign of King Emer around 2500 B.C. and before the great drought sometime in the third millennium B.C. (see Ether 9:19, 30-35). Since horses are not mentioned again in the Jaredite record, it is possible that they became extinct in the region north of the narrow neck of land following that time.

     However, small herds of animals in a limited region sometimes leave no archaeological remains. Even if horses had been abundantly used and had been a vital element in the culture of Book of Mormon people (a claim never made by Book of Mormon writers), one cannot assume that evidence for this would be plentiful or obvious from the current archaeological record.

     "It is probable," writes Jacques Soustelle, an authority on the Olmec, "that the Olmecs kept dogs and turkeys, animals domesticated in very early times on the American continent, but the destruction of any sort of bone remains, both human and animal, by the dampness and the acidity of the soil keeps us from being certain of this."114 We also know that the Norsemen probably introduced horses, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs into Eastern North America during the eleventh century A.D., yet these animals did not spread throughout the continent, or at least they have left no archaeological remains.115 The horse was the basis of the wealth and military power of the Huns of central Asia (fourth and fifth centuries A.D.). Nonetheless, according to S. Bokonyi, a leading authority on the zoological record for central Asia, "We know very little of the Huns' horses. It is interesting that not a single usable horse bone has been found in the territory of the whole empire of the Huns. This is all the more deplorable as contemporary sources mention these horses with high appreciation."116 [FARMS Research Report, "Horses in the Book of Mormon,"] [See the commentary on Alma 18:9]


Ether 9:19 And They Also Had Horses and Asses:


     Glen W. Chapman notes that the Book of Mormon has received severe criticism because of statements regarding the horse. The Smithsonian in its "statement Regarding the Book of Mormon" prepared by the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC SIL-76, Summer 1982 reports: "American Indians had no . . . horses, donkeys, camels before 1492 (Camels and horses were in the Americas along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C). Since that statement a number of findings have been made which are strange to say the least and require careful investigation. Some of these findings are shown below.

     In the following reference from a book by T. L. Tanton, Geological Survey of Canada Memoir 167-Fort Williams and Forth Arthur and Thunder Cape Map-Areas, pp. I-222, Ottawa, 1931:

           Relics were discovered July, 1918 in an excavation made by the Canada Car and Foundry Company about 80 feet north from the turning basin Westforl. About twelve bones of a mammal and a finely made copper spearhead were found together about 40 feet below the surface of the ground. The materials found were submitted to the Geological Survey and Harlan I. Smith, archaeologist, reported the results of examination as follows:

                 According to Mr. Lawrence I. Lambe, vertebrate paleontologist of the Geological Survey and Mr. Sternberg, preparator of paleontological specimens, the bone marked B11 . . . is of a cloven-footed animal, possibly a buffalo, or a specimen of domestic cattle . . . Bones marked B10 and B12 to B13 inclusive, Mr. Lambe and Mr. Sternberg both pronounced to be those of a horse and not petrified. Mr. Sternberg is convinced that most of them belong to the same individual. The point with the flanged tang made of copper marked C1 is characteristic and typical of prehistoric Indian handiwork."


     Griffin and Quimby, who investigated the site in 1957, noted that if the bones and copper artifacts were found in situ, they predate the Nipissing stage of the Lake Superior basin (pre-2000 B.C.) since they were on a bed of blue clay under layers of sand deposited by flooding during that period. (Quimby, The Old Copper Assemblage and Extinct Animals, American Antiquity, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 169-70, Salt Lake City, University of Utah.) [Glen W. Chapman, "Horses and the Book of Mormon," chapmanresearch/user/documents/horses.html] [See Enos 1:21; Alma 18:9; 3 Nephi 3:22]


Ether 9:19 And they also had horses and asses (Illustration): A Moundbuilder pictograph of the likeness of an unbridled horse in Picture Canyon, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, which shows that Indians in early times were acquainted with horses. This picture appeared in October 1955 Improvement Era. [Glen W. Chapman, "Horses and the Book of Mormon,"]


Ether 9:19 They Also Had Horses and Asses, and There Were Elephants and Cureloms and Cumoms:


     According to Verneil Simmons, Moroni lists the animals that the Jaredites used for food, such as the cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and "many others." Sumerian temple records, unknown in Joseph Smith's lifetime, list the domestic stock of that nation. They are the same animals -- cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and the ass!" (See Leonard Wooley, The Beginnings of Civilization, p. 232)

      Moroni then lists the animals that were "useful unto man," including horses, asses, and the elephants, cureloms, and cumoms. But it is very interesting that there is a difference in the way they are listed. They "had horses and asses," implying possession of domesticated animals, but "there were elephants, cureloms, and cumoms" (Ether 9:19). This hints that these last mentioned animals existed in the land and were useful to them, but were not domesticated. It also hints at extinction. Since no Nephite word for "cureloms" and "cumoms" is given, perhaps they had become extinct and were unknown to the later nation. As for elephants, they had been part of the cultural history of the Fertile Crescent and were certainly included in the historical knowledge of the Nephites. . . Interestingly enough, geologists have recognized a period of excessively high temperatures which created the deserts of the Southwest. This is known as the Hypisthermal and peaked somewhere between 2000 and 1500 B.C. It is thought that the drouths which were caused by this hot period resulted in the extinction of the large grazing animals such as the mammoth, mastodon, camel, and giant bison. (See Michael Coe, Mexico, pp. 26-27) [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 40-41]


Ether 9:19 There Were Elephants:


     According to Hugh Nibley, it is quite significant that the Book of Mormon associates elephants only with the Jaredites (see Ether 9:19), since there is no apparent reason why they should not have been as common in the fifth as in the fifteenth century B.C. All we know is that they became extinct in large parts of Asia somewhere between those dates, as they did likewise in the New World, to follow the Book of Mormon, leaving only the written records of men to testify of their existence. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, p. 220]


     According to Glenn Scott, until recently paleontologists said elephants were extinct by 10,000 B.C., but a National Geographic report says small mammoths survived as late as 1700 B.C.,117 well into Jaredite times. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 51]


Ether 9:19 There were Elephants (Illustration): Elephants in Ancient America. A) The skeleton of an American Imperial Elephant (Mammuthus imperator) was dug from the tar pits at La Brea, California. It is on display at the Los Angeles Museum of History and Science. These beasts ranged form west of the Mississippi to as far south as central Mexico. B) The author photographed this elephant skull at La Venta Park Villahermosa, Mexico. It was dug up at La Venta Island, Mexico. C) Remains of Dwarf Mammoths have been found on islands off the coast of Siberia and California. Named Mammuthus exilis, they were about 70% the size of their larger relatives. Some of them survived until at least 3700 years ago (1700 B.C.) [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 50]


Ether 9:19 There were Elephants (Illustration): Petroglyph of an elephant done by some ancient artist on a canyon wall of the Colorado river near Moab, Utah. Clair Weldon and Roy Weldon in picture. [Roy E. Weldon, The Book of Mormon Evidences Joseph Smith a Prophet, p. 13]


Ether 9:19 Elephants:


     John Hedengren notes that recently, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. had a display of ice age mammal skeletons, including a mammoth and a mastodon. Reflecting current evidence, a display sign states that the mastodon "may have survived until 2000 years ago." This is clearly within the time period of the Jaredites. Thus we have animals properly called elephants living around the probable time and in the proposed place of the Jaredites. [John Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence of the Book of Mormon, p. 106]


Ether 9:19 There Were Elephants:


     According to Diane Wirth, the eminent Austrian ethnologist, Dr. Robert Heine-Geldern, reported to one Dr. Clyde Keeler that there were five elephant effigies found in Mexico, but because they were not found by bonafide archaeologists, professionals continue to disregard this controversial subject.

     Dr. Verrill, a well-known archaeologist who did fieldwork for the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, describes a figure from Cocle, Panama, as follows: "The most astonishing of the idols is one bearing a figure which is so strikingly and obviously elephantine that it cannot be explained away by any of the ordinary theories of being a conventionalized or exaggerated tapir, ant-eater or macaw. Not only does this figure show a trunk, but in addition it has the big leaf-like ears and the forward-bending knees peculiar to the elephants. Moreover, it shows a load or burden strapped upon its back."

     According to Diane Wirth, the rain god of the Maya, referred to as "the long-nosed rain god," is often endowed with a pronounced elephantine proboscis. It is well known that the elephant can fill its trunk with water and spew it out. Was this Maya design of the rain god, so often portrayed in their codices (books), an accident? [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 51-52]


Ether 9:19 Elephants (Illustration): Chac, the long-nosed rain god, Codex Tro-Cortesiano. From Codices Maya by Villacorta & Villacorta, Guatemala City: Tipografia Nacional (1930). [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 52]


Ether 9:19 Elephants:


     According to Matthew Brown, although the Jaredites immigrated to the New World around 2,500 B.C., the majority of paleontologists believe that elephants (Ether 9:19) became extinct about 25,000 years ago. However, there are three types of evidence to support the claim that elephants lived alongside man in the pre-Columbian New World.

     The first type of evidence consists of the traditions of the native Americans. Widely separated native American tribes had similar traditions of seeing and hunting a huge animal that had a big head, large ears, and "teeth" long enough to pierce seven men. This creature fed upon the leaves of trees, slept by leaning against upright objects, and left behind large round tracks as it walked. The most interesting detail in the description of this beast is that it had "a fifth leg rooted between its shoulders," a "sort of arm which comes out of [its] shoulder;" a "long nose with which [it] hit people." This appendage was referred to among some of the Indian tribes as "a lip as long as seven paces." This creature, said the Indians, could use its "long nose" to uproot trees.118

     The second type of evidence consists of archaeological remains. Archaeological digs that pair New World elephants and human artifacts are not uncommon. By 1950 Macgowan had listed no less than 27 instances.119 In this category we have the complete mastodon skeleton found in 1928 in Quito, Ecuador that had lesions on its skull that could only have been inflicted by men who were attacking or butchering it. This skeleton had also been burned in several areas by fire. Man-made tools were found close to this mastodon's body and about 150 pieces of pottery surrounded it. The finer pieces of pottery were like "the fine Maya pots of the oldest Cuenca culture" and one had a design painted upon it "in Mayoid style."120 The pottery pieces dated to between 150 and 350 years after the time of Jesus Christ.121 Mammoth bones uncovered in 1887 in Attica, New York, were also found in association with a few fragments of charcoal. These artifacts were discovered twelve inches higher than many other pieces of charcoal and a fragment of pottery. "The associated human evidence found with or beneath the Attica mastodon bones," say Charles Schuchert, "is a positive hint that should open our minds to the possibility that man was associated in America with Mammut Americanum."122 We cannot fail to mention that a Carbon-14 date for mastodon remains in Richmond, Indiana, has been set at 3344 B.C., + 400 years.123 This is very close, geologically speaking, to the time frame of the Jaredite elephants. Finally, we will note that it was the considered opinion of Professor William B. Scott, "the doyen of American paleontologists," that mammoths may have still been living in the interior of the New World when the first Spanish explorers arrived.124

     The third type of evidence for the contemporary existence of men and elephants in the pre-Columbian New World consists of artistic representations. Some "sculptures and paintings of Mayan and Aztec origin" have long thin noses that curve either up or down and "they appear to portray elephants." In most cases," notes John Thompson, "these supposed elephants' trunks are the snouts of the long-nosed rain gods [or Chacs], and are clearly of ophidian origin, but in one or two cases the trunks are clearly very elephantine. The explanation is probably to be found . . . in a half-forgotten tradition of the mastodon. Recent discoveries have now shown that the mastodon lingered on for many centuries as a contemporary of man in the New World, and there is some evidence that in Ecuador one was slain by man not more than 3000 years ago, as the polychrome pottery associated with it attests."125 An art-work that may be relevant to this discussion can be found among the eighth century A.D. Mayan murals from the Temple of the Frescoes in Bonampak, Chiapas. A color reconstruction of these murals, in Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology, shows an animal head that some observers take to be an elephant since it has a long trunk and a thin, white protrusion beneath the trunk that resembles a tusk.126 [Matthew B. Brown, All Things Restored: Confirming the Authenticity of LDS Beliefs, pp. 216-218]


Ether 9:19 There Were . . . Cureloms and Cumoms:


     In Ether 9:19 we find mention of "cureloms and cumoms." Apparently, these animals were unknown to the Nephites, and so Moroni leaves the words untranslated, or else though known to the Nephites, these words were out of the experience of Joseph Smith, so that he had no words to even call them by.


Ether 9:19 Cureloms and Cumoms:


     Hugh Nibley writes:

     "They have plenty of iron, accarum, and andanicum," says Marco Polo of the people of Kobian. "Here they make mirrors of highly polished steel, of large size and very handsome." The thing to note here is not primarily the advanced state of steelworking in Central Asia, though that as we have seen is significant, but the fact that no one knows for sure what accarum and andanicum are. Marco knew, of course, but since the things didn't exist in Europe there was no western word for them and so all he could do was to call them by their only names. It is just so with the cureloms and cumoms of Ether 9:19. These animals were unknown to the Nephites, or else though known to the Nephites, they are out of our experience so that our language has no name to call them by. They were simply breeds of those "many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man." [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the Word of the Jaredites, pp. 217-18]


     Note* It is also possible that while Joseph Smith had no knowledge of these animals in order to translate, they since have become known to us. It is hard to know if Joseph had a knowledge of the animals of Central America (or South America). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 9:23 Coriantum . . . Did Build Many Mighty Cities:


     Coriantum "did build many mighty cities" (Ether 9:23). According to Verneil Simmons, there might be evidence which link Old World building techniques with that of the New World. In a lecture given at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, Simmons heard Dr. Ignacio Bernal report on the early site of San Jose Mogote in the Oaxaca Valley. He made reference to the odd bricks uncovered in the lowest level of that very early site (1500 - 1300 B.C.) -- flat on one side and arched on the other. He noted, with some surprise, that only in a few early sites in the Old World area of Mesopotamia had such convex bricks been found. Bricks formed with one flat side and a rounded or convex top are very impractical as building blocks and such bricks were quickly abandoned in both cultural areas. They seem an unlikely object for independent invention. [Verneil Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 276]


Ether 9:23 [He] Did Build Many Mighty Cities:


     Although the text does not specify the size or population of the "many mighty cities" (Ether 9:23) built by Coriantum, the Book of Mormon reader would expect to eventually find some evidence for cities during the time period of the Jaredites. According to Daniel Peterson, within only the past few years, excavators have unearthed what is now termed the oldest city in North America, an Olmec center in Mexico called Teopantecuanitlan ("The Place of the Jaguars' Temple"). This site, which appears to have been inhabited from at least 1500 B.C. to 600 B.C., and which may indeed date back to 2000 B.C., covers an area of 241.5 acres and probably served as the residence for approximately 15,000 people. (This was a sizeable population for the period, almost anywhere.) The homes of the city's people line the local river banks. Two stone irrigation canals, each half a mile long and five feet deep, tell of a rather highly developed agricultural life at Teopantecuanitlan.127 [Daniel C. Peterson, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, 1990, p. 46]


Ether 9:24 [Coriantum] Lived until He Was an Hundred and Forty and Two Years Old:


     King Coriantum lived "an hundred and forty and two years" (Ether 9:24), which fact, according to Glenn Scott, reflects a decreasing life span from the time of Jared. Coriantum's wife died, "being an hundred and two years old," and we are told that "Coriantum took to wife, in his old age, a young maid, and begat sons and daughters. And it came to pass that he begat Com, and Com reigned in his stead," again implying the youngest son succeeded his father as king. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust: New Light on an Ancient American Record, p. 51]


Ether 9:26 The People Had Spread Again over All the Face of the Land:


     If the term "again" in the phrase "the people had "spread again over all the face of the land" (Ether 9:26) means that the people were spreading over the same land that they previously occupied, then apparently the people spread again over the general land of Moron, which now possibly also included the previous land of Nehor (Ether 7:4), the land of Heth (Ether 8:2), and the place Ablom (Ether 9:3). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Geographical Theory Map: Ether 9:27 - 9:33 No Rain--Heth Flees Southward--Serpents (Chronology)


Ether 9:27 [Heth] Slew [Com] with His Own Sword:


     Nothing significant occurred until the forty-ninth year of King Com's reign, when he begat a son named Heth, except that the people "had spread again all over the face of the land" (Ether 9:26). Unfortunately, so had their wickedness! In fact, when Heth grew to manhood he killed his father "with his own sword" (Ether 9:27) and reigned in his stead. According to Glenn Scott, the people had apparently become so callous that no one opposed that shocking act of patricide. While the full import of the phrase "with his own sword" is not conveyed by Moroni, it is significant that Moroni reports at this time that the Lord sent prophets throughout the land crying repentance and threatening a great famine if the people did not repent. With no righteous king to protect them, the people drove the prophets out or threw them into pits to die, with the tacit approval of their wicked king (see Ether 9:29). True to his word, the Lord sent a severe drought. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust: New Light on an Ancient American Record, p. 51]


Ether 9:29 Some of Them They Cast into Pits and Left Them to Perish:


     According to Ben Olsen, who has some geological experience in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, it is interesting to note that the Book of Mormon records several instances of people being thrown into "pits" (Ether 9:29). In many humid areas, where limestones are exposed at the surface, such as the Yucatan Peninsula and Florida, sink-holes are common. These collapsed areas, where water has weakened the structural integrity of the strata and allowed the surface layers to cave in, form what is called karst topography. Could these sink-holes or cenotes (such as occur at Chichen Itza) be the type of "pits" referred to? [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, pp. 55-56, Unpublished]


Ether 9:30 A Great Dearth upon the Land:


     In Ether 9:30 we are told that "there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceeding fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth." According to Warren and Palmer, assuming a Mesoamerican setting, destruction by famine suggests that maize agriculture was not fully developed in this early period. According to the chronological records, this famine happened in roughly 2250 B.C. The location was probably in the rather dry highland valleys surrounding the present city of Oaxaca [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, 7-4; 7-12, unpublished]


Ether 9:30 There Was No Rain upon the Face of the Earth:


     In Hebrew the word "eretz" can be read to mean either "earth" or "land," and only the writer knows which is meant. It seems apparent that the phrase "there was no rain upon the face of the earth" (Ether 9:30) only pertains to the Jaredite lands. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Ether 9:30-31 There Began to be a Great Dearth . . . The Flocks Began to Flee . . . Towards the Land Southward Which Was Called by the Nephites Zarahemla:


     In Ether 9:30-31 we have the following account:

           And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceeding fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth. And there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. and it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla.


     Bruce Warren uses these verses as a commentary on Jaredite geography--that the Jaredite land northward appears to be a relatively small area. For example, in a time of extreme drought, "flocks," apparently in search of water and feed, wandered from the Jaredite lands "towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla." One might ask the question, How far would "flocks" wander in extreme drought conditions? The answer would probably be, Not very far--certainly not in excess of a hundred or so miles. Thus, the land of the Jaredites could not have been that far away from the Nephite land of Zarahemla. [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]


Ether 9:31 Their Flocks Began to Flee . . . towards the Land Southward, Which Was Called by the Nephites Zarahemla:


     In association with the great drought, there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla. And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward." (Ether 9:31-32)


     In review, the people of Omer were living in the land of Moron (Ether 9:13). By the time of the drought, the general land of Moron had probably absorbed the land of Nehor (Ether 7:3-22), had probably absorbed the land of Heth (Ether 8:2 - 9:13), and probably also had some claim on the land of Ablom by the seashore (Ether 9:3). The people had also built "many mighty cities (Ether 9:23). From this enlarged land, their flocks began to flee southward towards the land called Zarahemla by the Nephites. (Ether 9:31) This was probably the general land of Zarahemla. Though not mentioned specifically in the text, we might presume that this "land of Zarahemla" was somewhat near the land of Moron. Ether 10:19 and 10:21 seem to imply that Moron was probably near enough to the land southward that sufficient game could be brought back without too much loss or spoilage, and that the hunters wouldn't have to travel very far.


     With this information in mind, and assuming a Mesoamerican setting, David Palmer postulates that there could not have been large rivers, deserts, or impassable mountain ranges for the flocks to cross. A downhill flight through the valleys of Oaxaca (his proposed land of Moron) to the area of Tehuantepec City (the area of his proposed small neck of land separating the land northward and the land southward) seems within the realm of possibility. [David Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 46]


Ether 9:31 Their Flocks Began to Flee . . . towards the Land Southward, Which Was Called by the Nephites Zarahemla:


     In Ether 9:31 we find that "there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla."

     Joseph Gorrell writes:

           I am familiar with both serpents and flocks, and neither of them show behavior in the manner described above. That is, poisonous serpents do not pursue animals; they defend themselves against intruders, including animals. If in reality the flocks represent sheep or cattle, it is contrary to the way these animals react. They simply do not travel hundreds of miles just to get away from snakes.


     He reasons that if the serpents and flocks are representative of specific groups of people ("flocks" tend to symbolize righteous people--Alma 5:59-60; and serpents could be symbolic of secret combinations, who spread their deadly poison among the people--note that in Ether 9, Heth became the king of the Jaredites and was directly involved with secret combinations), then this story might take on some new light. Moroni notes concerning the "flocks" that "there were many . . . which did perish by the way nevertheless; there were some which fled into the land southward" and the Lord stopped the poisonous serpents from pursuing them.

     Many current Latter-day scholars see a strong relationship between the Jaredites and the Olmecs. Assuming a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, the distance from the Olmec center of San Lorenzo, Veracruz, located at the top of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, to Izapa, Chiapas on the Pacific coast, is about 250 miles. There are several sites on the Pacific coast of Chiapas and Guatemala that manifest a large Olmec influence beginning at about 1000 B.C. These sites include Izapa, La Blanca, Abaj Takalik, El Baul, Monte Alto, and Bilbao. These sites establish a coastal trail from Izapa to Kaminaljuyu. Kaminaljuyu is the area considered by many LDS scholars to be the city of Nephi, and also shows Olmec influence prior to 600 B.C.

     Could the book of Ether imply that a remnant of the Jaredites traveled into the land southward prior to the coming of Lehi? Were there Jaredites at Izapa, a proposed landing site of the Nephites when Lehi and his people arrived?

     It is interesting to note that when Nephi fled from the land of first inheritance, he noted that "all those who should go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God, wherefore, they did hearken unto my words (2 Nephi 5:6). Is it possible that some of the people who listened to Nephi and went with them to settle in the land of Nephi (Kaminaljuyu) were none other than the descendants of the righteous flocks who had escaped the Jaredite heartland 400 years earlier? [Joseph C. Gorrell, "Serpents and Flocks" in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. III, Issue II, June 2001, pp. 12-13] [See the commentary on Jacob & Sherem--review of John Clark's article, see the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:6]


Ether 9:33 The Serpents (Did) Hedge Up the Way:


     If the serpents "hedged up the way" (Ether 9:33) so that the people couldn't follow the flocks into the land southward, then this seems to imply that there was a "limited" passage into the land of Zarahemla. This migration of animals "into the land southward" seems to be talked about by Mormon in Alma 22:21 when he says, "the land on the southward (of the land northward [Desolation]) was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food." Mormon also goes on to say in Alma 22:32 that there was "a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward." Perhaps this "small neck of land" was what allowed the serpents to "hedge up the way." [See the commentary on Alma 22:31-32; Ether 10:19; 10:21]


     Glenn Scott notes that the river which flows across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (a proposed area for the small neck of land and thus a proposed area where the serpents might have "hedged up the way" -- Ether 9:33) is named the Coatzacoalcos, which in the Nahuatl language means, "the place of serpents." (Robert Fishburn 1968, "Place of Serpents," FRAA Newsletter 2:4) [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust: New Light on an Ancient American Record, p. 51]


Ether 9:33 The Lord Did Cause That the Serpents . . . Should Hedge Up the Way, That the People Could Not Pass:


     According to Hugh Nibley, the description of how people were driven out of a land by a plague of serpents that then "hedge up the way that the people could not pass" (Ether 9:31-35) may put a strain on some people's scientific credulity. Nevertheless it can be believed: "Pampa the Great, we are told, could not get his army into Hyrcania because the way was barred by snakes along the Araxes, a stream that still swarms with the creatures. . . Shah Sadrudin set his heart on the building of a capital which should surpass all other cities in splendor; yet the project had to be abandoned after enormous expense when during a period of drought the place so swarmed with serpents that no one could live in it." It is interesting in this connection that the plague of serpents in Ether is described as following upon a period of extreme drought (Ether 9:30). [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, p. 221]


Geographical Theory Map: Ether 10:1 - 10:16 People Begin to Spread Over All the Land (Chronology)