Episode 33
"A Jew, Nephite and Jaredite walked into a bar..."
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"A Jew, Nephite and Jaredite walked into a bar..."

 Episode 33  Comments  Stop Play

Part 2 of "The Saga of 3 Kings". (Even the iguana looks puzzled and ruminative.)


Welcome to ForeverLDS. This is the second part of what, at least I think, is the fascinating tale of three kings: The Jewish King, let’s just say, is Mulek. We know he was only a prince, son of the Judean king, Zedekiah, whose siblings were slain and whose father had his eyes gouged out by Nebuchanezzar, King of Babylon.

Prince Mulek, however, according to LDS beliefs, and statements in the Book of Mormon, was a real person. In the late 1980s his existence was possibly affirmed by a clay seal for stamping documents unearthed in Jerusalem with the name of a royal figure from the time period of Lehi named Mulek (Robert F. Smith, “New Information about Mulek, Son of the King,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, Salt Lake City, UT and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992, 142–144; John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper, “Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9, no. 1 (2000): 51).

This is discussed in greater detail in Episode 27, so I won’t repeat it here. Anyway, these sources tell us that a Judean prince named Mulek existed. It is, however, strictly an LDS belief that he escaped Jerusalem and made his way to the Americas.

The Nephite King is Mosiah I, the first Nephite king of the city and land of Zarahemla. The Jaredite King is Coriantumr, the sole survivor of the great and terrible battle at the Hill Ramah/Cumorah, where the Jaredite Civilization was destroyed.

In Episode 32 we discussed events from the Book of Omni wherein a descendant of Nephi named Amaleki tells of a large stone brought before the newly-installed Nephite king, Mosiah I, for his interpretation.

I asked the question: Why was Mosiah I asked to interpret the engravings on this particular stela? Was it overwhelming curiosity about the downfall of the Jaredites or, at least for some Zarahemlaites, who’d just abdicated any leadership claims of their nation to a stranger from a faraway place called the land of Nephi, might their motives have been more calculating?

We also asked: Why would the people of Zarahemla have transported this large, awkward, perhaps fragile stone from as far away—potentially—as the region of "many waters" where Coriantumr probably died, all the way upriver to the city of Zarahemla?

By reading "between the lines" of the scriptural text, a story emerges that appears to explain the seeds of bitterness and prejudice that would provoke many tragic events in this region for the next century and a half, or until the visitation of Jesus Christ. 

First, let's go back to what the stone said about King Coriantumr. In Omni 1:21 we’re told that the stone—which was a couple centuries old by the time it was brought before Mosiah I—reported that the last king of the Jaredites, Coriantumr, dwelt among the people of Zarahemla for the space of “nine moons” or nine months. We’re not told what Coriantumr did during those months. Most readers have presumed that he was an elderly, weak, heartbroken figure who fell ill and soon expired.

The Book of Mormon confirms none of these presumptions. Ether—the last of the Jaredite prophets who kept the Jaredite record on 24 gold plates—tells us that on several occasions during the final conflict of the Jaredites, Coriantumr offered to surrender to his adversaries to spare the lives of his people. Yeah, except that these efforts always seemed to fall apart, presumably because the hatred and bloodlust of Coriantumr's troops was insatiable.

The scriptures read, "Satan had full power over the hearts of the people" (Eth. 15:19). We have no evidence that Coriantumr ever pushed his offer to throw in the towel with any level of enthusiasm. It seemed like a fleeting thought—an attack of conscience—that Coriantumr experienced, and then effectively suppressed.

Additionally, Shiz—the commander of the opposing Jaredite army—would only agree to Coriantumr's surrender if Coriantumr, personally, agreed to lay down his life—i.e., let himself be executed (Ether 15:5). One has to wonder if self-preservation had greater value to Coriantumr than the lives of his people.

No event is recorded by Ether wherein the Jaredite King ever made any actual attempt to lay down his weapons. Instead, Coriantumr fought savagely to the end, finally beheading his nemesis, Commander Shiz. Thus, to me at least, his sincerity about surrendering seems dubious, even for the sake of his people, and despite the Lord’s promise, delivered through Ether, that “if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself” (Ether 13:20-21). Well, Coriantumr was deaf to Ether’s prophecy. He even tried to have Ether slain (Ether 13:22).

Coriantumr just couldn’t get the taste of blood out of his mouth. The scriptural claim is that Coriantumr and his people were too far gone—too ensnared by Satan, and much as the Nephites would someday become in the 4th century A.D., no longer able to commit to lasting repentance (Ether 15:19, Mormon 5:18).

After the battle, Coriantumr is said to have been “discovered” by the people of Zarahemla (Omni 1:21). Now ask yourself: What might we expect from a corrupt king who was currently without a kingdom? If those he encountered were a mixture of races, including Jaredites, Mulekites, and possibly other indigenous peoples, it seems probable that a treacherous warlord like Coriantumr might have tried to rally supporters who would honor his royal pedigree.

Among the people of Zarahemla there does seem to have been a powerful Jaredite contingent. This is evidenced by several things, one being that many Jaredite names start popping up during this period, shortly after the Nephites, who were refugees from their first homeland of Nephi, established themselves among the Mulekite descendants. Names like Teancum, Korihor, Morianton, Nehor, and even Moroni (probably a derivation of the Jaredite name Morōn). All these names ring of Jaredite language patterns.  

There’s also monetary values, like shiblon and shiblum (Alma 11:15-16), and the names of grains, like sheum, which Robert F. Smith noted as a precise match for an Akkadian (i.e., Babylonian) word meaning barley, which appears to fit the time period when the Jaredites departed from the Old World (Robert F. Smith “Some ‘Neologisms’ from the Mormon Canon,” Conference on the Language of the Mormons, BYU Language Research Center, May 31, 1973, 66). There are alternate translations that question Smith’s translation and say sheum and its associative tenses were better suited to a later Babylonian period, but such seem, at least to me, nit-picky.

These words demonstrate that a Jaredite heritage remained entrenched among the Nephites, even after the great battle at the Hill Ramah. So, a potential claim by Coriantumr that he was the rightful king of all he surveyed, tracing his lineage back to that same Jared who had crossed the ocean at the time of the Great Tower, might have given him traction with some, especially those whose heritage had a mingling of Jaredite bloodlines. If Coriantumr pressed this assertion, it might well have sparked civil conflict before and/or after Coriantumr's demise. We’re never told the cause of Coriantumrs' death, which could well have been violence.

The Book of Mormon tells us that the Zeniffite explorers of King Limhi, in their search for Zarahemla, found themselves in the midst of a land once as "numerous as the hosts of Israel” (Mosiah 8:8). Now those so-called "hosts" were gone. Their civilization lay in ruins.

For decades Latter-day Saints have concluded that the conflict referenced by Limhi's explorers was the epic Jaredite battle at the Hill Ramah/Cumorah. I’m gonna make an unconventional suggestion. Maybe it’s not all that unique, and I’m just not well-read enough to know that it’s old news. Someone might say, “B.H. Roberts made that observation in 19-ott-11!” Wouldn’t hurt my feelings in the least. We’re all just doing the best we can to apply reason and the scientific method to solve this puzzle, hopefully while celebrating the Book of Mormon for all its worth. In any case, here it is: The idea that the 43 explorers of King Limhi came upon skeletons and cankered swords related to the battle at the Hill Ramah, or any other battle related to the Jaredite destruction in about 400 B.C., is unlikely.

The time period when Limhi’s explorers encountered these scenes, as indicated in the scriptures, was about 121 B.C., or around 250-300 years after the Jaredite destruction. That’s longer than the entire history of the United States of America. In a Mesoamerican climate physical remains—bodies and bones—especially if left in the open, wouldn’t have lasted more than a decade or two. Maybe even that’s being generous. Unless preserved in a dry cave or underground or in a fresh-water cenote, most remains in thirty or forty years would’ve entirely decayed and returned to the earth.

That doesn’t mean some of the structural ruins Limhi’s explorers encountered didn’t date back to Jaredite times—and it might have been on that basis that Limhi’s men made their observation. Although, the jungle in that part of the world generally does a number even on architecture, too, which is why it takes a lot of digging and LiDar, etc., to uncover ruins and piece things back together. This is why today we consider all these entirely new, almost pristine cities, being discovered in the thickest jungles, so special and why some of us look forward, with baited breath, to learn what archeologists will find.

It’s also unlikely that any of the human or animal remains the Zeniffites encountered were the result of any civil conflict inspired by Coriantumr during his 9-month sojourn. The same factors of earthly decomposition would apply. The conflict discovered by Limhi's men presently cannot be identified. Doesn’t mean the conflict wasn’t rooted in political rancor first stoked by King Coriantumr. More likely, it relates to the serious wars and contentions among the people of Mulek described in Omni 1:17. We just don’t know.

But getting back, it does seem reasonable to think that Coriantumr—the last king of the Jaredites—remained an upstart and a troublemaker to the last, even after he dwelt among those who were not his direct subjects, peoples who therefore hadn’t participated in the wider Jaredite conflict. If Coriantumr remained true to character, this guy would have continued seeking power. It ran in his veins! It oozed from his pores. His very presence might provoke political unrest in the neighborhood.

As to whether Coriantumr died by violence or natural causes, the Book of Mormon is silent—only that his days among the Mulekites were "nine moons." However, those nine months had a significant and lasting impact upon the people of Zarahemla. This Jaredite King was not soon forgotten, as is evidenced by that large stone brought to Zarahemla, and the urgency felt by some to have King Mosiah I interpret it.

The question is sometimes asked: How did Limhi's explorers fail to find Zarahemla? Such a mistake may be easier to comprehend by understanding the terrain which is the source of the two major rivers that flow north and empty into the Gulf of Mexico. The answer is that Limhi's explorers, in their efforts to find Zarahemla, followed the wrong river system—the Usumacinta instead of the Grihalva, or conversely, the Grihalva instead of the Usumacinta. I’m told both of these great Central American rivers have their headwaters in the Guatemalan highlands, within 20-30 miles of each other.

So how did the explorers dispatched by Limhi forget the route? Remember, they’d been separated from the main body of Nephites in Zarahemla for three generations. Apparently, no one kept a map. Their directions had likely come from oral tradition and faulty memory. Back then people just didn’t randomly travel from place to place, or valley to valley, like we do in most parts of the world today. That was a good way to get imprisoned and killed in nasty ways.

Zeniffite tradition likely suggested that Zarahemla was on the western bank of a prominent river whose headwaters started in the mountains and flowed northward from the land of Nephi. The land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla are said to have been divided by a “narrow strip of wilderness". A description of this “strip of wilderness” is offered in Alma 22:7. “Wilderness” in the scriptures generally means a mountain range or some other kind of rough terrain. At the very least, a region where people haven’t plowed the earth or taken up residence. It was country “uncivilized”. References to going up or going down are peppered in the text throughout this section of the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 7:1, Omni 1:27, Alma 62:7). In Alma 22 this “narrow strip of wilderness”, or possible mountain range, is said to run “from the east unto the west” until it bordered on the west sea.

It was this “obstacle” that separated the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla. It’s not easy in the western hemisphere to find a mountain range that runs east-west or west-east. Virtually all of ‘em run north-south—the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Andes—except in southern Mexico, through Guatemala, and tapering off in Honduras. Numerous LDS researchers have proposed that this "narrow strip of wilderness" running east-west from Alma 22 that divided Nephi from Zarahemla is the rugged Cuchumatanes Mountain range: one of the only, if not the only mountain range in the New World running east-west.

As I’ve said, the two major rivers that begin in the highlands of Guatemala and flow northward to the Gulf are the Grijalva and the Usumacinta. The first river you reach if you’re traveling from the land of Nephi (long proposed by some to be the mega-temperate and world-renowned climate-zone where Guatemala City was built and the ruins of Kaminaljuyu) are the headwaters of the Usumacinta. Still, it’s complex terrain, with lots of little tributaries, and those who know the area have suggested it might be more likely that Limhi’s explorers accidentally followed the Grihalva. Besides, it’s the Grihalva that would have brought the Limhites into the Olmec/Jaredite heartland. Anyway, opinions about which river is the Sidon River can get testy even today. Coincidentally, “Sidon” is the name of the famous Phoenician port city on the Mediterranean, which is a phonetic equivalent which is hardly subtle.  

Anyway, if Limhi’s expedition followed the wrong river, it starts to make sense how these 43 men got lost. Follow the Grijalva, and you end up near Villahermosa, and several significant Olmec ruins, including La Venta, in a land of many waters and rivers, although, honestly, the deltas of both the Usumacinta and the Grihalva could be described that way.

Other archeological sites dating to Limhi’s time may have been encountered by Limhi’s explorers. Research and field work is ongoing. A particularly intriguing ruin nearer to the Gulf Coast, but also in this swampy, watery region that fits the description in the Book of Mosiah, is Comalcalco.

Comalcalco is likely unfamiliar to most Latter-day Saints, despite rollicking debates among present-day Mesoamericanists that we ought to find rather intriguing. Most mainstream researchers classify it as "Mayan", despite a range of anomalies that place these ruins in a different category altogether. Comalcalco appears to be the only site in Mesoamerica where temples and other structures were built using fired-clay bricks.

Okay, fire-clay bricks. What’s interesting about that? Nothing, I guess, except that every other Mayan archeological site we’ve ever studied was built of limestone, not fired bricks. Also unique, the bricks of Comalcalco were held together by an ingenious technique of mortar comprised of oyster shells. A researcher in the middle of the 20th century happened to look on backside of one of these bricks and noticed some inscriptions of a variety never before seen in Mesoamerica. Not only on this brick, but on the back of thousands of other bricks.

Question: Who else in the world practiced the fine art of firing clay bricks and inscribing them on the back with symbols commonly known as a “mason’s fingerprint”? Romans, that’s who. Not just Romans. Romans and some of their trade allies, including some Greeks, Minoans, as well as artisans from India and Sri Lanka, whose ancestors were well known in the Mediterranean from very ancient times for their seafaring technology and capability. 

Old World-style figurines have also been discovered. Also, carvings and masks of people sporting beards or hats—images that are extremely rare in the New World.

Some inscriptions on these bricks are definitely related to glyphs from the classic Maya period, but other script and symbols have no New World correlative. Nothing whatsoever connects them to writing systems in Mesoamerica. They do, however, have striking correlations with scripts and symbols from the Old World. This includes Indic motifs, Brahmi script, Roman mason marks, and even similarities with early Christian graffiti in Roman catacombs.

The architecture itself at Comalcalco appears to model Roman techniques and measurements, but the layout of the city itself is shockingly (and I don’t use that word lightly)—shockingly—identical to the ancient port of Óc-eo in the MeKong River Delta of Vietnam—of all places!—which port city traded with Rome as early as the 2nd Century A.D. Urn-burials, contemporary with those in India and Southeast Asia, have also been discovered at Comalcalco.

They’ve found other Roman-style artifacts, as well as pre-Columbian horse remains. There are even more Old World correlations—parasites and DNA affinities, the blowgun, bark cloth, and paper manufacturing. All these artifacts, unearthed at or near Comalcalco, add up to a mind-blowing mystery, leading some theorists to suggest that Comalcalco had established trade connections with Rome, Greece, or even India and Southeast Asia. Many inscriptions on these bricks are identical (note I said identical, not similar) to symbols found at Roman, Minoan, and Greek archeological sites.

This has ignited a firestorm of controversy that mainstream archeologists have demonstrated a bizarre reluctance to address. They got no paradigm that explains it. It’s “paradigm-less.” One of these sites is not like the others. It just doesn’t fit!

For decades Archaeologists dated the height of the port at Comalcalco at 500 A.D. to 900 A.D. However, the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico recently changed its previous dating to 100 B.C.- 600 A.D. And, as always, many artifacts date even earlier. (Neile Steede,"Update Comalcalco" in La Sociedad de Epigrafia Mexico vol 2, No 1, 1985 Pgs1-10).

Archeologist Neile Steede, who has been associated with this site since the early 1980s, mourns that dating and analyses of Comalcalco has been shamefully sloppy. Much work remains incomplete. There are warehouses filled with uncatalogued bricks other artifacts. As I said, some Comalcalco artifacts date as early as 500-600 B.C. Among such artifacts are many of the inscribed bricks themselves, which appear to have been recovered from older structures and then "re-used" in pyramids built at a later date. (Steede. Neil; "The Bricks of Comalcalco," Ancient American, 1:8, September/October 1994; Fell, Barry; "The Comalcalco Bricks: Part 1, the Roman Phase," Occasional Papers, Epigraphic Society, 19:299, 1990; http://www.delange.org/Comalcalco/Comalcalco.htm; http://mexicolesstraveled.com/comalcalco.htm.) 

For now it’s too soon, too impetuous, to draw any conclusions about Comalcalco and its relationship to the Book of Mormon. A popular idea among LDS scholars for many decades has been that Prince Mulek was transported to the New World by the seafaring Phoenicians, an idea which still warrants analysis (Dr. and Sister Ross T. Christensen, “Possible Routes Suggested for Mulek’s Voyage”, Ensign Magazine, Sept. 1973). However, it may be a more logical and supportable scenario that the ships that transported Mulek and his entourage from the Mediterranian were not Phoenicians, but seafarers who were the ancestors of the Satavahana Dynasty in India and the Hindu Kush in the Ganges Valley (circa 200 BC - 200 AD).

Evidence indicates that Indian merchants had rounded the horn of Africa and were trading in the Mediterranean, including Judea and other communities along this coast, during the time of the first Jewish Temple. Only seafarers of this level of competence and experience might have established trade relations with seaports in the New World. Such might have seemed like a perfect location where a fugitive like Mulek could expect to never be found by his enemies. The script and symbols identified on these fire-kilned bricks, as well as the general location of Comalcalco on the eastern seacoast, lends credence to the theory.

Countless questions are still to be asked and answered, such as how many of these clay-fired bricks might have been ransacked from earlier architectural ruins that may date to time periods dominated by the Olmec/Jaredite civilization?

Still, don’t get excited just yet. Discoveries at Comalcalco seem to be an example where LDS researchers have maintained a disciplined silence, allowing non-LDS scholars to continue their work, unimpeded by the very appearance of LDS bias. No LDS researcher, as far as I’m aware, has publicized the obvious, almost mouth-watering, correlations that Comalcalco may have with the Book of Mormon.

Now, there’s a really weird twist to all this. This is the thing I find most disconcerting about certain modern assessments and proposals regarding Comalcalco and other Maya sites. Without a doubt, the prevailing paradigm among today’s non-LDS scholars is a knee-jerk dismissal of any Mesoamerican discovery that even hints of Christian correlations. Among our 21st century, secular academics, mingling faith and science is seen as immediate evidence of a corrosive bias. Any study wherein a researcher confesses a personal religious leaning—in particular a Christian propensity—immediately colors the reliability of that researcher’s contributions.

This is just bad science. The idea of dismissing research just because an archeologist is also a Christian, or a Muslim, or Buddhist, or anything else is a ridiculous swing of the pendulum, as if a person of faith is simply incapable of setting aside his or her beliefs in favor of hard evidence and data.

This is blatantly false. It’s really only amateurs like me whose research ought to be suspect, because admittedly I do have an implicit bias, though I try as hard as I am able to be open-minded and fair. But a disciplined scholar knows—is trained from the time they’re undergraduates—how to recognize and avoid such biases. A faithful archeologist or anthropologist or physicist can indeed be impartial and separate personal beliefs from their analysis. Those who seem least capable of separating their worldview from their work are secularists—whose narrow-minded perspectives immediately place those with alternate perspectives in a corner wearing a dunce cap, refusing to fully trust the work of a faithful scientist or take it as seriously.  

Here’s another observation I made which, admittedly, I’m still trying to fully wrap my brain around. I have become aware of a growing cadre of Christian Mesoamericanists who are convinced that the prevalence of Christian symbolism and beliefs in ancient Mesoamerica is glaring and obvious, and that an abject denial of this reality is equivalent to scholarly blindness.

Here’s what’s weird. The Mesoamericanist scholars in this cadre are not LDS. Not in the least. Oh, they’re perennially accused of pushing some kind of pro-Mormon agenda, but they have no such affiliations. These scientists are actively developing separate and distinct theories to account for Christian influences in Mesoamerica that have no connection whatsoever to the Book of Mormon. Yup. I said that right. Until I stumbled upon this on the internet, I was completely unaware of this burgeoning “club” of accredited Mesoamericanists who are also believing Christians of general Protestant and Catholic denominations.

This group consists of archeologists like Neile Steede, Phil Leonard, James Guthrie, Sean Adair, the late David Kelley, the late Mario Perez-Campa, and numerous others, many who at present prefer (not unlike some LDS scholars) to zip their lips about their religious affiliations to preserve credibility among their secularist colleagues—whose numbers easily dominate all present-day fields of science.

As *Neile Steede, arguably the most vocal of this group, readily admits, his cadre of Christian Mesoamericanists receives more than its fair share of ridicule from colleagues.

What I find remarkable is that such a group, who has observed and documented what they feel are undeniable examples of Christian symbolism and influences among the Maya, do so in a complete absence of LDS theology or influence. What surprised me was not only that such a group existed, but that it might one day represent a dominant point of view. Their explanation for the existence of Christian culture, iconography, and symbolism among the ancient Mayans? Pre-Columbian transoceanic contact and a predictable exchange of ideas, even as early as 300-600 B.C., especially from civilizations along the Silk Road between Europe and Asia, where the philosophies of Judaism and Christianity are known to have traveled like wildfire, especially among seafaring communities that traded merchandise wherever they might find customers, (Tara MacIsaac, "Evidence Accumulates for Ancient Transoceanic Voyages, Says Geographer", Epoch Times, June 8, 2016, https://www.theepochtimes.com/uplift/evidence-accumulates-for-ancient-transoceanic-voyages-says-geographer_2083981.html) and like any other businessmen, were disinclined to share their customer’s addresses with the competition. To these scholars, any evidences of Christianity in the New World are certainly not going to be explained by the Mormon mythologies of Jardites, Mulekites, or Nephites.

This was mindblowing to me, even gut-punching. Here LDS researchers, amateurs and professionals, have spent decades—well over a century—eagerly pointing out every single New World correlation that demonstrates the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and all along the adversary has been prepped and ready to render it all null and void.

He seems to know it’s just a matter of time before the world acknowledges the existence of Christianity in Mesoamerica. It’s overwhelming! It’s becoming undeniable! But old scratch is already one step ahead of us.

The future paradigm will be that, “Just because we find ample evidence of Christianity among the Maya or Aztecs or other peoples in the Western Hemisphere, this in no way bolsters the ridiculous theology of the Book of Mormon. I mean look at those LDS idiots! They’re spending all their energies arguing among themselves about whether the Book of Mormon took place in this part of the New World or that part of the New World. The religion whose original premise was that Christ came to the Americas can’t even agree on a basic location! So we’re just gonna brush right past these fools, develop our own academic viewpoints, and let the Mormons continue bumbling about in la-la land.”

Before long, those who acknowledge Christian correlations in the New World won’t even have to be believing Christians. Transoceanic contact and commerce will explain it all. It may even become a fresh format or genre for anti-LDS ridicule and sentiment: To embrace the reality of Christian worship in pre-Columbian America—even prior Christ’s birth—yet resoundingly reject the Book of Mormon. An astonishing twist of fate to say the least.

Those who doubt this turn of events, I invite you to read a link that I will paste in the text of this podcast on ForeverLDS. Also read some of the associated links at the bottom of this online article: http://www.earlysitesresearchsociety.org/2012-comalcalco-brick.html. Those who are listening, just type in the following keywords on Google: Early Sites Research Society, Comalcalco Bricks, Neile Steede.

Well, after that bombshell, it’s kinda hard to return to our original topic. Let me say in conclusion, by asking Mosiah I to interpret the large stone that told of the destruction of the Jaredites, a few Mulekites might have hoped the interpretation would reveal information that would restore their rights of kingship based on lineage authority. Some likely hoped this record could compete with—even surmount—any monarchial authority that came from the Brass Plates and other Nephite records. After all, if they could prove that Zarahemla, or some other community member, was a descendant of Zedekiah, Jared, or Coriantumr, an argument might be made to the common people of the land that demoted Mosiah I and the Nephites, maybe even transformed them into parasitic invaders deserving of subjugation.

These same elements among the people of Zarahemla might have had similar hopes regarding the 24 gold plates eventually translated by Mosiah I’s grandson, King Mosiah II. Their intent from the outset was to incite the political rebellion of the king-men, who might have felt that Mosiah II’s institution of a reign of judges and lessor judges, instead of the eternal tradition of kings, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. What they saw was a ridiculous and weak form of government—one that within a single generation, like so many other forms of democracy, began to exhibit a serious tendency toward corruption—needed to be destroyed so that absolute monarchs could again rule the descendants of Mulek, Coriantumr, and Zarahemla. All the better if a king-man’s supporters were illiterate anyway, willing to let those who sought power "interpret" any written documents for them.

Keep in mind, the rebellions of the king-men were almost successful. Revolutionaries like Amalikiah and others orchestrated coups against Mosiah II’s system of judges in the days of Captain Moroni, Helaman, Gidgiddoni, and Nephi that came oh-so-close to restoring traditional kings—kings who undoubtedly would have claimed royal Mulekite or Jaredite bloodlines. 

Five years prior to the ministering of Christ in the New World, the Nephites and Lamanites did devolve into a state of anarchy that left the land dominated by factions and tribes. It can happen so fast—faster than most of us can imagine.

In this podcast I’ve presented a scenario that might answer some questions or offers explanations behind the political dynamics of Book of Mormon peoples prior to the Savior's coming, but there’s still a lot of work to be done connecting the dots.

All I’ve done is add another fragment to the compendium of research demonstrating that Jaredite cultural heritage had enormous implications among the Nephites and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica long after that civilization’s destruction. As someone who often mourns the loss of those 116 foolscap pages— which may have actually been more than 116 pages, but that’s another story—and one who yearns for the restoration of other documents and records cited in the Book of Mormon and elsewhere, it should come as no surprise that I also mourn Moroni’s drastic abridgment of Ether’s record to just 100th part of what that prophet originally composed. Will we ever receive such information? I think we will (Eth. 1:6-7). Or else we’ll get better information that makes these records seem unnecessary or redundant. The Lord’s magnificent promise is that more records are forthcoming. On that day, I believe many faithful Latter-day Saints will rejoice, particularly those who try to take full advantage of the volumes of holy writ already available. In the meantime, those 15 miraculous chapters of Ether, even abridged, will suffice. 

May we always study sacred scriptures with wide-open eyes and willing hearts that can draw in every insight the Holy Ghost has to give. We've been instructed that only after we’re prepared—meaning, to me, after we’ve appropriately utilized the inspired words that God has already given to us, will we be found worthy to receive more. 

I look forward to that, if that’s okay.

The views expressed in this podcast in no way represent the official doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m just a guy with thoughts, opinions, and an imagination. May the Lord bless me with some ability from time to time to bring a few people closer to Christ. If I fail in that, I’ve failed entirely. Please subscribe to the ForeverLDS podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio or Google Play Music. Feel welcome to visit ForeverLDS.com to submit comments on this and other episodes.

Stay close to the Lord. If you don’t feel as close to Him today as yesterday, ask yourself, humbly and thoughtfully, who moved. Thank you for listening. This is Chris Heimerdinger, and this is ForeverLDS.

* It should be noted that Dr. Neile Steede, although not LDS, has been asssociated with the Community of Christ (RLDS). This was reported to me by Dr. Garth Norman after this podcast was recorded, but prior to its posting. Although leaders of the Community of Christ have publicly declared the Book of Mormon to be inferior scripture to the Bible, individual members may still hold the volume in high esteem. Mr. Steede's personal views are unknown to me. However, it would be disingenuous not to make readers aware of this association.    



  • Cliff

    Jun 5, 2018 1:51 pm

    Interesting read, as usual. Question, though. You mention Jaredite descendents claiming rights to be King. Is it not believed that the Jaredites all died out, leaving Coriantumer (and Ether to write it all down)?

    RESPONSE FROM CHRIS: Generally not. This is explained a bit more in Podcast 33. Most scholars would note that a battle is never so simple that it comes to a final duel between kings. Even so, the Book of Ether suggests that there were peoples who "broke away" from main tribe who maintained some identity as the "Jaredites". The peoples who were wiped out, I believe, were the polities associated specifically with Coriantumr and Shiz. I DO believe that these two polities represented the main body of the Jaredite peoples, but the fact that names from the Book of Ether begin to appear in the Book of Mormon after the time of Mosiah I suggests that language traditions continued among the people of Zarahemla. The only other explanation for this would be to suggest that the Nephites and Zarahemlaites were so enthralled with all the new names they discovered on the stelae brought to Mosiah I, or the plates of Ether, that they decided to give those names to their children. However, some of those names belonged to morally corrupt Jaredites. Why name a kid after someone who was a bad guy? So the best explanation is that this naming tradition was ongoing among the people of Zarahemla, who had long since intermixed with surviving remnants of the Jaredites, continued unbroken, and was then adopted by the Nephites.

    Remember that Moroni was forced to abridge Ether's record to 1/100th of its original length. Such an effort usually involves simplification so that the readers can understand. For all practical purposes, the Jaredites, as a nation, as a people, and as a polity, were destroyed. Today we might say that Moroni's description of both armies wiping each other out to the very last man is hyperbole. I'm of the opinion that for Moroni it was simply a necessary part of abridging the record so that readers could understand what essentially happened to this formerly powerful nation.
  • Ryan Spackman

    Jun 5, 2018 3:11 pm

    The Uintah mountains in Utah run east/west, not that it would match the BoM geography…

    RESPONSE FROM CHRIS: That's a fair observation. I presume that in the midst of larger mountain ranges we might find sub-ranges like the Unitahs that run east/west. For most geographers, the Uintahs would be a part of the Rocky Mountains. Nevertheless, it's a fair point.

    Technically, the Book of Mormon uses the term "wilderness" to describe the barrier that runs east/west. Geographers have only speculated that the most logical definition for any "wilderness" that would serve as a natural barrier between two lands is a mountain range. And also, I suppose, descriptions in the Book of Mormon about travelers going "up" to Nephi and "down" to Zarahemla, which naturally lends creedence to interpreting this term as related to changes in elevation. Which suits, by the way, Guatemala City as the higher elevation (Nephi) and the Usumacinta basin as the lower elevation (Zarahemla).
  • Darryl White

    Jun 7, 2018 7:06 pm

    When I was almost 18, and first checking out the church, the nice people at the visitor’s center gave me a Book Of Mormon, and I started in on it. When the missionaries finally contacted me a month later, I was somewhere in Mosiah. I was already convinced of the book’s legitimacy because it was obvious that the book had multiple authors, as you mentioned in the previous podcast. So, the missionaries asked me if I had any questions about the Book Of Mormon. I said yes, and pointed out places in 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, and Jacob where other populations are referenced. I then asked where the other records are. Imagine my disappointment when they told me we don’t have them.
    Since then, I have always been on the lookout for hints of more scripture. Then on my umpteenth time through the Book Of Mormon, I read again Ether 1:4 – “…but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account”
    I realized that could mean that the person who is intended to find them will have power to translate them. If so, it is a promise that the full account of the book of Ether will come out at some time to come.

  • Darryl White

    Jun 9, 2018 7:18 pm

    Your supposition that the land with all the bones that Limhi’s expedition found must be some other conflict than the final fall of the Jaredite nation under Coriantumr seems to be rooted in the idea that that event occurred around 400 BC. I wonder why are you so hard and fast on that date? That requires that there must be another destruction of thousands of people with no one to bury the dead, in addition to the epic one described at the end of the book of Ether. Oh, and it also requires that Ether hides the plates at the place where this other destruction was going to be.
    I think that it is more likely that the destruction of the Jaredite nation must have occurred between 200 – 150 BC, in order for the expedition Limhi sent to have found the scene as they describe it.

    The question has been well analyzed. There are a number of reasons internally and externally that support the 400 A.D. viewpoint. I'll link you to a number of articles: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/68641-the-end-of-the-jaredites/, https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/node/47, and you REALLY have to read Sorenson's "Ancient American Setting..." which puts the responsibility of answering a question like this much more in YOUR court. However, I don't want to sound too flippant, because I feel inclined to review all these arguments as well.
  • Darryl White

    Jun 10, 2018 7:13 am

    OK, I checked the first article you linked. The first part talks about a numerology system, and links that to dating the destruction of the Jaredites. The second part concerns apparent correlations between the Olmec civilization and the timeline of the Jaredite civilization. I would be interested to know what is their dating technique and how accurate it is.

    I don’t know what you meant to refer to by the second link.

    Sorenson’s book is at the library. I will be looking at that in the next few weeks.

    COMMENT BY CHRIS: The second link is from Dr. John E. Clark. It's a long article--23 pages--but there's a search bar at the top where you can type "Jaredites". I suspect the rationale for his deduction is included in several sources, including "Ancient American Setting..." The concept of the Jaredite destruction dated to about 400 B.C. is such a commonly accepted conclusion that it's been a while since I've brushed up on the details. Tell me what you find and if you still have reason to be skeptical.

  • Darryl White

    Jun 13, 2018 4:38 am

    John Clark’s article seems to take it for granted that the Jaredite destruction happened in 400 BC, and also makes the linkage to the end of the Olmecs. The notes to the article indicate that there has been a lot of dispute over the timing of the Olmec civilization, but carbon dating of certain Olmec sites has dated them anciently. I wonder just how they have dated the end of the Olmec civilization to 400 BC, but haven’t found it yet. I have done some searching about Olmecs online, and they say that even though the end of the main civilization was in 400 BC, a subgroup may have continued for another 200 years.
    I can’t help but think that Book Of Mormon thinkers have placed the end of the Jaredites in 400 BC in order to align with the Olmecs.
    I still need to read Sorenson’s book, and a book on the Olmecs: America’s first civilization that Clark referenced in his notes. The library has that one, too. I will be back.

  • Darryl White

    Jul 7, 2018 6:47 am

    OK, the two books I read are:
    The Olmecs- America’s First Civilization by Richard A Diehl, Published 2004.
    An Ancient American Setting For The Book Of Mormon by John L Sorenson, published 1985.

    The dating of Olmec sites is mostly by radiocarbon dating of pottery, which is considered to be fairly reliable.
    The Olmecs main civilization is considered to be pretty much over by 400 BC, because that is the time that the second big Olmec location, La Venta, seems to have been abandoned. Tres Zapotes was still operational into the Epi-Olmec time period, in which the culture is considered to be vastly diminished from what it once was. I think it possible that Coriantumr was king during this time. The Tres Zapotes site is near Cerro El Vigia, which was recently thought to be the location of Cumorah.
    None of the sites appear to qualify as the land of Moron, which was in use from the time of Jared’s grandson Kib, to the days of Coriantumr.

    Sorenson only touches lightly on the Jaredite times, although he dooes say that the San Lorenzo location could be the city referred to in Ether 10:20. As for the date, Sorenson seems to casually indicate that the Jaredites were wiped out in 500 or 600 BC.

    Now, Limhi’s expedition says they traveled in a land of many waters (perhaps traveling through said land) and discovered a land covered in bones of men and beasts, and lots of buildings. they said it had been inhabited by a numerous people.
    In the book of Ether, it seems that Coriantumr was plagued with rebellions almost from the moment that Ether was cast out, ending with four major rebels (the ones that are named). But it isn’t until Shiz becomes the main rebel that it is said that they were so busy killing that nobody buried the dead. It is possible that the formerly inhabited place that Limhi’s expedition discovered was a site of an earlier than the end battle, such as the battle at the hill Comnor in Ether 14: 28-31. That had so many people killed that even bloodthirsty Shiz paused before pursuing Coriantumr.

    The identifying things about the place that Limhi’s expedition found were:
    1. There was a lot of people killed there, with nobody to bury the dead.
    2. Ether left the plates there.
    It seems to me that if it wasn’t the place of the final battle, it was within a double handful of years.
    You have pointed out that there would have to be a limit of how long the bones would remain on the ground. Therefore, I think you have set a limit on how far back in time the destruction of Coriantumr’s people could have been.

    Comment from Chris: Possibly so. It's a matter that deserves commentary from a field expert.
  • Patricia A. Christiansen

    Aug 3, 2020 5:17 pm

    I have recently become convinced that both the Jaredites & the Nephites landed west of Florida and that the sea west, sea east, etc., were the Great Lakes. Look at the Hopewell Mounds & their dating, then take into account the great upheavals at the time of Christ’s death.

    Message from Chris: Whatever cooks your bacon.
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