Jun 13, 2011

Nephite and Jaredite Records

One distinguishing feature between the Nephite and Jaredite cultures seems to have been the form of record keeping. While one engraved stone memorials, the other kept records on metal plates. Thus when we find engraved stone monuments, I believe that we can safely assume that they are evidence of a Jaredite, or neo-jaredite culture.
Let us begin with the Nephite custom of record keeping. We are told that their official records were engraven on metal plates. The prophet Jacob gives us some insight into their practices. He states:
I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates... and we know that the things which we write upon plates must remain; but whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away; but we can write a few words upon plates, which will give our children, and also our beloved brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us (Jacob 4:1).
So from Jacob we learn that they 1) wrote their records on plates, and 2) anything that was not written on plates would have decayed or been destroy by the ravages of time; such things as animal skins, bark paper, cloth, etc. This scripture would seem to exclude stone records which could withstand the effects of time.  No mention is ever made of the Nephites recording their histories on stone.  
The prophet/leader Abinadom further emphazises the fact that all their records were compiled on metal plates. He doesn't allow for any exceptions. We read:
And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written (Omni 1:11).
Anthon Transcript
These Nephite records were written in an abreviated script called Reformed Egyptian (Ether 12:23-25). This writing may have been similar to, or derived from, ancient Egyptian scripts such as the demotic or heiratic. The reformed Egyptian had been passed down and altered by the Nephites for a thousand years, so had evolved over time into something different from the original.
This writing was probably similar to that found on the Anthon Transcript. This small document is supposed to be the original, or a copy, of the paper Martin Harris took to various scholars to assure himself that the Book of Mormon text was indeed ancient and authentic. Joseph Smith had copied the characters from the original gold plates at Martin's request.  If this is correct, we have a sample of Nephite writing.  
The Jaredites, on the other hand, apparently were in the habit of using stone monuments to record their royal histories. You will remember that during the reign of the Nephite king Mosiah in Zarahemla a large stone was brought to him. Engraven upon its surface was the history of Coriantumr, the last king of the Jaredites. Mosiah translated this account, probably using the Urim and Thummim. It resulted in an abbreviated version of the Book of Ether.  The account states:
And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God. And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons. It also spake a few words concerning his fathers. And his first parents came out from the tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people (Omni 1:30-22).
Of course, Ether wrote his history of the Jaredites on golden plates, but he seems to have been the exception. All the written records we find in the original Jaredite lands are written in stone; stone stelae, stone altars, stone monuments, stone stairways, and stone statues. Those of the Maya are especially beautiful and elaborate.  Many of these are similar to the description of Coriantumr's stone.
Mayan Glyphs
Within the last 50 years major advances have been made in deciphering these Maya glyphs. Many of them are of a historical nature, relating the genealogy of a royal family, or contain astrological records. A Chinese scholar has asserted that some of the ancient Olmec writing appears to be in a script similar to ancient Chinese (1). Michael Coe, a prominent archaeologist, has said that the Mayan script is a combined form of logographic and semantic writing similar to ancient ones such as Sumerian or Chinese (2).  
Now let us compare the two. On the one hand we have the Nephite metal plates inscribed with characters similar to Egyptian heiratic writing. On the other we have the Jaredite inscribed stones with an image of the ruler accompanied by his royal line, accomplishments, and dates of accendency. These are written in glyphs which are more like oriental writing than they are to any of the Egyptian scripts, and especially to the Reformed Egyptian. They are very different and easily distinguishable from the writing on the Anthon Transcript. Identifying and separating the two should make it easier to locate the individual Nephite and Jaredite lands.
1.  Xu, Mike. http://www.chinese.tcu.edu/www_chinese3_tcu_edu.htm
2.   Coe, Michael.  The Maya. 1999.

Growing Manioc

I promised in an earlier post to comment on my experience growing manioc (casava or yuca). Since coming to Costa Rica 6 months ago I have planted four manioc plants in my back yard. It has been an interesting experience watching them grow.
I have always grown a vegetable garden at my home in the United States.  As a result I am familiar with the techniques used to grow most temperate climate vegetables. However I was completely unfamiliar with the practices used to grow manioc. Fortunately I was befriended by one of the local ward members here who is an experienced farmer. He showed me how to take the stalk from a harvested manioc plant, cut it into short sections, and partially cover it with earth. These are planted about 2 feet apart at the top of ridges of loose, well worked soil. Then they must by patiently watered until they begin to sprout from the old leaf nodes (this was during the dry season). The sprouts on each plant are thinned to one or two shoots once they are growing good. The plant should be tended regularly keeping the soil loose around the base of the plant, but being careful not to injure the roots or the forming tubers. It takes approximately six months to one year for the plant to reach maturity and form a full set of tubers. When the plant is approaching maturity, the lower branches should be thinned to encourage root growth. However, according to the local tradition, the branches should be broken off and not cut with an iron tool. I asked why, but my friend did not know the reason; probably an old tradition.
So far my plants are growing lustily and are up to 6 feet tall. There do not seem to be any natural enemies to the manioc. It is growing so fast that it easily dominates any weeds growing nearby. In another 3 months I will check and see if any tubers have formed.
My other gardening experiences have not been as favorable. Attempting to grow American sweet corn was a disaster. The plants didn't mature properly and only got to be 18 inches tall. They formed rudimentary ears, but the plants almost seemed to revert to a primitive genetic ancestor of modern corn.
My zuchinni, which is so easy to grow in the US, started out wonderfully. But then after two months was attacked by a voracious worm which ate all the leaf stems from the inside out. I am on my second batch of zuchinni which I am heavily spraying with insecticide.
Carrots are doing so-so. My peppers were growing and producing marvelously, until I accidently over-fertilized them and stunted their growth. The tomatoes all have gotten wilt. I need to get some wilt restistant varieties. 
The camote (a type of sweet potato) is very easy and grows well. Unfortunately the local squirrels think the camote leaves are candy and keep mowing off the tops.
All in all, it has been an interesting experience trying to grow a garden in a tropical climate. It certainly helps having someone who has had years of experience. The local farmers seem to do well. One man I have met grows lettuce for a living.  He is able to get twelve crops of lettuce a year-one advantage of not have winter.