A COMPARISON OF NEPHITE AND JAREDITE CULTURES
From a superficial overview of the Book of Mormon, it is easy to assume that the Jaredites were the lesser of these two cultures. Their history almost seems to have been included as an afterthought, and is completely overshadowed by the detail and the volume of the Nephite record. But a careful study of their history will show that the Jaredite civilization eclipsed the Nephite in every respect--spiritually, temporally, politically and culturally.
For purposes of this study, we will assume that the Formative and Olmec era peoples of Mesoamerica are comparable with the Jaredite culture. The Maya civilization was built on the cultural foundation of the Olmec. I contend that the Maya are not comparable with the Nephite culture, but are Neo-Jaredites, continuing the culture, traditions, beliefs, and architecture of the Jaredites (Olmec and Pre-Olmec peoples). These Neo-Jaredites are a composite of remnant Jaredites, Lamanites, dissenting Nephites, and possibly other unknown groups, which were present in the Americas at that time.
In the following section we will make comparisons in those specific areas which illustrate the differences in culture between these two groups. These comparisons will not be all inclusive, but will hopefully be sufficient to make the point. It should be kept in mind that many of the details listed in the Nephite record would also have been present in the full Jaredite record, but have been excluded in the abridgement process. For the purposes of this study the designation Nephite will be used as an inclusive term to refer to combined Nephite, Lamanite and Mulekite factions.
Each topic area will begin with a summary, discuss the topic in relation to each group, and end with any relevant data from post-conquest cultures which might apply.
Promised blessings. The Lord promised the Jaredites that they would become the greatest nation on the earth. He promised the Nephites that they would prosper in the land if they were obedient to his commandments.
Nephites: Lehi was given a two part promise regarding his posterity. First they would be blessed and prospered in the promised land. Secondly, they would be able to safely possess the land, without interference from invading nations or peoples. These promises were contingent upon their obedience to the Lords commandments (2 Ne. 1:9). Note that the Lord implies that there may be others waiting in the wings if they are unrighteous. As they were righteous, they were prospered, and as they turned from God, they were deprived of blessings and afflicted by their enemies. In the end the Nephite faction was destroyed by their enemies.
Jaredites: The Lord made the Brother of Jared an unconditional promise (although there is an implied condition that they must travel to the promised land) that they would become a great nationin fact that there would be none greater upon the face of the earth. "And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me" (Ether 1:43). This is a magnificent promise to be made to a band of homeless refugees. I am not certain what the Lords definition of a great nation would be, but it is likely all inclusive. This comparison would include civilizations contemporary with the Jaredites such as the Sumerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medean, Persian, Chinese, Grecian or early Roman. We can be sure that this promise was fulfilled as the Lords commitments do not fail. This being the case, we would expect to find extensive evidence of this civilization in the promised land; things such as buildings, temples, cities, roads, evidence of trade, records, technology, etc. This evidence would undoubtably overshadow any evidence left from the Nephite civilization. Moroni, speaking as a historian, who was highly qualified to make such an assessment, doesnt exclude his own people when speaking of the Jaredites he observes "and never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord" (Ether 10:28).
The Exodus. The departure of the Nephites and Jaredites from their homelands was markedly different. The Nephites left secretly as fugitives with a minimal amount of baggage, supplies and equipment. They took seeds with them, but no animals are mentioned. They were forced to live off the land for much of their journey, avoided using fire, and often had to eat raw meat. They were provided with the Liahona to guide them. They traveled through one of the most inhospitable areas in the world. In contrast the Jaredites left openly, recruiting all their friends, transporting vast amounts of supplies and equipment, driving herds, and carrying other animal life with them. They were guided by the presence of the Lord who showed the way before them. They traveled across the steppes of Central Asia.
Nibley comments on the difference between the departures of the Nephites and Jaredites.
"It is a remarkable thing that mention of flocks of any kind is conspicuously absent from the history of Lehi, though that story is told in considerable detail. What an astonishing contrast! The one group hastening away from Jerusalem in secrecy to live a life of hunting and hiding in the desert and almost dying of starvation, and the other accepting volunteers, as it were, from all sides, moving out in a sort of massive front, driving innumerable beasts before them and carrying everything from libraries to hives of bees and tanks of fish! It would be hard to conceive of two more diametrically opposite types of migration, yet each fits perfectly with the customs and usages recorded throughout history for the part of the world to which the Book of Mormon assigns it." (1)
Occupation of the promised land. Jaredites: approximately 2000 to 300 B.C. A total of approximately 1700 years. Nephites: 590 B.C. to 385 A.D. A total of 975 years.
Nephites: The Nephites arrived in the Americas in about 590 B.C. They initially settled in the land southward, and over the years spread into the land northward. In 385 A.D. the Nephite faction was essentially exterminated. Members of the Lamanite faction (including some Nephite and Mulekite dissenters) continued to occupy the land, and are the principal ancestors of the Native American peoples.
Jaredites: The flood occurred in approximately 2400 BC, and the Tower of Babel would have been built during the period 2300-2000 BC, therefore the Jaredites would probably have arrived in the Western Hemisphere in 2000 BC, plus or minus 100 years. The final battles of Coriantumr's dynasty probably occurred between 600 and 300 B.C. The principal Jaredite populations were likely centered in Mesoamerica. Following the final battles, there were likely small, disorganized groups of Jaredites who survived, and mixing with other populations, perpetuated their race to the present day.
Location in the promised land. The Jaredites inhabited Mesoamerica (mainly Southern Mexico and Guatemala), while the Nephites intially occupied an area south of Mesoamerica. Beginning in 100 B.C. they began to move northward into the former Jaredite lands.
The Nephites began as a small group on the seacoast of the land southward. After 10-20 years they divided, with the Nephite faction moving eastward to the valley of Nephi (2Ne.5:5-7). About 250 B.C. the Nephite faction again moved northward to the land of Zarahemla, joining with the Mulekite faction (Omni 12-14). At this time the Nephite territory probably comprised an area of about 5000-10,000 square miles. (We have no knowledge of how far the Lamanite faction might have expanded to the south from the land of their first inheritance.) They remained in the land southward until between 100 and 50 B.C., at which time they started expanding into the land northward (Alma 63:4). By the time of the final Nephite wars in 385 A.D. they had colonized extensively in the north. They viewed the land southward as an island as it was almost entirely surrounded by water, with seas on the east, west, north and south (2 Nephi 10:20-21; Alma 22:32.). There was a narrow neck of land (isthmus) connecting the land southward and the land northward (Alma 22:32). It was a choice land both temporally as well as spiritualy, in fact the prophet Zenos refers to it as the best spot in the Lords vineyard (Jacob 5:43).
It is supposed that the Jaredites migrated from Mesopotamia, to eastern Asia, thence to the Pacific coast of Central America somewhere between Mexico and El Salvador. In terms of the archaeological record, the earliest (Early Formative period) sites are located on the Pacific coast, then spread eastward, flowering on the Gulf coast in places such as La Venta and San Lorenzo. The Jaredites started out as a small colony (Sorenson estimates (2) their beginning population at 80 adults). However, they soon grew to fill the Mesoamerican land mass. By at least the time of King Omer, they had reached the east sea (Ether 9:3). Twice they rebuilt their civilization after it was reduced to a minimal population through civil war, famine and disease (Ether 9:12; 10:1). Their entire 1500 year history was spent in the land northward (except for possible renegade wanderers). They did not build any cities in the land southward, but reserved it for a hunting preserve (Ether 10:21). However King Lib did build a great city by the narrow neck of land leading to the land southward (Ether 10:20). The area occupied by the Jaredites was well developed with many cities, buildings, farms, mines, etc. (Ether 7:11; 9:23; 10:4, 23). The Lord classifies the Jaredite lands as a promised and a choice land (Ether 2:8-12).
The Jaredite lands in the southern portion of the land northward were devoid of trees after about 400 B.C. (Helaman 3:5) (the Nephites who first encountered the land northward called it Desolation because of the evident human destruction, as well as a lack of forest cover). This absence of trees could have been caused by a number of possible factors: consumption of the trees for construction, a burnt earth policy during the final Jaredite wars, or volcanic eruptions which burned the vegetation. Another possibility might have been the burning of the land during the time of King Lib to destroy the infestation of snakes blocking the narrow neck, although this event took place many generations before the Nephites explored the land (Ether 10:19).
Building and construction. (Refer to linked page)
Weapons. Nephite and Jaredite weaponry seems to have been similar. Steel was utilized by both groups for weapons. The Jaredites likely introduced obsidian technology into the Americas.
A number of weapons and implements of war are mentioned in the Nephite record. Nephi constructed swords patterned after the sword of Laban (2Ne.5:14). They also used the bow and arrow, ax, sling, cimeter, knife, dart, spear (javelin), clubs, shields, armour, helmets, etc (Jarom 8; Mos.9:16; Alma 2:12). The Nephites originally had the technology to make steel (2Ne.5:16; Jarom 8); however, this may have been lost over time, and was replaced by the use of obsidian and flint points, and blades which were much easier to manufacture on an individual basis. They may have learned obsidian technology from Jaredite remnants. However, from archaeological evidence, it appears that there was only a limited amount of trade in obsidian into Southern Central America (Costa Rica and Panama.)
The Jaredite record mentions the use of weapons of war, ..shields, and breastplates, and headplates (Ether 15:15). The sword is the weapon most mentioned at the time of the last battles. It was probably 3-4 feet long as Coriantumr leaned on his sword to rest before killing Shiz (Ether 15:30). Even women and children were armed and fought during the final battles (Ether 15:15). The people of Limhi found rusted swords and brass and copper breastplates among the debris of the Jaredite destruction (Mos.8:11). A literal interpretation of the scriptures would indicate that the Jaredites were the first peoples on the American continent following the flood. As such, they likely introduced obsidian technology from Asia.
It is uncertain whether the Jaredites used the bow and arrow. It is not mentioned in the Jaredite record, and Olmec/Maya art work, while illustrating the use of the spear, knife, axe and club, does not illustrate the bow. However, Pre-Classic sites pre-dating Nephite times have yielded small lightweight points which may have been used as arrow heads.
At the time of the conquest, the native Americans were using a wooden club (macuahuitl-the Aztec name) which the Spaniards called a sword. It had a groove cut into each side into which obsidian blades were fastened. It was so effective that it could behead a horse in one blow which astonished the Spaniards. They also used the atlatl or spear thrower which increased the range and velocity of a spear.
Population. The terminal Jaredite population likely exceeded the Nephite by a magnitude of 10 to 20. (see expanded Population section)
The estimated maximum Nephite population in 385 AD was 2-10 million. Two hundred and thirty thousand males (plus their families) of the Nephite faction were killed in the last battle at Cumorah (Morm. 6:11-15). If we assume an average family size of 4 and multiply this by the number of Nephite males killed at the last battle, we have a little less than a million. If we assume that half the Nephite population was eliminated prior to the last battle, that would give us 2 million. Adding in 4 million of the Lamanite faction (which were normally twice as numerous as the Nephite faction) would give us a total population of 6 million. This is only a very rough estimate, but illustrates the fact that the Nephite population was limited and could not have included hundreds of millions as some have postulated. It would have been even less if the women are included in the armies of those killed at the last Nephite battle which some consider to be the case (19).
Throughout their history the Nephite population was kept in check by constant warfare, probable high infant mortality and periodic famines and pestilence, although the record mentions that in general disease was not a serious problem. The Lamanite faction was approximately twice as large as the combined Nephite/Mulekite faction, and the Nephite faction was smaller than the Mulekite.
The estimated maximum Jaredite population at the time of their last battles was 80-160 million. Shortly before the last battles, Ether mentions that 2 million men had been killed which appeared to be a significant number to them. I am estimating that this was 10-20% of the male population. This would result in a total male population of 20 to 40 million. Multiplying this by an average family size of 4 would give us a total population of 80 to 160 million. I believe this is somewhat high, but will let it stand.
On several occasions during their history they were reduced to double or triple digit populations through civil war, disease or famine. Throughout their long history the population was kept in check by fairly constant warfare, assumed high infant mortality, and periodic plagues, famines and pestilences. .
Family dwellings. In general characteristics they were basically the same.
Both the Nephites and Jaredites probably lived in single or multiple family dwellings built on raise earth and rock platforms. These were likely very similar to the wood and thatched homes which are used by many of the native inhabitants of Central America to this day. They were constructed of wood with pole walls and thatched roofs. When wood was not available, the Nephites became expert in the use of "cement" (adobe?) to build homes.
Burials are mentioned in the record, but no specifics are given. Therefore extrapolations from the archaeological record will have to be used. However, I am not prepared to do this at the present time.
Burials carry heavy cultural overtones and can serve to define cultural groups. However, I do not have enough information at present from Classic and Pre-Classic burials to make an informed judgement. Many distinct practices have been observed which all have to be taken into consideration: i.e. primary or secondary burials, relicts buried with the dead, gravesite orientation, grave construction, etc.
Roads and travel. No significant difference except for Nephite shipbuilding.
There is evidence of extensively developed ancient roads and trails in both the Nephite and Jaredite areas.
The Nephites built trails and roads connecting their lands and cities. Roads and highways are mentioned (3Ne.6:8; 8:13). No mention is made of water travel until the instance of Hagoth in 55 B.C. (Alma 63:5-8); however, they may have been familiar with shipbuilding prior to this time. The use of horses and chariots is mentioned (Alma 18:9- 11; 20:6; 3Ne.3:22), but in most cases Nephite travel appears to have been on foot.
No mention is made of roads or highways in the Jaredite record, but there are remains of road and trail systems associated with Olmec and Maya ruins. This is likely a case where such details have been omitted due to the abridgement. No chariots are mentioned, although it is possible that the Jaredites would have been familiar with them from their origen in the middle east. Nibley (3) feels that they must have used large Asiatic wagons to cross the steppes of Asia with their extensive baggage. The record indicates that they had the use of horses, asses, elephants, cureloms, and cumoms (Ether 9:19).
Use of watercraft. The Nephites were familiar with a surface type craft which they constructed to cross the ocean. The Jaredites used a submersible sealed barge with peaked ends to cross several bodies of water including the ocean.
The Nephites constructed a ship, following the blueprint of the Lord, to travel from the Arabian Penisula to the New World. Following their arrival, the use of watercraft is not mentioned until the instance of Hagoth (Alma 63:5). He built a number of large ships which were used to transport people and supplies northward along the Pacific coast. Helaman implies that shipping was a common form of transportation in his time (Hel. 3:10,14).
The Jaredites constructed and used barges to cross many bodies of water, including the Pacific Ocean. The Jaredite record does not mention the use of watercraft after their arrival in the promised land, however it does not exclude it.
(The Olmecs apparently used barges or rafts to transport 20 ton basalt blocks 60 miles to *the site of La Venta. Dugout canoes were a common form of transportation at the time of the conquest)
Language and written records. The Jaredite written language excelled that of the Nephites. The Jaredites spoke an ancient language which may have pre-dated the flood. The Nephites spoke a form of Hebrew and wrote in an abbreviated script called Reformed Egyptian..
The Nephites wrote their sacred records in an abreviated script which they called Reformed Egyptian which may have been similar to the ancient demotic script. This had been handed down and altered by them to fit their manner of speech, but Moroni did not consider the Nephites to be proficient in writing the Reformed Egyptian (Ether 12:23-25). For writings which did not have to be abbreviated, they used Hebrew which for them was more precise; but even the Hebrew text had been altered by the time of Moroni (Mormon 9:32-33). Their language was probably a form of Hebrew, although Moroni indicates that no other people knew their language (Morm.9:30-34). The Nephite faction kept extensive written records. The Mulekite faction had no written language or history when the Nephites encountered them. They were subsequently tutored in the Nephite language and script (Omni 17-18). The Lamanite faction, at times during their history, learned the Nephite script and used it for correspondence and trade.
The Jaredites probably used a form of the Adamic or Noahic language which was in use at the time of their dispersion from Babel (although the record does not specifically say that their language was not changed, only that they could understand one another). They had a written history going back to the creation (the Book of Rememberance), and a powerful written language. Moroni comments "thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them" (Ether 12:24). The sealed portion of the Gold Plates contain these Jaredite scriptures and history as passed down by Ether, and would likely fill two books the size of the Book of Mormon. At least by the time of Coriantumr, the Jaredite kings were inscribing memorials to themselves on stone monuments (stelae) (Omni 20-22).
(The Olmec and Maya have left evidence of writing on stone, jade, pottery, murals, and codices. Most of the Maya writing is a form of glyphic script. The early Spaniards found libraries full of Maya history, rituals, etc., written on bark paper or animal skins. But they burned most of them thinking they were "evil" and of no value. However, a few of these writings or codices have survived. Within the last 50 years major advances have been made in deciphering the Maya glyphs. Many of them are of a historical nature, relate the genealogy of a ruling 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 (4). Michael Coe indicates that the Mayan is a combined form of logographic and semantic writing similar to ancient scripts such as Sumerian or Chinese (5).)
Government. The Jaredites were ruled by a long line of kings, in a monarchial form of government. The Nephite faction was ruled by kings from 570 to 92 B.C., by judges from 92B.C. to 29 A.D., and apparently by military rulers from 327 to 385 A.D. They apparently had a system of governing law. The Lamanite faction was governed under a feudal system with a king ruling over sub-kings who were subject to tribute.
The Nephite faction was initially ruled by kings, who were descendants of Nephi. This continued until Mosiah instituted the Reign of the Judges in 92 BC. It appears that the people had some voice in choosing their leaders, including the king (Mosiah 29:2). Under the rule of the Judges, it appears that the people could choose the lower judges (Mosiah 29:25, 39), but the chief judge was discretionary (Alma was appointed to the office [Mosiah 29:42] and subsequently was able to confer it on a qualified individual of his choice [Alma 4:16-17]). In the history which we have, all of the chief judges were of Nephite linage. However, as the lessor judges were elected by the people, and the majority of the population were Mulikites, it seems that the majority of the lower judges were always Mulekites. This sometimes resulted in a division of the people (Alma 46:4). Both kings and judges apparently had a framework of laws which governed their decisions (Jarom 6; Mosiah 29:11, 15; Alma 1:1; 4:16). Shortly after the birth of Christ, the government was destroyed by secret combinations, and the people divided into clans/tribes/family groups (3Ne.7). The wicked were all destroyed in the cataclysm which followed Christs crucifixion. Following His resurrection, the more righteous survivors lived a communal order (United Order) with all things in common (4Ne.3). No specific form of government is mentioned at this time; however, they would only require minimal government as there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another, they had no war, there were no poor, and the three factions (Nephite, Lamanite and Mulekite) were united (4Ne.2). This communal order disintegrated about 231 A.D., resulting in a division into classes once again (4Ne.25-26). All of the old animosities, rivalries and hatreds resurfaced. At this time it appears that the Nephite faction had a form of military rule as Mormon was appointed by the people to be their leader and military commander (Morm.2:1)
The Lamanite faction had a primary king over all the land of Nephi, with sub-kings who ruled separate areas. Leaders were likely descendants of Laman. These kings apparently had all power to arbitrarily make decisions and judgements. Tribute was paid by subordinate groups, and men could be levied for war.
The Mulekite faction had a king (Zarahemla) at the time the Nephites encountered them, but he strangely relinquished his right to the Nephite minority. Subsequently many Mulekite dissenters tried to regain this power. During the Reign of the Judges these dissenters agitated for a return to a monarchy.
The Jaredites practiced a form of monarchial government (6) led by a series of kings who ruled arbitrarily according to their will. The first Jaredite prophet, Mahonri Moriancumer, warned that the rule of kings would bring about the enslavement of the people, but his warning was ignored. This system is similar to the far eastern pattern (7) described by Nibley in his World of the Jaredites, and was a fertile environment for the formation and practice of secret societies. There seems to be an irregular pattern of succession to the youngest son following the pattern established by Orihah. An unpopular king maintained his position by fear, force, bribes and oaths. Rival factions often vied for power. Assassination and murder were accepted methods of gaining power. Many defeated kings were imprisoned for long periods of time. The whims of an evil or despotic king often resulted in great suffering and injustice; and led to apostasy. This form of government required a monumental capital (or capitols when there were rival states) which was built to consolidate power and influence; and centralize the collection of revenues.
(The Maya and Aztecs were apparently practicing a form of feudalism at the time of the conquest, with the most powerful entities ruling over vassal lords and cities. They had a class society with royalty, elite, craftsmen, farmer/laborers and slaves. Frequent warfare was waged by rival states in attempts to enlarge their domains. Conquered states were required to pay tribute to the controlling Lords. Shamanistic religion was an integral part of the government. )
Plants and food. The Jaredites and Nephites both relied on imported food sources, or plants and animals native to the Americas. Both the Jaredites and the Nephite faction developed a stable form of agriculture which allowed permanent settlements and a diversification of labor. The Jaredites either discovered or developed the maize plant which has been a major food source for both ancient and modern populations.
The Nephites had access to all kinds of grains and fruits, plus domestic and wild animals. (Although they brought seeds with them, there is no record of them importing animals.) The record mentions that they had the ox, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, and two unknown grains--neas and sheum. The Nephite faction regarded the more primitive part of the Lamanite faction as depraved because they ate beasts of prey and raw meat (Enos 20). If the Nephites cultivated maize, which it is likely that they did, they would have had to learn the techniques from Jaredite remnants, or other previous inhabitants, as this crop cannot survive wild, but must be cultivated (8).
The Lord commanded the Jaredites to take with them their flocks as well as the seed of the earth of every kind (Ether 1:41). They also apparently gathered wild animals, fish, and honeybees to take with them (Ether 2:1-3). The Lord may have been using them to establish wildlife in the new world following the extinction during the flood. Following their arrival in the promised land we are told that they had all manner of fruit, and of grain. They used all types of domesticated animals as well as wild game (Ether 9:17-19). Maize (domesticated corn) appeared about 3000 B.C., in Jaredite times, and came to be one of the major sources of food for both ancient and modern Americans.
(The natives at the time of the conquest also used dog meat, pigs, maize, wild game, fish, and manioc. Southern Central America is apparently a fertile area where food is grown easily and the earth brings forth abundantly. Squires describes the Nicaragua of 1850 as a paradise where even the poorest wretch need not go hungry. Plantains were abundant and in many places could be had for the asking. He mentions an abundance of beef, pork, poultry, cheese, rice, beans, melons, papaya, pineapple, oranges, mamays, nisperos, pomegranates, maranons, jocotes, yuca, bananas, beans, maize, and cacao (18). A modern example is Panama where even today mangos are free for the taking.)
Domestic animals. The use of the elephant, curelom and cumom by the Jaredites was the major difference between the two groups.
The Nephites raised flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind (2Ne.2:11), including cattle, goats, wild goats, and horses (Enos 21). No mention is made of elephants, cureloms or cumoms which were present in Jaredite times. As far as we know they did not bring the above mentioned domestic animals with them (1), but found these animals already present in the Americas.
When the Jaredites left Sumeria, they were instructed to take male and female of their flocks with them. They also took fowls of the air, fish, and swarms of bees (Ether 1:41; 2:2-3). They must have been an overland version of Noah's Ark, taking everything with them that they would need in a land which was probably still devoid of terrestrial life following the destruction of the flood. After their arrival in the Americas the record mentions that they had horses, asses, elephants, cureloms, cumoms, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, and many other kinds of animals (Ether 9:17-19). The cattle, sheep, swine and goats were particularly used for food. They found the elephants, cureloms and cumoms especially useful (apparently for labor and/or transportation)(Ether 9:18-19).
Clothing. No significant difference mentioned in the account.
The Jaredites had "silks, and fine-twined linen; and they did work all manner of cloth, that they might clothe themselves from their nakedness."(Ether 10:24).
The Nephite faction practiced the art of spinning and made fine linen, and cloth of every kind that they "might cloth their nakedness" (Mosiah 10:6). They apparently considered clothing their bodies a "civilized" behavior. The more idle part of the Lamanite faction went naked, except for a skin around their loins, and shaved their heads (Enos 20)
Calculation of time. There was a major difference in calendering between the two peoples. The Jaredites apparently used a complicated chronological system dating back to at least the time of the dispersion. The Nephites used a sequence of three shorter term calendars with a beginning date of 600 B.C.
The Nephites began their chronology at the time they left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.. They used this time scale until 92 B.C. when the government of the Judges was instituted. This calendar was numbered from zero to ninety two (the birth of Christ). At the birth of Christ the calendar was again set at zero and numbered until Moroni finished the record in 421 A.D. They may have used a calendar with lunar months (Omni 21. However, this may reflect a Jaredite dating system as it is referring to Coriantumr, and was given by the Mulekites who likely adopted Jaredite culture.).
The Jaredites probably calculated time according to the time scale used by Noah (although dates are not mentioned in the abridged account of Ether). On the other hand they may have begun their calendar at the time they left Babel. In either event their calendar would go back several thousand years. This corresponds closely with the Maya Long Count Calendar, which begins its chronology in 3113 B.C.
(The Olmec and Maya were sophisticated measurers of time. They calculated solar, lunar, and stellar cycles and recorded them. They used the Long Count Calendar, which probably originated with the Olmec (11), and measured time from 3113 BC. onward. This calendar is very complicated consisting of a number of interrelated cycles, measuring periods comparable to our weeks, months and years. In addition they also measure ages which is something we dont consider (although we do measure milleniums.) They not only measure the past, but future time as well. One of their legend refers to four ages of the world with accompanying destructionsone destruction is by flood, one by wind, one by earth (earthquakes) and the last by fire, ending in *2012 A.D. Veytia (20) speaks in detail of a similar system used by the Toltecs. However, according to the Toltec version, the Long Count began in 4086 BC with the creation, the flood occurred in 1717 BC, and the dispersion of Babel in 1301 BC.)
Jade. This appears to be an area of major difference. The Jaredites (as Olmecs) considered jade to be one of the most valuable of possessions, imbuing it with religious connotations. Its use appears to extend back to their Asiatic origins. They utilized it in burials, as jewelry and ornamentation, and as a symbol of authority. On the other hand, the Nephites, while possessing jade, did not seem to regard it in the same way. They did not appear to work in jade, and if they did possess it, acquired it from secondary sources.
There are two minerals which are referred to as jade--jadeite and nephrite. They have different compositions, but similar properties. According to chemical analyses performed on ancient jade artifacts, all Mesoamerican and Central American jade comes from one source in north central Guatemala (the Motagua valley)(10). The word jade comes from the Spanish word ijada (referring to kidneysthe native Americans felt that it was a cure for kidney ailments) so the word is of post- conquest origin. Anciently, jade was made into ax heads, blade forms, pendants, figurines, etc. "Since weapons and cutting tools of jade greatly excel those of other stones, they became symbols of authority and ceremony. In elaborate Olmec burials and offerings, a high proportion of the surviving objects are of jade--seemingly an indication that the material itself had assumed mystical qualities." (10)
There is no apparent Nephite cultural tradition relating to jade. Jade, or a related mineral, does not appear to be mentioned in the Jewish scriptures or the Book of Mormon even though many precious and semi-precious stones are listed. If they did develop an appreciation for jade, it was probably secondary to the Jaredite tradition, and the availability of numerous Jaredite artifacts from traders. It is unlikely that they worked in jade to any great extent, and in my opinion, jade artifacts found in "Nephite" sites would be of Jaredite or Neo-Jaredite origen. The design of these articles is most certainly Olmec or Maya. (If Costa Rica is indeed the land southward as I postulate, the Nephites would not have had primary access to a jade source until at least 200 B.C. unless it were through Jaredite remnants.) It is interesting to note that Northern Costa Rica is the only area outside of Mesoamerica where jade relicts are found, and they are only found in those areas which would have been occupied by the Mulekite faction (9). This may be another evidence of Jaredite aculturalization of the Mulekites.
From archaeological evidence, it appears that the Jaredite era peoples used jade extensively. Its main use was for religious and ceremonial purposes. To them it was more valuable than gold. They had an advanced technology for cutting, polishing, drilling and inscribing jade. Their uses, designs and feelings for jade are similar to far eastern cultures, particularly the Chinese. They created ceremonial jade objects, and associated jade objects with burial ceremonies. For example, jade inserts and plugs were placed in bodily openings in preparing the bodies for burial (This was also practiced in China) (12).
Scriptures. Both groups had access to complete scriptural records, although the Jaredite was the older of the two. The Jaredite record was written in a more powerful language than the Nephite. The Jaredite record contained the greater knowledge which is withheld because of unbelief. The Jaredite record contained detailed accounts of the destructive secret societies which were to plague both populations. The Nephite record included the ministry of Christ on the American continent.
The Nephite faction had access to the Brass plates, which Nephi obtained from Laban. These contained the writings of Moses and the prophets down through Jeremiah. In addition they had access to their own prophetic writings from Lehi through Mormon. Some of their prophets had access to the interpreters, or Urim and Thumim. Mosiah interpreted the writings of Ether which were made available to the Nephites after the resurection of Christ. The Nephites had a record of the ministry of Christ among them. At that time many things were revealed which were not permitted to be written. And many of Christ's teachings which were written were not included in the abridged Book of Mormon (3Ne.26:8-11).
The Jaredites probably had access to the Adamic record (The Book of Remembrance) down through Noah. They likely also had access to the writings of a long line of prophets who ministered to them. In addition they also had the account of the vision of Mahonri Moriancumer which included a history of man from the beginning of time to the end of the earth, but apparently this was a sealed record. [Ether 3:25]. Moroni calls this the "greater ... knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief" [Ether 4:13]. It was included in the two thirds of the golden plates which were sealed (Ether 4:4-5).
Religion. The Nephite faction continuously practiced a form of early Christianity. They had the Melchisidek Priesthood and its accompanying ordinances. A number of apostate cults were organized during their history. Little information is given on the religion of the Jaredites. Initially it would have been ancient Christianity as passed down by Noah. Initially the Jaredites were a very righteous people and it can be assumed that they possessed the priesthood. But they had also been exposed to the heathen culture establish by Nimrod at the time of the dispersion.
The Nephites practiced a Mosaic form of Christianity derived from Jewish traditions and the Mosaic scriptures which were available to them. The Lords church was organized among them with appropriate priesthood offices and ordinances. Members were admitted to fellowship by baptism. Religious meetings were held on a regular basis. Scriptural records were available to them. Temples were present and it is likely that appropriate ordinances were administered. A large portion of the population, especially the Lamanite faction, was generally apostate with beliefs ranging from atheism to an amorphous Great Spirit.
The Jaredites had access to the fulness of early Christianity as taught by Noah. The Brother of Jared was aware of all aspects of the gospel and the mission of Christ. He saw a vision of the world, and mans part in it, from the beginning to the end. He wrote a complete history of it in what Moroni calls a mighty writing (Ether 12:24). This probably included much more knowledge than we have available to us in our day (because it included that knowledge which is included in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.) Unfortunately their writings also included the history and practices of earlier secret societies. This proved to be an irresistible temptation to those that followed. I am assuming that the Jaredites had access to the Higher Priesthood, at least during their righteous phases. This would likely include access to all the ordinances of the priesthood, including temples and temple ordinances.
(The Olmec and Maya religions, in my oppinion, represented an idolatrous and apostate form of Jaredite beliefs. They practiced a shamanistic religion characterized by animism, pantheism, ancestral worship, and ritual offerings, which in its more degenerate forms including human sacrifice and blood offerings.)
Racial background. The Nephites represented the tribes of Judah, Ephriam and Manassah. The Jaredites may have been a diverse group genetically, however, were likely of Japethic roots with Mongoloid features.
The Nephites began as a fairly homogenous group; however, with the addition of the Mulekites, they could have been quite diverse. Lehis family was of the tribe of Manassah, Ishmaels of the tribe of Ephriam and Zoram was a Jew. Mulek was, of course, a Jew of the royal line. However Mulek likely brought other nationalities with him when he fled Jerusalem. This could have included Egyptians, Phoenecians, and other nationalities of the near east. It has also been suggested that the early Lamanites may have intermarried (15) with some of the remnant Jaredites, and that the Mulekites had substantial contact with the Jaredites (21). Sorenson (15) postulates that there could have been other populations present in the New World which might have been incorporated into the Nephite group.
The Jaredites originated in early Sumeria. Thus they could have descended from any of the three parental racial groups (Shem, Japeth and Ham) which were intermingled before the dispersion. It is possible that they included a genetic mixture of all three. However it is more likely that they would have been more uniform. In my opinion they were descendants of Japeth with Mongoloid genetic traits. Sorenson (15) also suggests that the Jaredites could have mixed with other groups who may have been present in the promised land. However I do not believe that there were any others present when they first arrived. The Western Hemisphere should have been unpopulated following the flood, and prior to the dispersion; however, there may have been others who arrived in the land after the Jaredites were established.
Spiritual manifestations. With the exception of the visit of Christ to the Nephites at Bountiful, it would appear the the Jaredites experienced greater spiritual manifestations at least in the early phase.
The Nephites departed Jerusalem following several revelations from the Lord to Lehi. They were subsequently led to the Promised Land by the Lord. During the journey Lehi and Nephi both had visions based upon the Tree of Life. They were directed back to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates, and again, to convince Ishmael and his family to accompany them. They were miraculously provided with the Liahona to assist them in their travels They were miraculously guided to food. The Lord showed Nephi how to build a ship, and guided them across the ocean. Nephi and Mosiah were warned to leave their homes to avoid being destroyed. There follows many miraculous events too numerous to list, culminating in the appearance of Christ at the temple in Bountiful.
Jaredites. Mahonri Moriancumhr had such great faith that he successfully petitioned the Lord to preserve their language, and lead his people to a promised land. In the process they were guided by Lord in a cloud (as was Moses and the Israelites), and were directed continually by the hand of the Lord as they traveled from Mesopotamia, through Asia, to the shores of the Pacific. The culmination of Mahonri Moriancumer's experience occurred when he saw the Lord, and had all things revealed to him. His account of this vision is contained (at least in part) in the sealed portion of the Golden Plates. The Lord inspired the design of the barges they used to cross the Pacific Ocean, and provided them with miraculous lighting for the barges. At some point in their history Moriancumer moves the mountain Zerin through faith and the power of the priesthood (Ether 12:30). This is one of only two such accounts in holy writ.
Secret societies. The Jaredite records contained information detailing the formation of what the Book of Mormon calls "secret combinations". These secret societies do not appear to be active among the Jaredites until about 1500 B.C., after which they are continuously present, and eventually result in the destruction of that civilization. The Nephite culture did not carry the seeds of these societies, but following the merger of the Nephite faction with the Mulekite faction they appear and eventually contribute to the destruction of the Nephite faction.
Nephites. For the first 500 years the Nephites are not troubled by the intrigues of secret combinations. It seems that these practices were not part of their original cultural tradition, but were later introduced from outside their culture. The introduction of secret socities seemed to come by way of the Mulekites, and to be initiated by Mulekite dissenters (17). At various times they were very influential, and shortly after the birth of Christ caused the destruction of the central government. In the end they contributed to the destruction of the Nephite faction.
Jaredites. The ancient records which they brought with them contained detailed accounts of the formation, use, and practice of secret societies (Ether 8:9). The Jaredite record tells of many times when such societies were used to get political power or gain wealth. There is no evidence that they were organized during the early years of the Jaredite culture (the first 500-1000 years). However beginning with Jared, who organizes a secret society to eliminate his father Omer, and gain the crown, they were more or less continuously present. In the end they destroyed the Jaredite civilization. They were likely kept alive until the time of the conquest by Jaredite remnants who survived the wars of Coriantumr. Nibley (22) gives a good description of the Asiatic origin and use of the secret society to achieve power.
Nephi taught his people to work in iron, steel, copper, brass, silver and gold, and precious ores which were abundant in the land (see map 2). He made swords out of steel "after the manner of the sword of Laban" (2Ne.2:15). The wicked King Noah built many buildings, including a palace, and ornamented them with metal including gold, silver, copper, brass, iron, and an unknown metal called "ziff" (Mosiah 11:8-10).
The Jaredites were proficient in the working of gold, silver, iron, copper, brass, and all manner of metals. They apparently were skilled in mining ores of these metals (Ether 10:23). The Jaredites had the ability to make steel, and manufactured swords out of steel (Ether 7:9). Following the destruction of the Jaredites, exploring Nephites found brass and copper breastplates, and rusting swords of some of the Jaredites who had been slain (Mosiah 8:10-11).
(The pre-conquest native americans were adept at obtaining and working gold in areas where there were rich deposits. The early Spaniards were amazed at the amount of gold worn and possessed by these indians and traded them trinkets for large quantities of it. Columbus thought that Costa Rica, and Veraguas (in Panama) were particularly rich. Fortunes were made in Western Panama in the 1850s when it was found that the ancient graves contained gold relicts buried with the dead [for example two men dug up 50 pounds of gold from one gravesite in two days.] Unfortunately most of these artifacts were melted down and sold as bullion. Most of the gold work was ornamental or ceremonial--things such as figurines, icons, pendants and gold disks [the Spaniards called the latter "gold mirrors".] Little evidence of tools or utensils made of metal has been found. Even today the Kuna Indians of Panama value gold jewelry. The Kuna women traditionally wear gold nose rings. The Kuna never seem to be short of gold and claim to have a secret source for it somewhere in the Darien jungle (personal communication). They regard gold as sacred and will not consider mining or selling it for income. It is said that each Kuna woman has [a sort of "dowry"?] a small box [about a half foot square] filled with gold and gold jewelry.)
The Nephites had a standardize monetary system with coinage denominated in senine, seon, shum, limnah, amnor, ezrom and onti (Alma 11:4-20). These coins were composed of gold or silver and were used in trade, measurements, etc. This system was not patterned after the Jewish monetary system. They may have borrowed it from Jaredite remnants as some of the coins bear Jaredite names (16). Or, more likely, they may have adopted the system from the Mulekites who could have learned it from the Jaredites. The Nephites appear to have had a public source of revenue as the judges and lawyers were paid for their time spent is dealing with civil and criminal matters (Alma 11:1, 20; and 30:33).
No specific Jaredite monetary system is mentioned, but they used money (Ether 9:11) and bought, sold and traffic[ed] one with another to get gain (Ether 10:23). It is therefore very likely they had some sort of system, and possibly the same one later used by the Nephites.
(1) Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthews and Stephen R. Callister [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988], 187.
(2) Sorenson, John L. "The Composition of Lehi's Family" in Nephite Culture and Society. 1998
(3) Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthews and Stephen R. Callister [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988], 182.)
(4) Xu, Mike. http://www.chinese.tcu.edu/www_chinese3_tcu_edu.htm
(5) Coe, Michael. The Maya. 1999.
(6) See "The Hierocentric State" in THE ANCIENT STATE The Rulers and the Ruled. Hugh Nibley edited by Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks. Deseret Book Company Salt Lake City, Utah and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. Provo, Utah.
(7) Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthews and Stephen R. Callister [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988], p. 190-200.
(8) Sorenson, John L. An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book Co. and FARMS. 1996. p. 139.
(9) "Perspectives on Costa Rican Jade: Compositional Analysis and Cultural Implications." Frederick Lange, et. al., in Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York. 1981. p.169.
(10) "Jade" Elizabeth Kennedy Easby, in Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York. 1981. p.135-8.
(11) Coe, Michael. The Maya. 1999. p. 50.
(12) Ibid. p. 138, 146.
(13) The existence of what I term Neo-Jaredites depends on the survival of Jaredite remnants following Coriantumr's war of extinction. Were there in fact Jaredite survivors? At first this does not seem obvious from a reading of Ether for we read that Ether prophesied to "Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the peopleOtherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr." (Ether 13:21.) This prophecy by Ether would not seem to leave any room for Jaredite survivors.
But consider what Hugh Nibley has to say about the subject. "What does the Book of Mormon mean by "destroyed"? The word is to be taken, as are so many other key words in the book, in its primary and original sense: "to unbuild; to separate violently into its constituent parts; to break up the structure." To destroy is to wreck the structure, not to annihilate the parts. Thus in 1 Nephi 17:31 we read of Israel in Moses' day that, "According to his word he did destroy them; and according to his word he did lead them," bringing them together after they had been "destroyed," i.e., scattered, and needed a leader. "As one generation hath been destroyed among the Jews," according to 2 Nephi 25:9, "even so they have been destroyed from generation to generation according to their iniquities." A complete slaughter of any one generation would of course be the end of their history altogether, but that is not what "destroyed" means. Of the Jews at Jerusalem Nephi says (1 Nephi 17:43), "I know that the day must shortly come that they must be destroyed, save only a few." Later, "after the Messiah hath arisen from the dead . . . behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again" (2 Nephi 25:14). In these two cases what actually happened was that the Jews were all scattered "save a few only" that remained in the land. The Israelites upon entering the Promised Land, we are told, drove out "the children of the land, yea, unto the scattering them to destruction" (1 Nephi 17:32). Here it is plainly stated that the destruction of the Canaanites was their scatteringas is known to have been the case. Likewise of the Nephites: "and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold these things shall be hid up" (1 Nephi 13:35), where both Nephites and Lamanites dwindle in unbelief after they have been destroyed."
"So when we read that the Jaredites "were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country" in the very first verse of Ether, we are to understand that the nation was smashed and dispersed, but not that the catastrophic final battle was necessarily the whole story. The first thing that occurs to King Mosiah [actually King Limhi] on the discovery of the twenty-four gold plates was, "perhaps they will give us a knowledge of the remnants of the people who have been destroyed, from whence this record came" (Mosiah 8:12), showing that whether anyone survived or not, for Mosiah [Limhi] at least it was perfectly possible for remnants of a people to exist after that people had been "destroyed." But did not Ether prophesy that "every soul should be destroyed save it were only Coriantumr?" (Ether 13:21). Every soul of what? Specifically of "his kingdom . . . and all his household." Ether himself, hiding out in a cave, was not included in the number, and neither were other inhabitants of the continentNephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites that were actually living here at the time of the Jaredite destruction. Neither were renegade Jaredites, wandering far and wide beyond the confines of the kingdom. That there were such renegades will appear from a number of things." (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, 1988], p. 239. [He goes into great detail on this topic in p. 238-254])
Again in An Approach to the Book of Mormon (p. 370) Nibley refers to what he believes would have been numerous Jaredite remnants. (This is the Melchizedek Priesthood manual for the year 1957 published by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)
John L. Sorenson, in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, suggests that "it is plausible that several remote groups also could have survived to meld unnoticed by historians into the successor Mulekite and Lamanite populations." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), p. 192.)
Sorenson again comments It is a safe presumption, however, that some groups existing at the time when the armies referred to in Ether 15 were destroyed simply refused to participate in the suicidal madness of Coriantumr and Shiz. They would have ensured their own survival by staying home and minding their meek business in this or that corner of the land. Such minor peoples might hardly even have noted the distant slaughter of the dynasts, so absorbed would they have been in their local affairs. The likelihood is that more than a few such groups continued past the time of the "final destruction" of the armies at the hill Ramah, and some could well have been living in the land southward as Nephi and Laman built up their small colonies. (When Lehi's Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? John L. Sorenson, FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (Fall 1992), 6.)
John A. Tvedtnes on Jaredite remnants: " I have long believed that some Jaredites survived the last great battles of their civilization and that it was the civilization itself that was destroyed, not every single individual. This is evidenced mostly by the existence of names in the Nephite population. Ether reported only what he saw; he could not have been everywhere. Some would cite Ether's prophecy in Ether 13:21 as evidence that all the Jaredites except Coriantumr were to be destroyed. However, a careful reading of that verse indicates that it was all of Coriantumr's "household" that was to be destroyed. We cannot know for sure how many Jaredites may have escaped to other places before or during the last great war. It is not impossible in the scenario painted by Sorenson that some of the people with whom the Lamanites intermarried were Jaredites. This brings us to the question of indigenous peoples with whom the Lamanites may have joined. [We might suppose] that such outsiders would have been mentioned in the Book of Mormon. But since that book was a clan record, it may have deliberately left out mention of peoples not originating in Jerusalem, with the sole exception of the Jaredites, who left a written record that came into the hands of King Mosiah." (John A. Tvedtnes. Review of John C. Kunich, "Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes." In FARMS Review of Books. Vol. 6:1. 1994.)
(15) Sorenson, John L. When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others There? in Nephite Culture and Society. 1998. p. 66-101.
(16) Hugh Nibley. THE PROPHETIC BOOK OF MORMON. Deseret Book CompanySalt Lake City, Utah and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon StudiesProvo, Utah. 1989. p. 112.
(17) Nibley, Hugh. Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites. Bookcraft. 1952. p. 242. As well as Hobby, Michael. The Mulekite Connection. Zarahemla Foundation Press. SLC, Utah. 1992.
(18) Squires, E.G. Nicaragua; its People, Scenery, Monuments, Resources, Condition, and Proposed Canal. Harper and Brothers, Publishers. New York. 1860.
(19) Tvedtnes feels that the 230,000 figure includes women and children which would substantially reduce these figures."[His list] of large numbers in the Book of Mormon speaks of '230,000 Nephite warriors killed' at the battle at Cumorah, referring to Morm. 6:10-15. Had he included Morm. 6:7 in his research, he would have found that the people with Mormon at the last battle comprised "my people, with their wives and their children." When, after the battle, Mormon mourned those who had fallen, he spoke of the "fair sons and daughters . . . fathers and mothers . . . husbands and wives" (Morm. 6:19). It seems obvious that the 230,000 was a total population figure for the remaining Nephites and not just a count of the "warriors" as Kunich has it." (John A. Tvedtnes. Review of John C. Kunich, "Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes." In FARMS Review of Books. Vol. 6:1. 1994.)
(20) Veytia, Mariano. Ancient America Rediscovered. Bonniville Books. 2000.
(21) Hobby, Michael. The Mulekite Connection. Zarahemla Foundation Press. SLC, Utah. 1992.
(22) Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthews and Stephen R. Callister [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988], p. 183-204.