Saturday, December 19, 2009

If its so hot, why am I shoveling all this snow?

Today's activities included shoveling my car out of a six foot snow drift. But don't worry, after getting my car out I spent the rest of my day mad at directv for having satellites that can't handle a few feet of snow (and cursing my contract with them of course). I only bring this up because I often read of people who advocate a North American Geography for The Book of Mormon. They often fail to address this interesting tidbit from the campaigns of the Nephites.

After Teancum defeated a Lamanite army we read in Alma 51 that:

33 And it came to pass that when the night had come, Teancum and his servant stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah; and behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.

We also learn from the next chapter that this was a news years eve raid designed to take advantage of the Lamanites superstition.

Now I certainly labored diligently to get my car out but "the heat of the day" did not contribute to my fatigue. In fact, according to the average high temperature for the months of December through February (depending on the Lamanite new year) was 40 degrees. Not only is the one day out of ordinary, but the Nephites normally campaigned during what we would consider the winter time.[1] Sorenson has pointed out that the Nephite records point to an almost exclusive conduct of warfare during the tenth through second months. This would be extremely unusual for European and American audiences, but normal for agrarian societies. The latter usually have a wet season (for planting) and after the harvest they would have a limited window of dry (but hot) weather for campaigning.

So the next time you read somebody's North American geography ask for their explanation of that new years day heat wave and almost exclusive Nephite campaigning in the winter time.

1. John Sorenson "Seasons of War Seasons of Peace" William Hamblin and Steven Ricks eds. Warfare in the Book of Mormon Provo: FARMS, 1991.


David J. West said...

Global warming, its all global warming.

Morgan Deane said...

Yeah, I couldn't quite squeeze a global warming joke in there, but I tried.

thefirestillburning said...

My wife got me Sorenson's book as a Christmas present. He's almost got me convinced that Moroni is on the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Gulf of Honduras.

I actually liked getting snowed in -- but then I get a health excuse on snow shoveling, and I telecommute to work in the first place.

Merry Christmas, Morgan.


Mormon Heretic said...

I had a big argument with a Great Lakes Theory proponent. He didn't think snow was an important issue.

One thing I thought of though--we don't know what the Nephite calendar was like, so I think it's hard to make too many conclusions about calendar dates, unless we are to assume that Joseph was translating them into the Gregorian calendar.

Morgan Deane said...

I think thats kind of a weak point. Many anicent societies organized their years around the solstices. (For example, see the Wikipedia article that dicusses the concept of "rebirth" or new year and the festivals associated with it.)

Many others had a system close to ours. (See Sorenson's "Seasonality of Warfare") And I think its particularly weak because its a straw men to say that we assume they used the Gregorian calender.

Based on the date of the solstice their New Year would roughly corresponds to ours. And Soresons has pointed out that many different models that the Nephites would also roughly correspond to ours as well. So I will need something more than "we don't know" to adjust my understanding of the issue. Perhaps they can show evidence of some kind of summer new years festival from Great Lakes region Indians. But I think many of their arguments are appeals to ignorance; so this is an example of why I generally put their theories in last place.

Anyways, thanks for the comments. I didn't mean to hammer you, I understand you're just the messenger. Thanks again for presenting a likely explanation for North American supporters.

witteafval said...

In 3 Nephi 8:5 it states that the tumult associated with the crucifixion happened on the fourth day of the first month of the year. We know the crucifixion happened during Passover, in the springtime, so it seems obvious that the Nephite new year happened around the time of the vernal equinox, not one of the solstices.

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks for commenting and brigning that verse to me. Third Nephi 2:8 tells us that the Nephites changed how they measured time and their years. Based on the equivocation that verse brings us I would rather side with the greater amount of evidence previously cited. (But I am open to being convinced if you know of some good articles on Nephite time keeping)

But lets assume that the New Year was in the Spring time. That would put most battles between Jan. and May. And I don't see an exceedingly exhausting heat wave being that likely. In fact when I lived in Columbus we recieved 30 inches of snow in early March. It could occur, but a more likely explanation fits a New Years in the warm/dry season of Mesoamerica.

A springtime new year is also incongruent with the likely campaign season in North America (normally April to October). So Jan to May kind of fits, but again, a stronger matcher is the dry season of Mesoamerica.

Thanks again for posting. This certainly reinforces the need for greater study and colloboration between theories. And for what its worth the North American theory has went up a couple notches.