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About the year 1826, Red Jacket, a Seneca chief, addressed a Christian missionary from Massachusetts with these words: "You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as for you, why had not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly?" (Thatcher 1916, 327). Apparently, the missionary was unable to answer Red Jacket's objections and took leave of the Senecas. Red Jacket died in January 1830, only two months before the publication of the Book of Mormon. Had he lived longer, he might have been visited by a Mormon missionary, who would have placed in his hands a book which claimed to be written by Red Jacket's forefathers. Red Jacket would have learned from this book that his ancestors migrated from Jerusalem to the New World some 2400 years earlier and that they had a knowledge not only of Old Testament scriptures and the Mosaic religion, but of Christ as well.
The Book of Mormon seems specifically designed to answer the sorts of questions which Red Jacket raised about the relationship between the New World Indians and Old World Christianity. It develops the history of two separate groups of Jews who migrated from Jerusalem to the Americas, and presents the record of a much earlier race, which came to the New World from the tower of Babel. Since these latter people seem to be unrelated to the Indians, why are they included in the Book of Mormon, and why does the Book of Mormon choose Jewish ancestors for the Indians?
Asking these questions reveals something about the life and times of the author. He shared with others an intense interest in the mysterious race of humans who inhabited the Americas before the first white colonists arrived. By taking a brief journey through several centuries of speculation, not only about the origins of the Indians, but also about the migrations of other early peoples, we can place the Book of Mormon into perspective, see it as a development from the theories which preceded it, and understand why it exists.
When Columbus sailed into the Caribbean, he created a tremendous theological problem. The genealogies of the Old Testament were supposed to account for all the inhabitants of the earth, yet here was a new world, populated by a people entirely unknown to anyone in the eastern hemisphere. How could they be accounted for? Were there two gardens of Eden, two separate creations? Or, did the ancestors of the Indians migrate to the Americas from the Old World? If so, who were they, and how did they cross the ocean? Most importantly, how did the Indians fit into God's plan of salvation?
More than a thousand years before Columbus, Augustine specifically denied the existence of an inhabited land on the other side of the world: "As for the fabled 'antipodes', men, that is, who live on the other side of the earth . . . there is no rational ground for such a belief. . . . it would be too ridiculous to suggest that some men might have sailed from our side of the earth to the other, arriving there after crossing the vast expanse of ocean, so that the human race should be established there also by the descendants of the one first man" (Augustine 1984, 664).
Nonetheless, long before Augustine, there were some stories of rather remarkable voyages. According to the Greek historian, Herodotus, the Egyptian king Neco "sent out a fleet manned by a Phoenician crew with orders to sail round and return to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the Pillars of Heracles" (Herodotus 1972, 283). The voyage around Libya (Africa) required three years. Herodotus told of a second attempt to circumnavigate Africa made by a Carthaginian named Sataspes, who traveled in a direction opposite to Necho's fleet. But, after passing through the Pillars of Heracles and sailing south for many months, Sataspes decided to turn back. There is an account of another Carthaginian voyager named Hanno, who was commanded to explore the coast of Africa and establish cities. Hanno reportedly led a fleet of sixty ships, with thirty thousand men and women aboard. After founding several cities and sailing past regions inhabited by Troglodytes, savage men, and hairy women called Gorillae, Hanno ran out of provisions and also turned back.
There were other tales of ships being blown off course, encountering strange lands. Plutarch gives an account of Sertorius, whose ship was caught in a storm at sea for ten days. He finally managed to reach the west coast of Spain, where he met some seamen. They told him that they had just returned from a voyage which had taken them to two islands in the Atlantic, ten thousand furlongs off the coast of Africa, which were supposedly the Islands of the Blest. Pausanius related another story: "A Carian called Euphemos said he was sailing to Italy and was driven off course, right out into the open sea which is still empty. He told me there were a lot of desert islands, and islands where savages lived" (Pausanias 1971, I:66). According to Eusebius, a man named Euemerus sailed out into the ocean south of Arabia, where he discovered a large island called Panchaea. On a high mountain, he found a temple of Zeus, with a golden column inscribed with Panchaean characters.
Montaigne, who believed that the Americas were probably connected with the East Indies, related another story of Carthaginian voyagers, supposedly derived from Aristotle:
The other testimony from antiquity, from which some infer this discovery, is in Aristotle, if at least that little book Of Unheard-of Marvels be his. He there relates how certain Carthaginians, having ventured across the Atlantic Sea, outside the Strait of Gibraltar, and navigated a long time, had at last discovered a large fertile island, all clothed in woods, and watered by broad and deep rivers, far remote from any mainland; and that they, and others after them, attracted by the goodness and fertility of the soil, had gone thither with their wives and children and begun to settle there. The lords of Carthage, seeing that their country was gradually becoming depopulated, expressly forbade any more to go there, on pain of death, and drove out those new settlers . . . . (Montaigne 1980, 1303)
Reading the works of Montaigne and Edmund Spenser, we gain some sense of the wonder with which Europeans regarded the discovery of the Americas. To Spenser, it seemed as if almost daily new regions of the earth were being brought to light, such as Peru and the Amazon River. Both Spenser and Montaigne marveled that wiser men had been so completely wrong about the extent of the inhabited world and dreamed of what the future might reveal.
From Montaigne originated the idealized concept of the Noble Savage, which was in sharp contrast to the treachery and avarice of Europeans. For Montaigne the Indians represented what the happy state of man must have been like in the Golden Age of the world: "they are still very close to their original simplicity. They are still ruled by the laws of Nature, and very little corrupted by ours; but they are still in such a state of purity, that I am sometimes vexed that they were not known earlier" (Montaigne 1930, 1305).
Montaigne was not satisfied with the Carthaginian theory, but stories of this sort made it possible to believe that either by design or by accident, ships could have carried people to the coast of America long before Columbus. Speculation about the origins of the Indians arose almost as soon as Europeans first set foot in the New World. Bernal Diaz, who accompanied Cortes on his march to the capital of the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan in 1519, related a curious tale. He said that an Indian named Tendile, one of two ambassadors sent to Cortes by Montezuma, noticed a soldier's helmet and said that "it was like one that they possessed which had been left to them by their ancestors of the race from which they had sprung, and that it had been placed on the head of their god." According to Diaz, when Montezuma saw the helmet, "he felt convinced that we belonged to the race which, as his forefathers had foretold, would come to rule over the land" (Diaz 1977, 276-77). Diaz also claimed that a chief named Quintalbor looked exactly like Cortes.
Not to be outdone, the British soon found reason to claim that the Indians were related to them. In his book True Reporte, published in 1583, Sir George Peckham gave an account of a Welsh prince by the name of Madoc, who decided to leave his homeland, after a civil war broke out between his brothers over their father's lands. Madoc sailed west, landing in the New World at an unspecified spot. Peckham quoted Montezuma's speech to Cortes:
You ought to have in remembraunce, that eyther you have heard of your Fathers, or else our divines have instructed you that we are not naturallie of this Countrie, nor yet our Kingdome is durable, because our Forefathers came from a farre countrie and their King and Captaine who brought them hither, returned againe to his natural countrie, saying, that he would sende such as should rule and governe us, if by chaunce he himself returned not etc. (Williams 1987, 42)
David Powel published his Historie of Cambria the following year, claiming that Madoc returned to Wales, gathered together some of his countrymen, and once again set out west across the ocean, landing in Nova Hispania or Florida. In 1595, Sir Walter Ralegh stated that Guiana had received its name from Madock ap Owen Guyneth -- "Guyneth" being converted into "Guyannah." He also asserted that the vast empire of Mexico had been conquered by Madoc and that his race had reigned as emperors until Montezuma. According to information related to him, Ralegh said that Guiana had been founded by one of the younger sons of the Emperor of Peru, who had fled with thousands of soldiers when Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire. The reports stated that Guiana was even richer than Peru and that it contained the golden city of Manoa or Eldorado.
Ralegh sailed to Trinidad with the intention of finding Manoa by exploring Guiana along the Orinoco River, but he turned back without discovering it. Nonetheless, he maintained his faith in its existence and ended his account with an Incan prophecy, "that from Inglatierra those Incas should be again in time to come restored, and delivered from the servitude of the said Conquerors" (Ralegh 1984, 123).
The Rev. Charles Beatty claimed that in 1767 he heard about a tribe of white, Welsh-speaking Indians, who had been discovered west of the Mississippi. His informant, Benjamin Sutton, said that the Indians had a book wrapped in skins, which he could not read, but which he supposed was a Welsh Bible. Some years later William Jones speculated that the Incas were descended from Madoc. In 1792 Edward Williams told another tale of a Welsh-speaking tribe of Indians living beyond the Mississippi: "They had a manuscript book which they could not read but which they cherished, believing it contained the mysteries of religion. A man had been among them who could read The Book. He had told them that a people would come who would explain The Book to them and make them completely happy" (Williams 1987, 128).
The fable of a Welsh-speaking tribe of Indians, having white skin and red hair, somehow became attached to the Mandan Indians and persisted into the nineteenth century. Whitehouse, a man who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition, wrote in his journal on 5 September 1805: "These Savages has the Strangest language of any we have ever Seen. they appear to us to have an Empediment in their Speech or a brogue or bur on their tongue . . . . we take these Savages to be the Welch Indians if their be any Such from the Language. So Capt. Lewis took down the names of everry thing in their Language, in order that it may be found out whether they are or whether they Sprang or origenated first from the welch or not" (DeVoto 1953, 234). Also in 1805, Robert Southey published a long epic poem entitled Madoc, which claimed that the Welsh prince and his nephew Llewelyn traveled to Mexico, after planting a colony in North America.
Madoc was of course only one of several suggested progenitors of the American Indians. John Bartram, a naturalist, joined an expedition to Onondaga in New York in 1743. In his journal, published in 1751, he theorized about the origins of the Indians. William Goetzmann says of Bartram: "As for the Indians, he believed them to be from Japan or Tartary, but they could also have been Norsemen, Prince Madoc's Welsh refugees, Egyptians, Phoenicians, or Carthaginians. In short, he didn't know" (Goetzmann 1986, 79).
John Bartram was succeeded by his son, William, who traveled among the Creeks and Cherokees, taking note of large earthen mounds or artificial hills, which appeared to be of ancient origin and built for a specific purpose. These mounds are found in many places throughout the eastern United States, from New York and Ohio in the north to Florida and Texas in the south. The Indians were unable to enlighten Bartram about who the builders of the mounds were, but they attributed them to tribes who lived long before they themselves arrived and took possession of the land. Bartram did not designate any particular group as the probable mound builders, but other people, such as Francis Baily and Thaddeus Harris, believed that the mounds must have been built by a race which was more highly civilized than the Indians.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century, Benjamin Smith Barton published a book in which he speculated that the mound builders were Vikings, who first settled in North America and then moved southward to Mexico, becoming the Toltecs and the prototypes of the god Quetzalcoatl, who was, according to Spanish accounts, fair-skinned and bearded. In 1811, DeWitt Clinton, mayor of New York, added his support to the Viking hypothesis.
Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, believed that the Indians were descendants of Canaanites who fled when the Israelites conquered Palestine under the leadership of Joshua. But the most popular theory, which was suggested as early as the sixteenth century, held that the Indians were Hebrew. Robert Silverberg quotes a passage from a book by Diego de Landa, a Spanish priest: "Some of the old people of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this land was occupied by a race of people, who came from the East and whom God had delivered by opening twelve paths through the sea. If this were true, it necessarily follows that all the inhabitants of the Indies are the descendants of the Jews" (Silverberg 1970, 27).
In 1649, when Edward Winslow petitioned Parliament to give financial support to missionary efforts among the Indians, he suggested that the Indians might be descended from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. A year later, Thomas Thorowgood published a book entitled Jews in America, or Probabilities, that those Indians are Judaical, which included a long list of resemblances between the customs and beliefs of the Indians and Jews. At the request of Thorowgood, John Eliot wrote a contribution to the second edition of the book (1660). Ola Elizabeth Winslow quotes Eliot: "'I thought I saw some ground to conceive, that some of the Ten Tribes might be scattered that far, into these parts of America.' Truly the Bible says, he went on, that the Ark landed 'eastward of the land of Eden, and if so, then surely into America, because that is part of the eastern world. Hence why ought we not to believe a portion of the Ten tribes landed in America'" (Winslow 1968, 84). John Eliot was known as the Apostle to the Indians; he taught himself Algonquian so that he could proselytize the Indians in their own tongue, and then he undertook the arduous task of translating the entire Bible into Algonquian, a feat which required fourteen years to complete.
Others who held the opinion that the Indians were descendants of the Jews were Roger Williams, Samuel Sewall, and Samuel Willard. In 1683 William Penn wrote to a friend concerning the Indians of Pennsylvania:
I have seen among them as comely European-like faces of both sexes as on your side of the sea; and truly an Italian complexion hath not much more of the white, and the noses of several of them have as much of the Roman . . . . For their original, I am ready to believe them to be of the Jewish race -- I mean of the stock of the ten tribes . . . . I find them to be of the like countenance, and their children of so lively a resemblance that a man would think himself in Duke's Place or Berry Street in London when he seeth them. But this is not all: they agree in rites, they reckon by moons, they offer their first-fruits, they have a kind of feast of tabernacles, they are said to lay their altars upon twelve stones, their mourning a year, customs of women, with many other things that do not now occur. (Donnelly  1949, 144)
In 1651, another book appeared, entitled The Hope of Israel, written by Manasseh ben Israel, a rabbi living in Amsterdam. Manasseh's book, which argued for the Jewish ancestry of the Indians, went through three English editions in two years. The book's opening address reads in part as follows:
There are as many minds as men, about the originall of the people of America, and of the first Inhabitants of the new World, and of the West Indyes; for how many men soever they were or are, they came of those two, Adam, and Eve; and consequently of Noah, after the Flood, but that new World doth seem wholly separated from the old, therefore it must be that some did passe thither out of one (at least) of the three parts of the world sc. Europe, Asia and Africa; but the doubt is, what people were those, and out of what place they went. . . . Some would have the praise of finding out America, to be due to the Carthaginians, others to the Phenicians, or the Canaanites; others to the Indians or people of China; others to them of Norway, others to the Inhabitants of the Atlantick Islands, others to the Tartarians, others to the ten Tribes. . . . But I having curiously examined what ever hath hitherto been writ upon this subject, doe finde no opinion more probable, nor agreeable to reason, then that of our Montezinus, who saith, that the first inhabitants of America, were the ten Tribes of the Israelites, whom the Tartarians conquered, and drove away; who after that (as God would have it) hid themselves behind the Mountaines Cordillerae. I also shew, that as they were not driven out at once from their Country, so also they were scattered into divers Provinces, sc. into America, into Tartary, into China, into Media, to the Sabbaticall River, and into AEthiopia. I prove that the ten Tribes never returned to the second Temple, that they yet keepe the Law of Moses, and our sacred Rites; and at last shall return into their Land, with the two Tribes, Judah, and Benjamin; and shall be governed by one Prince, who is Messiah the Son of David; and without doubt that time is near. (Ausubel 1948, 520-21)
The Montezinus referred to by Manasseh was a man named Aaron Levi, also called Antonius Montezinus, whom Manasseh met in Amsterdam in 1644. Montezinus related that two and a half years earlier, he had traveled from the West Indies to the province of Quity (Quito, Ecuador?). He said that he and an Indian named Francis transported some mules over the "Mountaines Cordillerae." He then went to Carthagenia (Cartagena, Colombia?), where he was put in prison. There, he reflected on something that Francis had said, which made him think that the Indians might be Hebrews. After being released from prison, Montezinus returned to Port Honda in the West Indies and sought out Francis, whom he persuaded to go on a journey. After setting out, Montezinus revealed to the Indian that he was Hebrew. Francis became excited by this news and told Montezinus that if he wished, he would lead him to a place where he would learn all that he desired to know. They traveled a whole week, resting on the Sabbath, and then on the following Tuesday, they came to a large river, where Francis told Montezinus that he would see his "Brethren." Francis signaled with a cloth, which was answered by smoke in the distance. Then, a boat approached, carrying three men and a woman. Two of the men came up to Montezinus, recited Deuteronomy 6:4 in Hebrew, and then made a series of nine statements:
1 Our Fathers are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Israel . . . .
2 We will bestow several places on them who have a minde to live with us.
3 Joseph dwels in the midst of the Sea . . . .
4 They said (speaking fast) shortly some of us will goe forth to see, and to tread underfoot . . .
5 One day we shall all of us talke together . . . and we shall come forth as issuing out of our Mother the earth.
6 A certaine Messenger shall goe forth.
7 Franciscus shall tell you somewhat more of these things . . . .
8 Suffer us that we may prepare ourselves . . . .
9 Send twelve Men, they making a signe, that they would have men that had beards, and who are skilfull in writing. (Ausubel 1948, 523-24)
For three days, Montezinus was visited by a series of groups of four people, who all repeated the same nine statements without variation. He was also told that he should not attempt to cross the river or ask for more knowledge than they had given him. After Montezinus and Francis started on their return journey, Montezinus reminded Francis of the promise that he would relate "somewhat more of these things." Francis then stated, "Thy Brethren are the Sons of Israel, and brought thither by providence of God, who for their sake wrought many Miracles, which you will not beleeve, if I should tell you what I have learned from my Fathers" (Ausubel 1948, 524). Francis explained further that magicians called Mohanes had roused the Indians to go to war against the Brethren with the intent to destroy them. Three times an army was sent out, and each time no one returned. Finally, after the lands of the Indians were "almost berefit of all inhabitants," the survivors turned on the magicians and started to kill them, until the remaining magicians made the following prophecy: "That the God of those Children of Israel is the true God, that all that which is engraven upon their stones is true; that about the end of the World they shall be Lords of the world; that some shall come who shall bring you much good, and after that they have enriched the earth with all good things, those Children of Israel going forth out of their Country, shall subdue the whole World to them, as it was subject to them formerly; you shall be happy if you make a League with them" (Ausubel 1948, 525).
Five Indian chiefs then made an agreement with the Brethren that no one would enter their country, except the five, and then only at the end of seventy-month periods, unless something unusual happened. Francis told Montezinus that the coming of the Spaniards, the appearance of ships in the southern sea, and Montezinus's own visit were all the fulfillment of prophecy.
The Hope of Israel was mystical and messianic, with its curious tale of a community of Hebrews living in seclusion, communicating with the rest of the world only through messengers, who delivered mysterious, prophetical statements. More than a century later, James Adair employed a more reasoned, systematic approach. His History of the American Indians, published in 1775, presented a series of arguments to prove the Hebrew lineage of the Indians. Adair, who lived and worked among the Indians as a trader, rejected "the wild notion which some have espoused of the North American Indians being Prae-Adamites, or a separate race of men, created for that continent." The designs of God being perfect, "there could be no necessity for a second creation. . . . the Indians have lineally descended from Adam" (Adair  1986, 12-13). However, Adair saw no resemblance between the Indians and such people as the Chinese, Tartars, Scythians, Romans, or Greeks.
Adair reasoned that if the tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, who were carried into captivity by Shalmaneser, had dwelt for very long among the Assyrians and Medes, they would have been assimilated through intermarriage and would have abandoned their religion. But Adair insisted that there was no trace of pagan idolatry among the Indians, and therefore, he inferred that the Israelites came to America before the destruction of Solomon's temple: "It is hence probable, they came here, soon after the captivity, when the religion of the Hebrew nation, respecting the worship of Deity, was in its purity. And if any of the ancient heathens came with them, they became proselytes of habitation, or justice -- hereby, their heathenish rites and ceremonies were, in process of time, entirely absorbed in the religious ceremonies of the Jews" (Adair  1986, 29).
Nonetheless, Adair believed that the Indians had degenerated to such an extent that they no longer understood the spiritual meaning of their rites and customs. But he was certain that he could detect many equivalents to Hebrew terms in the Indian languages. For example, "Jehovah" was preserved by the Indians as "Yo He Wah," while "Messiah" was "Meshihah Yo" in the Indian tongue. Adair also argued that at one time the Indians must have been familiar with at least some of the Psalms, because when they danced, they repeated the word "Halelu-Yah."
Adair cited other authorities to support his arguments, including a story about tombstones with Hebrew characters: "Laet, in his description of America, and Escarbotus, assure us, they often heard the South American Indians to repeat the sacred word Halleluiah, which made them admire how they first attained it. And Malvenda says, that the natives of St. Michael had tomb-stones, which the Spaniards digged up, with several ancient Hebrew characters upon them, as, 'Why is god gone away?' And, 'He is dead, God knows'" (Adair  1986, 223-24).
Adair found many other similarities between the Indians and Hebrews, including: their division into tribes, a belief in the ministration of angels, a hereditary priesthood, prophets, purification with water, religious feasts, and marriage customs. In short, Adair surmised that nearly the entire culture of the Indians was derived from the laws of the Hebrews.
Adair did not speculate about how Hebrews might have arrived in the New World, but he was certain that the site of their first settlement was in Central or South America and that they then moved north and east, crossing the Mississippi River. Adair referred not only to ruins of ancient buildings in Central and South America, but also to traditions among the Indians. According to Adair, the Chickasaw Indians believed that their people originally came from the west in a group of ten thousand men, which passed over the Mississippi. The name "Chickasaw" was supposedly derived from the Chichemicas, who, according to Spanish writers, were the first inhabitants of Mexico. Adair related another account: "We are told also that the Nauatalcas believe, they dwelt in another region before they settled in Mexico; that they wandered eighty years in search of it, through a strict obedience to their gods, who ordered them to go in quest of new lands, that had such particular signs; -- that they punctually obeyed the divine mandate, and by that means found out, and settled the fertile country of Mexico" (Adair  1986, 207). Adair referred to other Spanish testimony:
And they say, the Mexicans worshipped Vitzliputzli, who promised them a land exceedingly plenty in riches, and all other good things; on which account they set off in quest of the divine promise, four of their priests carrying their idol in a coffer of reeds, to whom he communicated his oracles, giving them laws at the same time -- teaching them the ceremonies and sacrifices they should observe; and directed them when to march, and when to stay in camp, &c. . . . for we are well assured, that the remote uncorrupted part of the Mexicans still retain the same notions as our northern Indians, with regard to their arriving at, and settling in their respective countries . . . . This alone, without any reflection on the rest, is a good glass to shew us, that the South and North American Indians are twin-born brothers. (Adair  1986, 211)
Adair discussed another possibility suggested by the Bible itself. 1 Kings 9:26 tells us that Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, on the shore of the Red Sea, which was manned by Solomon's servants and Phoenicians sent by Hiram, king of Tyre. They brought gold from Ophir, and 1 Kings 10:22 states further that these ships, along with ships of Tarshish, required three years to complete the journey to Ophir and back. There was a great deal of speculation about the location of Ophir. Adair wrote concerning its identity: "But Vatablus reckons it was Hispaniola, discovered, and named so by Columbus: yet Postellus, Phil. Mornay, Arias Montanus, and Goropius, are of opinion that Peru is the ancient Ophir" (Adair  1986, 229).
Adair's book was well received and extremely influential, being quoted at length by later writers, including Boudinot, Ethan Smith, and Lord Kingsborough.
In addition to theories about the origins of the Indians, there were serveral stories which circulated about fabulous cities and kingdoms, located somewhere in North America. In 1536 Cartier returned to France with ten Hurons, among whom was Chief Donnaconna. Donnaconna began telling some rather tall tales of a fertile kingdom of Saguenay, where one could find spices, oranges, and pomegranates, in addition to men who could fly. Cartier returned to Canada in search of this mythic kingdom, but of course never found it.
In 1567 an English sailor named David Ingram walked from Florida to the coast of Maine, and then after returning to England, he began telling a remarkable story of a city which he visited named Norumbega. Norumbega, which was supposedly located along the Penobscot River, had, according to Ingram, an abundance of gold, silver, and pearls, and the city itself had magnificent houses supported by pillars. Sir Humfry Gilbert organized an expedition to discover Norumbega, but it had to turn back before even reaching the Penobscot. The existence of Normubega was finally disproved by Champlain in 1604, but the legend did not immediately die.
There were also accounts of Indian prophets. According to tradition, the Iroquois League was formed about A.D. 1570 by Dekanawidah and Hiawatha, whose aim it was to bring peace and brotherhood to the warring tribes. Hiawatha taught agriculture, the arts, medicine, navigation, and controlled the powers of nature by his magic. The five nations of the Iroquois League were the bitter enemies of the Huron, who formed the Wendat confederacy with four other bands. By 1650 the Wendat confederacy was destroyed by the Iroquois, who went on to disperse, incorporate, or destroy a number of other tribes.
In 1799, a Seneca chief named Ganioda'yo, or Handsome Lake, became seriously ill and resigned to death, when he was visited by three beings in the form of men, sent by the Great Spirit. After giving him berries to restore his health, they revealed to him the will of the Great Spirit and commissioned him to teach among the Iroquois. The religion which he founded combined Christian beliefs with Seneca divinities.
One of the most famous holy men among the Indians was Lalawethika, the brother of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. He was also known as the Prophet and was called Tenskwatawa, or "the Open Door." One day in 1805, Lalawethika fell into a strange cataleptic state and was thought to be dead. However, he revived and "told a strange tale of death, heaven, and resurrection. The Shawnee claimed that the Master of Life had sent two handsome young men to carry his soul into the spirit world, where he had been shown both the past and the future. Although the Master of Life did not allow Lalawethika to enter heaven, he was permitted to gaze on a paradise" (Edmunds 1983, 33). The Prophet gained many followers and established a village at Greenville, Ohio. Then in 1808, he and his supporters resettled to a spot near the juncture of the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers, where they built Prophetstown. Lalawethika's primary message was one of reforming and restoring the Indians.
In addition to the groups of Jews led by Lehi and Mulek, the Book of Mormon gives the history of yet a third party which migrated to the New World during the time of the great tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues. This earlier migration, soon after the Flood, also has its correspondences in speculation about the founding of nations by the descendants of the sons of Noah. Europeans sought to trace their own ancestry back to the survivors of the Flood. The sometimes wild theories and questionable philological methods used in this genealogical search led Voltaire to complain, "Let us leave Gomer just after coming out of the ark to go and subjugate Gaul, and in a few years people it: let us leave Tubal to go into Spain, and Magog into the north of Germany, about the time that the son of Cham produced an amazing number of children completely black, towards the coast of Guinea and Congo. These disgusting impertinences have been obtruded in so many books, that they are not worth mentioning; children begin to ridicule them" (Voltaire 1927, 399). Edward Gibbon also derided the outlandish theories which derived both the Irishman and Tartar from the sons of Japheth. "The last century," Gibbon wrote, "abounded with antiquarians of profound learning and easy faith, who by the dim light of legends and traditions, of conjectures and etymologies, conducted the great-grandchildren of Noah from the tower of Babel to the extremities of the globe" (Gibbon n.d., I:189). Gibbon particularly singled out Prof. Olaus Rudbeck, who apparently held that Askenaz, the son of Gomer, led a colony to Sweden and that it was from this people that the Greeks derived their alphabet, astronomy, and religion.
Speculation of this sort, however, did not originate with the antiquarians of Gibbon's time. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, tried his hand at tracing the origins of the nations of the world back to the sons of Noah. After noting the biblical story of the confusion of tongues, Josephus says that colonies were dispersed across the face of the earth, some of them passing over the sea in ships to inhabit the islands. The sons of Japheth traveled as far west as Cadiz, the Galatians were descended from Gomer, the Scythians from Magog, the Medes from Madai, the Ionians and Greeks from Javan, and so on.
Gomer became a favorite focus for conjecture; the Cimerii supposedly derived their name from Gomer, and the Cimbri of Britain were, by means of philological feats, linked to the Cimerii. In 1586, William Camden stated as his opinion: "Our Britons, or Cimeri, are the true genuine posterity of Gomer" (Tuchman 1984, 5).
But there were other theories. In 1676 Aylett Sammes published a book entitled Britannia Antiqua Illustrata or, the Antiquities of Ancient Britain, derived from the Phoenicians, in which he claimed that the ancient Britons owed their language, customs, and religion to the Phoenicians.
When Europeans rediscovered the Druids in the writings of Julius Caesar, Pliny, and Tacitus, they began to imagine that stone monuments, such as Avebury and Stonehenge, were temples where Druid priests practiced their religious rites. And of course it was not long before the Druids were affiliated with Noah. Henry Rowlands published a book in 1723, which identified the Isle of Anglesey as the ancient seat of British Druids, who were descended from Noah and preserved the true religion in its purity.
William Stukeley published Stonehenge, a Temple restor'd to the British Druids in 1740 and Abury, a Temple of the British Druids in 1743. Stukeley believed that the Druids came to Britain with the Phoenicians and that they practiced the patriarchal religion of Abraham. The poet William Blake wrote in Jerusalem that the British were the descendants of Abraham, Heber, Shem, and Noah, who were Druids.
The record of the people known as the Jaredites seems to be an attempt by the author to provide a link between the Americas and the sons of Noah. After all, why should the New World lie uninhabited for hundreds of years until the arrival of Lehi and the people of Zarahemla in the sixth century B.C.? Surely the American continent would have been a part of God's plan from the earliest ages and some of Noah's posterity would have found their way there. The patriarchal religion might also have been carried to the New World.
In addition to speculation about the sons of Noah and the ancestors of the Indians, accounts of fictional lands began to appear. The voyages of discovery from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries caused some men to ponder the possibilities offered by new civilizations in contrast with Old World culture. Sir Thomas More published his Utopia in 1516, which purported to be an eyewitness account of a perfect island society visited by a sailor named Raphael Hythlodaeus. Raphael had supposedly joined up with Amerigo Vespucci, and after requesting to be left at a fort, he and five other men did some exploring of their own, discovering the island of Utopia. At the end of his explorations, Raphael turned up in Ceylon. According to Raphael, Utopia was originally conquered by a man named Utopos, who transformed the ignorant savages into a highly civilized nation. The Utopian histories also stated that "there were towns in the New World before human life had even begun in the Old." Before Raphael's visit, the Utopians had had no contact with outsiders, "except on one occasion, twelve hundred years ago, when a ship was driven off its course in a storm, and wrecked on the coast of Utopia. A few survivors managed to swim ashore, including some Romans and Egyptians, who settled there for good" (More 1961, 67-68).
About a century later, Francis Bacon published his New Atlantis, which was in the form of a first-person account. He stated that he set sail from Peru, with China and Japan as his intended destinations. His ship was favored with an east wind for five months, but then the wind shifted, coming from the west. This retarded their progress until the wind changed again, blowing them northward. Their supplies had already been exhausted, when they discovered land and sailed into the port of a fair city. A boat containing eight people came out to the ship, and one of the emissaries handed them a scroll of yellow parchment with words written in ancient Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Spanish, which told them that they would be provided with supplies, but that they were not permitted to set foot on land. Later, however, they were granted permission to leave the ship and discovered that the name of the land was Bensalem.
They were favored with an interview with the Governor of the land, who related some of the events of the distant past: "You shall understand (that which perhaps you will scarce think credible) that about three thousand years ago, or somewhat more, the navigation of the world (especially for remote voyages) was greater than at this day. . . . The Phoenicians, and specially the Tyrians, had great fleets; so had the Carthaginians their colony, which is yet further west. Towards the east the shipping of Egypt, and of Palestine, was likewise great. China also, and the Great Atlantis (that you call America), which have now but junks and canoes, abounded then in tall ships" (Bacon 1942, 263-64). The Governor went on to say that there had been frequent intercourse between Bensalem and those other countries, including visits from Persians, Chaldeans, and Arabians. He then referred again to Atlantis: "yet so much is true, that the said country of Atlantis, as well that of Peru, then called Coya, as that of Mexico, then named Tyrambel, were mighty and proud kingdoms, in arms, shipping, and riches" (Bacon 1942, 265).
Some hundred years later, however, Atlantis was destroyed by a flood and only a few wild inhabitants remained alive. It was these unlettered savages who repopulated America. Bensalem no longer had commerce with the Americans, and in fact, decided to restrict travel both in and out of the country, in order to preserve its own happy society.
Both Thomas More and Francis Bacon were partly indebted to the Greek philosopher Plato, who was the first to give a public account of the island of Atlantis. According to Plato's Timaeus and Critias, the story was told to Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, by an Egyptian priest. Atlantis was a gigantic island lying in the ocean west of the Pillars of Heracles. The island was divided among the ten sons of the god Poseidon and a mortal woman named Clito. The eldest of these sons was Atlas, who gave his name to the island and to the ocean. Atlantis provided an abundance of ores, timber, animals (including elephants), and food, and the Atlanteans constructed harbors and docks for the many merchant ships which visited their shores. The ten kings of Atlantis were governed by the laws of Poseidon, which were inscribed on a column, standing in a sanctuary in the center of the island. For many generations, the Atlanteans remained true to their divine heritage, but as the mortal part of their nature began to predominate, they fell to the lure of wealth and power. They set out on a campaign to conquer the territory lying within the Pillars of Heracles and were met in battle by the ancestors of the Athenians. Then Atlantis was racked by earthquakes and floods and disappeared beneath the sea. The Critias indicates that the destruction of Atlantis was the will and judgment of Zeus; it supposedly occurred nine thousand years before Solon's time. In his essay Of Cannibals, Montaigne had considered the possibility that America was the island of Atlantis, pushed twelve hundred leagues westward by a great flood, but he considered this to be too incredible and rejected the idea, believing that America was not an island, but a continent. Plato had, in fact, said that there was a continent beyond Atlantis, which could be reached by crossing over to some other islands.
Other books, giving fictional accounts of new lands, followed those of More and Bacon. In 1719 Daniel Defoe's famous character, Robinson Crusoe, related the experience of being the lone survivor of a shipwreck on an island near the northern coast of South America. Defoe's book was inspired by the real-life adventure of Alexander Selkirk, who was marooned for four years on one of the Juan Fernandez islands off the coast of Chile.
In 1726 Jonathan Swift apparently felt that the Pacific Ocean was still sufficiently unexplored to allow him room to invent curious new lands for his hero Gulliver to stumble upon. The lands of Laputa, Brobdingnag, and Lilliput seem to have stretched from Japan to Australia, sometimes nearing the coast of California, while the land of the Houyhnhnms was somewhere south of the Cape of Good Hope. Gulliver was routinely shipwrecked and rescued, as he traveled from one strange country to another.
Another character whose adventures carried him around the world was Voltaire's Candide. Voltaire's story, written in 1758, included a trip to South America. After passing through Argentina, Paraguay, and a region inhabited by savages, Candide decided to drift in a boat along a stream. The stream became a wide river, which disappeared into a cave. After being carried by the river for twenty-four hours, Candide's boat emerged from the mountains, and he found himself in the fabled land of Eldorado, where magnificent carriages were drawn by huge red sheep and children played with gold nuggets, emeralds, and rubies. Candide learned that these people had decided to sequester themselves behind the mountains, after the Spaniards had arrived to plunder and exterminate the Incas. Candide was inspired by the exploits of La Condamine, who traveled in a canoe up the Esmeralda River from Manta, Ecuador, to Quito, visiting emerald mines and discovering platinum and rubber along the way. La Condamine later traveled three thousand miles down the Amazon.
Like Gulliver, Captain James Cook traversed the Pacific seas in a series of three voyages from 1768 to 1779. On his first two voyages, Cook was given secret instructions to find the continent of Terra Australis Incognita. Accounts of this hypothetical land grew from a story related to William Dampier by a pirate named Davis, which Dampier included in his 1697 book The New Voyage Around the World. William Goetzmann gives this description: "Terra Australis Incognita was said to be a vast southern continent equal to Europe or Asia or North America and incredibly rich in gold, jewels, and temples, and where the people rode elephants in lush tropical surroundings" (Goetzmann 1986, 31). It was believed that such a southern continent must exist in order to balance the northern land mass.
On his third voyage, Cook was instructed to find the Northwest Passage, which according to French and Spanish accounts, stretched across North America. Captain Cook did not find either Terra Australis Incognita or the Northwest Passage, but he did provide us with a number of interesting observations on the islanders of the Pacific. Cook's first stop was Tahiti. From there, he constantly found similarities of language between the Tahitians and the natives of other islands, including New Zealand, the Society Islands, the Marquesas, the Friendly Islands, and Christmas Island. When he reached Easter Island, he was surprised to hear a native using the same terms to count as those used by Tahitians. He also wondered at the fact that the people of New South Wales used the same method of making fire as the Eskimos. Concerning the natives of the Friendly Islands, he said: "We met hundreds of truly European faces, and many genuine Roman noses amongst them" (Cook 1967, 287). He also found European faces on Christmas Island.
When Cook landed on an island north of New Zealand, he believed that he was being given a firsthand demonstration of the manner in which the South Sea islands may have become inhabited. Omai, a Tahitian who accompanied Cook, found three of his countryman on this island. According to their story, they had embarked with seventeen other people in a canoe, with the intention of crossing a short distance from Tahiti to another island. However, they were caught in a storm and were carried to the island where Cook found them. For Cook, there was no need for speculation; this was proof enough.
Similarities between the New Zealanders and other islanders led Cook to believe that they had a common origin: "A great similitude was observed between the dress, furniture, boats, and nets of the New Zealanders, and those of the inhabitants of the South Sea islands, which furnished a strong proof, that the common ancestors of both were natives of the same country. Indeed, the inhabitants of these different places have a tradition, that their ancestors migrated from another country many ages since; and they both agree, that this country was called Heawige. But perhaps a yet stronger proof that their origin was the same, arises from the similitude of their language, which appears to be only different dialects" (Cook 1967, 70).
Cook discovered the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands in 1778. After journeying to Alaska in search of the Northwest Passage, he returned to the islands in 1779. The natives considered the Europeans to be a superior race, perhaps even gods. Cook was honored with ceremonies and offerings, and whenever he went ashore, a native priest preceded him, ordering the people to prostrate themselves before the "Orono." Cook had once again set sail, when the ship's foremast gave way, forcing him to return. This time events took an ugly turn. A dispute over some stolen property became violent, and Captain Cook was killed.
Cook's explorations and his suggestion that a single people had spread out over islands encompassing a vast area of ocean implied that the islanders and the inhabitants of the Americas could have common ancestors. Although it is never explicitly stated in the Book of Mormon, there has been a persistent belief among Mormons that some of Lehi's descendants peopled the Pacific islands.
We have traveled a long way, passing by Phoenician and Carthaginian voyagers, Welsh and Hebrew Indians, the sons of Noah, Druids, the kingdoms of Saguenay and Norumbega, Utopia, Bensalem, Atlantis, Eldorado, and the Pacific islands. Certainly, all of this provided abundant motivation and inspiration for the writing of the Book of Mormon. Since the events of the ancient past were largely unknown, the Book of Mormon attempted to create a history for the Americas, stretching back to the period following the Flood. It traced the lineage of the Indians, demonstrating their Jewish heritage, in accordance with popular theories of the day. Part of the appeal of the Book of Mormon is its supposed uniqueness, but when viewed against a background of several centuries of theories, speculation, and fantasy, it loses much of its distinction. It clearly belongs to this same tradition.
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