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A Fuller Explanation Of Coincidence:


The Dude

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I've taken some heat lately for dismissing name correspondences in the Book of Mormon as "mere coincidence." I don't actually think that's the complete explanation. As I am about to describe, I think there is more to it. Even if you don't accept this point of view, it should at least help in conveying where I'm coming from.

During my LDS mission, I spent little bits of free time working on a fictional setting that I planned to use post-mission as the basis for a role-playing game or else for a novel I'd thought about writing. By the end of two years I had a couple of notebooks full of ideas and enough detailed maps to cover the floor of my room. Since I was a missionary and I wasn't supposed to read books or see movies (except some limited LDS materials, of course), I had limited resources for research. So most of my creation was just imagination, but there's no such thing as pure imagination....

By design, part of the fictional world was supposed to have a Middle Eastern feel to it -- other regions were patterned after other modern and ancient cultures. The most obvious way to set apart culture-specific settings is with names, so I had to come up with lots of authentic-sounding names for countries, geography, cities and people. One of the few resources I had was a magazine I took from the airplane that flew me out of the US at the start of my mission. It had several pages of world maps, depicting which cities and countries the airline served. There was pretty good coverage of Asia, Europe and Africa. Another thing I had to go on was the Bible dictionary -- very helpful for fabricating Middle Eastern names. I didn't want to just rip off names from the Bible and from the map, but I wanted names that sounded authentic. So what I did was make a list of about a hundred names taken directly from these sources, and then I disassembled them into syllables, and reassembled them at random to generate tons of new names. Names to be used for people, rivers, cities, countries, etc.

One day the ward mission leader came over to visit and my companion told him about my maps. So I pulled them out and showed him. He was very impressed with my work. "Are you going to write comic books or something?" he said. But then he asked a question that made me feel a little foolish: "So what do all these names mean?"

Ummm... they don't mean anything. They are just supposed to sound authentic. Sorry I'm not JRR Tolkien.

I'll bet if some obsessive parallelomaniac got ahold of my notebooks and started going through those made-up names, they would find several that have real meanings or close meanings in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, or some other Middle Eastern language. The chances would improve greatly if they reasoned that language evolution had caused my words to diverge from their "parent" tongues. Each individual correspondence would be coincidental, of course, but the overall pattern is just what you should expect, because the names I made up were derived from real names with real meanings. On the other hand, you wouldn't expect very many of my fabricated "Arabic" names to correspond well with a very different language, like ancient Mayan or Finnish or something like that.

In the same way, when we find a good number of Book of Mormon names that seem to correspond with words from Egypt, Hebrew, Akkadian, or other Middle Eastern sources, it shouldn't surprise us too much. The author of the book clearly had that part of the world in mind, and with limited resources, he may well have used the kind of methods I once used to generate new names. Or he may have been less methodical and more spontaneous, but still working under the influence of authentic Egyptian and Hebrew words borrowed from limited resources (from memory). Under these conditions, correspondences are unpredictable but expected. The unexpected correspondences would be names that approximate an ancient Central American word. And there aren't very many of those... not as many as you would expect if Limited Geography Theory was reality.

So from my point of view, the individual correspondences in the Book of Mormon are explained by coincidence, but the overall pattern has a cause-effect explanation.

I don't mean this to explain everything... it would [not] apply to "sheum" in reference to grain... but it reduces the impact of simple correspondences.

edit: added [not]... boy does that make a difference in meaning!

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Certainly by imitating the sound and feel of names from a region the number of coincidental matches would increase.

You are getting into the realm of statistically significant vs. random here. I suppose a study of Josephs names and their correspondance to middle eastern name conventions vs. a random sample of fictional works intended to sound like middle eastern names would be in order to validate your theory.

I wonder if your game were compared to Josephs works what percentage of matches would you have made compared to Joseph? How many of your place names would resemble place names, how many of your object names would resemble object names and how many of your proper names would resemble proper names. This is where the correspondances are less than simple.

(I'm not volunteering to take on that study however... :P )

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My interest in these names is not just that a name shows up. But the circumstances in which it does. NHM as a name that might have Middle Eastern background could be coincidental. But that name in that place and in the context (burial) takes it out the realm of coincidence.

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My interest in these names is not just that a name shows up. But the circumstances in which it does. NHM as a name that might have Middle Eastern background could be coincidental. But that name in that place and in the context (burial) takes it out the realm of coincidence.

I agree. It isn't just a case of there being a place that has a similar name to that of a place in the Book of Mormon. IMO, the location of NHM and its meaning are very signifigant and make the argument for coincidence The Dude makes very weak. If someone were to make up names and place them on a map, later discovering that the names of two of these imaginary cities were similar to two real cities with corresponding locations and meanings his example would be more plausible.

I'm not sure if The Dude believes the Book of Mormon to be a true record or not, but what this excercise shows me is there may be a plausible reason for coincidence (which in my opinion hasn't been given yet) and a plausible reason that NHM does in fact validify the Book of Mormon. Isn't this what it always boils down to?

So who determines which reason is more plausible? The individual. How do they determine this? And isn't that determination going to be influenced by how they view the Book of Mormon prior to weighing each reason?

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Helaman 16:14-16

"And angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year the scriptures began to be fulfilled.

Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Nephites and also of the Lamanites, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying:

Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken."

The question is not whether such things can be dismissed as coincidence item by item, but rather, whether "coincidence" is the best explaination for the achievement of the Book of Mormon as a whole.

For me, it's never been any particular name or detail. For any such thing, "So what?" works as well now is it did in playground arguments when I was a kid. Personally though, the convergence of many things, the interrelatedness of correspondences, such as the Day of Atonement, Jubilee, Sabbath, Coronation, and covenant patterns in Mosiah 2-5, combined with the chiastic and other Hebrew forms, combined with the notion of a Mosiah as a messiah who delivers his people without violence, combined with the elaborate convergence with Barker's ideas, combined with Poulson's identification of the Grijalva as the only river in North and South America that matches the Book of Mormon Sidon, combined with Sorenson's candidate for Zarahelma, combined with numberless other details cultural, social, geographical details and the correct time depth, combined with my personal experiences in reading and responding to the text, combined with the historical accounts of Joseph Smith and the witnesses, combined with the astonishing subsequent fulfillment of D&C 3 with respect to the impact of the as yet untranslated Book of Mormon, given at a point in time when Joseph Smith had nothing written and nothing going for him except failure and disaster.

All of these things are to be expected, if the book is what it claims to be. None of them are expected if Joseph Smith was just making it up, or conspiring with whomever. Given the limitations on our knowledge about the past, I also would expect unresolved puzzles of various kinds. From my perspective, dismissal as coincidence tends to be accompanied by a reluctance to fully define the problem.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Guys, guys, remember I said:

I don't mean this to explain everything... it would not apply to "sheum" in reference to grain... but it reduces the impact of simple correspondences.

Since you apply a geographical context to NHM, it may not be a simple correspondence. I'm not talking about that.

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the dude, has the light begun to dawn for you? If NHM is not a coincidence, and Joseph (or Sidney or Solomon) could not have known about it, then isn't the Book of Mormon what is says it is? No matter how many other names could possibly be coincidence, like sheum?

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Guys, guys, remember I said:

I don't mean this to explain everything... it would apply to "sheum" in reference to grain... but it reduces the impact of simple correspondences.

Since you apply a geographical context to NHM, it may not be a simple correspondence. I'm not talking about that.

I understand that you are limiting the scope of your comments, but by limiting them to the extent you have dillutes their meaningulness in discussions related to Josephs translations when you consider the other layers of correspondance besides language similiarity. That's why I thoought commenting the way I did was appropriaete. Again I'm agreeing with your premise, I'm just not sure how meaningful they are.

(And I promise to stay out of the DNA thread with comments on conversion to the covenant people vs. literal lineage making the DNA issue mute... <_< Just being obnoxious... you guys have a fascinating discussion going. :P )

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During my LDS mission

I honestly would have never guessed that..... :P But it does explain a lot.

Anyway, I can understand why you would notice the coincidences since you have seen similar in your own life with the role playing game you were creating, but that would have taken an awful lot of work to get all those names that do have a coincidence in them if Joseph or whomever you believe to have wrote the BoM. They would have basically needed to do something similar to what you did with the names that aren't in there.

Plus as you said, it doesn't explain everything and most of us look at the whole effect, not just parts of it.

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Guys, guys, remember I said:

I don't mean this to explain everything... it would apply to "sheum" in reference to grain... but it reduces the impact of simple correspondences.

Since you apply a geographical context to NHM, it may not be a simple correspondence. I'm not talking about that.

Don't we have to take all factors into consideration in making a fair assesment of the strength of NHM in validating the Book of Mormon? I thought that was the purpose of the thread in which you first mentioned the possibility of coincidence. All factors work together the strengthen the notion that NHM is indeed the Nahom mentioned in the Book of Mormon. I don't see the purpose in seperating the factors as you have done.

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In the same way, when we find a good number of Book of Mormon names that seem to correspond with words from Egypt, Hebrew, Akkadian, or other Middle Eastern sources, it shouldn't surprise us too much. The author of the book clearly had that part of the world in mind, and with limited resources, he may well have used the kind of methods I once used to generate new names. Or he may have been less methodical and more spontaneous, but still working under the influence of authentic Egyptian and Hebrew words borrowed from limited resources (from memory).

I don't know where he would have had access to Egyptian names, but overall, I think you are correct. I also, however, think you are missing the forest for the trees. The principle that undercuts our arguments is left unaddressed by everyone here. We know that coincidences can and do happen. What thrusts many of these examples out of the realm of coincidence is when a Semitic sounding name appears (Coincidence? Perhaps. No way to judge yet); it's an ancient Egyptian name (well, Joseph didn't really know anything about Egyptian); it means "warrior," and it is the name that a general gave to his son. That's three "coincidences" in a perfect row. That's impressive in and of itself, and demands consideration, but they keep on coming. THis is what we are presenting: correlations that don't stand by themselves, but in correct contexts and with significance.

Mosiah is another Semitic sounding name. "M" is the most commonly occuring letter n the Semitic languages, and I count nine names in the English Bible beginning with "mo." Mos'ia means something in Hebrew, though. It refers to a person who effects some kind of deliverence or salvation from oppression. That's all very fascintating when we consider that Mosiah (in the Book of Mormon) was a righteous king who's legacy is that he administered new laws to end oppression and abolished kingship because it would inevitably ead to oppression.

NHM is a dircect hit in my opinion. The Book of Mormon traces a very vague course through the Arabian peninsula. Before anyone discovered NHM there were many who had tried to map out this course as best they could from the text. When the NHM altars were discovered they lay only about 100 miles from the proposed route. In a country (Yemen) of over 500,000 square kilometers that's pretty good. Nahom is only mentioned in connection with a burial, which is striking considering one of the largest ancient burial grounds in Arabia is in the area. That NHM lies almost exactly due west (within one degree) of the only part of the entire eastern coast of Arabia that qualifies a Bountiful is another hit. THat the name occurs nowhere else in Arabia strengthens the correlation. If Nephi really did pass through there and right down his Hebrew understanding of the name in a Reformed Egyptian language, and if Joseph Smith really did transliterate it to Roman letters, Nahom is a perfectly acceptable result.

More to come.

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If someone were to make up names and place them on a map, later discovering that the names of two of these imaginary cities were similar to two real cities with corresponding locations and meanings his example would be more plausible.

Now I think that the NHM evidence is pretty cool, but I have to admit, as I already mentioned it is not much more impressive than the potential coincidence of the Holley map: http://www.uwec.edu/geOGrApHY/Ivogeler/w18...place-names.htm

I checked the location of Rama, Ontario, Angola, New York and Oneida, New York and all are correct with the Holley map and correspond correctly to the locations of Ramah, Angola and the hill Onidah relative to the narrow strip of land in the Book of Mormon. While I think this could simply be a coincidence I think that if I accept that as a coincidence I have to similarly accept that the NHM evidence doesn't rise above potential coincidence. I hope that more strong evidence will be forthcoming but I think NHM is far from being indefutable evidence.

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In the same way, when we find a good number of Book of Mormon names that seem to correspond with words from Egypt, Hebrew, Akkadian, or other Middle Eastern sources, it shouldn't surprise us too much. The author of the book clearly had that part of the world in mind, and with limited resources, he may well have used the kind of methods I once used to generate new names. Or he may have been less methodical and more spontaneous, but still working under the influence of authentic Egyptian and Hebrew words borrowed from limited resources (from memory).

I don't know where he would have had access to Egyptian names, but overall, I think you are correct. I also, however, think you are missing the forest for the trees. The principle that undercuts our arguments is left unaddressed by everyone here. We know that coincidences can and do happen. What thrusts many of these examples out of the realm of coincidence is when a Semitic sounding name appears (Coincidence? Perhaps. No way to judge yet); it's an ancient Egyptian name (well, Joseph didn't really know anything about Egyptian); it means "warrior," and it is the name that a general gave to his son. That's three "coincidences" in a perfect row. That's impressive in and of itself, and demands consideration, but they keep on coming. THis is what we are presenting: correlations that don't stand by themselves, but in correct contexts and with significance.

Mosiah is another Semitic sounding name. "M" is the most commonly occuring letter n the Semitic languages, and I count nine names in the English Bible beginning with "mo." Mos'ia means something in Hebrew, though. It refers to a person who effects some kind of deliverence or salvation from oppression. That's all very fascintating when we consider that Mosiah (in the Book of Mormon) was a righteous king who's legacy is that he administered new laws to end oppression and abolished kingship because it would inevitably ead to oppression.

Maklelan, what about these tongue-in-cheek coincidences to Danish? Do they thrust Denmark and Danish roots beyond the realm of coincidence?

Pahoran = Pak (masses) + horen (to hear), meaning a king selected by the voice of the people, just as outlined in the scriptures.

Kishkumen = Kirke (church) + kommen (comings and goings), and we know that Kishkumen was someone who left the church.

Gidgiddoni = Gid (I wish) + jonglere (to juggle), meaning "I wish I could juggle."

Corianton = korenden (currants)

Cumorah = Kummer (grief) + om (about), meaning place of grief, which fits the ultimate scene of Nephite destruction perfectly.

Moriancumr = Morian (dark-skinned) + kummer (grief), meaning a dark skinned person who suffered grief.

Coriantumr = Currants + grief, meaning evil fruits, which would describe this Jaredite king well.

Moroni = Moro (amusement) + ni (nine), meaning that Mormon had nine years of joy from his son

Zarahemla = Zar (ruler) + akeleje (flower), meaning the beautiful place where the ruler dwells.

Gadianton = Gad (preterite of "gide" to choose) + hone (roast chicken) + ton (ton), meaning, "I might choose an enormous roast chicken, which fits in with what we know about the greed of these robbers.

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People! Please consider:

1. In a city where 1 in 1000 has HIV you are picked at random for HIV testing. The test is 99.9% accurate!! (both for true positive and true negitives). Suppose you test positive. Given that you have tested positive what are the chances that you do really have HIV?

drum role.....

Only 17% or less ! (use Bayes Formula)

Most people guess way off--after all the test is really accurate! 99.9% accurate.

2. You are a contestant in a game show and are shown three doors and told that behind two are goats and behind one is a car. You choose a door. Then the host opens one door that you didn't pick and you see a goat. The host offers you a chance to change your guess. Should you?

Most folks say that it doesn't matter. There are two doors left and you don't know what's behind them so it must be 50/50.

This is wrong! You should switch! (You will win 2/3 of the time with that strategy).

Now the above examples of human failure to intuit probabilities involve simple controlled cases with easy numbers.

What makes anyone think that in the NHM question anyone could intuit that it couldn't be a coincidence? Here we are dealing with indeterminate linguistic considerations, huge numbers, complications involving the sounds of names, the numbers of letters and words in languages, the influence of things a person may or may not have heard, an indeterminate sample space associated with a distribution that cannot possibly be equiprobable etc. What exactly is the event who probability we are considering?? I bet most would get this wrong. It isn't the chances of hitting on NHM. Not at all. That's a one element set. The real event is getting any hit of any kind. That's a huge set with an indeterminate size. It's like hitting a point on a dart board and then asking what were the chances of hitting exactly that point.

I am a mathematician and I certainly don't think I can even begin to intuit or calculate the probablities in the NHM thing. The set of considerations that infuence the result is potentially endless.

I see nothing that compels me to reject the idea of a coincidence. Intuition isn't up to the task and arguments can never take everything into account. The world is full of seemingly amazing coincidences that defy our inuition. We would be in a world of trouble if were swayed by such things.

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I see nothing that compels me to reject the idea of a coincidence. Intuition isn't up to the task and arguments can never take everything into account. The world is full of seemingly amazing coincidences that defy our inuition. We would be in a world of trouble if were swayed by such things.

Great examples, Tarski!

Of course, I'm not saying NHM is not a coincidence, I'm just saying I didn't mean for my opening post to directly address anything other than the simple coincidences, like the lists people have been posting on the thread about Egyptian names in the BoM.

Also, I wanted to show how "coincidence" is only part of my explanation. The pattern of Hebrew and Egyptian names, as opposed to Central American names, is anything but coincidental. For NHM, coincidence would also only be part of the explanation; the selection bias and staistical illusions you have outlined would also be part of the explanation (which I do not wish to discuss in this thread... thank you very much).

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The records that Joseph Smith translated claim to come from the ancient world(and they do). Their validity as ancient texts must be tested by comparing them to what is known about the ancient world and other ancient texts. One does not study the Dead Sea Scrolls by comparing them to the works of Tolkien. One studys the Dead Sea Scrolls by comparing them ancient christian and jewish texts from the perod. The same goes for the Book of Mormon Teachings of Her Amun Vol 6

I catch your drift Dude. I get it. The problem is that you and Joseph SMith where not the similiar in the relevant ways. 1) You were more educated than he was, 2)you didnt actually produce your book and leave it open for testing, 3)you didnt have your face buried in a hat :unsure::ph34r::P<_<

Seriosly though I get your point. here is my contention with the danish "parrallels" and your RPG map.

Helamen16:16 "Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken."

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The records that Joseph Smith translated claim to come from the ancient world(and they do). Their validity as ancient texts must be tested by comparing them to what is known about the ancient world and other ancient texts. One does not study the Dead Sea Scrolls by comparing them to the works of Tolkien. One studys the Dead Sea Scrolls by comparing them ancient christian and jewish texts from the perod. The same goes for the Book of Mormon

This is not a particularly helpful answer. If the book comes from the ancient world, we would indeed compare to what is known about the ancient world. What we're doing here it seems is not so much comparing as attempting to establish connections, no matter how forced they are. What The Dude's Danish example shows is that, given the will to do it, you can force a connection between the Book of Mormon and Danish just as easily as you can Egyptian, which would bolster the argument that these are not necessarily links to the ancient world.

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Pahoran = Pak (masses) + horen (to hear), meaning a king selected by the voice of the people, just as outlined in the scriptures.

Kishkumen = Kirke (church) + kommen (comings and goings), and we know that Kishkumen was someone who left the church.

Gidgiddoni = Gid (I wish) + jonglere (to juggle), meaning "I wish I could juggle."

Corianton = korenden (currants)

Cumorah = Kummer (grief) + om (about), meaning place of grief, which fits the ultimate scene of Nephite destruction perfectly.

Moriancumr = Morian (dark-skinned) + kummer (grief), meaning a dark skinned person who suffered grief.

Coriantumr = Currants + grief, meaning evil fruits, which would describe this Jaredite king well.

Moroni = Moro (amusement) + ni (nine), meaning that Mormon had nine years of joy from his son

Zarahemla = Zar (ruler) + akeleje (flower), meaning the beautiful place where the ruler dwells.

Gadianton = Gad (preterite of "gide" to choose) + hone (roast chicken) + ton (ton), meaning, "I might choose an enormous roast chicken, which fits in with what we know about the greed of these robbers.

If the BoM was written in danish I would expect to find some danish names such as, I dont know,: Eric, Leif,Biarny,Harolf,Gorm etc. Where their any danes names Coriantumr,Zarahemla,Nephi etc?

Danish etymologies of BoM names are forced and here is why. Danes dont have such names. Danish names, like English names are not phrases. When was a Dane named "Thor is content", "The buetiful one has arrived","in the presence of Odin" or "Frigga is good"?

Egyptian names on the other hand, often times are phrases. Nefertiti=the beutiful one has arrived, Herihor=in the presense of Horus, Meriamen=Amen is content. etc. Buy Wallace Budges Egyptian Dictionaries and try it out for yourself. Dont take Nibly's word.

If the BoM claimed to be written in Danish, we should expect Eric and Leif to make an appearance. But they dont, nor should they.

The BoM claims to be written in egyptian, and egyptian names, with readly diciferable etymologies are in place. :P

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The BoM claims to be written in egyptian, and egyptian names, with readly diciferable etymologies are in place. :P

Well, no, they aren't. What has been shown is a list of homophones, which may or may not have any relation to Egyptian names with readily decipherable etymologies. And the Danish post, although tongue in cheek, also showed homophones. I believe The Dude's point (and mine, as well) is that neither list shows anything other than a desire to find parallels, whether Danish or Egyptian.

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Has anyone else wondered how coincidental it is that we can pinpoint NHM and possibly Bountiful and other places in the Old World, but cannot do so for the Americas?

Tarski, your dismissal of NHM is interesting, but I do wonder whether you would apply the same dismissal to the discovery of Troy. After all, I doubt you believe Homer's epic tale is literally true. What is the objective reason one could accept Troy but reject NHM? Is it because the implication of NHM being right is too strong (how could Joseph have known)?

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Has anyone else wondered how coincidental it is that we can pinpoint NHM and possibly Bountiful and other places in the Old World, but cannot do so for the Americas?

Tarski, your dismissal of NHM is interesting, but I do wonder whether you would apply the same dismissal to the discovery of Troy. After all, I doubt you believe Homer's epic tale is literally true. What is the objective reason one could accept Troy but reject NHM? Is it because the implication of NHM being right is too strong (how could Joseph have known)?

What I wonder is why we would expect Nahom to have stuck as a place name? Why would a small traveling party's designation of a stopping point on their journey be remembered centuries afterward? It's a very strange argument to me.

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Has anyone else wondered how coincidental it is that we can pinpoint NHM and possibly Bountiful and other places in the Old World, but cannot do so for the Americas?

Sounds like a fun thread; start it up.

A short answer to your questian is: archeology in the new world is not nearly as advanced as that of the old world. Why? We lack a continous history. Istanbul was Constantinople, Al Quds was Jerusalem.

Can anyone one tell me the pre-columbian names of Monte Alban, El Mirador, El Bahio, Casa grandes,cerro de las mesas,cerro de las navajas, san lorenzo,gruta de chac,la mojarra or San Blas?[/

Can anyone give me: 1 Olmec name or 2 pre-classic mayan names ?

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Am I correct in surmising that the NHM inscription was found by dumb luck? It was a coincidental discovery? It wasn't found because someone followed 1 Nephi like a treasure map and declared: "This is the place called Nahom!"

It's possible that Nahom is actually in a different location on the Arabian peninsula. :P Don't put all your eggs in one basket, Her Amun.

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What I wonder is why we would expect Nahom to have stuck as a place name? Why would a small traveling party's designation of a stopping point on their journey be remembered centuries afterward? It's a very strange argument to me.

Who said it was their designation. The BoM says, it wasnt.

1 Ne. 16: 34

34 And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.

1 Ne. 17: 5-7

5 And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.

6 And it came to pass that we did pitch our tents by the seashore; and notwithstanding we had suffered many aafflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit.

One of the things that frustrates me is that people are hung up on the name NHM more than morms are. My original post on the NHM thread included info on Wadi Sayq, a small green strip of land on the arabian coast, visible from space, the only such strip on the arabian peninsula. She has iron ore deposits, honey,fruits,timber and a soli ship building tradition going back to to no at least 500BCE. Facts are stuburn things. :P

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