Part Two

I don’t know if you was around to hear the first part of this tale where I talked about a farm boy said he dictated a book out of a hat and all the outlandish ways that book managed to sneak back and take a peak at history, coming up with a passel of authentic old names, books writ on gold plates, Hebrews writing stuff in Gyptian, and Injuns building outta cement.  Well, that ain’t all that book done cribbed.  Here’s some more.

Weird Ways of Writing

Well, it’s not just the names and the cement by a long shot.  It’s the way the whole book is written.  Seems that a long time ago, the Jews used to write in a funny way.  And I’m not just talking about them using no vowels, neither.  When they had something important to say, they would straight up and say it the same as you and me.  But then, they would turn around and unsay it the same way they said it the first time.  Sort of like, “Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he.”  Now I ain’t no ancient Israelite, but I can say that much.  Though come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t say it in normal conversation.  Or even if I was dictating a book out of a hat.

But the Jews liked it so much they said it a lot more complicated like, and stuck lots of it in the Old Testament.  I never seen it before it was pointed out to me, but it’s there just the same.  I also never seen it in this farm boy’s book till it was pointed out to me, but it’s there just the same, too.  A smart Mormon missionary first saw it there in the 1960’s.  Imagine it sitting there all the while and nobody noticing it till then.  And all over, just like in the Old Testament.  And lots more complicated and fancified than Old King Cole.  In fact, there’s this long chapter in this book (named after that boy Alma) that’s nothing but one big long example of this kind of old world writing.  It beats anything you can find in the Old Testament, too, though it might not be considered polite to say so in mixed company.

And here’s this farmboy just dictating out of a hat all the live long day, easy as you please, and he comes up with this stuff.  I guess he just read the Bible a lot and absorbed it by ozzymosis or something.

Birth of Jesus

Are we in Bethlehem yet?

Jesus Ain’t Born in No Jerusalem

Even though this farm boy looks like an absolute pip on everything in the Bible, he makes at least one bone-headed mistake in that Alma book of his.  He says Jesus was born in Jerusalem.  Now you don’t have to be much of a Bible expert to know that just ain’t so.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem.  Every kid knows that.  Farm boy had a lot of chances to fix that, too.  He corrected lots of things in his book when he went to printing new editions and all, but never saw fit to change the birthplace of Jesus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  I guess it plumb slipped his mind.  At least a hundred years later, though, college edicated Bible experts figured out that there did used to be a land of Jerusalem, and that Bethlehem was right there in it.  If the book had said Jesus was born in the city of Jerusalem, that might be a problem.  But no, it’s right there that Jesus was born in “Jerusalem, the land of our fathers.”  Ain’t no place in the Bible that the land of Jerusalem is mentioned; just the city.  I reckon that’s another mistake that just happened to turn out right.  Lucky farm boy.

Walking the Walk

But this farm boy ain’t done pulling rabbits out of his hat.  In fact, the biggest, hairiest rabbit of all was hiding in plain sight in the first 50-pages or so of his book.  It has to do with geography.  The first part of the book talks about this family leaving Jerusalem, and how they left on account of they weren’t well cottoned to by their neighbors, and how they went south down by the Red Sea where they found a “river of water.”  River of water?  What was that farm boy thinking writing “river of water”?  What else does he think a river is going to be made out of?  Chocolate?  They got any kind of rivers in New York other than water?  Even in 1829?  I do very much doubt that.

And what is he doing putting a river of water in Saudy Arabia, anyway?  Any durn fool knows there ain’t no rivers of water or anything else over there in Saudy Arabia.  That there’s nothing but desert.  It’s like the dark side of the moon.  Only not so dark.  But that’s what he says in his book anyways.  Funny thing is some exploring Mormon boys went out into Saudy Arabia over a hundert years later and guess what they found?  A river of water!  And it flows into the Red Sea, just like the books says it would.  And it flows year round, too, just like the book says it would.  And even though nobody thunk there was a river of water anywhere in Arabia, turns out there is one.  Right about where the book says it is, too.

River of Laman

River of Water

Not only that, the book says the river runs through a big old valley.  Them Mormon boys brought back pictures with ’em.  Sure looks like a big old valley to me that this river runs through.

Valley of Lemuel

Big Old Valley of Stone

Then these Jewish folk head along the shore of the Red Sea, going deeper and deeper south into Araby.  Now Araby’s a purty big place but they sticks right along the shore line there.  I don’t know if this farm boy knew it, but that’s the only way to go when you’re traveling thru Araby.  In fact, it used to be called the Frankysense trail.  Anybody who went anywhere else was a dang fool cuz they couldn’t last more than a day inland.  No water.  Miserably hot.  The Frankysense trail had some wells along it that folks could at least wet their whistle at.  This book makes sure the folks hew right along this trail, though.

Then these folks get to a place where one of ‘em dies.  Guess mebbe he wasn’t getting enough water after all.  They name the place after the guy who croaks—Nahom.  I know this is getting to sound like I’m just repeating myself, but durned if there isn’t an actual place down there along the trail right about where they would have stopped called NHM.  Did I mention those Near Eastern folk didn’t like vowels?  Some German archeologists found a couple of altars there with the place name on it, plain as day.  It said NHM.  They didn’t find it the altars till more than 150-years after the book was writ, though.  And at least one of those altars dated back to right when the book says these folks was passing through.  You put some vowels in there, and you sure enough can come up with Nahom pretty easy like.  I took myself to some figuring last night, and if you take the vowels out of the alphabet, you got about 20 letters left.  To come up with one right letter would be 1 in 20 odds.  To come up with two right letters would be 1 in 400 odds.  But to come up with three right letters like this book done would be 1 in 8,000 odds.  Those are tough odds to beat.  Maybe this farm boy should have been race horse betting stead of face in a hat dictating.  Looks like he done bet on a nag named Nahom to win.

NIHM altar

Can You See the letters “NHM”?

But there’s more.  This book says from Nahom, the folks changed course and started heading just about due east.  They went through a lot of desert and had lots of trials and tribulations.  Finally, they reach the coast and what do you think this book says they find?  A beautiful, lush area just teeming with shrubbery and greens.  They are so happy to see this place, they call it Bountiful.  If I was writing a book, I wouldn’t put in some place like Bountiful in Saudy Arabia.  That’s just crazy.  But guess what?  There is such a place in Araby.  And it matches the book’s description of Bountiful.  It’s even got trees to make a boat out of, which the book says is just what they did.  It’s even got honey bees buzzing around, just like the book says is there.  It’s even got iron ore on the surface of the ground not far distant, which is a big help cause the book says they made some iron tools out of it and it would be pretty hard to find the iron to make the tools if it wasn’t there, or if it was so deep in the earth they couldn’t dig it out.

Bountiful Mountains

Looks Bountiful To Me

Bountiful Mountain (2)

Skinny Dipping in the Desert

Crazier still is this is the only place in all of Araby that looks all lush and nice like this.  It’s not like they got nice spots all over the place.  Craziest of all is if you start at the place those German archeologists say was NHM and head just about due east, you can’t help but run into Bountiful.  It’s less than one degree of due east.  What are the odds of that, I wonder?  And it’s not like this Bountiful place was super well known.  Most folks who lived in Arabia didn’t know about it.  That’s cause it’s in a way out of the way place where people don’t go much.  No reason to.  Not much there.  Just this lush, green place, exactly like this book described in 1829.  Western folk knowing bout this place in 1829?  Not likely?  Farm boys knowing bout this place in 1829?  Less so.

How many folks know bout it today?  Not many, I spect.

Lehi's Trail

What Are the Odds?

For all the world, these first pages of the book sound like they was writ by somebody who actually walked the walk, instead of just talking the talk.  And not much of this stuff was even knowed back in 1829.  Leastwise not in upstate New York by the average farm boy.  It’s like this boy was using stuff out of a whole bunch of books that hadn’t been written yet, and basing his book off discoveries that hadn’t been discovered.  It sure is something, land sakes.

I don’t know how he done it, but it sure must have taken a whole lot of work.  And yet he’s just talking and talking with his face in a hat, throwing out names and places and complicated ways of speech like there was nothing to it.

Here’s the part I really don’t get.  If I had gone to all that work to make up a book and try to make it sound like it was for real, you can bet I would come along later and point out all this good stuff to other folks and say, “See?  This shows the book is real!”  But this farm boy never done that.  And he never had nobody else do it, neither.  Once he talks this 600 page book out of a hat, he really don’t seem to pay it much nevermind from that point on.  He barely talks about it at all when he is preaching.  It’s like he just throws off a 600-page book like it’s no big deal and then goes on to other things.  He just did not understand the value of a hard day’s work.

Last Words

There’s a lot of other stuff about this book that I could go on and on about, but I better stop right there.  I got chores to tend to.  Besides, if this ain’t enough to convince you, I reckon nothing will.  It couldn’t be no plainer if a salamander done transfiggered hisself into an angel and done konked a body over the head with a set of gold plates.

The last thing I’ll say is that there was a smart lawyer feller a while back named Wigmore.  He was a real expert on legal evidence and whatnot.  He came up with this doctrine that he called “the doctrine of chances.”  That’s just a fancy lawyer way of saying, “What are the odds?”  We all know what a coincidence is.  We’ve all had coincidences happen to us at one time or another.  What Wigmore says is that if a feller is charged with a crime and he don’t confess and there ain’t no eye-witness, sometimes a bunch of coincidences can be enough to prove he did it, just the same.  One coincidence can be just that, a coincidence.  Two of ‘em and it looks a little bit more like the feller’s guilty of something, but it could just be bad luck.  Three coincidences and it’s starting to look pretty bad for the feller.  At some point, you just gotta throw up your hands and say enough’s enough.  That’s too many coincidences for me to believe you’re innocent.  Looks like you gotta hang for it.

At some point, there’s just too many dang coincidences in this book to believe it came from a 23-year old farm boy in upstate New York.  Specially in 1829.  Looks like that farm boy is guilty of something.  And what he’s guilty of is dictating an ancient book from out the bottom of a hat.  Looks like he might haveta hang for it, too.

I been around a long time, and this old world’s been around a lot longer.  I suppose this old world’s seen a lot of strange things in its time.  Mebbe some things even stranger than this.  But for the life of me I just don’t know when.

Corbin Volluz lives in the beautiful foothills of the Cascade Mountains in western Washington state. He has been practicing law for 25-years with a focus on criminal defense and personal injury. Corbin joined the LDS Church in June of 1978, shortly after the lifting of the priesthood ban, and has been studying Mormonism ever since. He has been published in several venues, including the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and BYU-Studies.

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