Not many people notice that there are quite a few similarities between the history of the ancient Romans and the story of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.
Their stories cover a similar stretch of ancient history: The Romans from the founding of the city in 753 BC until its conquest by barbarian invaders in 476 AD; Nephite history beginning ca 600 BC and ending with the annihilation of the Nephites by the barbarian Lamanites about 400 AD.
Of course there are also many differences in these two stories, but the similarities are striking. And I am not claiming that these similarities "prove" anything at all, or that they are anything more than interesting coincidences.
- Both peoples are descended from a small party of emigrants escaping the destruction of a royal city: Aeneas from Troy's destruction by the Greeks; Lehi from Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonians.
- Both people's founding ancestors were led by deity to a new land: Aeneas by Venus and Apollo; Lehi by Jehovah.
- Both people's founding ancestors came to their new homeland by ship.
- Both peoples took their name from one of a pair of brothers from whom they descended: The Romans from Romulus, brother of Remus; the Nephites from Nephi, brother of Sam. And the Lamanites took their name from Laman, brother of Lemuel (the less righteous brothers of Nephi and Sam).
- Both peoples spread out eventually to occupy very large territories: The Romans all the lands bordering the Mediterranean, as well as Britain, southern Europe and the Balkans, from Spain to Mesopotamia; the Nephites covered "the face of the land" (Jarom 1:8, Helaman 11:20) both "northward and southward" and from sea to sea.
- At about the same time in their history, a two-century period of peace reigned among them: For the Romans the Pax Romana, ca 27 BC to ca 180 AD; for the Nephites, the period described in 4 Nephi, from ca 33 AD to ca 245 AD.
- Both periods of peace began about the time of the appearance of Jesus Christ in their land.
- Both cultures knew metal coins, shipbuilding, agriculture based on wheat, barley, cattle, goats, sheep and "flocks." Both waged war with similar weapons and armor (steel swords, bow and arrow, spears, body armor, chariots and horses).
If there is anything that this comparison proves, it is the one tremendous difference between the two stories, a difference which casts huge doubt upon the accuracy of the Nephite story. And that difference can be seen in museums and archaeological sites all over Europe, as well as in the languages spoken there today. The Romans left behind millions of artifacts, from everyday coins, kitchen utensils and pots to glorious art and architecture. Their historical record is also confirmed by hundreds of independent contemporary written records. They also left behind their language, Latin, which is still spoken - in modified versions - in almost every country of western Europe and South America.
But the Nephites? Nothing even vaguely similar. Nothing. No museum has any identifiable Nephite artifact. No art. No architecture. No traces of their languages (Hebrew and Egyptian) anywhere in the area they supposedly occupied. No records other than the Book of Mormon, which is accepted as history by not a single non-Mormon historian.
Why not? One would think that the archaeological and historical record of two great ancient peoples, contemporaries, spanning a thousand years, would leave similar signs of their existence behind. No one doubts the existence of the Romans for that thousand years, or the essential accuracy of their history. Everyone but the Mormons themselves disbelieves the story of the Nephites.
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© 2009 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included