My purpose today is to introduce the chronological structure and symbolism found in the Book of Mormon. These complex and precise topics are separate from, but provide the foundation for, the study of Book of Mormon chronology itself. For this introduction, I will use 29 expressions in the small plates of Nephi. They represent less than 7% of the 426 similar expressions in the extant text of the Book of Mormon, but they provide an ample basis for this introduction.
Please refer to the tables in the handout as I discuss one of the most abundant cultural expressions in the Book of Mormon. These crucial texts I have called year-related expressions. Both their diction and placement throughout the Book of Mormon appear to have been intentionally symbolic. For their diction, I rely on the immense work of Dr. Royal Skousen and his associates with the earliest text of the Book of Mormon. This diction is crucial for defining textual categories or divisions that permit us to describe chronological structure.
The first couple of textual divisions in Table 1 may be familiar to you. The text of the Book of Mormon says in a variety of ways that it was composed by three principal writers who wrote on three sets of metal plates that have been called the small plates of Nephi, the plates of Mormon and the plates of Moroni. Today we focus on the small plates of Nephi. In addition, the text of each set of plates is separable into what have been called major divisions, most of which are entitled books. However, in the small plates of Nephi the last major division is called the Words of Mormon.
The narratives in a set of plates or a major division may be subdivided in many ways, but for my analysis, the text was sorted into narratives that do include year-related expressions and those that do not. My analysis focused on narratives that contain year-related expressions.
The fourth textual division is one that I have called a narrative-link. Within a narrative that contains a year-related expression, there exists a basic word or phrase that connects all the rest of the narrative language to the year-related expression. In the Book of Mormon, these basic words or narrative-links appear in five linguistic types. Prepositions form the largest type; they’re followed in size by verbs, then conjunctions, participles and, lastly, adverbs. To keep track of these narrative-links, in Table 2, I have assigned capital letters to the three types that appear in the small plates of Nephi: prepositions, verbs and adverbs.
The process of drilling down through the narrative language finally arrives at the essential component of a year-related expression, one that I have called a year-term. Every noun year in the Book of Mormon constitutes a year-term. I use the hyphenated label year-term because there are three distinct types of year-terms. In each set of plates, the noun year is used expressly in its singular and plural forms, but only in the plates of Mormon is the reader required to infer the existence of the word year. As Table 2 indicates, I have labeled the two express types of year-terms with capital letters because they both occur in the small plates.
What does the Book of Mormon mean by the noun year? If we look to contemporaneous external evidence to begin to answer that question, we cannot ignore Dr. Noah Webster’s massive work that was published in 1828 and entitled An American Dictionary of the English Language. He listed 17 ways in which the word year could be understood and used. In the interests of time, I will summarize the common features of these definitions. In general, the noun year means a lengthy interval of time “contrived” (that’s Webster’s word) by a group of people for their own purposes, measured by the observations or other procedures they have adopted, and modified from time to time as they have seen fit. The year-terms of the Book of Mormon may be read at least with that general definition in mind.
My study takes the existence of alternative definitions into account by making four analytical assumptions. First, each year-term is deemed to be a subject for analysis without any assumed chronological meaning other than it represents a lengthy, culturally-defined period. Second, each year-term is assumed to be a textual fact equally as valuable as any other year-term. Third, all year-terms are deemed to be independent of each other; however, fourth, they may be sorted by means of other words that exist within the text of the Book of Mormon.
These other words used for sorting include the narrative-link that occurs with each year-term and the adjectives that often modify the year-terms. These adjectives are the two optional components of year-related expressions. The text itself physically divides the adjectives into two categories that I have called a time-term and a number-term.
As Table 3 notes, a time-term describes a time in which a year-term did exist, does exist or will exist relative to one or more persons mentioned in the associated narrative. Time-terms refer to the birth of the Messiah, and to eras, reigns, ages, deaths and other distinctive occasions. The year-terms thus mark the times of these described events. Each express time-term follows its related year-term in the small plates of Nephi.
Nearly 80% of the time-terms state a name for a Nephite era. I use the noun era with the meaning of “[a] system of chronological notation, characterized by the numbering of years from some particular point of time” (OED). The text of the Book of Mormon uses distinctive names to identify three intervals of time that were dated from specific events, spanned multiple Nephite generations and had separate systems for numbering years. I have labeled these intervals the Lehi era, the Judges era and the Nephite Christian or NC era. Today, we are concerned primarily with the Lehi era, but the Words of Mormon include an NC era name.
In Table 4, I have provided a synopsis of Nephite era names. A reference for each example is included. Nephite eras may be identified by four types of era names. The most formal of the names is generally the longest; so, I have labeled this type of time-term a long name. A shorter formal name also appears in the text. I have called this type a short name. A few modified long and short era names may be identified as a third type of time-term that I have called other names. I have also identified a fourth type of time-term as a personalized time-term. Some of these time-terms are era names that have been personalized, but most of the personalized time-terms identify reigns, ages, deaths, and other distinctive human occasions.
Most year-related expressions have no time-term. Nonetheless, in a comprehensive analysis of time-terms, textual data may be categorized both by express time-terms and by what I have called omitted time-terms. Thus, the analytical typology of time-terms includes five types: long names, short names, other names, personalized time and omitted time. In Table 5, the three types of time-terms in the small plates also have been labeled with capital letters.
Now let’s look at the adjectives I have called number-terms. This optional component of a year-related expression states a definite or general quantity or quantitative position for the year-term. In the small plates of Nephi, an express number-term precedes its related year-term. Number-terms, like time-terms, may be sorted into five separate types. Most express number-terms in the Book of Mormon include definite ordinal numbers. A second type includes definite cardinal numbers.
With the third type of express number-term, the adjective usually denotes an ordinal number-term in a previous year-related expression. A number-term of this third type has been called a referenced number-term because it refers to a quantity found elsewhere. Notably, in the small plates of Nephi, most referenced number-terms imply cardinal numbers apparently to be found by reference to a variety of sources.
A fourth type of number-term employs vague language to modify a year-term. These have been called general number-terms. Examples include words like “the”, “few”, “some” and “many”. Such words usually indicate a nonspecific year or an indefinite quantity of years. There are exceptions, however, because what may seem to be a general number-term also may be viewed as a referenced number-term, and vice versa.
A fifth analytical type of number-term was created. In eight cases, year-related expressions have no number-terms. To avoid confusion with omitted time-terms, these cases have been called absent number-terms. One may well question whether the notion of an absent number-term is a non sequitur. Is the absence of a number-term a statement of quantity? No. Nevertheless, absent number-terms were included in the study as a separate analytical type, so that I could be certain these expressions did not affect the chronological structure. In Table 5, the five analytical types of number-terms have been labeled with capital letters because they are all found in the small plates of Nephi.
With that, we have covered a very brief introduction to the principal textual categories and types that I have used to classify year-related expressions and their narrative-links. In the remainder of my talk today, I will sometimes refer to a combined year-related expression and its narrative-link as a chronological-expression. I am using this term as a label and, in Table 6, I have inserted a hyphen to indicate this technical meaning. With the hyphen, this phrase means a combined year-related expression and its narrative-link.
The text of each of the 29 chronological-expressions in the small plates is set forth in Table 6. The first column presents consecutive numbers based on the sequence of the expressions in the text. References also are provided. The narrative-links are shown in italics. The letter labels identified earlier also are set forth in this table. The letter labels describe almost all the decisions made by the writers when they placed year-related expressions into their narratives. The only decision not described by a letter label is the choice of a number for the number-term. Thus, Table 6 may be said to summarize the decision structure for the chronology of the small plates. To understand the writers’ decisions more fully, the patterns made up of the capital letters must be examined.
Table 7 summarizes the year-term patterns. By comparing Tables 6 and 7, one may notice that two consecutive D year-terms occur in First Nephi 1:4. They are followed by 11 consecutive E year-terms in First and Second Nephi, and then followed by single D, E, D and E year-terms in Second Nephi. Each separately labeled year-term or group of consecutive identically-labeled year-terms is viewed as being part of what I have called a letter pattern. In the case of the 17 year-terms in Nephi’s books, a simple DE letter pattern represents all the year-terms in First Nephi. In Second Nephi, the letter pattern is EDEDE. Subsequent writers in the small plates of Nephi (including Mormon) all used E year-terms. Based on this uniformity and other evidence yet to be introduced, I suggest that Nephi commanded that the subsequent writers only use plural or E year-terms.
Each distinct part of the letter pattern of year-terms, whether a separately-labeled D or E year-term or composed of consecutive identically-labeled D or E year-terms, I have called a letter-set. For clarity in the tables, a letter-set is enclosed within parentheses or brackets, depending on its position in a letter pattern. When a letter pattern is viewed as consisting of more than one letter-set, the pattern has been called a letter-group and it is also enclosed within parentheses. Thus, the letter patterns for the consecutive year-terms in the major divisions of the small plates of Nephi may be labeled and analyzed as shown in the columns of Table 7.
Of course, time is perceived to move forward, moment by moment, without regard to human divisions that might relate to it (such as a birth, an enthronement or a death, or the writing of a book). In this view of time, the chronology of the small plates of Nephi also may be viewed without regard to the major divisions. In other words, this set of plates may be represented completely by a (DEDEDE) letter-group. The E year-terms that conclude First Nephi merge into a single letter-set with the E year-terms that commence Second Nephi. The E year-term that concludes Second Nephi merges into another single letter-set with all the E year-terms in the following major divisions.
What meanings are related to this letter pattern? In a single verse, the first (D) letter-set includes two references to the same year, a year when the reign of a king of Judah began. The other two (D) letter-sets refer to years in which the reigns of two more kings of Judah ended. All the (E) letter-sets relate to plural years prophesied by prophets and measured by their faithful followers or their non-believing opponents. This contrast between D and E year-terms related to the lives of kings and prophets does not appear to have occurred by chance.
Very quickly, let’s consider one aspect of the letter pattern of narrative-links shown in Table 8. When major divisions are disregarded, this letter pattern may be divided into two letter-groups (ACACA) and (BABAB). Please note the seeming failure of Nephi to complete the second of these letter-groups by the end of Second Nephi. Jacob completed the second letter-group in Jacob 1:1 and all subsequent expressions only use verbal B narrative-links. As the letter patterns associated with year-terms seemed to suggest, Nephi may have given Jacob instructions not only as to the types of narratives to be engraved on the small plates, but as to the types of chronological-expressions to be placed within those narratives as well. Thus, both narrative-link letter-groups may have been entirely Nephi’s design.
Table 9 shows the time-terms of the 29 chronological-expressions. Time-terms in Nephi’s two books alternate personalized (H) letter-sets with omitted (X) letter-sets in a letter-group consisting of 11 letter-sets that are reversible; that is, the pattern is the same whether read forward or backward. The pattern also is balanced around a central [X] letter-set, which is marked by brackets in Table 9. By balanced, I mean there are five letter-sets on either side of the central [X] letter-set, the last year-related expression of First Nephi. One may also say that a five-set letter-group appears to have been placed on either side of the central [X] letter-set.
In First Nephi, the five-set letter-group uses H time-terms to identify two kinds of time periods. The first H time-term identifies time in the reign of a king of Judah and the other two H time-terms identify time from when Lehi left Jerusalem, with the second of these two Lehi era names appearing to be more informal because the determiner that has been ellipted. In Second Nephi, the five-set letter-group also uses H time-terms to identify the same two time periods. First, a personalized time-term informally describes years “from the time we left Jerusalem”. Then, the next two H time-terms describe years in the reigns of other kings of Judah.
Also note that in First Nephi, the beginning of the reign of a king of Judah was mentioned, followed by two reports regarding the time when Lehi left Jerusalem, but in Second Nephi, the reverse pattern occurs. A single notation about the time when Lehi and his followers left Jerusalem is followed by two reports about the conclusions of the reigns of two other kings of Judah. These reversals in the numbers of expressions and their meanings with respect to the reigns of the kings of Judah also seem deliberate.
Nephi, however, does not end his use of personalized or H time-terms with the death of a king of Judah. The seventh and last H time-term in Nephi’s writings is the phrase “from the time that my father left Jerusalem”. This time-term is part of the third (H) letter-set that concludes the placement of time-terms in Second Nephi. This time-term is the same more formal one that initially appeared in First Nephi. For the family of Lehi, the system of measuring time by the reigns of Jewish kings had been left behind and a new system for measuring Lehi’s prophetic time had been adopted.
The omitted (X) letter-sets in Nephi’s writings cannot be ignored. These letter-sets maintain the alternating pattern and drive home the writer’s point about formality and informality. A year or interval of years may be reported so informally that a time-term is not, or perhaps cannot, be supplied. In this regard, it is with the central [X] letter-set that Nephi prophesies a distant royal reign by the “Holy One of Israel”. The “many years” related to that king’s reign differ from all the other years mentioned by Nephi. The entire letter pattern draws attention to Nephi’s prophecy regarding the future reign of this great king.
Nephi’s apparent planning of the placement of time-terms also must be considered in connection with the long name or G time-term at the beginning of the book of Jacob. This time-term expresses the most formal or official of the Lehi era names. This long name also is used in the plates of Mormon to record the time when king Mosiah II was enthroned and to report the end of 600 Lehi calendar years, when the Messiah’s birth was expected. Jacob used this long name after receiving the small plates from Nephi and being instructed, by means of his brother’s “commands” (Jacob 7:27), in the types of things Nephi wanted to have recorded in these plates. That instruction also may have included the use of the long name of the Lehi era for the 12th time-term letter-set in the small plates of Nephi.
No writer in the small plates other than Jacob used this same time-term. Perhaps they were following Nephi’s instruction that only the first of Jacob’s time-terms should use the most formal name of the Lehi era. In terms of the narratives recorded at the beginning of the book of Jacob, one also must note that they relate to the Nephites’ observance of the end of Nephi’s rule as their king and prophet, his anointing of a political successor, and his delivery of the small plates into the hands of his younger brother, the prophet Jacob. Thus, the themes of textual formality, royal succession and prophetic declaration that structured Nephi’s use of time-terms in First and Second Nephi seem to culminate with the G time-term in Jacob 1:1.
Is there anything symbolic about the 12th time-term letter-set being used with the most formal name of the Lehi era? I suggest the answer is yes. It’s been 25 years since the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies or FARMS published my first draft of a paper that Dr. John L. Sorenson had asked me to write regarding my views of Book of Mormon chronology. In that draft and among many other things, I proposed that the Nephites used the ancient lunar calendar of the Middle East, a 12-moon calendar, to measure the Lehi era. Such a calendar probably was indicated in the version of the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the brass plates that Lehi’s family carried with them. Webster’s 1828 dictionary also listed this type of year as a “[l]unar astronomical year.”
My proposal may be reinforced by the textual fact that Jacob’s son Enos personalized the long name of the Lehi era for the 12th express time-term in the small plates. Thus, I again suggest that the long name and 12th time-term letter-set and the personalized long name and 12th express time-term symbolize the formal 12-moon calendar used by the Nephites for measuring the Lehi era. An ancient 12-moon year seems to represent the shortest and most easily maintained Middle Eastern lunar calendar for measuring Lehi’s 600-year prophecy. A single year contains about 354 days and nine hours, but for refugees in search of a promised land, just 12 moons needed to be recorded to keep track of each calendar year.
I will conclude today by introducing the analysis of number-terms. Table 10 shows that the writings of Nephi may be represented by a pattern that initially seems to be disorganized in First Nephi and by a balanced and reversible pattern in Second Nephi. The absent or Z number-term is marked with single quotation marks rather than parentheses and it is to be disregarded. If the major divisions also are disregarded in the passing of time, the letter pattern may be divided into a single (O) letter-set followed by three balanced and reversible letter-groups and by a final non-reversible letter-group that was completed by Mormon. The patterns created by Nephi seem to exhibit detailed planning.
The number-terms in Nephi’s writings commence in First Nephi with a single ordinal number (O) letter-set composed of one number-term. The first number-term in the small plates of Nephi is literally “the first”. It specifies the first year in the reign of Judah’s king Zedekiah in a chronological-expression that, appropriately enough, modifies the noun commencement. This number-term is the only ordinal number letter-set in these plates and it serves as the symbolic number-term complement to the equally symbolic (G) time-term letter-set that begins the book of Jacob and ends the reign of Nephi. The (O) letter-set also is the first (and apparently only) number-term in these plates to be implied directly in a referenced number-term. The second number-term in these plates is the phrase “that same”. It follows, appears in the same verse as, and refers to, the ordinal number-term “the first”. All the other referenced number-terms in the small plates seem to refer to cardinal numbers that are located outside these plates and/or that may involve computation.
The longest and most complex of the number-term letter-groups immediately follows the (O) letter-set. The two referenced number or (R) letter-sets at the beginning and end of this letter-group balance each other in position and in the content of their associated narratives. With respect to “that same year” mentioned in First Nephi 1:4, Nephi goes on to report that Lehi experienced a vision of God’s throne and was called to be a prophet. At the end of the letter-group, the phrase “[i]n the year that king Uzziah died” is part of an Isaiah quotation by Nephi in Second Nephi 16:1. The related narrative states that Isaiah experienced a vision of God’s throne and was called to be a prophet. These marked similarities in the content of the narratives associated with this letter-group’s first and last (R) letter-sets indicate that these narrative placements and the intervening ones were carefully planned.
The first (PSP) letter-group describes Lehi’s 600-year prophecy in the first cardinal number (P) letter-set, adds a general number (S) letter-set, and then ends with a second (P) letter-set in which Nephi describes the passing of the initial eight years measured in the 600-year period. The second (PSP) letter-group also describes Lehi’s 600-year prophecy in a (P) letter-set, adds an (S) letter-set, and concludes with another (P) letter-set in which Nephi again describes the years that had been measured in the 600-year period.
These detailed similarities related to the first and last (R) letter-sets and (PSP) letter-groups balance and reverse around a central [R] letter-set composed of two identical number-terms that appear in Nephi’s quotation of his older brothers’ protests in First Nephi 17:20-21. For “these many years”, the brothers twice complained, we have “wandered in the wilderness” and “suffered in the wilderness”. Thus, in the first, central and last (R) letter-sets in this letter-group, Nephi’s narratives contrast his unbelieving, frustrated older brothers with the visionary prophets Lehi and Isaiah, both of whom were revered by Nephi. Indeed, at that time, Nephi presented himself to his brothers as another of such true prophets who needed their help to build a ship. Nephi used (R) number-terms to structure both the order of his year-related expressions and his contrasting narratives about belief and unbelief in the work of true prophets. Moreover, the balancing (PSP) letter-groups both suggest the vital importance of Lehi’s 600-year prophecy to Nephi and, subsequently, to the Nephites. Their devotion to measuring and recording the passing of years in the Lehi era is express.
A simple (PRP) letter-group composed of four number-terms concludes the book of Second Nephi and begins the book of Jacob. This letter-group is a further indication, if one is needed, that the first year-related expression in the book of Jacob was planned or commanded by Nephi. In the narratives associated with this (PRP) letter-group, Isaiah’s 65-year prophecy of the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, a prophecy that had been fulfilled before the time of Nephi, is contrasted with Isaiah’s yet to be fulfilled long-term prophecies of the destruction of Babylon and return of the exiles, and with Lehi’s related and yet to be fulfilled 600-year prophecy. The faith of the Nephites that Isaiah’s and Lehi’s long-term prophecies would be fulfilled also is expressed by the first chronological-expression in the book of Jacob. The cardinal number-term in Jacob 1:1 is the last part of the (PRP) letter-group. This expression marks the passing of 55 years, more than half a century, in the 600-year era measured by Nephi and the faithful Nephites from the time Lehi left Jerusalem.
Our time is running quickly, but I want to present a bit more detail about the chronological symbolism of the number-terms in First and Second Nephi. To do so, I must introduce a new analytical concept that is based on the Book of Mormon text but has not been required in the previous analysis. Earlier, I mentioned that Nephite era names were the largest distinct group of phrases in the express time-terms of the Book of Mormon. Each era’s names identified the specific event when that era began. The four types of era names were read together or combined to suggest chronological settings or era contexts for most of the narratives.
As indicated in Table 11, I also suggest that just as era names may be combined to symbolize era contexts for Book of Mormon narratives, so the number names stated or referenced in express number-terms may be combined to symbolize related chronological settings for the narratives. These number-term settings describe the passing of time with quantitative measurements. I have called these quantitative chronological settings the number contexts of the narratives. In the small plates of Nephi, number contexts appear to have been organized within the major divisions planned by Nephi and carried out by Nephi and Jacob. Subsequent writers appear to have adopted related systems for organizing their number-terms, but we don’t have time today to detail the number contexts suggested by these later writers.
To analyze number contexts, I have made four assumptions based on the text itself. First, I have assumed that number names may be combined into various sets of numbers using the analytical types identified for the chronological-expressions. The second assumption is that ordinal numbers, when placed into a numerical set for abstract arithmetic operations, may be treated like cardinal numbers for simplicity and clarity. The Book of Mormon contains eight instances where ordinal and cardinal number-terms are commingled in the operation of addition (Alma 16:9, 12, 21; 17:4, 6; 28:7, 9-10; 45:38; 48:20; 49:29; Helaman 13:1; 14:2; 16:9; 3 Nephi 1:1; 2:8, 10; 4:1, 4; 5:7-8; 6:1; 7:1, 8). The narrative descriptions of this kind of addition provide a context in which ordinal and cardinal numbers both make sense. However, when number names are detached from their narratives to become just definite numbers in an abstract numerical set, the conversion of ordinal numbers to cardinal numbers simplifies and clarifies their use.
Third, I have assumed that number names within a set represent quantities that may be combined by addition to create a total quantity or sum. Addition is an arithmetic operation that is clearly attested in the Book of Mormon. The sum of the numbers in each separate set has been called its Set-sum. By itself, a Set-sum represents the entire set of numbers. The fourth analytical assumption for number names is that, like the combined era names, the Set-sum for each set of number names has a meaning related to Nephite chronology. Specifically, this fourth assumption is that a Set-sum may symbolize a specific number of days with chronological meaning to the Nephites. Based on this assumption, era contexts may be said to be based on era names that can be combined to symbolize the longest of the Nephite calendrical periods and number contexts may be said to be based on number names that can be combined to symbolize even the shortest of the calendrical and astronomical periods.
I will close today with the six examples of Set-sums in Table 12. Two have been chosen from the 59 potential Set-sums in First Nephi, three from the 15 potential Set-sums in Second Nephi, and one from the 386 potential Set-sums in the combined books of First and Second Nephi. The first numerical set includes all five definite numbers stated or referenced in First Nephi. The Set-sum is 1,210. As the table indicates, 1,210 days may be a measure of 41 average synodical months counted by whole days, the time for the moon to run through its new moons or full moons 41 times. The following synodical month would complete 3.5 years as measured with a 12-moon calendar or one-half of a seven-year period as thus measured.
The second example includes all the definite numbers in First Nephi plus the larger computed numbers for the referenced number expressions “these many years” in First Nephi 17:20-21. The number-term “these many” may be thought to refer to the cardinal number eight, which appears in the previous definite number-term. However, it seems more likely that the phrase “these many” refers to a larger cardinal number, perhaps nine or ten, which is to be computed by reference to Nephi’s note that a “space of many days” followed the end of the eight-year period before he envisioned building a ship, and to the additional time that passed as Nephi made bellows, gathered ore and made tools out of the ore (1 Nephi 17:4, 7-9, 16).
Only after all those days passed away did his older brothers “complain against [him] and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that [he] could build a ship, neither would they believe that [he] were instructed of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:18). The Set-sum 1,230 assumes ten is the number of years complained of, and thus this Set-sum is the largest in First Nephi. A period of 1,230 days is a measure of 45 average sidereal months counted by whole days, the time for the moon to return to the same place in the stars 45 consecutive times. This measure of a lengthy period of sidereal months suggests an expertise in astronomical observation that connects the positions of the moon with some type of visual context in the fixed stars.
The third example adds all the definite numbers associated with personalized time-terms in the combined books of First and Second Nephi. The Set-sum is 1,831 and it represents the number of days that measure a conjunction in the heavens between 62 average synodical months and 67 average sidereal months. After 1,831 days, the moon has the same phase in the same place in the fixed stars as when the count of days began.
The fourth example is a numerical set consisting of all the definite numbers in Second Nephi. I suggest the Set-sum 735 is to be interpreted as two 365-day years, plus five days. By the time of Lehi, the Egyptian 365-day or so-called “vague” solar calendar appears to have been in use for several thousand years. Since Lehi and Nephi apparently knew the Egyptian language well enough to write in it (1 Nephi 1:1-2), they would seem likely to have understood that calendar, which was composed of 12 months of 30 days each, plus five intercalary days. Similarly, a Mesoamerican “vague” solar calendar could be divided into 18 months of 20 days each, plus five intercalary days. Are the 360 + 5 numerical patterns in the two ancient solar calendars the chronological meanings symbolized in Second Nephi? I suggest the likelihood of a yes answer is reinforced by two more of the 15 Set-sums in Second Nephi.
The fifth example is a numerical set consisting of the definite numbers in Second Nephi plus the referenced numbers of regnal years of two Jewish kings at the times of their respective deaths. In Second Nephi, the referenced number expressions are “the year that king Uzziah died” and “the year that king Ahaz died”. The article the in each expression appears to be used as a determiner referring to numbers expressed in the text of the brass plates, which, among other things, contained “a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah” (1 Nephi 5:12). In each of these instances, a cardinal number appearing in the Hebrew Scriptures describes the number of years the king had reigned when he died. These cardinal numbers referenced in Second Nephi are 52 and 16, respectively. The Set-sum 803 may be interpreted as two 365-day years, plus 73 days. Since 1830, the astronomical interval of 73 days has come to be known as an ancient Mesoamerican measure for coordinating the times of the sun and the planet Venus, and as an integral component of the Mesoamerican Calendar Round of 52 “vague” solar years. A period of 73 days is one-fifth of a “vague” solar period of 365 days and one-eighth of the average Venus synodical period of 584 days. The ancient Calendar Round may be defined as 73 iterations of the Mesoamericans’ unique 260-day ritual calendar. I propose that the ancient Mesoamerican use of the number 73 with the “vague” solar year does not appear merely by chance in Second Nephi.
The evidence for a 365-day or “vague” solar calendar being symbolized in Second Nephi is reinforced further by the sixth example in Table 12. The Set-sum of all cardinal numbers that occur with omitted time-terms in Second Nephi is 105. Mesoamerican “vague” solar years often were identified by the name of their first day in the 260-day calendar. This first day was celebrated as the New Year Day. However, after 260-days had passed away, the same day name occurred again on the 261st day of the “vague” solar year. This 261st day was celebrated as the Little New Year Day and it began a 105-day interval that completed the 365-day year. Here again, the chronological symbolism of Second Nephi appears to identify a key aspect of the Mesoamerican “vague” year. This aspect was very different from the Egyptian “vague” year. Both the “vague” year and the 260-day calendar appear to have been long established in Mesoamerica by the time Lehi and his followers arrived. Thus, I propose that the number-terms in Second Nephi, which deal with Lehi’s followers in the promised land on this continent, were carefully planned and written with Mesoamerican chronological symbolism in mind.
Well, there is so much more to the chronological structure and symbolism in the small plates of Nephi, but I must conclude. I have barely mentioned the chronological-expressions that follow Jacob 1:1. I have not touched on the connection between letter patterns and literary parallelism in the Book of Mormon. I have not talked about the connection between the Nephite philosophy of cyclical time and the doctrine of Christ. And there are 397 more year-related expressions in the plates of Mormon and Moroni that beg for understanding—before the chronology of the Book of Mormon may be fully understood.
To me, Nephi’s chronological symbolism seems intended to inform us that in his lifetime the Nephite priesthood eventually included astronomer-priests who were engaged in consistent, recorded, astronomical observation and numerical measurement, and who were familiar with and may have used three different calendars at the same time on a regular basis, but for different purposes. I again propose that the ancient Middle Eastern 12-moon calendar was the one employed to number the motion of time throughout the Lehi era. Thank you very much for your attention.