THE SACRED HONEY BEE
THE SACRED HONEY BEE
A RESPONSE TO GEORGE POTTER'S AN ALTERNATIVE
MODEL FOR THE JAREDITE TRAIL
by Douglas K. Christensen
QUESTION: I really enjoyed your comments today on the journey of the Jaredites. I am having difficulty visualizing them traveling through the Empty Quarter. It is clear that they built barges before they came to the sea where they set sail for the Promised Land. Also the honey bee could not have survived the trip. Barges and honey bees don’t seem to fit the environment of the Empty Quarter. I would like to hear more. Best wishes. (Norm Hanson)
In an internet article by the Catholic Church titled Problems with the Book of Mormon we read the following: Scientists have demonstrated that honey bees were first brought to the New World by Spanish explorers in the fifteenth century, but the Book of Mormon, in Ether 2:3, claims they were introduced around 2000 B.C. The problem was that Joseph Smith wasn’t a naturalist; he didn’t know anything about bees and where and when they might be found. He saw bees in America and threw them in the Book of Mormon as a little local color. He didn’t realize he’d get stung by them. (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/problems-with-the-book-of-mormon)
RESPONSE: George Potter in An Alternative Model for the Jaredite Trail writes the following: “Honey bees were not native to much of the ancient world. The earliest Biblical record of honey is when Jacob (Israel) instructed his sons to take a gift of honey to the Egyptian (Joseph) to try to win the release of his two sons (Genesis 43:11). Yet hundreds of years earlier, the Book of Mormon records that the Jaredites took honey bees with them from Mesopotamia to the seashore where they built their ships. Here the Book of Mormon is in harmony with what is known of the history of Mesopotamia (Sumeria). From the 21st Century B.C. the cuneiform writings of Sumeria and Babylonia mention honey bees, including mention of bees in royal titles.
POTTER: “The wild Apis Florea bees provide a fascinating aspect of the Jaredite trail. Apparently the Jaredites left their swarms of honey bees at the seashore. We can assume this for three reasons, 1.) there is no specific reference to taking bees aboard their ships (Ether 6:4), 2.) they were traveling in the hulls of air tight barges where swarms of bees would have been poor shipmates, and 3.) Old World bees were not found in the New World. The Dakakah trail would have led the Jaredites to the most suitable place to build their barges, at the inlet of Khor Rori where Nephi probably constructed his ship. Nephi wrote that “we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey, and all there things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish” (1 Nephi 17:5, Italics add). Nephi seemed to realize that the Lord had prepared Bountiful with wild, not domesticated, honey. Honey bees are not native to Arabia, an area the size of Europe, except in Oman. The honey in Oman is still gathered mostly as wild honey, and the bees are still considered wild, being only “somewhat managed”. So how did these wild honey bees originally come to Oman? Did they fly across the Persian Gulf or were they left by the Jaredites?
RESPONSE: to George Potter's statement “Honey bees were not native to much of the ancient world,” and then states that only in Mesopotamia is there a history of ancient bees. He then quotes the first appearance of bees in the Bible (Genesis 43:11). Contrary to this statement are the following by High Nibley:
“Thus we have the founders of the two main parent civilizations of antiquity (Babylonia and Egypt) entering their new homelands at approximately the same time from some common center—apparently the same center from which the Jaredites took their departure,....the Egyptian pioneers carried with them a fully developed cult and symbolism from their Asiatic home. Chief among their cult objects would seem to be the bee.” (Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pg 190) “'All the major migrations without exception, writes Eduard Meyer, which repeatedly in the course of world history have changed the face of the European-Asiatic continent...have moved into the distant regions of the west from a point in Central Asia. And of all these great waves of expansion the most important moved under the aegis of the life-giving bee.” (Nibley, pg 191)
POTTER:Potter proposes that the Jaredites left their bees there on the seashore before they set sail for their promised land. He gives the following reasons for this assumption:
1. POTTER: There is no specific reference to taking bees aboard their ships."
2. POTTER:“They were traveling in the hulls of air tight barges where swarms of bees would have been poor shipmates."
3. POTTER:“Old World bees were not found in the New World
What did the Jaredites do with their honey bees when they left for the promised land? When the Spanish conquered Mexico and Central America, they found that native populations of Mexico and Central America were beekeepers. Yet, the New World bees were probably not the bees of the Jaredites, rather bees unique to the Americas.The European honey bee which Native Americans called “white man’s flies” were not introduced in the Americas until 1638. It is likely that the Jaredite honey bee was the warm climate dwarf bee Apis florea. These small wild bees range in the warm climates of southeast Asia. The bees of Mesopotamia could have been native, or brought there from India which had bees at that time and traded with Sumeria.