Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part III

Continuing from the previous post, regarding who wrote the lessons delivered in the School of the Prophets. We concluded the last post on the meeting held in the translation room of the Kirtland
Temple on the same day following the receiving of Section 88 of the D&C.
    Now, another point Reynolds makes in his lengthy article that was sent to us by one of our readers is that Joseph Smith was not in Kirtland at the time of the School of the Prophets, which was held in the Winter of 1833 and until the Spring of 1834, so could not have written the Lessons in the school
    However, Joseph was in Kirtland in December 1832 when he received the 88th Section of the D&C, in which the “Solemn Assembly” (D&C 88:70) was introduced to the Prophet by the Lord, what was later called the School of the Prophets, to which was immediately called the conference of High Priests that assembled in the translating room in Kirtland, Ohio, on the very same day—27 December 1832, to discuss the revelation and the school, as outlined above.
Consequently, we should recognize that the revelation, in which the School was commanded by the Lord to Joseph Smith, and the meeting Joseph called of the Church leadership to discuss the revelation and its various parts, including the School, was discussed, occurred under the direction of Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio.
    According to Bruce A. Van Orden, in his article Sidney Rigdon (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p1233), states: “In 1834 Rigdon assisted in recruiting volunteers for Zion's Camp and, while Joseph was away on that undertaking, had charge of affairs in Kirtland, including the construction of the temple. He was a leading teacher at the Kirtland school and helped arrange the revelations for publication in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Under the Prophet's direction, Sidney helped compose and deliver many of the doctrinally rich Lectures on Faith. He often preached long, extravagant biblically based sermons, notably one at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. In the persecution that followed the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, Rigdon, along with Joseph Smith and other Saints, fled for their lives to Far West, Missouri, in 1838. There Rigdon delivered two famous volatile speeches, the Salt Sermon and the Independence Day oration, both of which stirred up fears and controversy in Missouri and contributed to the Extermination Order and the Battle of Far West. With Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Rigdon was taken prisoner and locked up in Liberty Jail, but was released early because of severe apoplectic seizures” (emphasis in original). 
    Note the comment above: “Under the Prophet's direction, Sidney helped compose and deliver many of the doctrinally rich Lectures on Faith. Not only is this consistent with Church leadership of today, it is consistent with Joseph Smith’s leadership of his day, and suggests to us that Sidney Rigdon did not, on his own, create and write the Lectures on Faith that were delivered in the School of the Prophets.
    Also stated in Van Orden’s article, found in the Harold B. Lee Library, he states: “In the summer of 1831, Joseph, Sidney, and other leaders journeyed to Independence, Missouri, which a revelation identified as the location of the latter-day Zion and the New Jerusalem. Sidney was instructed to dedicate the land of Zion for the gathering of the Saints and to write a description of the country for publication.
    Upon their return to Ohio, Joseph and Sidney resumed the translation of the scriptures, and on February 16, 1832, they jointly received the vision of the degrees of glory that is now Doctrine and Covenants Section 76. In March 1832 they were brutally attacked by a mob and tarred and feathered. Sidney received head injuries that occasionally affected his emotional stability for the rest of his life. His friend Newel K. Whitney said that thereafter he was "either in the bottom of the cellar or up in the garrett window" (Daryl Chase, Sidney Rigdon: Early Mormon, University of Chicago,1931, p115).
    Rigdon took an active part in the founding of Nauvoo and in 1839 accompanied Joseph Smith to Washington, D.C., to present the grievances of the Saints to the federal government. He was elected to the Nauvoo City Council and served also as city attorney, postmaster, and professor of Church history in the embryonic university projected for the city. Despite his many appointments, however, he was nearly silent during this time and often sick. He was accused of being associated with John C. Bennett and other enemies of the Church in their seditious plans to displace Joseph Smith, but this he always denied. He did not endorse the principle of plural marriage, although he never came out in open opposition to it.
    Joseph Smith eventually lost confidence in Rigdon and in 1843 wished to reject him as a counselor, but because of the intercession of Hyrum Smith, retained him in office.” This is included not to demean Sidney Rigdon, but to show, even in his most important assignments, he was involved with Joseph Smith, not in absence from him.
    Continuing with the scribes, George W. Robinson, a son-in-law of Sidney Rigdon, became general recorder in 1837 (HC 2:513). He accompanied Joseph Smith in visiting Church settlements in northern Missouri and kept a brief record captioned "The Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, Jr.," so named because it was a repository for various “scripts,” or written texts, most of which recorded in April 1838 that document the events leading up  to the excommunications of Church leaders Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. Robinson was released in 1840 when he moved across the river from Nauvoo.
    It is also known that added to these men who acted as scribe to Joseph, the Prophet used numerous others for his letters, journals, personal history and business records, making the total 14 in all—a list that sounds like a “Who’s Who” of early Mormon history, i.e., W. W. Phelps, William Clayton, James Mulholland, George W. Robinson, Willard Richards, Warren Parrish, Thomas Bullock, and Robert B. Thompson—with only Bullock, Richards and Clayton staying in the Church the entire time.
    All of these men helped to create a “monumental amount of history” to which we owe a great deal and to which both the early Church and today rely on to better understand the workings of Joseph Smith’s time and the doctrines of the Church as have been passed down to us.
    According to Nick Newman, (“Scribes Recorded Prophet’s Words,” Deseret News, Faith Section, January 28, 2010), “Despite their contributions, the Prophet said the one thing that hampered the keeping of his history was that so many of his scribes fell away or died.” The list is saddening: Whitmer, Rigdon, Parrish and Robinson all left the church, never to return.
     Cowdery, Williams and Phelps were ex-communicated but came back into full fellowship, though Williams was ex-communicated in absentee while on a special unknown mission for Joseph Smith, and wrongly accused, which the Prophet reinstated immediately upon returning from his absence. And Thompson and Mulholland died in Illinois. As a side note, Whitmer even took some of the documents with him on the way out of the church. This leaves only Richards, Bullock and Clayton stayed in the church the whole time.
    What is remarkable in all of this is that despite all the problems, the fact Joseph had to rely on so many others to write down his thoughts, ideas, directions and history, and getting it all recorded to fulfil the revelations and commandments that he do so, yet not having enough hours in the day to accomplish it all himself, and not having the writing and grammar skill that is far more common in our day than his, he still accomplished and compiled a record, albeit through others, that has lasted this nearly ninety years, providing us with a consistent and understandable record of all these events.
    Where we should be grateful for its existence, some tend to want to quibble over who did what and exactly how. This is not only true of the Book of Mormon and early Church history, but also of the Biblical scriptures and ther numerous events of antiquityconsequently, whose actual handwriting on any one document, lesson, or record should never be the point of any commnet, since it is so well known that Joseph had all these scribes that recorded his writing for him.
    Obviously, then, in the case of early LDS record keeping, it was not perfect by any means, and consisted of the personal input of numerous people while Joseph dictated and assigned the process, but the Joseph Smith Papers “have been very careful to try and understand all of these things on their own terms in the context in which they were originally created. This can be very important in terms of understanding some things in church history.” What we have today is a very complicated though imperfect record, but the its very existence testifies to the importance Joseph Smith placed upon it and the constant calling of his scribes to carry out the work he dictated and assigned them.
    Our apologies for making this subject so long, but it seemed prudent to quote all these Church sources in some detail to show that what one person might think is a “smoking gun” as Reynolds claims in his article, is simply what it really is, one person’s opinion, albeit based on some lengthy research, but still just speculation or assumptions that seem to deliberately ignore what everyone at the time well understoodJoseph Smith wrote little but directed and dictated much. Consequently, when you have numerous people more or less saying the same thing, chances are there is some weight behind it—not always, but in this case, Reynolds’ singular opinion has no more credence than another person’s opinion, or in this case, many people’s opinions who are not aligned with the subject in any way, but have each approached the subject from their own viewpoints and their own research based on known facts.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, regarding who wrote the lessons delivered in the School of the Prophets. We concluded the last post on the meeting held in the translation room of the Kirtland Temple on the same day following the receiving of Section 88 of the D&C. 
    A further revelation was received in which the Keys to Administer the School were given in D&C 90:6-8).
This should impart to all an understanding that whatever ended up being taught in the School of the Prophets was basically the result of the Lord’s direction and Joseph Smith’s organization and creation of the school and its curriculum, enlisting the help of his counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, as well as certain others.
    It is always important to understand fully the workings of the Priesthood and that it is not something that underlings usurp from time to time, i.e., act without direction from higher authority. The Prophet directs the affairs of the First Presidency; the First Presidency directs the affairs of the Quorum of the Twelve; The Twelve direct the affairs of the Church in general; a Stake President for his stake, and a Bishop for his Ward.
    For Noel Beldon Reynolds, a political science professor at BYU, to claim that Sidney Rigdon wrote the Lessons pertaining to the School of the Prophets, as stated by the reader, suggests that he did so without direction and completely on his own, is without merit. Such is simply not the way the Church has ever acted and does not act today. The fact that Reynolds uses a writing expert to evaluate the written words of the Lessons and claim they were all written by Sidney Rigdon does not address the reality of who created the information in the first place.
    After all, Joseph Smith rarely wrote matters himself, using numerous scribes and secretaries over his life to write down his dictations and directions, including his correspondence, experiences and history. He used such people as Frederick G. Williams, a counselor in his initial First Presidency, he also used his wife, Emma, to scribe for his translation, etc. According to Nick Newman, in Scribes recorded Prophet’s words, from the Church History Library, “Joseph Smith was not an accomplished writer. As [he] transitioned into his role as Prophet of God, capable men served as his personal scribes, assistants and secretaries until at the time of his death, he had amassed an entire office staff. In his collection of 10 journals alone, which consist of 1,500 pages, a mere 35—or 2 percent—are in the Prophet's own handwriting.” 
    Alex Baugh, professor of church history and doctrine at BYU added, “In Joseph Smith's day, for men of prominence—and in his capacity as president of the church—it was absolutely vital that he had the proper individuals under him who could take accurate notes, dictation and make transcriptions…it was almost impossible for Joseph to keep his own personal record. He needed help." And Robin Jensen, co-editor of the Joseph Smith Papers Revelations series, says “the need for record keeping and scripture drove the Prophet to choose the scribes he did.”
    Mark Ashurst-McGee, co-editor of the JSP's Journals series, added: “According to the Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1, Joseph wrote in a journal for nine days, then not again for 10 months…He understands the importance of record keeping, feels strongly about it, and understands its part of the mission of the church, but he doesn't love it…And that's why he starts getting scribes to help him. He's so busy. And (having scribes) builds up more and more in the history of the early church, so that by the time he dies, he has an office staff."
    In addition, according to the scholars that have spent much of their time pouring over Joseph Smith’s life and his history in the early church, each appointed scribe had unique talents that fit their callings—each made contribution that was well-suited to that person's abilities. As Baugh said: "The Lord got the right scribe at the right time."
    An example of the Lord’s involvement in the picking of Joseph’s scribes is pointed out in the incident of Martin Harris, a financially well-to-do farmer, who helped the Prophet with the translation of the Large Plates encompassing the first 116 translated pages of the Book of Mormon. As Newman point out; “He used his education in scribing duties and his farm to subsidize the printing of the book.” When Harris lost those first 116 pages, the Lord told Joseph to wait a while until He could provide another scribe: “Stop and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee" (D&C 5:34). And according to his mother, Lucy Mac Smith, Joseph responded to the revelation, saying: “I trust his promise will be verified” (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations, S.W. Richards, Liverpool, England, 1853, p126).
    As Church History then points out: following Martin Harris came Oliver Cowdery on April 5, 1829, a well-educated 22-year-old school teacher arriving in Harmony after the school term ended.
    Then came the 27-year old German farmer John Whitmer from Fayette, about thirty miles southeast of Palmyra, who helped move Joseph and Oliver to the Whitmer home in Fayette, and offered the assistance of one of his brothers, 26-year old John as a scribe, who assisted in the remainder of the work, and later became one of the Eight Witnesses.
    When the Church was organized the following year, on April 6, 1830, the Lord instructed Joseph Smith, “There Shall a Record be kept among you”(D&C 21:1), and  To Oliver Cowdery was appointed the first Church historian (Howard C. Searle, “Historians, Church,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols., Macmillan, New York, 1992), 2:589).
    According to John Whitmer’s history (1831-1834 p22), regarding the fact that Joseph’s revelations formed a significant part of the historical record, wrote that during the early days of the Church, “the Lord blessed his disciples greatly, and he gave Revelation after Revelation, which contained doctrine, instructions, and prophecies.”
    We should note that in July 1830, Joseph Smith “began to arrange and copy the revelations that he had received thus far,” with Whitmer acting as scribe (Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985, pp37–38).
    Following Whitmer came Sidney Rigdon, the Campbellite preacher-turned-counselor to the Prophet, who was one of Joseph Smith’s closest friends and advisers, one of the Church’s most persuasive orators in the first decade, and counselor in the First Presidency from 1832 to 1844. He knew the Bible so well, that in 1830 he was called to scribe for the Prophet on his "new translation" of the Bible then under way.
    Frederick G. Williams was the primary scribe for the Kirtland Revelation Book, the second revelation book, what is today called the Doctrine and Covenants. In the summer of 1833, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams were formally set apart as counselors to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. Sidney had already been called as a counselor to Joseph a year earlier, before there was a First Presidency.
(See the next post, “Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part III,” regarding who wrote the lessons in the School of the Prophets)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part I

A reader commented recently, evidently to our comment that Joseph Smith created the School of the Prophets, and presented the Second Lesson, etc., by stating: “Sidney Rigdon wrote lectures on faith, not Joseph Smith.” He goes on to list a website: LDS Perspectives Podcast, “Mystery Solved: Who Wrote the Lectures on Faith?” by Noel Beldon Reynolds, a political science professor at BYU, where he has served as an associate academic vice president and as director for the Foundation for Ancient Studies (FARMS).    If this is an issue with any of our readers, take a look at Reynolds rationale:
On a recent trip to Kirtland just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, we visited the Newell K. Whitney store and entered the room where the School of the Prophets was held. The room was small, filled with very uncomfortable benches upon which the participants sat for hours while studying and listening to the instruction

Actually, it seems a little presumptuous to make definitive claims about the school of the prophets, or much about it, since we don’t know very much about specific details other than what was taught. As an example, we don’t even know why the school of the prophets was so named, or what inspired its name, other than it is mentioned three times in the revelation (D&C 88:127, 136 and 137). However, initially, the reference was not to the school of the prophets, but to the calling or organizing of a “solemn assembly” (D&C 88:70), and in this assembly they were “to teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77), then again in vs 117 “call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you,” with vs 118 specific: 
    “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith,” and again in the following verse “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119, emphasis added).
    So why the term “School of the Prophets,” since Joseph Smith was the only active prophet at the time these schools were given (until the Salt Lake period and then Brigham Young was the only prophet). Of course, the Quorum of the Twelve are prophets, seers and revelators, but their keys were not active. By contrast, in the Old Testament there was an assemblage called the “sons of the prophets” (2 Kings 2:3,5,7,15; 4:1,38; 5:22; 6:1)—in the Hebrew, the word here translated as “sons” can also be translated as “member (of a guild, order or class)” and shows that the term “sons of the prophets” was not about literal descent, but about a member of a prophetic guild or order. Jeremiah described these “sons” as assembling in communal halls before a master, for instruction, in a somewhat type of future training purpose.
    In Joseph Smith’s school of the prophets, he was directed through revelation by the Lord to establish and direct it. Joseph was the President and appointed Orson Hyde as the teacher. Subjects were: Theology, which was regularly taught, also English Grammar, and other subjects. At times, Sidney Rigdon lectured on grammar. In fact, the “lectures on theology” (referred to as the Theological School) were the Lectures on Faith that were developed for the school, and were regularly delivered, and absorbed for the most part everything else of a temporal nature, and the attendees gave the most studious attention to the all-important object of qualifying themselves as messengers of Jesus Christ, to be ready to do His will in carrying glad tidings to all that would open their eyes, ears, and hearts.
    When the school was divided into two groups, certain members were appointed to speak at each meeting. Sidney Rigdon was the main teacher, however, others were also called upon. Heber C. Kimball said of this: “a certain number were appointed to speak at each meeting. On one occasion I was called upon to speak on the principle of faith. Several brethren spoke before me, and quoted every passage mentioned in the Scriptures on the subject. I referred to an original circumstance which took place in my family.”
    Later, women and children were invited to attend. At this time a grammar school was organized and commended in Kirtland, Ohio, taught by Sidney Rigdon and William E. McLellin, and held especially for the young Elders of the Church, many of whom lacked the necessary education as representatives of the Church and missionaries to preach the gospel to the world (Journal History 22 Dec).
    The school at this point was conducted under the direction of Joseph Smith, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery. At this time, the subjects had been expanded to include penmanship, arithmetic, grammar and geography. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary was used as the standard dictionary. A Hebrew School was added and a combined curricula offered 11 subjects.
    For those who do not know the story of the beginning of the School of the Prophets, Joseph Smith said: “On the evening of the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation” (History of the Church, Vol.4: pp.536 )
    A major purpose of the School of the Prophet was to increase the faith of Church members: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118)
    The Setting in which the School of the Prophets was established—The world in which the School of the Prophets emerged was a world at the beginning of monumental change.  In his book entitled The Birth of the Modern, Paul Johnson (1991) has insightfully described the period between 1815 and 1830 as a time in the “which the matrix of the modern world was largely formed” (p. xvii). Matrix here means “womb” or “mold.”
    As for the development of the curriculum and the lesson detail, it is important to understand the workings of the First Presidency of the day and specifically the Prophet and President of the Church, Joseph Smith. This is seen when following the revelation (D&C 88), a conference of High Priests assembled in the translating room in Kirtland, Ohio, on 27 December 1832. During this meeting the following was covered and discussed:
First Revelation (D&C 88:1-126)
    •    Call for the organization of a school was given (70-77, 117-119)
    •    The mission statement was set forth (77-80)
    •    The curriculum was categorized (79).
    •    Rules of personal student conduct were revealed (120-126)

Second Revelation (D&C 88:127-133)
    •    Rules for classroom conduct    

Third Revelation (D&C 88: 134-141)
    •    Ritual for initiation

(See the next post, “Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part II,” regarding who wrote the lessons in the School of the Prophets)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Are the Differences in Theories Reduced to Only One Issue?

According to Jonathan Neville, there seems to him that the “apparent foundational geographic differences between the Mesoamericanists and the North Americanists are twofold:(1) the nature and location of the narrow strip of wilderness and (2) the direction of flow of the river Sidon.”
    This statement, without a doubt is about the most simplistic and irresponsible thing either theorist, Mesoamerican or North Americanist could say.
In fact, there are so many differences it is hard to imagine them listed in a single article, but then again, there are so many differences between both theories and the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, it is almost humorous to attempt to list them all in even a series of articles.
    In an interesting misunderstanding of facts, and a view into the narrow thinking of theorists, it is written in this discussion: “According to the Book of Mormon, if the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous and ran from a west sea to an east sea and if the river Sidon flowed north, then the Heartland (North American) Model is false. Conversely, if the narrow strip of wilderness was not mountainous and if the Sidon flowed south, then the Mesoamerican Model is false. It is that simple, and Neville agrees with this premise (page 314 and by personal conversation).”
    Only a Mesoamerican or North Americanist theorist could reduce the large number of scriptural references to the descriptions and understanding of the Land of Promise to a single issue—the flow of the Sidon River. However, even this singular issue is poorly described, for the River Sidon no matter which way it flowed, was in a highland area or right near it that was the Land of Nephi, which occupied a higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla, yet in the Heartland or North American models the land around their Zarahemla is all flat, and the Mississippi River is a flat valley its entire length, which eliminates this area from any possible consideration.
    So let us take further examples:
1. The direction of the land:
    Mesoamericanists have a distinct east-west orientation with their land extension; North Americanists have a more or less east west land divided off from the overall huge land mass of North America.
2. The height of mountains:
    Mesoamericanists have mountains, two ranges, one in the Land Northward and one in the Land Southward, but neither range has any peaks over 15,000 feet, and most are far shorter; North Amerianists, have no mountains at all within the designated areas of their Land of Promise; and even in the entire eastern half of the continent (east of the Rocky Mountains), no mountains are high enough to even mention, especially in light of Samuel the Lamanites prophesy, which the Lord told him to utter, that the Land of Promise would have mountains, “whose height is great.”
3. Two unknown animals to Joseph Smith in 1829:
    Mesoamericanists can only point to the sloth and tapir as unknown animals at the time, but neither are beasts of burden, and could not possible be ranked with the elephant as equally important to  man over the horse and ass. North Americanists have no unknown animals to point out. Sometimes they try to use the Buffalo and Mountain Goat, neither of which are domesticatable and neither are beasts of burden, and probably at least one, or probably both, would have been known to Joseph Smith.
4. Growing climate to match Jerusalem:
    Mesoamerica is a tropical climate and neither wheat nor barley will grow there, let alone olive trees and numerous other seeds that Lehi brought from the Mediterranean Climate of Jerusalem. North Americanists, especially the Great Lakes, has a humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa), which is 4º-7º warmer overnight than surrounding areas, but still a far cry from the Mediterranean Climate of Jerusalem where olive trees and numerous other Jerusalem seeds and grains would not have grown.
5. The Land of Bountiful being north of the Land of Zarahemla:
    Mesoamericanists have the Land of Bountiful to the north of the Land of Zarahemla (though actually east on their map). North Americanists have the Land of Bountiful to the east of their Land of Zarahemla. Neither case does the location agree with the scriptural record.
6. The West Sea reachable by sailing:
    Mesoamericanists have their West Sea as the Pacific Ocean which is to the south of their Land of Promise. North Americanists have their West Sea either as a Great Lake or as the Mississippi River, neither of which could be reached by deep ocean sailing ships in 600 B.C., let alone by submersible barges in 2100 B.C.
7. The West Sea:
    Again, Mesoamericanists have their West Sea to the south of their Land of Promise. North Americanists have two West Seas, one in the north is Lake Michigan, which is nowhere near their Land of Nephi, and is to the north of the Land of Zarahemla. The other is in the south, south of the Land of Zarahemla, and is actually the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Now, geologists and potamologists agree that the Mississippi River was never very wide, though it changed course continually over the several millennia of its existence and therefore could never have been a lake, sea, or anything other than a river of around a mile or so in width.
8. Narrow strip of wilderness:
    Mesoamerica has a narrow strip of wilderness that runs almost from the Seas East to the Sea West,     from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, except for a short distance. North Americanists do not have a narrow strip running from sea to sea, but from their Sea East (Lake Ontario) to the Mississippi River, not a sea (and their River Sidon). In addition, the narrow strip was mountainous, a much higher elevation than the land of Zarahemla, and their narrow strip is flat, along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers.
9. Land of Nephi Stretching from Sea to Sea:
    Mesoamericanists have their Land of Nephi stretching from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, which is almost a north-south plane, instead of east-west. North Americanists have their Land of Nephi (“Lamanite Lands”) stretching east and west from the Susquehanna River in the east to the Mississippi River in the west—neither are seas.
10. Distance from Lehi-Nephi (City of Nephi) to the City of Zarahemla:
    Mesoamericanists claim the two cities were about 21 days travel apart, at 15 miles a day, that would be 315 miles, or 20 miles a day would be 420 miles; yet their map shows the two cities about 200 miles apart—that would mean traveling at about 10 miles per day. If we use that criteria, then the narrow neck of land, in a day and a half, would be only 15 miles wide. It seems when theorists want a narrow distance, they give one statistic, but when they need a longer distance, they use another. North Americanists show a distance on their map of 550 miles between the two cities (one on the Tenessee River, the other across from Nauvoo along the Mississippi).
    The point is, that a single issue, no matter what it is, cannot be the criteria of determining the location of the Land of promise. Where Lehi landed and where Nephi settled is not a matter of a single issue, but a compilation of all of the descriptive information given us by Mormon in his abridgement, and Nephi in his travels and Jacob in his description of the overall land. When we take all of those descriptions into account, along with those Moroni left us in his abridgement of the Jaredite record, which actual scriptural references overall number more than 45 and as much in some ways as 65 or more, we begin to create an image and of the land and able to follow Nephi’s course and landing site, his trek to escape his brothers, where he settled, and where the Nephite Nation was located. Any attempt to reduce this list of a handful of ideas is bound to fail, since Mormon’s descriptions are rich with information that enable us to know where the Land of Promise was actually located.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jaredites and their Language – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding the language of the Jaredites and its possible connection to the language of the Hebrews. 
   Opposed to Edenics and Mozeson’s work is Mark Liberman, of the University of Pennsylvania Linguistics Department, who has written of this: “I’m not aware of any respected academics who accept the Edenics theory.” Liberman dismissed Edenics as “crank etymology," and added that Mozeson’s theory “seems to be that God was a sort of weak cryptographer, who didn’t actually create any new languages after Babel but simply mixed up the old ones in ways that he has figured out how to decrypt.” Liberman went on to say, “Mozeson is not the first person with eccentric theories of etymology.
Then there is Goropius Becanus, who was a Dutch physician, linguist, and humanist in the 16th century born Jan Gerartsen van Gorp, “who theorized that Antwerpian Brabantic”—a Dutch-Flemish dialect—“spoken in the region between the Scheldt and Meuse Rivers, was the original language spoken in Paradise.”
    For Liberman, the word connections that Mozeson finds are “mostly coincidences. For example, according to the OED, modern English ‘eye’ is from Old English éage, corresponding to Old Frisian âge, Old Saxon ôga, Old High German ouga, Old Norse auga and Gothic augo. Meanwhile, ‘fruit’ is from Old French fruit, Latin frūctusfrugv root of fruī to enjoy. In those cases, the well-documented earlier forms are much less similar to the alleged Hebrew cognates."
    As for ‘wine,’ there may be a connection, but even if there is one, Liberman claims that the direction is not clear. “There’s strong evidence from archaeology and biology as well as from historical linguistics that Mozeson’s theory is not true.” Furthermore, Liberman added, “his methodology can be used to ‘prove’ that any randomly selected language is the parent of all other languages.”
    Mozeson is hardly chastened by the attacks against him. “The extremes to which the academic establishment goes to hiding the Hebrew origin of words are often absurd,” he said, lashing out at his critics. “There are some English words that even the etymologists can’t deny have Hebrew origins—most of these have a Jewish religious context. Anything beyond this they can’t bear to admit. Take for example the word ‘amen’ (agreement or assent). The Oxford dictionary grudgingly admits that it originates from the Hebrew amen. Yet when it comes to the related word ‘amenable’ (open and responsive to suggestion), Oxford claims the source is from the Latin minari, to threaten. Who here is feeling threatened by whom?”

Another linguist, F. Merritt Ruhlen, Anthropological Sciences and Human Biology at Stanford University and co-director of the Santa Fe Institute Program on the Evolution of Human Languages, is also working on a Mother Tongue effort, and believes that “good evidence for a proto language existed in the ancient past and that it is possible to identify some lexical characteristics of that language through comparative analysis of today’s language families” (The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken NJ, 1994/1996).
    It should be noted that Mozeson incorporates another, though subltle, departure from mainstream linguistics, and that is the reconstruction of Edenics by comparison of cognates (i.e., similar word forms found in different languages) in many languages at once. Nor is such a method unknown in linguistics and is the kind of method Ruhlen uses, as did his predecessor Joseph H. Greenberg, also of Stanford, the latter’s work in linguistic typology and the genetic classification of languages, and worked as a Codebreaker during World War II, and was a recipient of the highest award for a Linguistics, the Gold Medal of Philology.
    Mozeson points to the obvious cognation of some English words with Hebrew words and supported by other languages, such as Chinese and Eskimo. However, to mainstream scholars any relation between Hebrew and non-semitic languages "is anathema." In fact, Mozeson states of this: “They ought to be called cognates, but linguists would never concede that the English and Hebrew words share a common ancestry.”
    It is of interest that Mozeson notes Noah Webster, original publisher of Webster’s dictionary, included numerous Hebrew roots for English words, but most of these were later expunged in efforts to modernize the lexicon. According to Mozeson, “Etymologists would have us believe that language was created via a process of evolution over thousands of years, even though no primitive languages have ever been discovered. 
    It was none other than Naom Chomsky who famously proved that language had to come about spontaneously. Chomsky and other Generative linguists like him have shown that 5,000 to 6,000 languages in the world, despite their different grammars, do share a set of syntactic rules and principles. In a 1998 New York Times interview, Chomsky explained his theory saying, “Imagine that some divine super engineer, in a single efficient strike, endowed humans with the power of language where formerly they had none.”
    And Mozeson can cite a number of leading academics who support somewhat related theories. These include Michael Astour, author of Hellenosemitica; Martin Bernal, author of Black Athena; William Worrell; French scholar Albert Cuny; Danish scholar Hermann Moller, and others.
    Perhaps the strongest support for Mozeson’s own work came from ancient-language expert Cyrus Gordon of New York University, one of the true giants in the fields of Biblical studies and ancient Near Eastern Studies, as well as world famous semioticist (study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation), who sent Mozeson a personal note stating: “Your work is full of interesting comparisons—many of them new to me. The subject has a huge bibliography. … You must know that down to recent centuries, Hebrew as the original language and mother of all languages was a widely held view among intellectuals.”
    Incredibly, due the controversial nature of Mozeson’s theories, Gordon regretted that he could not publicly support Mozeson’s work, saying that such a move would jeopardize the careers of the students who received their doctorates from him. Mozeson says that for 25 years he agreed to keep Gordon’s esteem for his work secret so as not to harm the professor’s students. (A small portion of it appeared in The Origin of Speeches). "Only now that an entire generation of academics has passed," he said, "did he agree to show the full letter."
    In fact several academics who wrote approbations for Mozeson’s work in The Origin of Speeches and The Word refused to be interviewed for recent articles. According to Hezy Laing, “Not everyone, however, has been apprehensive about speaking out about a link between Hebrew and Western languages. While Mozeson is frustrated by the summary dismissal of his ideas, he takes comfort in the fact that other major “unifying” theories bitterly opposed by the academic establishment gradually became accepted due to the weight of evidence.”
As an example, it has only been in the last couple of decades that scientists have become more accepting of a super continent, now considering Pangaea as having existed. In addition, for more than a century scientist also disputed that humanity had common ancestry, but new DNA evidence reveals that Homo Sapiens do in fact share mutual ancestry and perhaps even a mutual ancestor. As Laing stated: “Since we know all humanity comes from the same people it makes sense to assume we shared a common language too.” As far as Mozeson is concerned, the only issue that remains to be determined, he said, is: What was the structure of that primordial language?
    Certainly, the case for it being Hebrew, or a form of it originally, does make a lot of sense.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jaredites and their Language – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the language of the Jaredites and its possible connection to the language of the Hebrews.    The late Joseph Greenberg of Stanford University was the first to claim that hundreds of seemingly unrelated languages were actually just dialects of several huge language “super-families.” Then, in the late 1980s Russian-born linguist Vitaly V. Shevoroshkin, teaching at the University of Michigan, began propagating the idea that there was proof of a single primordial language from which all others derived. “Ultimately, all languages, with perhaps some little exceptions, are related,” he was quoted as saying, which became known as the Nostratic school of thought.
    Recently a major study analyzing more than 500 languages was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supporting the theory. The study, co-authored by Dr. Quentin Atkinson, of Auckland University, and Dr. Mark Pagel, of the University of Reading, U.K., concludes that there is evidence for a single origin of language.
The guru of Edenics and self-declared “founder, chief researcher and editor of the idea” is Isaac E.lchanan Mozeson (above), an American-born lecturer on literature and Judaica who moved to Israel in 2010. “It was a little birdie that whispered the Edenic concept into my ear back in 1978,” Mozeson wrote, describing a time when he was a doctoral student of literature at New York University (he never completed the degree). “I was stuck with a boring linguistics requirement. One day our professor was demonstrating the genius of what he said was the Indo-European root for the generic bird word sper. Suddenly my mind harkened back to my second-grade Hebrew class when I first learned a similar generic word for bird—tsipor.”
    This chance event set off in Mozeson a train of thought that would consume him for the next 35 years as he came to believe—and set out to prove—that Hebrew was the root of all languages. The lack of approval from the linguistics establishment did not dampen Mozeson’s enthusiasm for his theory, and he went on to publish two books on the subject. The Word: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Roots of English (1989), a 300-page book with some 20,000 English-Hebrew linked words, and The Origin of Speeches (2006), in which words from multiple languages are connected to Hebrew.
    Mozeson has stated that “New evidences forces new perceptions,” and that Edenics data is very new, it’s the tip of a large iceberg. He has put out three CDs and a website, a blog, and all sorts of social media. The whole operation runs on a shoe-string budget, some part of which Mozeson claims is provided by co-founder of Skype and Kazaa, Kevin Bermeister, who is listed as a supporter of Edenics—which is the tracing of English and world words to the Semitic Mother Tongue attested in Biblical Hebrew.
    Ironically, for a man who seeks to revolutionize our understanding of language, Mozeson himself has a severe speech impediment. This incurred during a five-day coma and massive organ failure that he suffered following severe heat stroke in 1996. Yet Mozeson has succeeded in gathering a cadre of dozens of like-minded individuals, from all over the world and from a wide variety of languages and traditions. All of them believe in the Edenics theory and spend time searching out and publicizing what they believe are the Hebrew roots of their native tongues. Overall he and his team claim to have mapped out the Hebrew roots to more than 60,000 words from dozens of languages.
According to Mozeson, founder of “Edenics: Origins of Languages,” during a lengthy interview in his apartment building in Jerusalem, “There are hundreds of English words which have almost the exact same structure as similar-meaning Hebrew words. For instance: Eye: Ayin; Twin: Towem; Tour: Toor; Fruit: Feyrot; Evil: Avel; Cry: Kria; Lick: Likek; Piece: Pasis; Scale: Shakel; Earth: Aretz; Wine: Yayin; Direction: Derech. While it’s easy to assume the Hebrew words I just mentioned were inspired by modern English, they’re not. All these Hebrew words are found in the Bible, which means they are over 2,500 years old—far older than English.”
    Whether or not Edenics is accurate or just another view of a simple concept, we should keep in mind that the Lord told us through Moses that: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech,” (Genesis 11:1), and also, “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language” (Genesis 11:60). Obviously, there was a time in the beginning where everyone had just one language, and the Lord confounded that language (Genesis 11:7) and Moses tells us: the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth” (Genesis 11:9).
As Mozeson states: “Since there are some 20 consonants in the alphabet, the chances that two words, with similar meaning, in two completely unrelated languages, would have the same three consonants are 1 in 8,000 (20 x 20 x 20). Still not convinced? Try these—Source: Shoresh; Idea: Yidea; Agony: Yagon; Mystery: Mistor; Regular: Regel; Dye: Dio; Ashamed: Asham; Boor: Baar; Yell: Yilel; Mirror: Marah.
    “Edenics,” he added, “works via word roots that are found over and over again in different words with similar connotations. For instance, the Hebrew word for counting is MoNeh. The Mem-Nun (M-N) sub-root found here makes up a large word family, from every language, dealing with a MouNts. This includes MaMoN: MoNey; HaMoN: MaNy; the Hebrew word MiNyan and the English words MiNus; DiMiNish; NuMber and MiNi.”
    Mozeson also expands his theory into other languages. “The Hebrew word DeRech (way/road),” he said, “with its DR root, is also found in DaRoga (Russian), DeRecho (Spanish), DuRch (German) and DoRo (Japanese). By the way, if you take the DR root of DeRech and reverse its order you get the English word RoaD. Can you see the Hebrew root from ShoMeR (guardian) in the Japanese word SaMuRai (the emperor’s royal guard)?”
    According to Hezy Laing, a journalist in Jerusalem, “Finding relationships between similarly sounding words seems to be too easy for Mozeson. The real challenge for him is proving connectivity between words that at first glance appear to be completely different. He does this via some common phonetic techniques, despite his lack of official linguistic training.”
Moseson contines with his Edenics: “Metathesis is the action of letters changing places within words,” he explained. “This happens either because it’s easier for the speaker to pronounce the word in its altered form or due to some type of dyslexia. Examples of metathesis within English would include such words as: CaSe and SaCK, CaVity and VaCuum, FoRM and MoRPH, FoLio and LeaF; RoTary and TiRe and more. Metathesis between Edenic and English include such words as: BeSeeCH: BaCHeSh; DaRK: KeDaR; DeGRee: DaRGa. A second common phonetic technique is nasalization, whereby an N is added to a word. Applied to Edenics we get Datz (jump with joy): Dantz (Dance); AtiQ (old): AntiQue; Shoak (leg): Shank.
(See the next post, “Jaredites and their Language-Part III,” for more information on the language of the Jaredites and its possible connection to the language of the Hebrews)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Jaredites and their Language – Part I

The record Moroni abridged that briefly recorded the history of the Jaredite people, lastly inscribed by the prophet Ether, the 29th generation from Jared (Ether 1:6), who led his people out of Babylonia at the time the Lord confounded the language (Ether 1:33), along with his brother, a man Joseph Smith said was named Mahonri Moriancumer, though the Jaredite record leaves him nameless. From the Book of Mormon we learn that Jared, his brother, and their friends (making up 22 separate families, or a total of 24 overall) were present at or near the Tower of Babel.    When the language of the people was confounded, Jared asked his brother to ask God not to confound their own language, that of their friends, and that of their immediate families (Ether 1:35).
The Jaredites lived in the near vicinity of the Tower of Babel in the area today known as Mesopotamia, near where Noah settled after leaving the Ark

After being granted to have their language not confounded, they asked to be led to where the Lord would have them go, hoping that it would be a choice land. They were led through the wilderness, across many waters, to the "great sea which divides the lands," and then dwelt in tents at the seashore for four years. They named this place where they had (temporarily) settled Moriancumer Ether 2:13).
    Now in Babylonia, archaeologists have discovered remains of many towers, called Ziggurats (Akkadian word ziqqurat from zaqaru, “to be high”). They are of varying sizes from 65-feet on a side to over 295-feet on a side. More than 30 have been discovered and they had names like "Temple of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth," "Temple that Links Heaven and Earth," "Temple of the Exalted Mountain," "Temple of Exalted Splendor," and "Temple of the Stairway to Pure Heaven." These names, of course, reflect the scriptural record which states: “let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4).
    It is believed that the earliest such tower was located at Eridu, which according to Sumerian tradition was the first city. Some are multi-layered, up to 16 layers, with each being built over the remains of earlier structures. The building materials were sun dried bricks in the centers and burnt bricks and bitumen mortar for the outer layers.
    Briefly, sun-dried is where the clay or much brick is dried by the heat of the sun, while burnt bricks are made by burning in the kilns, the latter is obviously stronger and more useful. On the other hand, bitumen is the binding material present in today’s asphalt. Sometimes it is also known as mineral tar. Bitumen is produced by partial distillation of crude petroleum, and used in such things today as road construction, dam groutings and linings, jetties and dyke protection, swimming pools and waterproofing.
    While these ziggurat constructions are the most famous and many have proposed that one of them is the Tower of Babel, others claim the oldest ziggurats that have been found to date is Teppe Sialk which is located to the northwest. The main ziggurat there has been dated to 2900 B.C.
"A family tree of Indo-European languages suggests they began to spread and split about 9,000 years ago. The finding hints that farmers in what is now Turkey drove the language boom—and no later by Siberian horsemen, as some linguists reckon. Around this time, farming techniques began to spread out of Anatolia (Turkey) and across Europe and Asia, archaeological evidence shows." (John Whitfield, "Language tree rooted in Turkey"). This shows that all of the early history of Genesis 1-11 was located in the Ararat area and the northern most portion of Mesopotamia which would be the location of the tower of Babel.
    In regard to the confusion of languages, the Scriptural Hebrew account is so brief that it is difficult to discern the full story. Many have implied that immediately the workers on the tower were unable to understand each other and quit work in confusion. When in fact, there is no mention of the time factor and the method of "confounding" the languages is also not discussed. The word used in the ancient Hebrew is “balal,” which means “to anoint.” It also means to “mingle, mix, confuse, and confound.” In Genesis, as used, it has the meaning of “confuse” or “confound,” both words are used in the various translations, as well as “mixed,” “mingled.” Thus, the basic meaning of the Hebrew word "balal" is to overflow and then by implication, to mix.
    Josephus writes of this: “"When all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower, as if they would thereby ascend up to heaven, but the gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower, and gave every one his peculiar language; and for this reason it was that the city was called Babylon."
    Possibly then the manner in which the Lord initiated the confusion, "let us go down,” was via a natural catastrophe. If this was the major contributing factor or just a part of the whole of the "confounding" is difficult to understand. Josephus’ account would seem to indicate a two-part event, with first a blowing over of the tower and then a giving of a "peculiar language" to each person.
    Today many that supposedly speak the same language have radically different understandings of the same words. We also know that men readily make changes in their languages and often in very short time spans as slang crop up and then the slang is more permanently incorporated into the language. Therefore, many like to propose the concept that languages are continuously "evolving" and that over time humans evolved their languages from much simpler languages, grunts and gestures. However some recent studies have indicated that there are no simple "evolving" languages on the present earth and some languages are actually with time being simplified
Luigi Lura Cavalli-Sforza (left), a population geneticist, formerly at Stanford, states: "All contemporary modern humans use very complex languages. There are no "primitive" languages: the 5,000 or more spoken today are equally flexible and expressive, and their grammar and syntax are sometimes richer and more precise than that of the more widespread like English and Spanish, which have undergone some simplification over the centuries." ("Genes, People and Languages,” North Pointe Press, New York, 2000, p59)
    Therefore as has been proposed by some students, our present languages are not necessarily evolving, but actually doing the opposite and becoming more simplified and less exacting.
    We may actually have many more words to speak and write with, but we may in fact have languages today that are less capable. Indications such as these have caused some linguists to conclude that the nature of the language situation is almost "insoluble." The Dead Sea Scrolls, however, are evidence that for millenniums the believers were very exacting in maintaining the "sacred" records! We can probably assume that the non-believers were not necessarily so exacting.
    According to Herman Daily’s Accuracy in Genesis, “Could it be that the ones in Babel having strayed from the faith no longer felt it imperative to hold to the "sacredness" of the original language and teachings given of the Lord, and this was a part of the causation of the "confounding"? Or how about the possibility that the only scholars and scribes of the area, and their records, were destroyed when the tower collapsed?” (Editor Herman Daily, Accuracy in Genesis: New Perspectives Affirming the Scriptural Creation Record, H. Daily, 2010, p69)
(See the next post, “Jaredites and their Language-Part II,” for more information on the language of the Jaredites and its possible connection to the language of the Hebrews)