Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baja’s Isle of the Sea – Part II

Continuing from the last post, while Jacob tells the Nephites “we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea,” David Rosenvall in his Baja California theory disagrees with that scripture.

Rosenvall claims: “We do not believe the Book of Mormon people were located on a small island, but on a continental land area, because Moroni told the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon contained the record of the “former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang” (JSH 1:34).”

One of the problems that people of today have in understanding the writings of the past is in not knowing what was known then as opposed to what is known today. First of all, Joseph Smith’s words are absolutely correct and agree completely with the scriptural record. However, the word “continent” as known to Joseph is completely different from how it is known and understood today.

In the United States today, we know there are seven continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America and Antarctica; however, in Europe, there are considered only six continents because they combine North and South America into one continent.

More importantly, in 1829, Joseph knew of two continents. That is, according to the 1828 dictionary the word continent is defined as: “continuous, connected, not interrupted,” and in geography, is described as “a great extent of land, not disjoined or interrupted by a sea, a connected tract of land of great extent, as the Eastern and Western continent.” That is, in 1828, there was the Eastern Continent (Europe, Asia, etc.) and the Western Continent, North and South America.

Thus, in Joseph’s time, the term continent, more importantly “this continent” meant both North and South America—it did not pertain to two separate western continents as it does today. Therefore, when Joseph said that Moroni told him: “the Book of Mormon contained the record of the “former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang,” he was referring to the inhabitants of both North and South America, and the area (Mesopotamia and Jerusalem) from which they came.

Unaware of this very important 1829 understanding, Rosenvall goes on to say, “The peninsula of Baja California, unlike an island, is an integral part of “this continent” of North America, as required by Moroni’s statement.”
Once again, Joseph knew that continent meant the entire Western Hemisphere as is shown in the knowledge of the day and the area in which he lived (see previous posts regarding Webster’s 1828 dictionary). Another area of understanding that Rosenvall seems to ignore or not know, is that the entire Western Hemisphere, that is North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean islands are all connected in a mass land area—in fact, the northern most point of North America is considered to be Kaffeklubben Island, a piece of land 23 miles from any land mass, and 443 miles south of the North Pole, and the southern most point is Southern Thule, part of an old sunken island between South America and Antarctica, about 1000 miles southeast of Cape Froward in Patagonia. Thus, we can see, that the land mass is both above and below sea level. As a result, any island involved in this area cannot be excluded from the land mass of the Western Hemisphere continent. After all, at any given time in history, different islands have appeared and disappeared, mountains have grown, depressions have filled with ocean water, etc., as the plate movement of this western continent has shifted. The peninsula of Baja as we now see it did not exist at one point in time, but was part of the mainland of Mexico.

It is disingenuous to claim that what we see today has always been, and the geographic terms we have become familiar with today have always existed in the same manner. And the idea and practice of using modern dictionaries to define words as they were known in 1829 is foolhardy. After all, Webster’s 1828 “American Dictionary of the English Language” is readily available to anyone, and is even available online.

(See the next post, “Baja’s Isle of the Sea – Part III,” for more of Rosenvall’s rationale in claiming that Jacob’s isle is not accurate and that a peninsula is considered an island)

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