Sunday, April 10, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part II

According to the information on the website mentioned in the last post, the first of the five points listed in understanding Mormon’s geographical writings is:

“1. The expressions up, down, and over, when used in a geographical context, refer to elevation. (It turns out that they are used consistently and make sense in terms of elevation.)”

There seems little doubt that the Land of Nephi was at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla. Alma 27:8 is an example of this description when speaking of being in the Land of Nephi, they went “down to the land of Zarahemla” (also see Alma 51:11; 57:15-16.28). Middoni was also at a lower elevation than the Land of Nephi (20:7). However, the city of Nephi was not at the highest elevation for when King Mosiah sent Ammon and others to learn what happened of those who went back to the Land of Nephi from Zarahemla, Ammon and his group “When they had wandered forty days they came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom, and there they pitched their tents. And Ammon took three of his brethren, and their names were Amaleki, Helem, and Hem, and they went down into the land of Nephi” (Mosiah 7:5-6).

Thus, we might conclude that the City of Nephi (later called the city of Lehi-Nephi) was in a mountain valley, high above the Land of Zarahemla. And in so doing, we might do well to interpret “up” and “down” as elevation meanings rather than “north and south” meanings; however, “over” does not necessarily relate to elevation. The word “over” in Joseph Smith’s time meant: ”to pass over, such as pass over a river, to pass beyond, to pass by, in short, to move, depart or go,” also means ‘to pass over against” and more specifically, “to go beyond.” Over also means “across, from side to side” and also a boat crosses “over a lake.”

In all of these definitions in Noah Webster’s 1828 “American Dictionary of the English Language,” none specifically illustrate elevation, though in general use can be used to “cross over a mountain,” “cross over a hill,” “cross over a valley,” “cross over a depression,” etc. At the same time, we “wander over the earth,” or “the person is safe over there.”

Crossing over can be used for a desert, river, or forest, or any number of other topographical features—not just elevation changes

In many cases, the use of the word “over” in the scriptural record has to do with “crossing over a river.” As an example, in the statement “when Alma had made these regulations he departed from them, yea, from the church which was in the city of Zarahemla, and went over upon the east of the river Sidon, into the valley of Gideon” (Alma 6:7), there is no indication of elevation, but of crossing over a river. In the case of “in the commencement of the tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness” (Alma 8:3), it again appears to mean “over the river Sidon. ”And it came to pass that Zoram and his sons crossed over the river Sidon, with their armies, and marched away beyond the borders of Manti into the south wilderness, which was on the east side of the river Sidon” (Alma 16:7).

However, in “Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house” (Alma 15:18) we do not know what exactly was meant by the use of “over.” Certainly, we cannot arbitrarily decide this was an elevation factor for it could be over a place, a river, a lake, a valley, a desert, etc., all of which would be at the same elevation. It may even be returning back over the River Sidon. Nor do we know in: “he departed out of their synagogue, and came over to a village which was called Ani-Anti, and there he found Muloki preaching the word unto them” (Alma 21:11-12). The same is true of: ”But they took their armies and went over into the borders of the land of Zarahemla, and fell upon the people who were in the land of Ammonihah, and destroyed them” (Alma 25:2) and “the Lamanites saw that they could not overpower the Nephites they returned again to their own land; and many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael and the land of Nephi (Alma 25:13).

Obviously, we cannot arbitrarily decide that “over” means an elevation change, such as in “and departed out of the land, and came into the wilderness which divided the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla, and came over near the borders of the land” (Alma 27:14), nor can we in “he and his brethren met Alma, over in the place of which has been spoken; and behold, this was a joyful meeting” (Alma 27:16), or “Now this man went over to the land of Jershon also” (Alma 30:19), or “And he came over into the land of Gideon” (Alma 30:21). Nor can we claim an elevation change in the many other verses in Alma (Alma 35:1-2, 6, 8-9, 13; 39:3; 43:24-25,31; 47:29; 50:31; 56:25; 59:6)

The point is, when one makes up his mind that a word means a certain thing, then he will interpret it that way, no matter how it is used. In this manner, we find scholars and theorists making claims that fit their models that are not accurate and do not represent a true interpretation of the scriptural record.

(See the next post, “Understanding Mormon – Part III,” for more examples of how Mormon is misinterpreted)

No comments:

Post a Comment