Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Understanding Mormon – Part V

Continuing with the website comments mentioned in the last four posts, the list continues with the last of his items:

“5. Finally, when we are combining fragments of geographical information from the text into sensible wholes, we should avoid needlessly complicated synthesis. If two explanations occur to us for solving a geographical problem, the simpler solution—the one with the fewest arbitrary assumptions is probably better. For example, we should resist the temptation to suppose that there were two cities with the same name simply because we have not yet determined how the correct placement of a single city would resolve any apparent confusion.”

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. However, any arbitrary approach to understanding the scriptural record is bound to fail. As an example, while there is nothing to suggest there were two Bountifuls in the Land of Promise, we know that there were two Bountifuls—one in the Land of Promise, and one on the shore of Irreantum. We do not know if there were to Cumorahs, however, a simple reading and understanding of the scriptural record shows there had to be two different areas, since Joseph’s Hill Cumorah in upstate New York simply does not match any Book of Mormon geographic reference.

On the other hand, we cannot assume there were two different cities named the same within one land in the Land of Promise. As in all cases named, there was a city founded and named that also was the name of the land around it. Therefore, we can assume that a city was first founded and named, and the land around it acquired that name. As an example, the city of Nephi was founded by Nephi and those who went with him (2 Nephi 5:6) when fleeing from his brothers. As Nephi described it, “we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents. And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:7-8). Obviously, the “place” was where they pitched their tents, and later this area grew into a city—the City of Nephi” (Alma 23:11). The name extended to the land all about and it was called the Land of Nephi throughout the record beginning with Mosiah fleeing out of the land (Omni 1:12).

In the case of Zarahemla, there was a ruler called Zarahemla, who lived in a city called Zarahemla, which was in the Land of Zarahemla. While not all cities bore the name of its founder, this was the case for most cities: “Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages” (Alma 8:7).

In saying “If two explanations occur to us for solving a geographical problem, the simpler solution—the one with the fewest arbitrary assumptions is probably better,” one might want to consider the better course of action is to accept Mormon’s statements at face value as it compares to other statements, and not look for different explanations.

As an example, Omni 1:16 tells us that the Mulekites landed where Mosiah found them and had always lived there. In addition, Alma 22:30 does not counter that statement when correctly understood, for “the bones, of which we have spoken”, has reference to the Jaredites and where they landed. You can also compare (Alma 12:27) which uses the same language, “of which we have spoken,” that refers to a prior indication. There should be no problem with understanding where the Mulekites landed, though Mesoamerican theorists miss this point completely.

Thus we can see that when scholars and theorists try to explain the simple and precise language of the Book of Mormon as Joseph translated it, they confuse and complicate the process to suit their own needs—or completely misunderstand the document of which they speak and how it came about.

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