Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lands of Appropriate Scale Part V – Other Peoples in the Land of Promise Part III

From 1952 onward, LDS scholar Hugh Nibley repeatedly argued that the assumption that there were no other people present in the New World at the time of Lehi's arrival might be incorrect. He stated that “the argument of silence bears some weight in considering the possibility of "other sheep."

Stated differently, he means that because there is no mention that other people were NOT in the Land of Promise, that there could have been people. On the other hand, one might say, “Because there is no mention of other people in the scriptural record, there must NOT have been any.”

Nibley also wrote: “When the Jaredites journey into a land "where there never had man been," [Ether 2:5, referring to a portion of their journey in the Old World] our history finds the fact worthy of note, even though the part was only passing through.”

However, that is not what is said. “The Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.” So where did they travel from the valley where the Lord met them? They were led into the wilderness, built barges, crossed many waters (Ether 2:6), and “The Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people” (Ether 2:7).

Thus, the Lord led them to the Land of Promise—“into that quarter where there never had man been” (Ether 2:5). Thus, the Lord was not “referring to a portion of their journey in the Old World” nor something “our history finds the fact worthy of note, even though the part was only passing through.” The Lord was referring very obviously to the land where he was leading them—the Land of Promise. Why would the lord tell them about some “portion of the journey they were passing through” when they were not stopping there—there was nothing significant about where they traveled. The significance, the land to which he was leading them—was the end of their journey, the Land of Promise, “where there never had man been."

The scriptures are not difficult to understand—they were written in our language for our understanding. Scholars like Nibley and Sorenson cloud the issue by looking far beyond the mark and reading into the scriptural record that which is not there.

But that is not all. Nibley wrote: “Now there is a great deal said in the Book of Mormon about the past and future of the promised land, but never is it described as an empty land.”

It was pointed out above that the land of promise was described as that “quarter of land where man had never been.” That seems pretty clear, but evidenty not to Nibley.

He also wrote: “The descendents of Lehi were never the only people on the continent, and the Jaredites never claimed to be."

Now, once the word continent is used, we are moving far afield of the scriptural record. Jacob tells us the colony landed on an island (2 Nephi 10:20), which Noah Webster in 1828 described as “a small tract of land in the middle of the ocean.” There is no mention of a continent, nor is one suggested in any way, for the distances of the scriptural record suggest a much smaller area than a continent.

As for the Jaredites, time and again Ether writes about “all the face of the land” and “all the people in the land,” which to most of us means there were no others. When he wrote: “they did gather together all the people upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether” (Ether 15:12), one must wonder what Nibley had in mind. Surely, if Ether was only talking about Jaredites, he might have chosen a better term than “all the people upon all the face of the land.”

Now, let’s apply a little reasoning here. Moroni wrote of the Land of Promise: “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof” (Ether 13:2). So, if anyone was in the Land of Promise prior to the Jaredites, then they would have been brought there by the Lord, and if they did “serve him,” what happened to them—for surely the land would have been theirs forever as Lehi was promised. And if they did not “serve him” then why do we not know of it as we know of the Jaredites and Nephites who failed to “serve him” in the end? Surely, their failure to serve him would have been another model or pattern for the later people[s] led to the Land of Promise, as the Jaredites’ failure was an example to the Nephites (Alma 46:22).

(See the next post, “Lands of Appropriate Scale Part VI – Other Peoples in the Land of Promise Part IV,” for more of Nibley’s confusing comments about other people in the Land of Promise)

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