Sunday, August 5, 2012

More Comments Answered-Part I

According to Peter Covino in his True Book of Mormon Geography website:

“When the angel visited Joseph Smith, Joseph was told of a record that was buried nearby. According to Joseph, the angel said it account of the former inhabitants of this continent. (Joseph Smith History v.34)”

One of the problems people have in trying to understand things anciently, or even just 150 years ago or so, is they think in terms of the present. By way of an example, when I first got started in genealogy, not long after my marriage, we started looking for the movement of my DowDell line as they left Anderson County, South Carolina, around 1795 and ended up in northern Alabama. So, naturally, we looked at a map and checked out the route hoping to find where they had settled along the way—basically across Interstate Route 20 into Atlanta and on to Alabama. We checked every town, village, and settlement along that route to try and locate a DowDell name around the end of the 18th century. After months of checking and double-checking, it finally dawned on us that such a route in that era did not exist—no roads crossed the mountains in those days. It was more than a year before we stumbled on the fact that people went west from South Carolina, not south, in order to reach Alabama, by sailing down the Tennessee River. Within days, we found the names we were looking for, where the family stopped, and other families along the way. In order to understand all this, we had to change our thinking from the present to the past--something that is not as easy as it sounds.

Today, we use the word Continent to mean North America, or South America, or Europe, or Asia, or Australia, etc. However, in the early 1800s, at the time Joseph Smith was translating the Plates, the word “continent” did not mean what it does today. Initially, continent meant the entire Western Hemisphere. The 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the language known in the New England area where Noah Webster created the dictionary and where Joseph Smith lived, relates continent to the Eastern and Western continent. At that time, the American Continent was the entire Western Hemisphere.

Originally, as today, the word continent comes from the Latin, “terra continens,” meaning “continuous land.” In the mid-19th century, Europe and Asia were considered one continent. When Amerigo Vespucci ”discovered” the Americas, he referred to it as the continent of the New World. Cartographers for years referred to the Americas as a single continent. In Joseph Smith’s day, the word “continent” referred to a single area—North and South America, or basically, the Western Hemisphere.

According to an 1898 book by Truman C.White, The Boston Historhy Company, when the first Europeans visited the Americas, they referred to is as the “Western Continent,” and the term was still being used around the turn of that century—sixty years after Joseph Smith’s time.

It was Nephi that told us: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3). Thus, when the angel said: “it account of the former inhabitants of this continent,” he was obviously referring to the entire Western Hemisphere, for that was the understanding of Joseph's language at that time.

In addition, Covino also quotes: “On them is contained the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his people on this land” (Joseph's account as reiterated by Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps in Messenger & Advocate, October 1835, 2:195-198).”

Since Covino wants to refer to ”this land,” let us consider the meaning of such a statement. There is an angel, a representative of God, talking to Joseph:

There are two things to consider here. 1) The angel is referring to what is and has taken place in this Western Hemisphere, as opposed to what had already taken place in the are of Israel/Jerusalem; and 2) the angel is also referring to what is to take place among the people of this Hemisphere as opposed to what is to take place among the “ten tribes of Israel [that] will be revealed in the north country” as stated in this same discussion. Thus, we can see, that the angel is grammatically correct in referring to “this” land as opposed to “that” land, i.e., Jerusalem land the north countries.

It is important for any reader of scripture or modern day prophets to understand that the Lord sees this world as a whole, and divides it into those areas where certain events are to, or did, take place. We have the original area after the Flood of the Hebrew or Jewish "Land of Promise,” the unknown lands of the Lost Ten Tribes; the “isles of the sea” Isaiah talks about, the “Land of Promise” given to Lehi, of which the Jaredites also laid claim, etc.

When the angel was talking to Joseph Smith, he was referring to the latter area, the Land of Promise of the Western Hemsiphere, as opposed to the other areas of which the Lord has special interest, or at least as we know it from scripture. It is never wise to place a narrow restriction on the Lord or his messengers as to the meaning of their words. When the angle spoke to Joseph Smith of “the people on this land,” we know he was not referring to those in Jerusalem, those in the north countries, or those on the South Sea islands, etc. He was referring to the people of this continent, of this land, of the Western Hemsiphere, of the land that remained unknown to other natons of the world as the Lord promised Lehi.

It is the height of “racial superiority” to lay claim to the belief that the Land of Promise is only the United States, as many North American theorists claim. When all is said and done, we will find that the Land of Promise spoken of and described in the Book of Mormon is the entire Western Hemisphere which “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), and that in one portion of this land would be, “the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord” (Ether 13:3), and where “New Jerusalem should be built upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph” (Ether 123:6).

Liberal-minded people might think that the American Indian in North America has been mistreated since the coming of the Europeans; however, when Nephi saw in his vision that “I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten” (1 Nephi 13:14); And Lehi said, “Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (2 Nephi 1:11), one might want to revisit the absolute horror and destruction that the Spanish conquistadores brought upon the indigenous natives (Lamanites) of Mexico, Mesoamerica and the Andean area of South America. The destruction of these races was total and complete, the subjugation unbearable, the robbing of their lands and the confiscation of their wealth is unparalleled. Even today, the Aztec, Maya and Inca remain in total subjugation, with thousands upon thousands having been killed in the initial wave of occupation.

Where in North America the indigenous natives were moved onto reservations and today enjoy complete autonomy with their own, separate nation within the United States, in South America especially, no such provision were ever given—the natives were and are subject to the most servile status, living in complete squalor in the mountains and jungles, with few, if any, conveniences in life enjoyed by their brethren in the United States.

(See the next post, “More Covino Comments Answered-Part II, for more of Covino’s so-called “errors,” which, in fact, are errors he makes in the defense of his model)

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