Thursday, August 9, 2012

More Covino Comments Answered-Part V-This Land

Peter Covino in his True Book of Mormon Geography website, quotes the following:

First, we must respect what the angel account of the former inhabitants of this continent. (Joseph Smith History v.34). 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). In other words, all events occurred in Western New York, on the land where the record came forth. Back then, the land was surrounded by water on all sides and they thought they were on an "isle of the sea." "This continent" meant their isle, which we will show was Western New York.”

While it is important to respect what angels say, it is more important to understand what angels mean from understanding their words. So let’s take a look at what the Angel Moroni was talking about:

In 1823, when Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith who was then almost 18 years of age, the only written record and only knowledge of God and his dealings with His people, was found in the Bible and the area of the Land of Israel – Jerusalem, was the land in which the Bible took place. No one knew what is common knowledge today among Latter-day Saints—that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that the New Jerusalem would be built in the United States, and that any of the House of Israel had anciently lived in the Western Hemisphere.

To Christians of the day, all Christianity originated in the Near East, all records emanated from there, and that was the place of Christ’s birth and death, and the formation of the Christian Church.

Consequently, Moroni’s message was to let Joseph know that there was a record (soon to be revealed) of God’s dealings with a remnant of Israel on the American continent (western Hemisphere) and that this took place on this land, not in Jerusalem or the Near East.

It was a message and a concept that was not only startling, but one no one had ever before considered. To make sure Joseph understood the significance of his message, Moroni emphasized that this was a record of the Americas, not the Near East or the Eastern  Hemisphere. What the Angel Moroni was telling Joseph Smith was a blockbuster of an announcement—the plates he was to eventually find and translate was about a people on this land—NOT THE LAND OF JERUSALEM.

There is no indication, no suggestion, no comment, that the Angel Moroni was limiting his remarks to a small portion of land, such as western New York as Covino wants us to believe in order to support his model. This land is a very broad term. To the Angel Moroni, this land was a distinction (as the word indicates) from that land—or the land where the Christian faith had originally been spawned. He knew, was we know today, that the Bible represented that land (Jerusalem) and the Book of Mormon represents this land (the Americas).

We need to keep in mind that Moroni was speaking to Joseph Smith in 1823. He would have used the language known to Joseph Smith (for the Lord speaks to us in our own language). Also, in In 1823 there were 24 states in the Union that was only 47 years old. Missouri became the 24th state when it was admitted on August 10, 1821. Arkansas became the 25th state when it was admitted 13 years later, in 1836. The United States controlled only a small portion of the land that at the time did not stretch beyond the Mississippi River except for Louisiana and Missouri. In Joseph’s days, there was still attitudes of expanding into Canada and Mexico to broaden the borders of the United States.

It should also be kept in mind that the term “America” referred to North, Central and South America, which was considered one continent at the time. Thus terms like “America is a promised land,” “this land,” and “the New Jersusalem would be established on this land,” had a much larger meaning than Covino’s Western New York. After all, the Church, which was established in Western New York in 1830, moved to Kirtland, Ohio, the next year, with its  headquarters intended to be moved to Jackson County, Missouri, which was called by Joseph “Zion’s center place.” The headquarters ended up Far West, Missouri, then in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839. And in 1847, the headquarters moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. In all this time, covering five different states, less than a year was spent in Western New York.

It is hard to imagine, with Moroni knowing the future events that would occur when he was speaking to Joseph Smith, that he would limit his meaning of a future world-wide church to just Western New York as Covino claims.

In addition to all this, Covino claims “Even Joseph made the connection when he said:
By it (Book of Mormon) we learn that OUR WESTERN TRIBES OF INDIANS are descendants from that Joseph which was sold into Egypt, and that the LAND OF AMERICA IS A PROMISED LAND unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come, with as many of the Gentiles as shall comply. (History of the Church 1:315)”

Once again, Covino mistakes “the Land of America” as meaning his limited area of Western New York, or even its surrounding area. However, two things are evident here:

1. America, in Joseph Smith’s day, meant “the Americas,” that is North, Central and South America. They were all called America—only a direction classification (North, Central and South) separated “America” into regional areas. Joseph did not use that term—just America, meaning in effect, the entire Western Hemisphere.

2. Western Tribes of Indians is a general term. In Joseph Smith’s day, the Indians known at the time were to the west of the civilized areas of New York, Ohio, Illinois, etc. Those “Western Tribes,” or Indians in general, referred to descendants of the Lamanites—and that would be true of all indigenous Indian tribes through America (the Americas). This is verified by the Church today who refers to the Lamanite descendants of Central and South America, where enormous missionary work has been accomplished over the years.
Finally, Covino adds: “At the time of Joseph Smith, accounts were coming in of the former inhabitants of Western New York and South America. Joseph chose to embrace the more grandiose reports from South America rather than Western New York. He made several statements claiming they were Book of Mormon lands. Book of Mormon enthusiasts want to claim the ruins in Mesoamerica AND the greatness of the United States of America as their own, but they can't have it both ways. If America is fulfilling Book of Mormon prophecy then IT is the land where Book of Mormon events took place, and the land where God made His promises.”

America is fulfilling Book of Mormon prophecy. America is the Land of Promise. America is the location of the Book of Mormon Lands. America, all of America, is the ultimate Land of Promise for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

America! We need not limit America to just a small area. America, in Joseph Smith’s day, referred to the entire Western Hemisphere. All early maps showed this. All early writings verify this. Cartographers understood America was what we now call North, Central and South America.

(See the next post, “More Covino Comments Answered-Part VI, 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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