Thursday, June 6, 2013

Developing an Internal Model for Better Understanding – Part I

One of our readers sent in several points regarding someone else’s view of developing an internal model and asked us what we thought of it. Since it is lengthy and requires several answers, we thought it would  best be answered in the form of a post. Below are the points made and our response:
1. “The Book of Mormon states that the contents of the book are first-hand descriptions by the people that lived in the lands they were describing.  If so, then as first-hand descriptions, the descriptions would be accurate.  A first-hand account should be accurate without having to rely on any archaeological evidence.  To prevent being biased by any archaeological evidence, this investigation uses the Book of Mormon as the sole document for determining the locations of the place names mentioned in the Book of Mormon.”
Response: While the Book of Mormon should absolutely be the first and final proof of anything regarding its contents, it simply cannot stand alone since it covers information, descriptions, and locations that can, for the most part, be confirmed in one way or another from outside sources—the key here is confirmed, not determined. As an example, when Mesoamericanists claim the directions in the scriptural record are not accurate based on today’s directional system, and use ancient Hebrew thoughts to try and illustrate their point, they are not taking the Book of Mormon as the determining factor—it is not, to them, the first and final proof. On the other hand, when the scriptural record tells us that the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), then we can use an outside source (geology) to confirm where an island might have existed in the Nephite period. But no matter what geology claims, the Land of Promise was an island for that is what the record states!
2. “The wording in the Book of Mormon was exact. Any differences in phrases were assumed to mean something different unless they could be proved that they were the same.  English grammar allows for more than one way to say something.  However, the Book of Mormon is not based on English grammar, so the grammar used was assumed to be important unless it could be proven that it was not important.  For example, the phrases “land of the Nephi” and “land of Nephi” were considered to be different.”
Response: First of all, in the entire Book of Mormon there is never a statement about any “land of the Nephi.” If this is meant as an example, it is not taken from the scriptural record itself, and therefore lacks value. Secondly, while the original writings were from Hebrew thought and translated into Egyptian writing, the Joseph Smith translation took Egyptian writing and translated it into English; however, it is very difficult to see any English grammar involved in the entire book, since it follows the Hebrew tendency toward phraseology in almost every instance. Also, like in any translation, it is the meaning of the phrase or word that is translated, not specifically the word itself. When Joseph Smith translated, he had the Urim and Thummim, the Seer Stone, and the Spirit to guide him along this line. It is inconceivable to me that these two objects and the Spirit ended up confirming to Joseph Smith any inaccurate translation. As for the different meaning—there can be no doubt that different phrases, different wordage, etc., mean different things, and they would have been translated as such.
3. “A corollary to this is that if a phrase was used consistently, that consistency could be used to interpret information according to how the phrase was used.  For example, if the term “thence” was consistently used to mean to leave one place to go to another, then any time where “thence” occurred meant that it always meant to leave one place to go to another.  Another corollary is that the meanings of words were determined by how they are used in the Book of Mormon and not by their meanings in an English dictionary.  For example, “borders” as used in the Book of Mormon was more consistent with the Hebrew meaning (i.e. gbwul – Strong’s 1366) than the definition in English dictionaries.”
Response: First of all, James Strong (1890) developed his own version of the King James and New American Standard Bibles, creating a concordance with Hebrew and Greek lexicon, and word (SH1366) gbuwl (gheb-ool’), which is shortened to gbul, is defined as “properly, a cord (as twisted), i.e., (by implication) a boundary; by extension, the territory enclosed: border, bound, coast, landmark, limit, quarter, space." Therefore, in the book of Mormon the word border means a boundary. Thus, “away beyond the borders of the land” (Alma 2:36) means beyond the enclosed area of the land involved—in this case, they were somewhere between the land of Gideon and the land of Zarahemla (Alma 2:26) where they crossed the river Sidon (Alma 2:27) from east to west (Alma 2:34) and were headed toward the wilderness of Hermounts (Alma 2:36). Beyond the borders, in this case, appears to mean that they crossed the boundary line between the land they were in and the wilderness. It does not appear that the Strong definition of “borders” varies from that of English. So why make the point? As for the word “thence,” the word clearly means “what follows” or “from that point forward.” As an example, “And from thenceforth to the city of Gid, and from the city of Gid to the city of Mulek” (Helaman 5:15), also, “and from thence into the land of Zarahemla, among the Lamanites” (Helaman 5:16). Thus, both thence and thenceforth would appear to have the same meaning; however, in “and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea” (Alma 7:16). While the word is used several times and almost always with the idea from one place to another, it cannot be confined to that definition only, for the context in which it is used alters the exact meaning—though both are close enough not to cause anyone difficulty.
4. “There was no duplication of place names unless there was information in the Book of Mormon that confirmed two different places had the same name.  This means that the same place name could not appear in two different locations.”
Response: This is a self-serving comment and is not at all applicable to its target, having two hill Cumorahs. During the Book of Mormon time, there was only one hill Cumorah, and it is identified within the Land of Promise as being in the Land of Cumorah, which was within the Land of Many Waters (Mormon 6:2). At this time, the lands in and around the drumline hill in upstate New York was unknown, had no name, and would have been confined to obscurity in the present era had the plates not been buried and found there. After that period, members of the Church began to call the hill the Hill Cumorah. Any way you look at it, this second hill, and its name, were long after the Nephite era, and had nothing to do with the Book of Mormon Land of Promise. By the way, there are two other names in the scriptural record that have another name elsewhere, though not mentioned in the Book of Mormon: the land of Ishmael (Alma 17:19), which is the name of the Arabian Peninsula; and the place they called Moriancumer (Ether 2:13), which is a place name in Mesopotamia.
Left: Moroni burying the plates—where he buried them and when is unknown. We only know that Joseph found them buried in this drumlin hill (right) in upstate New York
 5. “A place could be referred to by two different names only if it could be proved that the locations for each name were the same.”
Response: It is very hard to claim that two separate names for the same area or place had to be proven to be identical areas when 1700 years separate them in lands with no records and no continuous advanced civilizations. This one also seems self-serving, but beyond use. None of the Book of Mormon places names have survived into the present era.
(See the next post, “Developing an Internal Model – Part II,” for more on this article and our responses)

No comments:

Post a Comment