Monday, July 22, 2013

Plain and Simple Language

Nephi made it quite clear in what he thought should be written, how it should be written, and in what manner it should be written in the scriptural record. He said: “I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying. 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).
Plain and simple language. There are a few things we need to accept without reservation if we are going to understand the writings found in the Book of Mormon.
First. The scriptural record was written by prophets of God, such as Nephi, Jacob, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, the Disciple Nephi, Mormon, Ether and Moroni. Others of similar status also wrote briefly, such as Enos, Jarom, Benjamin, Ammaron and Amaleki. These men wrote by the Spirit (1 Nephi 22:2; 2 Nephi 33:11; Jacob 4:15; Alma 37:15; Mormon 3:20), and at times were kept from writing more (1 Nephi 14:25; 2 Nephi 4:25; 32:7).
Second. The prophets knew what they were writing about. They lived through the time in which they wrote, and understood and actually experienced or saw those things of which they wrote.
Third. They wrote their record for the benefit of their brethren, the Lamanites, and also for us in our day (Mormon 5:10) and see also the front piece and the Words of Mormon 1:7-9.
Fourth. These prophets knew the land in which they lived, they walked the hills, valleys, villages, towns and cities, and crossed the rivers and saw the seas they described. They knew and understood the headwaters of their main river, and knew where it flowed and into what sea it emptied (Alma 44:22).
Fifth. They saw the sun rise and set every day, understood the seasons, tilled the ground (1 Nephi 18:24; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 9:9), planted and harvested crops. They knew what day it was, what month it was, and the year (Alma 16:1). They had handed down to them from the time of Nephi and understanding of directions, cardinal points of the compass, and some had the Liahona in their possession. These were not unknowledgable Eskimos or Icelanders who saw the sun from a far northern vantage point, but could trace back their understanding from Jersualem through Lehi, Nephi,  Sam, and Zoram.
Sixth. Many of these prophets wielded the sword in the defense of their family, people and nation (Jacob 1:10). They fought the Lamanites, the Gadianton Robbers, and defectors. They understood their land, where the Lamanites were, and how important it was to defend themselves and build fortresses, resorts, and to fortify their land (Alma 48:8).
Seventh. They understood where the mountains were, where the valleys were, and the paths and roads were located. They knew and understood where the Sidon River was, where it flowed, and often crossed it to get to eastern or western lands.
Eighth. These prophets knew how far it was from one city to another, from one land to another, where the borders were and how narrow or wide was their land at any point. Later ones knew about the narrow neck of land, the narrow pass, and how wide these were and their military and strategic importance.
Ninth. They new how much damage was done to the land, where the mountains shot up “whose height is great,” and where the mountains were that became valleys. They knew because they were there, or heard of it from those who were there at the time. They understood their land before and after the destruction the disciple Nephi wrote about.
Tenth. They saw the intrigues, plots, conspiracies, schemes, and subversions carried on by the people. They saw the results of the secret combinations, the evils that were done, and how one man could lead large numbers down the path to destruction. They understood the workings of the government and the combinations that could topple them, and watched the change of history that molded nations, wars, and peace. 
Eleventh. They saw the many activities of the people, the types of business enacted, the processes involved in “getting gain.” They understood the shipbuilding and where the shipyards were located, knew of the seas their ships traveled, the routes and ports where they stopped and traded. They understood the business purposes in which the people were involved.
Twelveth. They watched and understood as people lived righteously and prospered, and also when they were not righteous and knew of the evils that plagued the land. Some moved mountains (Ether 12:30), some could bring about famines (Helaman 10:6), others could affect battles (Alma 43:24) and all communed with God (1 Nephi 18:3).
There can be no question that these prophets were great men, who lived upon and knew their own lands; who wrote about real events, places and people; who described the lands they walked, and who gave us a clear and helpful understanding of the Land of promise (Alma 22:27-34). Mormon, as an example, led an army in both victory and retreat across the entire Land Southward, with the wars beginning in Zarahemla (Mormon 1:10) and ending sixty-three years later in the Land of Cumorah, near the Land of Many Waters in the far north of the Land Northward (Mormon 6:2, 6-9).
Now, having said all this, isn’t it a little arrogant and self-serving for different Theorists of today to decide that these many prophets and writers of the scriptural record simply did not know enough to write clearly and plainly to us about their lands? Isn’t it also interesting that these arrogant and self-serving Theorists feel the need to tell us that the scriptural record—the writing of these prophets—not only lacked clarity, but was in some cases wrong? Isn’t it also interesting that not only do these arrogant and self-serving Theorists tell us the scriptural record is inaccurate at times, but they they know and understand the lands where the prophets walked better than the prophets themselves did?
Isn’t it amazing that while Mormon, who had all the records at his disposal, and wrote about the directions of the land of promise, that Theorists today, with only Mormon’s words to read, tell us that Mormon was off in his directions almost 90ยบ? Isn’t it amazing that while Mormon well understood the significant of the military strategic position of the narrow neck of land and the narrow pass, that Theorists today ignore that narrow area and place it in locations that are both impossible to defend and are not narrow?
Isn’t it interesting that despite these prophets writing about herbs that cure fever, two animals as helpful as elephants, two grains on a par with wheat, barley and corn, that they place a land of promise where none of these exist? And isn’t it interesting that others ignore roads and highways that went from city to city and place to place, buildings like the temple whose “construction was after the manner of the temple of Solomon,” a single major river that flowed from the south to the north, a land surrounded by four seas, etc., and place a land of promise where none of these exist? And isn’t it interesting that these Theorists also ignore a location for the land of promise where there are obvious mountains “whose height is great”?
Nephi said of his writing, “I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred” (1 Nephi 19:6), and commanded Jacob to do the same (Jacob 1:2). It stands to reason that such direction was handed down to other prophets and writers. Yet, today’s Theorists consider their knowledge greater than those of the prophets, and try to change meaning, descriptions, and understanding of the “plain” language of Nephi, and that God, who inspired this writing, “speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” Yet these Theorists feel obliged to explain to us what we cannot understand for ourselves, which includes an understanding that the scriptural record is incorrect at times and we have to have a unique understanding not clearly explained in the record.
It would seem that all these different Theorists would do well to use the written word the way it is written, and not try to keep telling us that it meant something other than what is says.

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