Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Where do They Get Their Ideas? Part I

We have reported in these pages before that there are some 41,000 different Christian denominations as reported by Christianity Today, who also reported in “General Statistics and Facts of Christianity” that there are 2.18 billion Christians around the world, nearly a third of the global population, with 247 million in the United States according to the 2010 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. But it is the 41,000 different denominations that are the concern. 41,000 different interpretations of some, part, or all of a single book—the Bible.
This might make the number of varying ideas, theories and models of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise geographical location and appearance seem trivial, it is still a wonder that so many different ideas can spring from such a limited number of scriptural references on the subject. In addition, there are numerous people with their own views of a geographical location that base their models on something an LDS Prophet or General Authority has said, or is reported as having said.
To the latter, it should be clearly understood that no LDS Prophet, or any General Authority is ever going to make a claim contrary to the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. It is simply not within their prevue, nature, or priesthood calling to do so. In addition, it should also be clearly understood that no LDS Prophet or General Authority, or anyone else in a position of authority in the Church has ever made a claim, speaking for the Church, of any specific location  in which the Book of Mormon lands are located other than to say they are located in the Western Hemisphere, with some going so far as to say the Land of Promise is North, Central and South America.
Consequently, it is always amazing when someone tries to validate a Land of Promise location by a statement attributed to a Prophet or General Authority. Such is simply not the case for any location.
This leaves us only one reference to use in coming to our own conclusions about where the Book of Mormon Land of Promise was located, and that is the Book of Mormon itself and, more specifically, the words Mormon used to gives us such information.
No other source is relevant! If it doesn’t agree with the scriptural record, then it is not correct, no matter the source!
The Spirit is not going to testify to any historian, writer, educator, or individual that any location contrary to the scriptural record is the place of the Land of Promise. Consequently, the Book of Mormon is the only source to quote, and the only source to use, to verify a geographical location for the Book of Mormon Land of Promise.
Now, having said that, there are other sources that can be useful in helping to validate a location. Archaeological findings, historical events, topographical features, etc., but they are only secondary to the scriptural record itself. First and foremost is the information Mormon gave us, knowing we, a future generation would be reading his words, and knowing they might want to have some understanding of the geographical setting of the events he abridged. It is also helpful to have an 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language showing the meaning of words known to Joseph Smith, as a guide in understanding some of the words Joseph used in his translation that, in our day, have changed to some degree in their meaning.
We need to start with Lehi’s travels, and follow along with him until he reaches the Land of Promise to know where that land was located. We cannot arbitrarily pick out a location, then try to determine how he got there and what was located there
With this in mind, then we need to turn to the scriptural record to consider any location, beginning with Lehi leaving his home outside Jerusalem, including their travels to Irreantum, including the ship that Nephi built, the winds and currents that “drove” the ship, and where those winds and currents would have taken a weather ship “driven forth before the wind.”
At that point, Nephi tells us what he found on that land, where he found it, its quantity, and that seeds from Jerusalem grew exceedingly and provided abundant crops. Nephi also tells us that he found iron and could make steel, and that copper gold and silver were found in single ore, and in abundance; Mosiah tells us about two unknown, but important grains; Ether about two unknown, but important animals; Alma tells us about a natural cure for fever, and herbs and plants curing maladies, and also tells us that pieces of gold and silver (coins?) were the Nephite monetary system and their values; and Helaman tells us about the Nephites building ships and their shipping businesses.
We learn of fabulous roads, stone walls, and a temple built that Nephi compared to the temple of Solomon. We also learn of an industrious people who were taught numerous building skills by Nephi who was taught how to build by the Lord. We recognize the skills of the Nephites that originated with the Jews in terms of building houses, synagogues, palaces, temples, etc. And throughout the writing we find two peoples almost constantly at war, and  how Moroni and his son Moronihah fortified much of the Nephite lands and cities, with wood, stone, and dirt.
While it is true that people, especially Americans, like to think for themselves, the scriptures are not for private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21, 2:1). We need to consider the words carefully, contemplate and ponder their meaning, and arrive at an understanding through this careful study that is consistent with other scriptural references. We cannot say that one scripture means something when another scripture contradicts that meaning. All scripture is written under the influence of the Spirit and all scripture is going to coincide and complement each other even if we cannot see that connection at first. Pondering is a lot of work, and takes a lot of concentration, study, learning, and understanding.
What the scriptural record does not allow, and we are not at liberty to do, is make up things and claims that are not in the record.
As an example, since distances are not clearly stated in the record, nor even implied in most cases, we cannot decide we know how far it was from one point to another. There is no scriptural verification for that. Even when the scripture says, “And after they had been in the wilderness twelve days they arrived in the land of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 24:25), we cannot be certain the distance or even come up with a close idea, since we do not know at what elevations the journey covered, whether people were moving on level, hilly, or rocky ground, or whether they moved quickly or leisurely, whether they had to move slowly because of terrain problems such as climbing over mountains, skirting canyons, or people problems such as seeing to sick and injured, children and babies, old and infirmed, etc., etc., etc. How long did they pause for meals, how long did it take to hunt, kill and prepare meat, find water, vegetables, bake bread or whatever they did.
The only good example is when Mormon tells us the width of the narrow strip of wilderness was a day-and-a-half journey for a Nephite can we really come close, since the purpose of the statement was for us to better understand a distance. That is, Mormon wanted us to know how wide the narrow neck of land was. So we can figure a Nephite represents a common man of his day would be more or less equal to a common man of our day, a day-and-a-half journey would be the same time frame as today, and therefore we can figure out how far a common man can walk in a day-and-a-half, etc. Though still not be exact, for we don’t know whether the Nephite was walking on level ground, whether he rested during darkness, whether he had to go around obstacles, etc., etc., etc.
With all of this in mind, and looking at all the various suggestions and models for the Land of Promise by numerous writers, and comparing each with the entire scriptural record, not just a scripture or idea, but the entire record, it can only be asked: “Where do they get their ideas from?” Certainly not from the Book of Mormon!
(See the next post, “Where do they get their ideas – Part II,” for examples of geographical settings that are not supported by the Book of Mormon)

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