Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More Comments and Questions from Readers -- Part IV

Here are some additional comments or questions sent in by readers of this website:
Comment #1: “I understand that in the "Zarahemla” article printed in the Times and Seasons 3 (1 October 1842), page 927, an editorial stated: “We are not agoing to declare positively, that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion,” which I believe infers that this site in Guatemala must be “one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon” the article concluded.” How does that stack up against your model?” Culver O.
Response: At the time of this article, Joseph Smith was the editor of the Times and Seasons. Some claim he was in hiding at the time, and others say he was traveling, etc., and not present in Nauvoo when the article was written and printed. While we can’t say for certain, let’s assume Joseph Smith was present and knew about and approved the article. We need to keep in mind the attitude and circumstances of that period.
First of all, in 1842, the church leaders were presented with a newly published book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, written by the explorer and adventurer, John Lloyd Stephens (printed in London by John Murray publishers in 1841). The Book of Mormon had been in publication only about 11 years, and had met with an enormous amount of ridicule by critics and those opposed to the Mormons. Thus, Stephens book seemed to validate the existence of an ancient civilization in the Americas and, to members of the church and its leaders, had to have been the ruins of ancient Nephite cities.
One of the passages in the book read: “Here were the remains of a cultivated, polished, and peculiar people, who had passed through all the stages incident to the rise and fall of nations; reached their golden age, and perished, entirely unknown. The links which connected them with the human family were severed and lost, and these were the only memorials of their footsteps upon earth.‎” To early Latter-day Saints, eager to find worldly verification of the Nephite nation in the Americas, this was fodder for great joy. No doubt, leaders and members alike thought they had found Lehi’s promised land.
Numerous articles, discussions and, no doubt, sermons, flew about Nauvoo and the early Church. I personally remember in the 1960s when Jakeman’s interpretation of the so-called “Lehi Stone” (Izapa Stela #5) caused a great fervor in the church among the members. My ward in Southern California at that time, and many others, ordered numerous replicas of the engraven stone and they sold like hotcakes. Who doesn’t want to see verification of the very heart of the church—the Book of Mormon—from non-church, archaeological sources?
However, the “Tree of Life” stone (left) proved to be a hoax in the long run with numerous scientists claiming Jakeman’s interpretation was in error. In 1841 and over the following years, the ruins of Mesoamerica, were not supported by the church officially as the home of the Nephites, and subsequent investigation have failed to turn up any scientific proof from the ground that this area was, in fact, Nephite.
As for my personal opinion, when 5,400 Nephites and their families emigrated to a land “which was northward,” and were never heard from again (Alma 63:4-8), ended up in what is today called Mesoamerica. There they built fantastic cities and a civilization to match the Peruvian Andean area from which they came. The ruins in Mesoamerica are Nephite, but the cities are not those of the scriptural record.
Comment #2: “I heard somewhere that Quechua (Andean language) means “Robber.” If this is true, does this relate to the Gadianton Robbers of the Book of Mormon?” Herrera G.
Response:  The word kkechuwa, in the Quechua (Qheswa, Qichwa) language, means “plunderer” or “robber.” The so-called Quechua people were from central Peru and the dominant element of the Inca empire. Their language was also called Quechua, which was spoken widely by other Indian peoples of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. However, the original name, and what the Quechua people call their language, is Runa Simi, which literally means “the mouth or tongue of the people.” The Inca themselves referred to their language as Qhapaq Runasimi, meaning “The great language of the people.” The word Quechua was given by Dominican priest Pedro Aparicio in the times of the conquest in 1540 misundestanding the meaning. The root of the word 'quechua' means, taken away by force,"quechuanchis" were called the Spaniards by the Incas an expression that means all together, killers, thieves. Consequently, there can be no connection in the Runa Simi language of the indigenous people of the “robber” idea, since that was a name applied by the Spanish priest to a people “who were taken from their land by force,” while the Inca called the conquerors quechuanchis, which was saying that the Spanish were killers and thieves. In Runa Simi, the actual word “robber” would appear something like qichuqkuna. The problem is, since Spanish has long been a major language in the Andes, it has altered some of the words, sounds and spelling of original Runa Simi words.
Comment #3: I have some serious objections to the last chapter of your BoM where the reader is encouraged to “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the Name of Christ, if these things are not true” etc. This approach to validating the inspiration of the Book of Mormon is fallacious. Some people I know have followed this prescription of Moroni 10:4 and concluded that the Book of Mormon is not true. That is, they have read the Book of Mormon, asking God to show them whether it is true or not, and have not received a testimony of its truth but have instead become convinced that it is false. All you people can really say to such persons is that they must not have prayed "with a sincere heart" or "real intent." But on what basis can this judgment be made? Only on the assumption that the Book of Mormon is true — that is, only by assuming the very thing in question” Dallin M.
Response: If life was that simple, then we would all be perfect. First of all, I know numerous people who have taken that approach and found a testimony in the Book of Mormon, but of course, some do not. Perhaps it boils down to real intent, perhaps it boils down to how much effort did a person really put forth toward reading and trying to understand or allowing the spirit to work on him. James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17-18). I cannot look into a man’s heart and see what his real intent is or was. The spirit works on people who will receive that inspiration. The world is full of people who will attest and testify to that. The offer made by Moroni is meant to show a person, if he wants, how he can come to know the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many, many people in the world want to know that, but never come to an understanding of it—it is really interesting that you would choose to point a finger at something people have struggled with for millennia. Then, too, is the question of real intent. How interested, truly interested, are you or a person in wanting to really, truly know, the mind of God? Who really wants to learn that he must repent of his sins, strip himself before God in all humility, baring his soul to the Father who created him, and spill out all the vile, wicked, and evil things he has done in life, knowing he is talking to a perfect being? Real intent cannot be measured by any one of us. Some manage it, some do not. Some read the Book of Mormon as a curiosity, some as a means to find error, some to scoff and insult those who believe, and others to learn, to know, to seek the truth. Only God knows the intent of one’s heart and the purposes of his actions. It is not a simple manner, Moroni did not intend it to be, nor does God. We have to earn our place in his kingdom through our efforts, or as James said, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” and also, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21, 24). While most of the Christian world believe that they will earn the same rewards as the Saint, the martyr, the apostle, the prophet, etc., I am not so sure any of us who achieve a much lesser level of humility and faith in God would be comfortable living in an eternity at the same level as those who far exceeded our efforts.

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