Thursday, September 5, 2013

Confusion About Book of Mormon Geography

There is no question that there is confusion among many people, mostly scholars, about the setting and location of the Land of Promise and the geography of the Book of Mormon. Many may wonder why anyone is even that interested in it, however, many are and some for good reason. In my case, a knowledge of the geography has led to a far greater knowledge of the scriptural record abridged by Mormon and a greater appreciation for the Nephite struggle and how they tried to handle it.
However, the importance of the geography cannot override the importance of the doctrinal information of the gospel the scriptural record contains. At the same time, while knowledge of ancient Jerusalem and the Bible lands is not more important than the doctrine contained in the scriptures, it does and can help in building our understanding of what took place then and how those events unfolded.
First, the important thing about trying to determine the setting of the Book of Mormon and its geography, all ideas, thoughts, examples, drawings, maps, and writings MUST be consistent with the scriptural record. Mormon’s writings simply cannot be altered, changed, or explained away as to meaning something they do not say. Second, it is not helpful to force the scriptural writings to fit into a pre-determined model that does not fit Mormon’s extensive descriptions. After all, no one’s status, career, or reputation is more important than the scriptural record itself. That is, just because someone has letters after their name, it does not mean they are more accurate in understanding Mormon’s writings than anyone else—nor is their standing any more important.
If it does not agree with the scriptural record, then quite simply, it cannot be correct!
Take, as an example, the writing of BMAF Director Dr. F. Richard Hauck who has stated: “There are a variety of issues that currently contribute to this confusion,” then goes on to list the following points, which we are responding to in this post: 
Hauck: “The Lord has withheld specific geographic information to test the faith of both the Saints and the investigators of the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He does this in accordance with Mormon’s comments in 3 Nephi 26:9-11…”
Response: This is not correct. The scriptural event this idea relates to is the gospel itself. First of all, the scripture Hauck refers to states: “And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people” (3 Nephi 26:9-11). But what Hauck doesn’t state is the preceding verse: “And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people; But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people. And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken” (3 Nephi 26:6-8).
While Hauck would have us believe his reference is for geographical information, actually these verses relate to the gospel and sayings of Christ to the Nephites, which began in 3 Nephi 11:1 and continued until 3 Nephi 26:5. At that time, Mormon concludes the sayings of Christ, then tells us he was restrained from writing more of what was recorded by the disciple Nephi, and then Mormon goes on to tell us that what he wrote he was commanded to write by the Lord (3 Nephi 26:12).
Like many Theorists who want to prove their point, Hauck only tells us a portion of a very long scriptural concept and then uses it to apply to something totally out of the scope of the statement’s purpose. That is, Mormon’s comments which Hauck repeats has nothing at all to do with the geography of the Land of Promise, but of the gospel and sayings Christ told the Nephites following the surviving Nephites gathering at the Temple in Bountiful after the destruction that occurred in the Land of Promise (3 Nephi 8), and following the three days of darkness (3 Nephi 8:23), and following the sound of Christ’s voice (3 Nephi 9:1-22).
Hauck: “…and Moroni’s wonderful assessment, “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” found in Ether 12:6.”
Response: The trial of our faith has to do with our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and belief in His gospel (good news of the atonement) and the Church he set up and the prophets and apostles, etc., he calls. It is a little self-serving and pompously arrogant to consider that the importance of the gospel and the trial of our faith regarding it has to do with the geography of the Book of Mormon. Moroni's exact statement is: “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Moroni 12:6). And he goes on to add what faith is: “For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world. But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen. Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith” (Ether 12:7-9), and then goes on to list several examples: called after the holy order of God; the law of Moses given; the Son of God prepared a more excellent way; etc., then states: “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith” (Ether 12:12).
There can be no question that Mormon and Moroni’s statements have absolutely nothing to do with the geography of the Book of Mormon, or the fact that we don’t know more about that geography.
Hauck: Much of the Book of Mormon narrative was engraved in chiasms, an ancient format common to the Old Testament. The 1829 translation process changed those formats into our more common paragraph format which unfortunately has created some confusion. The geography verses in Alma 22 are a good example of chiasmus and confusion.”
Response: Chiasms are a verbal order in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed. A simple example of this is: “"You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget." And "I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction's job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," or “The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order," or “"The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults," or “"People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."
A chiasm from the Bible is found in Matthew 6:24—originally written in chiasm format:
“No man can serve two masters.
Either he will hate the one and
love the other, or
he will hold to the one and
despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
The chiasm appears with the first three lines being repeated in reverse order in the second three verses. Now, to check Hauk’s point, if we rewrite this in an English flowing sentence and paragraph format, let us see if any confusion occurs:
No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
There is no confusion here. Evidently, Hauk’s concern is ill-founded, for the first and last verse are understandably similar and consistently accurate:
No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon.
(See the next post, “Confusion About Book of Mormon Geography – Part II,” for more on this subject of Chiasms and for the rest of Hauck’s reasoning as to why he feels this confusion exists)

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