Thursday, April 3, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part IV

Here are more comments, questions and criticisms that have been sent in from readers of our blog, along with our responses. 
    Comment #1: “We were having a discussion in our class on Sunday about the actual meaning of the term ‘Land Northward’ or ‘Land Southward’. Do you have an opinion on the term as Mormon writes it in the Book of Mormon?” Allesandro R.
Response: My belief is that when the Nephites landed in the area referred to as their first inheritance (Alma 22:28), they came to that landing site from the south, since that is the direction of the ocean currents which Nephi said drove his ship (“driven forth before the wind).. As they did so, they could see that this land was out in the middle of the sea they had been crossing, which Jacob later referred to as an island (2 Nephi 10:20). They would have seen the land and actually landed close to the southern terminus of the land. Thus, in their orientation, the Land of Promise stretched out to the north, but not the south—thus, in keeping with the terminology of the ancients, this was the land southward of the island upon which they landed. Obviously, there was a land to the north, which later became known as the Land Northward.
    When Nephi was told to flee from his brothers who wanted to kill him (2 Nephi 5:2, 5), he naturally went north since that was the only direction open to him. Later we find that the area of the Land of Nephi is south of Zarahemla and the narrow strip of wilderness, south along the west coast (Alma 22:28). When he settled, in an area they called the land and city of Nephi, to them the rest of the Land of Promise lay to the north. When they later found out there was a narrow neck and a land beyond, they referred to it as the Land Northward—i.e., northward of the narrow neck. As to the meaning of the term, I bow to the lexicographer, Noah Webster’s judgment of words when he said it meant “toward the north,” or “the land which is to the north.”
    Mesoamericanists make a big deal out of this terminology, trying to justify their model which is about 90º off kilter in order to claim northward covers about one-fourth of a circle, making it possible to claim a land to the west was to the north, etc. But “northward” means toward the north, and a “land northward,” means a land toward the north.
    Comment #4: “The Nephites and righteous Lamanites, threatened by Gadianton robbers, gathered to a common stronghold with a seven-year supply of food to starve the parasitic robbers out of the land. The size of the gathered population was described as "thousands and... tens of thousands: from the land southward and the land northward," all assembling from settlements of which Helaman's record a few years earlier said, "They began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east" (Helaman 3:8). Yet all of these people are said to have come together to a single area small enough to be besieged (3 Nephi 4:16-18). Clearly the record deals with an overall area only hundreds of miles in dimension” Bruno A.
    Response: This was one of John L. Sorenson’s favorite topics. He believed that he, and almost he alone, understood the scriptural record and was continually telling members that they did not understand what was written in the Book of Mormon. One of his many statements on this was: “Many Latter-day Saints will have to change their thinking markedly to adjust to the dimensions we have discussed…that the Nephites occupied a fairly compact area.” However, like many other things in Mesoamerica, Sorenson and others like to curtail the scriptural record to agree with their Mesoamerican model.
1. The Nephites gathered everything they owned other than their land into this area, including cattle, flocks, herds, food, grain, chariots, horses, etc.” (3 Nepih 3:13, 22), and enough provisions and sustenance to last them 7 years (3 Nephi 4:4)
2. Fortifications were built round about them” (3 Nephi 3:14), and they made all sorts of weapons of war, including armor and shields (3 Nephi 3:26)
3. Nephi guards were placed all around the people to guard them from the Robbers day and night (3 Nephi 3:14)
4. Chief captains were appointed over the armies of the Nephites in preparation for the war with the Robbers (3 Nephi 3:17), and Gidgiddoni was appointed commander of the armies (3 Nephi 3:18), who had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy, and Gidgiddoni was a great prophet (3 Nephi 3:19)
5. The Nephites had several armies (3 Nephi 3:20)
6. There were “thousands and tens of thousands” on the march (3 Nephi 3:22). “Tens of thousands” is a figure typically used to suggest that there were several groups, armies, or movements that were gathering from many different areas. Sorenson passes over this figure almost as an afterthought, but when we measure in tens of thousands, we are talking about numerous groups of “tens of thousands.” (A few years ago an AP news report said that “tens of thousands” fled Alepp. In the same report, that number was set at 200,000—clearly, we are dealing with large numbers)
7. They gathered together in one body (3 Nephi 3:25). By comparison, some 600,000 fled Egypt with Moses and were “gathered in one group”
8. Their strength and their hope to keep the Robbers from destroying them was in the Lord (3 Nephi 3:15; 4:8, 10)
9. The Nephites slaughtered the Robbers (3 Nephi 4:11), and chased them across the land to the edge of the wilderness (3 Nephi 4:13)
10. During the Robbers’ siege of the Nephites, the Nephites marched out by day and night, doing battle with the Robbers’ armies, cutting them down by thousands and tens of thousands
(3 Nephi 4:21). Clearly, the numbers of Robbers was also great.
11. The Nephites either killed or imprisoned all the Robbers (3 Nephi 4:27; 5:4)
12. Much of what took place was not written in the record of the small plates (3 Nephi 5:8), but much of it was written on the Large Plates (3 Nephi 5:9)
13. The Nephites gathered in the Land Southward, in the Land of Zarahemla and the land of Bountiful, all the way to the narrow neck of land (3 Nephi 3:23-24); however, we do not know how far south in the Land of Zarahemla they were located, while we do know that they were in the Land of Bountiful clear to the line which was between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation (3 Nephi 3:23)
14. This gathering was not from sea to sea—but in the center of the land (3 Nephi 3:21)
    In all of this, there is nothing to suggest a small, compact area, nor the size of the area at all. We do not know how many tens of thousands of Nephites there were, nor how many tens of thousands of Robbers there were. The people were gathered in one body, but we do not know how compact or loose that body was, nor how many square miles they covered, or whether their body was long and narrow, square, round, or what.

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