Tuesday, April 8, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part IX

Here are more comments, questions and criticisms that have been sent in from readers of our blog, along with our responses. 
     Comment #1: “You seem to be a big fan of Captain Moroni, but I wonder if he was the man you keep claiming he was. Personally, I find your rah-rah comments a little over-bloated” Cecile R.
Response: There is no question I am a big fan of Captain Moroni, both for his military expertise that continually fought off larger Lamanite forces with his smaller Nephite armies, and for his belief in a staunch support of freedom, and for his spiritual qualities, all of which Mormon said: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). To me, this makes him one of the greatest men who ever lived.
    What greater comment could a prophet make of any man? I get emotional whenever I write or talk about Moroni, for he stands like a giant astride the Book of Alma war chapters. He is introduced to us as the supreme commander of Nephite military forces (Alma 43:16), appointed at the young age of 25 (Alma 43:17). I was that age when I was put in charge of a military platoon of four squads of 13 men each, or 52 men overall. I cannot imagine anyone of that age being in charge of an entire Army.
    In addition, Moroni was a technological innovator, equipping his troops with armor (Alma 43:21), which startled the enemy into flight, and later introduced defensive fortifications (Alma 48:8). We may not think much of such things today, they being so commonly understood—but in his day, they had not been done before.
He was also an able recruiter who inspired confidence in the populace (Alma 50:12), and his military strategies and tactics were nothing short of brilliant. In fact, Mormon considered Moroni's time the Nephite golden age (Alma 50:23), when the Nephite nation achieved its maximum territorial extent in the land southward under Moroni’s military leadership. To him, the concept of Politically Correctness, which infests our society today, was unknown. To him, you were either for God, or you were against him. To him, there was no sitting on the sidelines. Almost singlehandedly, he preserved the peace when it occurred and upheld the Nephite Nation. Would that he lived today, in our society, that is in so much need of such a man. I would say that Moroni deserves every accolade given him, by me and everyone else.
    Comment #2: “Regarding your claim to the Nephites being on an island of the sea, one author notes that the Hebrew term translated "isle" can also mean "coast", "border", "region" or "habitable land" and does not exclusively mean island” Flynn T.
    Response: The word “isle” in the Book of Mormon was not originally written in Hebrew, it was written in reformed Egyptian, and there is no origin of the word “isle” in the language they used known to us today. However, to understand what Jacob meant when it wrote it, just look at his terminology: “for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20).
    “We are on a coast of the sea,”? Or “We are on a border of the sea”? Or “We are on habitable land of the sea”? None of these makes any sense, and if any were the meaning, they would have been presented in a different form. Obviously, the Nephites crossed a sea to get to the Land of Promise, and that Land of Promise was upon that sea, on an island.
    In addition, in 1829 when Joseph Smith translated that Reformed Egyptian word into English, he used the word “isle,” which in 1829, meant exactly what we would use the word “island” today to mean. And lastly, when Joseph dictated that word to the scribe, it disappeared and the following phrase appeared, meaning that the Spirit acknowledged the word “isle” (our island today) as the correct translation.
    We need to stop trying to find other words and meanings for what was written by Joseph Smith and recognize how the Book of Mormon was translated and under what power.
    Comment #3: “Just an idle curiosity, but why isn’t “host” used in the Book of Mormon like it is in the KJV of the Bible?” Landry H.
Response: The word “host” in the Bible refers to a military unit, an “army,” such as those of Joshua’s day marching around the walls of Jericho. Note that there was a “chief of all the captains of the host” (1 Chronicles 27:3). In this regard, the concept is used in the Book of Mormon, but translated by Joseph Smith as “army,” a term contemporary with Joseph Smith’s time.
    Comment #4: “The majority of references to seas refer to a sea east and west of the land northward and the land southward (Helaman 11:20). The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica borders the Gulf of Mexico on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the south..the east and west seas” Laurin M.
    Response: First of all, seas to the north and south, as in Mesoamerica, do not mean they are the Sea West and the Sea East. In that case, directional names of those two seas would be Sea North and Sea South. Secondly, Helaman also mentions a north sea and a south sea, as being inclusive, i.e., from the sea north to the sea south, from the sea east to the sea west (Helaman 3:8). We need to keep in mind, that the Land of Promise was long and narrow (Mesoamerica is not), and much of the activity took place with movement from west to east, that is toward the East Sea or the West Sea coasts. There were no activities that took place in the southern end of the Land of Nephi (Land Southward) and therefore, there was no reason to mention the South Sea, and except for Mormon’s final battle, and a couple of references in Ether, there is almost no activity that took place in the far north to mention a North Sea. Most of the activity took place during the first 930 years in the Land Southward, and moved between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla and Bountiful, with activity taking place along the coasts, but especially the East Sea. All this means is that the North Sea and South Sea had little reason to be mentioned.
    Comment #5: “What is meant in 1 Nephi 2:6 by a river of water. Aren’t all rivers, rivers of water? It sounds like a redundant phrase, or is this a type of Jewish idiom?” Hadley H.
Left: Wadi Nachal Paran in the Negev, southern Israel—this is much like the area Lehi brought his family through from the Dead Sea area to the Red Sea; Right: Wadi Digla in the Degla valley east of the Nile River and south of Cairo. Note that while these are river beds, they are not filled with water except at certain times of the year with spring runoff
    Response: In the deserts of Israel and Arabia, rivers are often dry much of the year. Typically, they are called a “wadi,” which is a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season. Such wadis are generally ephemeral, that is, they are only temporarily filled with water, the “river of water” lasting only briefly, such as after a heavy rain. In the case of Nephi’s writing, the colony had just completed a lengthy trek down the Jordan Rift Valley through the wadi Aravah (Arabah) to the “river of water” where they camped—a distance of 103 miles (to the Gulf of Aqaba), then another three days (about 76 miles more) to where they camped. Everywhere they had traveled had been dry, or dry river beds, and this river of flowing water would have been a welcome sight, no doubt part of the reason Lehi “built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord” (1 Nephi 2:7). Though not an idiom, there is a difference in the descriptions of “a dry river,” and “a river of water,” particularly in that part of the world.

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