Sunday, October 12, 2014

An Island that is an Island, Is an Island

In their mad dash to find agreement among the scriptures and man’s thinking that their model and location for the Land of Promise is accurate, Theorists overlook some very important information. At best, they simply do not understand the scriptural meaning of such information. At worst, they see it, understand it, but know that it does not support their own thesis and model, so they ignore it. 
     Either way, justice is not being served in people’s efforts to sincerely find the location of Lehi’s landing site and the site of the Nephite Nation.
Jacob brings the meeting to a close, then convenes the Nephites again the following day. Opening his remarks, he says: “And now I, Jacob, speak unto you...
    Take the occurrence of Jacob, Lehi’s son and Nephi’s brother, who is preaching to the Nephites somewhere around 550 B.C. At this time, the Nephites had grown in numbers in their new location of the city of Nephi and the Land of Nephi, to which Nephi had led them when he was told by the Lord to flee from his brothers.
    On this day, following a previous day of his preaching to the Nephites (2 Nephi 6:1 to 9:54), Jacob is dealing with the concerns that because they had left Jerusalem and were far from the temple and mainstream Jewish life, that the Lord might have forgotten them and they no longer had the promises. Jacob begins by telling his people that Christ would be crucified by the Jews, that the Jews would be scattered, and eventually “be gathered in from their long dispersion,” even, he tells them, “from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth” (2 Nephi 10:8).
    He goes on to tell them that the Gentile nations will aid in this work, will nourish the dispersed Jews, and assist in their return to Jerusalem. But, he adds, “this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles,” and that he “will fortify this land against all other nations,” and they that fight against this work shall perish, and that “Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God” (2 Nephi 10:9-19
    Jacob no doubt looked out over his audience to make sure that he had every ear: “And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads…” Then Jacob makes his point: “for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). 
    We are upon an isle of the sea! 
    Now the Nephites knew where they were, knew they and/or their fathers had been led across the sea in the ship Nephi built, and knew their current location was upon an island in the midst of that sea over which they had sailed. 
    During this two day conference, both Nephi and Jacob had been preaching out of the writings of Isaiah on the Brass Plates, probably for at least two reasons: 1) Isaiah spoke of the birth and mission of Jesus Christ, and 2) Isaiah knew of the Nephites and others that had been led away from Jerusalem by the Lord.
All of this was known and understood by the Nephites as Jacob continued: “But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren” (2 Nephi 10:21). That is, Jacob is assuring the Nephites that they are not alone in their condition. Others from the House of Israel had been led away, and were upon islands as were they, and that the Lord has remembered all of them. As Jacob adds, “For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also” (2 Nephi 10:22).
    Then, after bringing his audience to an understanding that they are not alone in their far off condition, that others are also in a similar condition, he makes his final, and most important point: “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves -- to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:23-24).
It is interesting, at this point, that Nephi stops writing down what Jacob said, summing it up by saying, “And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me” (2 Nephi 11:1).
    Consequently, of all that Jacob preached to the Nephites at that time, Nephi chose to write down only a part—a part that included our understanding they were on an island in the middle of the sea. But in that short space, Nephi verifies the truth of Jacob’s statement, for Nephi wrote what Jacob said, “sufficeth me.” It also verifies the fact that, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). The Lord taught, “Every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:16), and also “It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true” (John 8:18). And from ancient times, “in the mouth of two witnesses shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). This law of witnesses is and always has been prominent in the history and practice of the Church and of God’s dealings with man, for this law applies in divine as well as human relations—as members of the Godhead bear witness of one another (John 5:31-37; 3 Nephi 11:32). The Bible and the Book of Mormon bear witness of one another, and the Doctrine and Covenants establishes the truth of them both (1 Nephi 13:20-40; 2 Nephi 3:12; 29:8-14; Mormon 7:8-9; D&C 17:6; 20:11-12; 42:12). And the written testimony of two nations, the Jews and the Nephites, is a witness to the world that there is a God (2 Nephi 29:8).
    Thus, we have the word of both Jacob and Nephi that the Land of Promise was an island, and that island was in the midst of the sea over which they had traveled by ship. Joseph Smith verifies that in his translation, and the Spirit acknowledges the correctness of the statement.
    Now we come to the meaning of “island.” This word comes from the Old English, which borrowed it from its Germanic origin: eyland meaning “island land” (ey=island, plus land), and ealand, meaning land in water (ea=water, plus land). This prompted Noah Webster, in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language to write regarding the word island: “This is an absurd compound of isle and land, that is, land-in-water land, or ieland-land. There is no such legitimate word in English, and it is found only in books. The genuine word always used in discourse is our native word, Saxon ealong, D.G. eiland.]. He then goes on to list the word “island” and “isle” with the same meaning: “A track of land surrounded by water.”
     In 1828 New England, where both Joseph Smith (1805-1844) and Noah Webster (1753-1843) grew up and lived, the words found in Webster’s dictionary are representative.
     It is also interesting that the word isle (island) has a secondary meaning of isolation. As a noun, “being isolated,” and as a verb, “to isolate.” Consequently, the secondary definition of island is “something resembling an island, especially in being isolated or having little or no
direct communication with others.” This sort of gives new meaning to the statement: “It is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations” (2 Nephi 1:8), and kept from their knowledge it was until Columbus led the way for the Spanish invasion of Mexico, Central America, and South America.
    As this article started out saying, “Theorists overlook some very important information” regarding the scriptural record and what is found within it—this is only one example. Lehi landed upon an island, and that island was in the midst of the sea over which they sailed. As Jacob stated and Nephi recorded it: “for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). 
    Thus, in order to find the location of the Land of Promise, one must look for where an island existed when Lehi landed, an island that was in the midst of the very sea over which he sailed. He did not land upon an isthmus nor a peninsula—but upon an island!


  1. I like this article very much. Jacob and Nephi clearly considered themselves to be upon an isle of the sea which was kept from the knowledge of other nations.

    As you know, I favor a peninsular setting for the lands being described.

    The Baja peninsula is "“something resembling an island, especially in being isolated or having little or no direct communication with others.”

    I wouldn't say that it's impossible for an isthmus to also fit this description if the isthmus in question were significantly isolated from all other nations, but I am not aware of any actual isthmus setting for the Book of Mormon lands that seems to fit this description.

    For roughly 400 years after Lehi's landing, the Nephite nation was apparently unaware of the existence of the Mulekite city of Zarahemla to their north, nor of the destroyed Jaredite nation to their north, nor of the "many lakes and large bodies of water" which were "exceedingly great distances" away in the land northward.

    I see no reason to believe that Jacob or Nephi knew whether or not their isle was isolated by water on the north. If Nephi and Jacob were speaking of their home in the cape region of the Baja peninsula, it makes sense that they would describe their land as an isle.

  2. It is interesting that Jacob and Nephi both understood their Land of Promise beyond what we might think. Why would Jacob call it an island? No doubt, because the Spirit had told them, Nephi had seen the Land of Promise in a vision, and that in reading Isaiah who talks about the isles of the sea and understood the Nephites being separated from the House of Israel and led away (as were others), the understanding was given to Jacob and Nephi that they were part of what Isaiah wrote about. I suppose other assumptions about this could be made, but Prophets who write are given knowledge of what to write far beyond our understanding. It is unwise to limit the knowledge of those who write the scriptures. As an example, Isaiah knew the name of Cyrus more than 120 years before he was born--I believe it is called Inspiration. Why Jacob and Nephi knew it was an island, and why when Joseph Smith wrote "isle" that the Spirit acknowledged that was true, seems pretty clear to me. After all, the understanding of an isthmus and a peninsula was known in Joseph Smith's time--and his method of translating was not word for word, but understanding for understanding, that an island was an island. And since the word peninsula is taken from a word meaning "not an island" I have a hard time thinking that the Lord is going to allow translation of the scriptural record to be inaccurate. God is not a God of confusion. I realize you want it to be a peninsula, but an island is an island when the scriptural record says it is.