Friday, October 31, 2014

Mormon’s Abridgement Part XII – They Did Multiply and Spread

Continuing from the last post regarding the many descriptions Mormon wrote about the land he knew so well, and lived in all his life, that are vital for us to consider when claiming a current location of that land. 
    Mormon, in his abridgement, quotes Helaman about the Nephites emigrating into the Land Northward about 46 B.C. He writes: “And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that 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).
Earlier, Mormon wrote: “And they did travel to an exceedingly great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers. Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land” (Helaman 3:5) The latter is an obvious comment about those that traveled into the Land Northward, but three verses afterwrd, Mormon inserts the fact that they spread across the land once again—only this time, he is referring to the entire Land of Promise, for he says: ”[They] did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that 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.”
Nephites spread into all parts of the land, both in the Land Southward and in the Land Northward
    Now Mormon uses the term “spread forth into all parts of the land” when referring to the Land Northward, but used the term “cover the face of the whole earth” when referring to the entire Land of Promise. Obviously, Mormon is telling us that when the Nephite emigrants went into the Land Northward, they spread across the entire land—the entire Land Northward; then makes sure we know that he is telling us that the Nephites overall, then, had spread over the entire face of the Land of Promise, both in the Land Southward and in the Land Northward. And to make sure we understand this, he adds, “from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.” That is, all four quarters of the Land of Promise that the Nephites controlled were now not only in full possession of the Nephites, but that they were physically occupying the entire land.
    Consequently, here we see the truth being stated from four sources, the truth of the Nephites living on an island and that it was surrounded by seas at each compass point—Jacob says, Nephi writes, that “the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20), and Helaman wrote and Mormon recorded in his abridgement, that the Land of Promise stretched “from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8). 
    So if we are going to find a location of the Land of Promise, we need to find an island in the midst of the ocean, surrounded by water in all four directions, and unattached to any other land. We need to look for this since Jacob, Nephi, Helaman and Mormon all described their Land of Promise in those terms.
Baja California and Malaya are both Peninsulas, and Mesoamerica is an Isthmus. Neither of these three match Jacob’s description of being on an Island
    This alone should eliminate Mesoameria, which is not now nor ever was an island surrounded by four seas; it should also eliminate Baja California and Malaysia, which are peninsulas, and are not now nor ever were islands (Baja California, by the way, anciently was attached to the Mexico mainland before the earthquakes occurred that separated the peninsula and created the Sea of Cortes); it should also eliminate the Heartland, since that is an interior of a continent, and is not now or ever was surrounded by four seas within the continent; and it should also eliminate the Great Lakes, for though there are large lakes in the area, they are not seas—and certainly not connected to the sea over which the Lord made their path, nor is it embosomed in the midst of that sea over which they traveled.
The Heartland, Great Lakes, and Eastern U.S. Land of Promise models all are inland and are contrary to Jacob’s description
    It is obviously understandable that Theorists, bent on proving their personal opinion of the Land of Promise location, ignore many scriptures that describe the land because many of these descriptions do not verify or support their personal views. However, as Peter said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), does not give us the right to pick and choose to determine what we will support in the scriptural record and what we will not or reject when it comes to verifying our choice of the Land of Promise location.
    So what does “knowing this first”mean?
    "Knowing this first" (γινώσκοντες) means that we must recognize this truth is of primary importance. The literal translation of the following clause is simply that this means all scripture—not a specific scripture or prophecy, i.e., "that all prophecy of Scripture is not; all... not" (πᾶσα... οὐ) being a common Hebraism for none, οὑδεμία; but the verb is not ἔστι, "is," but γίνεται, "becomes, arises, comes into being." The word for "private" is ἰδίας, "special," or commonly, "one's own" (see 1 Peter 3:1, 5; 2 Peter 2:16, 22; 3:3, 16, 17). The word rendered "interpretation" (ἐπιλύσεως), is found nowhere else in the New Testament. Consequently, along with its context, this shows us that no prophecy of Scripture arises from the prophet's own interpretation of the vision presented to his mind; for it was from God that the prophecy was brought, thus “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).
This should suggest to us all that any scripture, by whatever prophet written, is neither privately determined by them (we cannot pick and choose what is truth and what is not), nor open for our own interpretation of it (we cannot decide the scripture means something other than what is says). When we combine this understanding with these prophets “who were foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:10-12), prophets write and speak the truth for our edification and understanding.
    This should not only apply to Mormon’s compass as being the same as our own compass, or Jacob’s statement of the Land of Promise being an “island,” but for all descriptions Mormon wrote and provided for us, for he wrote for a future generation. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations,” and Nephi said: “The Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation” (2 Nephi 25:21), with Jacob adding, “For [Nephi] said that the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation” (Jacob 1:3), and Mormon wrote:
Yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel” (Mormon 7:1), and Moroni, the last of the inspired writers, who actually saw our day and time, said, “Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you,” and also “I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (Mormon 8:34-35).
    Nor can we claim that there were problems in the translation, for speaking of Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “[God] gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon” (D&C 20:8), and we find “That God does inspire men and call them to his holy work to this age and generation, as well as in generations of old” (D&C 20:11), and finally the scriptures, “which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them” (D&C 20:10).
    Thus, we need to read the scriptural record as it was written and translated, and not try to find errors, differences, alternate meanings or different understanding than what was actually written and intended, for the prophets knew what they wrote and knew what they wrote was for a future generation--a future people.
    Consequently, when Mormon writes that the Nephites “did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that 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), we need to believe him. And we need to understand that the term “from the land southward to the and northward” means the entire Land of Promise, and that the term “began to cover the face of the whole earth” means that part of the earth being discussed, which is the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon.
We also need to understand that the scriptural record means exactly what it says—if it meant something else, it would have said something else. After all, the Lord is not a God of confusion; nor is he the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). According to the Apostle James, “confusion” (Ἀκαταστασία) is in direct contrast to the "peaceable" composure of true "wisdom" that comes from above and has God for its author; that is, unlike confusion, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
    Thus, to lay claim that when Mormon said north and northward, he really meant something other than what we understand, as Sorenson championed and Hauck, Norman, Poulsen, Miner, etc., claim; or that Jacob really didn’t mean they were on an island upon the sea over which they traveled, as he said they were, as Meldrum, Porter and May with their Heartland theory; Hedengren and Brandley claim with their eastern U.S. theory; or Holley, Olive, Aston, Coon and Curtis claim with their Great Lakes theory—who all have inland models in opposition to Jacob’s words—or that they were on an isthmus as Clark, Allen, Peay and Kiester claim; or a peninsula as Rosenvall and Anderson claim with their Baja California model, and Olsen claims with his Malay theory. Those who wrote the scriptural record meant what they said--not what men today claim they meant.
    None of these ideas accept the pure knowledge of Jacob, Nephi, Mormon and the others who have told us flatly that the Land of Promise was an island, and that island was in the sea over which they traveled. After all, Nephi built the ship and steered it and traveled over that sea, and Jacob, though young, was with him, and both knew they were on an island in the midst of that sea.
    This is not the opinion of the author. Any disagreement with this is not with the author—but with Jacob, who said it, Nephi who wrote it down, Mormon who abridged it, Joseph Smith who translated it, and the Spirit, which verified its accuracy.
    Consequently, to find the Land of Promise, one needs to start with what these ancient prophets wrote and told us about it, and then agree with their comments, and then look for a place that matches their information and descriptions--not just those points we agree with, but everything they wrote.
(See the next post for another of these Land of Promise factors described by Book of Mormon prophets that should help us to understand where the Land of Promise was located)


  1. Del, it seems probable that neither Jacob, nor anyone else by Jacob's time, had made an actual circumnavigation of their entire Island. One piece of evidence is that they had no knowledge of the Jaredites or Mulekites. Therefore, only divinely revealed knowledge would have been Jacob's source--either to him directly, or to Nephi and/or Lehi. As a result, the people to whom he was preaching either were taking him at his word on faith, or it was a generally accepted belief having taken Nephi or Lehi at his prophetic word. The other possibility is that they assumed they were on an island because they had reached the land by sea, ie it wasn't attached to their previously known world. In any case, it's entirely possible that Jacob was generalizing their situation based on their inherited assumptions/beliefs about their land.

    While I believe the overall evidence as presented by Mormon favors the island interpretation (and that is what believe, too), I've never been 100% comfortable with using Jacob's assertion as cold, hard fact. You've gone to great length to prove your case in this post--that we must take him at his word, but I still perceive some wiggle room for alternate interpretation.

  2. Just to follow up a bit more, I have not read most of those other theories in complete detail, so I don't know how those "theorists" explain away the island geography, if they do at all.

    I don't think that we can assume that Jacob and the Nephites knew that the Earth is a globe. We can't assume that they'd feel it necessary to search the entire coastline to verify that they were, in fact, in an island. They quite easily--maybe even naturally--could have assumed that since they had to arrive by boat, that they were on an island.

  3. If another model had overwhelming compelling evidence that it was the correct model, I could accept that the internal evidence that it was an isle of the sea was part of the imperfections of men that the BoM title page admits. But the other models fall flat on their face over and over, and this model comes through over and over. This should be the model taught at BYU.

  4. I think it's correct, too, but that doesn't mean I check my sense at the door. I'm only saying that Jacob's declaration has some tenuousness. (Is that a word?)

  5. Well.. I guess we can not believe what Jacob had to say! He was preaching to others and let them know they had been led to a better place..

    And we are upon an isle of the sea.

    And we are upon an isle of the sea.

    How would he know? If he didn't know this... Why would he say it? And why would the Lord allow this translation to process if it was wrong? Why would Mormon have not interjected here and corrected Jacob? After all.. Mormon is on the land in 400 AD? He has read all the text about the east, west, north and south seas. If it was not an isle.. do you think he would not have made the correction?

    Nephi builds a ship unlike the way men build ships. The Lord show him this. Do we think that the Lord with held this info from him on what his land of promised looked like? And to then not correct Jacob for his incorrect teaching? So all this incorrect teaching that they we're upon an isle.. And no one... Including the Spirit of God... says nothing?... Not even to Joseph Smith? How many layers of opportunity have presented itself here where if they were not upon an isle of the sea, for some one to correct it? Too many!

    Is this what you call straining at a knat?

  6. Mr. Nirom, I'll give you some more "gnats" if you'd like. But first, let's just stay chill, no need to go on the offensive. We're not meso-americanists after all.

    You make several assumptions in your own comments.

    1) First, that because the Lord showed Nephi how to builda ship, He also showed him the shape of the land of promise. The two thoughts are so completely disconnected as to almost be non-sequitur.

    2) That if Jacob were wrong, Nephi would have corrected him. But, as I stated in my earlier comments, Jacob's views no doubt came from Nephi in the first place. This objection just doesn't even make sense.

    3) That Joseph Smith would have corrected any imperfections in what the writers of the BOM wrote. That is quite a deductive leap inasmuch as I know of not one single time when Joseph corrected anything, outside of editing grammar. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that Joseph didn't really "translate" much at all--at least in the way we think of the concept of translation. As Royal Skousen has pointed out, "transmitted" is a more appropriate term. In other words, he read off the words he was given.

    4) That perhaps Mormon or Moroni would have corrected Jacob. Again, there isn't a single instance of either of them inserting themselves into the narrative of the small plates. Besides, if Jacob was "right," then why would anyone even comment upon it?

    It seems that you have misunderstood what I have written, so I encourage you to read whati wrote again, carefully. I'm not advocating against the island thesis. I think that while the BOM descriptions are consistent with an island setting, it's not a slam dunk. And that's OK, because for about a thousand other reasons SA still makes the most sense.

    I think it's important to stick to the evidence, but not exceed it. The SA case is strong enough to not need to overstep what the text definitively supports.

  7. For example, here a meso-americanist dismisses Jacob's statement about being on an island, practically out of hand. We need to be both rigorous and reasonable. Making definitive statements where alternate interpretations are possible is risky.