Friday, October 17, 2014

Regarding the Location of the Land of Promise

In the last two posts we have discussed Mormon’s description of the Nephite roads, and in the post before that, Jacob’s comment that the Land of Promise was an island. In both these areas, the point is that in looking for the location of the Land of Promise, there are certain descriptions within the scriptural record that would aid in that effort. In fact, there are many others, and they are not arguable factors, for the scriptural record bears witness to the fact that the Land of Promise had these characteristics, structures, or facts associated with them to which any location suggested to be the Land of Promise must now, or in the past, contain.
As an example, the roads just mentioned. One cannot claim Mormon did not write about roads that ran from city to city, from land to land, and from place to place throughout the Nephite nation (3 Nephi 6:8). Nor can one claim there would be no vestige of these roads today since the existence of ancient roads is well documented and easily seen in the Old World dating before Lehi, therefore, any location claimed to be the Land of Promise should show signs of these ancient Nephite roads.
The same is true of the earlier post about Jacob saying, and Nephi writing, that the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20). So one claiming a location today is the site of the ancient Land of Promise must show that now or in the time of the Nephites, the area was once an island. Nor can one say, as a recent comment on that post was made by a reader that “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.”
If one is going to use the scriptural record as the criteria for the understanding and descriptions of the Land of Promise, one cannot pick and choose which parts they are going to agree with and which parts they are going to reject—if that were done, then almost any place in the Western Hemisphere could be claimed for most any place can be shown to fit at least some of the descriptions mentioned in the scriptural record.
    This rejection or pick-and-choose type of thinking goes along with the idea that one is going to accept those parts of the gospel they agree with and reject those parts they do not. “I agree that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but Thomas S. Monson is not.” Or, “I think the Book of Mormon is true, but I do not believe in the Joseph Smith story.” Or, “I like the Word of Wisdom, but don’t agree with paying tithing.”
Of course, people learn to crawl before they walk, to walk before they run, etc., and one can accept parts of the gospel at first and grow into the rest as their understanding matures. But to decide that this scripture is correct and this one is not correct is not a growing process, but one of arrogant rejection. It sets a person above the prophet who wrote it. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). It would seem that what prophets write in the scriptural record is going to be more accurate than what this person or that person agrees with or disagrees with—no matter their argument or rationale.
    While reasoning and intelligence, of course, are helpful at times in understanding a scripture, it is not reason or intelligence that causes a person to flat-out disagree with a scripture. That is like John L. Sorenson who decided in his study of the scriptural record when formulating his Mesoamerican Theory that Mormon writing about cardinal directions did not mean what he said, i.e., north was not north, east was not east, etc.
     We have to keep in mind that when the Lord speaks to us, he does so in our language. In fact, Nephi made this very clear when he wrote: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (32 Nephi 31:3, emphasis mine).
Thus, it would be inconsistent for the Lord to allow Joseph Smith, through the Spirit, to translate north, south, east, and west, when they did not mean the cardinal directions we know them to be. As an example, “north” has a specific meaning in English, as does “northward,” both words used by Mormon, or translated by Joseph Smith as Mormon’s meaning—these two words do not mean “east” or “west” as Sorenson would have us believe, since Mormon writes of a north-south running Land of Promise, and Sorenson tries to get us to understand it is really an “east-west” running Land of Promise.
    The translation would also not say “island” when something else, like “peninsula” was meant, etc. Jacob said an “isle,” a word in 1828 New England English is the same word used today as “island,” and is defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as “A tract of land surrounded by water” or “a detached portion of land embosomed in the ocean.” Neither of these definitions could apply in any way to an isthmus (Mesoamerica) or a peninsula (Baja California, or Malaysia).
    Somewhere along the line, one becomes a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ; somewhere along the line, one accepts what is written in the scriptural record as it is written; somewhere along the line, one becomes a defender of the word. Until then, a person for one reason or another feels he can pick and choose what is truth from the scriptures and reject those parts that do not agree with him. Recently, a friend of mine died who had been a doctor, a faithful member of the Church, and a faithful servant; however, he had this conviction that man evolved through evolution and disliked and rejected any officer, no matter how highly placed, any writing, scripture, sermon or talk that disagreed with him on this matter.
    However, truth is truth. What is written in the scriptural record, as Peter said, is not for private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20)—that is, when Jacob says it is an “island,” it is not up to someone to decide Jacob was wrong or that he meant something else. When Mormon writes about north and northward, it is not up to someone to decide that he really meant something else, like “west” or “westward.”
    As we wrote in our post three weeks ago, “an island, that is an island, is an island.” Jacob told the Nephites that they were on an “island,” Nephi wrote down that they were on an “island,” Joseph Smith translated that they were on an “island,” and the Spirit verified the correctness of “island.” In the mouth of two or three witness the truth will be established.
As one sage said, “For though I can move my finger to point out an object, it is out of my power to open men's eyes that they may see either the fact that I am pointing, or the object at which I point.” When the scriptural record states clearly “island,” what kind of arrogance allows one to say, “I see no reason to believe that Jacob or Nephi knew they were on an island.”
    Well, to each his own.
    The point of this blog is to take scripture and show how it relates to the Land of Promise so described in that scripture. If Jacob said an island, then the writer of this blog accepts that and uses it as a criteria to locate where that Land of Promise once might have existed. When Mormon writes about a north-south oriented Land of Promise, then the writer of this blog looks for a north-south Land of Promise. When Mormon also writes about an extensive Nephite road system that went from city to city, from land to land, and from place to place, then the writer of this blog looks for somewhere where the remains of such a road system might once have existed.
    If one is not going to do that, then what is the point in the scriptural record regarding using it to support a location for where it took place?
    In the ensuing posts on the subject of descriptions about the Land of Promise made by Mormon and others in the scriptural record, we will attempt to show those points often missed or ignored by Theorists who evidently would rather promote their model than make sure it is correct and in agreement with the writings of the prophets who lived there, walked the land, fought battles there, and described parts of it or wrote about it.
    Obviously, one might think his understanding of a scripture is more correct than what is written here—and that is any reader’s option. But the point we are trying to make here is that when the scriptural record says something that is quite clear, then that description needs to be considered and understood in light of the location one chooses to place their Land of Promise within.
    If the scriptural record says an “island,” then during the Nephite era that area had to have been an island. To make light of, to disagree with, or try and change the meaning of a word or statement is within anyone’s purview, but it is neither scholarly nor honest when trying to truthfully find answers to such inquiry. If Mormon writes about an extensive road system that evidently covered most of the Land of Promise, then one would be benefited in his search to look for such remains as might be expected and history shows does exist elsewhere (numerous ancient roads in many Old World countries show that roads last a long time and should be found today where they once existed). It benefits no one for a person to try and explain away these clearly stated descriptions because they do not agree with their own model.
(See the next post about “The Amazing Mormon and His Abridgement,” for a better understanding of Mormon’s efforts to abridge the record, and then the subsequent posts that discuss what existed in Nephite times in the Land of Promise that should be considered part of any current inquiry to such a location)

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