Friday, December 19, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part IX

These are more comments that we have received from readers of this website blog:
    Comment #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” Elbeau.
    Response: It is interesting that the word peninsula comes from the Latin pæninsua (pæne “almost) and insula “island), which literally means “almost an island,” yet that term was not used by Joseph Smith in his translation, nor by the Spirit’s promptings.
    You might be interested to know that in ancient Hebrew, the word “island” did not exist. The word used was “i” and pronounced “ee” that meant “coastlands,” and could also mean “coast, border, region, country in the sea, coast-land,
    Many Bible translators use the word “coastland” where the King James version uses “isle” such as in Genesis 10:5; Esther 10:1; Isaiah 20:6, 23:2; 23:6; 24:15; 401:1; 41:5; 42:4; 42:12; 51:5; 59:18; 60:9; 66:19; Jeremiah 2:10; 25:22; 31:10—though they both used “islands” in Psalm 72:10; 97:1; Isaiah 11:11; 40:15; 42:10; 49:1—but used “coastland” where King James version uses “country” in Jeremiah 47:4.
It is interesting that Jacob and Nephi both understood their Land of Promise beyond what we might think. Why would Jacob and Nephi 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.
    Comment #2: “In your opinion, what is the strength of the South American movement compared to the Mesoamerican movement? Or, put another way, are SA followers growing, shrinking, or just holding serve? I don't think I can stomach one more inane paper or post touting MESO. UGH….They are really holding BOM geographical studies hostage. Setting it back decades, really” Sam P.
Response: I think that South America (left) is becoming more known than it ever has been in regard to being the Land of Promise—our blog is growing in numbers of followers and the hits on the site are steadily increasing—but it is still just a drop in the bucket. Mesoamerica, because of the ruins there (and in far better shape than so many in South America) which people see and stop thinking about anything else. Also, Latter-day Saints from the very beginning wanted evidence of Nephite existence in the Western Hemisphere and Mesoamerica answered that need and few, if any, looked beyond that—they just jumped on the bandwagon and felt good that proof existed. Those that did look into scriptural references had to find ways to make the scriptures adjust to that thinking, and some of those, like Sorenson, did so with no regard to the scriptures at all (I think that professors are so used to having 18-20 year-olds lap up everything they say without questioning anything that they get in the habit of thinking that whatever they say or think is accurate). As an aside, it would not surprise me if the Lord did not want a mass movement within the Church toward South America thinking simply because of the renewed attacks from critics who would then have a whole new area to fuel their criticisms, but that’s just my thought on the matter. As for Mesoamerica Theorists setting back Land of Promise research decades, I couldn’t agree more! I think the Church and the Book of Mormon are not well served by all this fodder for the critics these so-called Land of Promise Theorists keep coming up with that are far afield from the actual scriptural record. 
    Comment #3: “If science was right all along about the dominant Siberian ancestry of American Indians, are they also right about the timing of their entry? There is abundant evidence, some now coming from the DNA research, that their [American Indian] Siberian ancestors arrived over 12,000 years ago. How does such a date fit with other LDS beliefs?" Trevor F.
Response: Three points: 1) Science has yet to be “right all along,” in almost any category of archaeology, anthropology, settlement patterns, etc. We have written numerous times about this (see the book Scientific Fallacies & Other Myths). 2) DNA research is again and again shown to be inaccurate and has to be changed, updated, etc., as new and larger samples become available to scientific study (see earlier blog series “DNA and the American Indian – Parts I & II,” March 1, 2, 2013; “Comments from out DNA Series – Parts 1-4,”April 24-27, 2013); 3) Since there was a Great Flood that engulfed the entire planet, dated by information the Lord dictated to Moses, in 2344 B.C., about 4350 years ago, nothing that took place prior to that time is of any value to anything since in regard to records, movement, settlements, migratory patterns, etc. Not even DNA, since everyone on the planet came through Noah and his wife, basically with their DNA, which all came from Canaan through Mesopotamia (with the addition of Ham’s wife somewhere in that vicinity, and the other two wives). These three points, then, make science and science’s claim not only wrong, but irrelevant.
    Comment #4: “What do you think of John L. Sorenson's astute comments that any attempt to identify the New World setting for the Book of Mormon should be driven by relevant criteria. He says: “Our first task is to analyze from the text [the Book of Mormon] the key characteristics of the lands described. This will produce a set of requirements. Any area in the Americas proposed as the location of Book of Mormon events must match these criteria or else be judged mistaken” Johnny H.
    Response: I think that is a great idea. So why don’t we start with:
    1. Jacob’s comment regarding their new home in the Land of Promise when he says: “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);
2. Nephi’s comment that: “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24)—with the thought in mind that seeds from Jerusalem (Mediterranean climate) would not grow in Mesoamerica (tropical and sub-tropical climate);
    3. Ether’s words when he said of the Jaredites: “and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work” (Ether 10:23), which would have been around 1500 B.C. or earlier, yet metallurgy was not found to exist in Mesoamerica until long after both the Jaredites and Nephites were gone. “The emergence of Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica occurred relatively late in the region's history, with distinctive works of metal apparent in West Mexico by roughly AD 800, and perhaps as early as AD 600” (Dorothy Hosler, “Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy: South and Central American Origins and West Mexican Transformations,” American Anthropologist 90, 1988, pp 832-855)
    4. Mormon’s description of “the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west…” The two seas in Mesoamerica are to the north (Gulf of Mexico) and the south (Pacific Ocean).
    “…and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west…” The land ran north and south, with the two seas to the east and west, with the narrow strip of wilderness dividing the land north and south.
    “… and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla…” The Land of Zarahemla was to the north of the Land of Nephi.
    “…thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided” (Alma 22:27).
“The Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful” (Alma 22:29). That is, Zarahemla was north of the Land of Nephi, and Bountiful was north of the Land of Zarahemla. However, in Mesoamerica, the Land of Zarahemla is the west of the Land of Nephi; and the Land of Bountiful is to the west of the Land of Zarahemla.
    Many more examples could be added here, but the point is, if Sorenson wants to make “any attempt to identify the New World setting for the Book of Mormon should be driven by relevant criteria,” such criteria would be what Nephi, Jacob, Ether and Mormon had to say, which Sorenson ignores at every turn. In addition, Sorenson also says: “Our first task is to analyze from the text [the Book of Mormon] the key characteristics of the lands described,” which he fails to do at every turn. Evidently, with Sorenson, words mean only what he chooses them to mean, à la Lewis Carroll who penned: “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

1 comment:

  1. Del,

    You assert that Joseph's translation was not word for word, but understanding for understanding. Furthermore, you claim that the spirit confirmed "isle" to Joseph. Thanks to the critical text project completed by Royal Skousen, we now know that the majority, if not nearly all, of the BOM actually WAS given to Joseph word for word. The old notion that D&C 9's admonition to "study it out in your mind" then ask and get an answer via the burning bosom is the method Joseph used to translate is wrong. In other words, D&C 9 is misapplied as it relates to the translation of the BOM.

    In other words, if Nephi and Jacob wrote "isle," but were mistaken (which remains a possibility because prophets aren't prefect and infallible), then Joseph still would have translated it to isle, because there was strict control of the text being given to Joseph.

    The "X" factor is that we don't ant transparency into the actual dynamics and mechanisms of how the translation was accomplished/transacted via the unseen realms. Was there any editing done? Were Mormon and Moroni involved? Was it directly from the Mind of God? Is there a celestial database with translation capabilities programmed into it and seer stones are portable terminals? Etc. All unknowns.

    But the bottom line is that it says isles in English, and barring an error in understanding by Jacob and Nephi, it was an isle.

    My $0.03.