Thursday, June 11, 2015

It’s the Book of Mormon, Not Verse of Mormon – Part I

In finalizing our series about Speculation regarding the Book of Mormon scriptural record, which so many theorists do, we would like to suggest to all who look for the location of the Land of Promise, it is called the Book of Mormon, not the Verse of Mormon. We do not settle on just one precept or verse in the Book of Mormon when looking for the doctrine stated there, but we rely on the entire gospel of Jesus Christ written within its pages.
    Therefore, why do we settle on one description of the Land of Promise and not all of those given us by Nephi, Mormon and Moroni/Ether, when trying to locate the Nephite lands? Of course, it is easier to work with just one verse or two to find a match to a pre-determined location for the Land of Promise—but we should be concentrating and working with all the descriptions, of which there are at least thirty-one (31) specific scriptural references of different descriptions, directions, explanations, and images.
    To base an entire concept of the Land of Promise on a single issue (or even a handful) is neither scholarly nor accurate, even though this has been done in nearly every model designed to-date by the numerous theorists.
    As stated above, it is the Book of Mormon, not the Verse of Mormon. Therefore, one verse, one idea, one description does not the Land of Promise make.
    Of course, it is easier to speculate, alter, change or twist a single verse than it is to do so with dozens of verses. As an example, the single ideas of the location of the Hill Cumorah; the direction in which the Sidon River flows; the placement of the Waters of Mormon; or the width of the Narrow Neck of Land. None of these single issues will show anyone where the Land of Promise was located, and does not provide sufficient information to make any kind of judgment about the location where the Nephite nation lived and died.
    Obviously, it is easier to take a stand on a single issue when trying to defend or prove a pre-determined model and location. Naturally, it is much more difficult to find several verses that support the same idea when that idea is not consistent with the overall scriptural record to begin with.
    Yet, far too many theorists and writers do just that about Book of Mormon geography, and base their entire model on a single issue, a single scripture, a single verse in the record. From that they develop a favorite location, or a meaningful precept or two and begin building their entire model upon it, even if there are other scriptures that show the inaccuracy of that idea. Once that is done, they then embark on proving their model correct--even if it means changing, altering, ignoring or re-translating meaning.
For some reason they lose sight of the overall subject—the Book of Mormon—and think of it as the Verse of Mormon. That is, they fail to compare other descriptions, events, and incidents, to see if their idea and interpretation, or their single verse, holds up in the face of the overall scriptural record. Or they settle on what someone said, as they themselves interpret or understand it, speaking of that land as any individual might, no matter the position they hold, whether in the Church or academically.
    We all know that there has never been an official stance from the Church, never been a revelation pertaining to that land’s location, never been a stated position of the Church or the brethren other than personal beliefs and understanding.
    As great as these modern men are, and as knowledgeable of the doctrines of the Church as they are and have been, their personal beliefs of geography pertaining to the Land of Promise are simply that—their personal beliefs. As far as we know, they have no more insights into where Lehi landed than any other dedicated soul who is trying to learn the truth—at least not officially stated.
Nephi saw the Gentile that went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of his brethren, who were in the promised land and he beheld the Spirit of God that wrought upon other Gentiles and they went forth out of captivity upon the many waters and the seed of his brethren who were scattered before the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:12-14)
    And neither they nor any of us can know more about that Land of Promise than those who wrote about it as they lived out their lives upon it, or as in the case of Nephi, saw visions of the entire history of that land, the oceans around it and the other nations as they traveled across those seas to claim their own rightful inheritance of that land.
    What we have is the entire scriptural record, taken as a whole, and not just one part of it, as Nephi, Mormon and Moroni described it to us, the latter two abridging the writings of others, as well as writing themselves from their own experiences.
    When the numerous modern theorists start out to write, most talk about the only thing, or the first or most important, that can be understood, is by following the scriptures in such a quest. However, after making such a statement, most then neglect to do just that.
    As the eminent Hugh Nibley wrote in his book “What does the Book of Mormon mean by the word ‘destroy’ in connection with the Jaredites?” He then goes on to build an entire concept for his placement of the Land of Promise among large groups of other people who, according to him, occupied the Land of Promise as the same time as the Nephites. He made his case by stating: “The word ‘destroy’ is to be taken, as are so many key words in the book (of Mormon), in its primary and original sense,” then stating the word’s original meaning: “to unbuild, to separate violently into its contsituent parts; to break up the structure.” Thus, he justifies his stance by adding, “To destroy is to break up the structure, not annihilate the parts.” As one of his justifications, he quotes Nephi: “I know that the day must shortly come that they must be destroyed, save only a few” (1 Nephi 17:43).
However, what Nibley seems to miss is that “Save only a few,” meaning except for a few, qualifies the word “destroy” and alters the meaning of the sentence—otherwise, without that qualifier, Nephi’s comment meant to annihilate, or destroy completely. Which is exactly what the word “destroy” meant in 1828 when Joseph Smith was translating Nephi’s phrase: “To ruin, to annihilate a thing by demolishing; to lay waste; to make desolate; to kill; to slay’; to extirpate; to put an end to.”
    Or, as another theorist wrote to begin his book: “Before any other type of investigation, we must establish where the Book of Mormon story took place within the western hemisphere. If it occupied all the two American continents, we should know that. If a restricted territory was the scene, then that fact is essential. To mistake the geography would involve us in a set of entrained errors that would inevitably flaw any conclusions we made. If we were not to know where, and of course when, to find our comparative data, we might as well attempt to shed light on the Book of Mormon by assuming a setting in Spain or Siberia.”
    The problem with making such an assumption to begin with is that once one starts out by choosing a place where the Book of Mormon was supposed to have taken place, no matter the reason, one then makes every attempt to prove that was the location. That can only lead to ignoring contrary data, and trying to make the scriptural descriptions fit the location. This is exactly what the author of this statement and book, John L. Sorenson (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon) did, resulting in his creating a convoluted and complex description of an entirely different compass used by the Nephites than the rest of the world uses, and establishing what Sorenson called “Nephite North,” which is almost 90º skewed to the east from our present compass heading.
    The point is, and this cannot be over-emphasized, that once a person commits himself to a point (Mesoamerica is the Land of Promise), it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for that person to back away from that belief or conviction, no matter what subsequent scriptural knowledge is acquired.
(See the next post, “It’s the Book of Mormon, Not Verse of Mormon – Part II,” to see how far afield theorists can go when they commit themselves to a pre-determined location for the land of Promise, then set about to prove it)

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