Monday, August 17, 2015

Have You Ever Wondered Why? – Part VI

Continuing from the previous posts in which was being discussed the directions John L. Sorenson loves to use for the Land of Promise instead of those left us by Mormon in his abridgement. 
   The final part of the previous discussion had to do with whether or not the Spirit made mistakes in acknowledging Joseph’s translation. In that, we discussed two major issues, the first of which was the direction Lehi was traveling along the Red Sea when Nephi gave us his first compass directions:
1. Lehi traveled in an area that none in the colony had ever before been—that is, Nephi did not know the directions from past experience;
A camel caravan moving along the Frankincense Trail. Note that it is merely desert and not a trail or road of any type at all. In fact, it is merely a very wide are of desert between water holes and nothing to set it apart from other desert locations
2. There were no markers and these trails were merely wide areas, in fact often several miles wide, over which camel caravans and other travelers occasionally moved—there were no posts of any kind, and except for water holes, no reason one might think it was a trail at all;
3. Nephi not only used a cardinal compass point that was accurate (south), but also an ordinal point that was accurate (southeast)—combined, he used one of the 16 winds (south southeast). Nephi knew they were traveling south-southeast, a compass direction that was totally accurate to his line of travel at the time along the coast of the Red Sea;
4. Later, when they changed direction, Nephi wrote: “And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1)—which is another accurate direction, for going eastward from the Red Sea would lead them directly to the south coast and the Arabian Sea in the area of Oman (Salalah), the beginning of the famed Frankincense Trail, and from which they later sailed.
    An additional two points should be noted here:
1) Nephi did not mention direction until after Lehi found the Liahona outside his tent the morning they planned to leave and continue their journey (1 Nephi 16:10)--which may suggest that Nephi gained his directions from the Liahona, and that being the case, he would have had the Liahona giving him directions until at least arriving at the Land of Promise, and more likely, directed him to the area he later settled, the city of Nephi and the land of Nephi. In which case, he would have known the correct directions of the promised land which, in turn, would have been known to Lehi, Sam and Zoram (and their wives) as well, and handed down to others through the years, such as Nephi II, the next king, who was probably Nephi's son.
Before mentioning the second point, let’s pursue these two scriptures and compare them with Hamblin and Sorenson’s rationale about the Egypto-Nephite language. Taking the first direction Nephi listed, that of south-southeast, a verse translated from the reformed Egyptian which, using Hamblin’s reasoning, we should interpret that Nephi was saying that they had traveled “nearly an east – eastnorth direction”.   Not only does this not make sense since there is no such direction, unless we transpose the second direction to read northeast, thus saying east-northeast. And if this was the direction, they would not be traveling along the Red Sea, but to the northeast from the area of Aqaba, heading across the desert in the direction of Baghdad. This, of course, is not only inconsistent with Lehi’s travels along the Red Sea, but would have been an impossible trek where no known waterholes existed in 600 B.C.
    As for the second scripture, which mentioned turning eastward from that point, would actually be saying “we did travel nearly northward from that time forth.” Again, this would place their course, when combined with the direction of east-northeast, back toward Jordan—a very circuitous route that would have accomplished nothing, and certainly not bring them to any ocean.
2) In the second point, we need to keep in mind how the scriptural record was translated by Joseph Smith, and how the Spirit was involved in that translation. According to Martin Harris, one of the witnesses and scribes to the Book of Mormon translation, said, “By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say "Written," and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used" (originally Deseret News, Nov. 30, 1881, later in the Millennial Star, Feb. 6, 1882, pp. 86-87—emphasis mine).
In this way, Joseph’s translation and the scribe’s transcription was verified by the Spirit, and if either were wrong, the writing remained until corrected by Joseph Smith or the Scribe. Joseph Knight, Sr., an early Church member and close friend of Joseph Smith agreed that the writing would remain if not correct (Dan Vogel’s Early Mormon Documents, Vol 4, pp 17-18)
    Now, the problem seems to settle into two points of view:
1) The Nephites used a totally different means of determining their directions, a fact that would be different from just about everyone who ever read the Book of Mormon;
2) The Spirit was involved in making sure the plates were interpreted correctly, and the writing would remain and translation could not proceed until any errors or inconsistencies were corrected, either by Joseph Smith in his translation, or by the scribe in his transcription.
    One other main factor is simply that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), and since Sorenson, Hamblin, and other Mesoamerican theorists create confusion by changing and redirecting understanding of the scriptural record, we need to know that it is not the Lord’s way. For these scholars are basically saying that the Nephite directions as used in the record are confusion unless you understand that the Nephite directions were actually different than what they said—and the only way we can truly understand those directions is to understand a most confusing transliteration of Nephite, Hebrew and Egyptian language.
Personally, I find it hard to accept that the Spirit, whose sole job regarding the Book of Mormon translation was to make sure no errors were made from the meaning of the ancient writing, would allow a totally inaccurate use of the cardinal directions so frequently used in the scriptural record, and allow a confusing meaning to be transcribed. Certainly, Joseph could have been inspired to use the correct direction, for whatever the reformed Egyptian word or symbol was for north, south, east or west, Joseph would not have known it unless the spirit brought that to his mind. So why would the spirit bring the wrong word to his mind? If it was supposed to be west, then why bring north to mind? If it was actually east, why bring south to mind, etc.?
    There is an interesting scripture found in Proverbs, which states: “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease” (Proverbs 22:10). I wonder if that might not be read: “Cast out the confuser, and confusion shall go out; yea, disagreements over the directions in the Book of Mormon shall cease."

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