Monday, December 21, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part VI

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment: “Proponents of a North America (labeled Heartland for ease of reference) setting claim the modern name was given by divine messengers, and Joseph Smith’s mention of Cumorah in D&C 127.”
    Response: One divine messenger was the Angel Moroni, who told Joseph Smith: “there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account “of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang” (Joseph Smith-History 1:34).
Map showing North and South America as one continent, a fact of history and geography books up into the mid 20th century
    We have already spent time on this in this series that the word and term “continent” in the 1820s (and until World War II) included both North and South Americas. Both were called the American continent (Gibbes 1850), a fact that existed well into the 19th century (Martin W. Lewis, Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 30).
    Martin Waldseemuller, a map maker in 1507 wrote: “But now these parts (Europe, Asia and Africa, the three continents of the Ptolemaic geography) have been extensively explored and a fourth part has been discovered by Americus Vespuccius, I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part after Americus, who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, and so to name it Amerige, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women.”
    In the beginning, what is now North and South America were simply called America, or the American continent. When he unveiled his 4’x8’ map, Waldseemuller had the large title “America” across what is now present day Brazil. In 1538, the famous geographer Gerard Mercator chose to name the entire north and south parts of America as one large “America” for the entire Western Hemisphere. And thus it stayed until around the Second World War, when United States map makers began separating the name into North America and South America. Even so, most of Latin America, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean islands, and South America still refer to both north and south as one continent, the “American Continent,” and call themselves “Americans.”
Joseph Smith knew the Western Hemisphere as one continent, and the angel Moroni addressed himself to Joseph’s level of knowledge and understanding, calling the Land of Promise residents on “this continent,” meaning both North and South America (and Central America as well).
    Blog comment: [It was also on] “revelation, based on 1) an experience related by David Whitmer, 2) Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII that describes in detail the last battles and declares the setting in New York is a fact, and 3) Joseph Smith's endorsement of Cowdery's letter.”
    Response: First of all, the Book of Mormon scriptural record tell us only that “And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them. And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers” (Mormon 6:6-7); though Mormon chose to use 72 words to describe this moment, Oliver Cowdery writes 3,738 words to describe what took place in a very fanciful, poetic manner, choosing to describe attitudes and events of which we have no specific knowledge. He also takes another 361 words to describe this area as being the same as that of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the scriptural record—4,099 words in all to which he writes completely from his own ideas and beliefs—none of which are found in the scriptural record, or can be verified by any other writing. Nor is there any record that Joseph Smith agreed with that which was written by Oliver Cowdery. Secondly, it must be said that the description of the battle he spends considerable time writing about is strictly fiction, i.e., there is no reference to anything he writes in the scriptural record other than the two verses mentioned above.
    His words are general descriptions of war and the conditions and attitudes, feelings and fears that would be consistent with the encounter, but not referenced in any way in the scriptural record other than two general verses. Nor can his description of the Hill Cumorah in New York meet any criteria of the hill mentioned in the scriptural record. All that can be said is that Oliver Cowdery wrote down his own opinion and view of this point.
Third, when the author of the blog writes: “2) Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII that describes in detail the last battles and declares the setting in New York is a fact, and 3) Joseph Smith's endorsement of Cowdery's letter,” two of his three sources for his placement of the hill Cumorah in upstate New York, it can only be verified that Oliver Cowdery’s opinion is merely his opinion without any corroborating evidence that Joseph Smith agreed or even read what Cowdery had written.
    Fourth, with his third point that of the story told by Peter Whitmer, based on the earlier comments written above regarding that incident, there is not a single reference or even suggestion that can be claimed to suggest that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the Hill Cumorah in the scriptural record beyond one person’s viewpoint.
    Blog comment: “On this point, we should ask what the Three Witnesses were witnesses of. They say they were commanded to "bear record of it," meaning "the work." Oliver's letters to W.W. Phelps, including Letter VII, were part of his testimony about the early events in Church history, including the coming forth and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. (Rejecting his letters, in my view, is rejecting his testimony).” 
    Response: Point out that Oliver Cowdery’s testimony of his opinion that is not based on verifiable revelation does not mean a rejection of Oliver Cowdery, nor his belief in the things he saw and did in scribing the translation the Book of Mormon, only his opinion on this matter of the hill Cumorah. As one reader of this person’s blog regarding this issue said, “Without some reasonable evidence that anyone claimed revelation on the matter, all you have is simple presumption based on your preferred theory.
It should also be pointed out that David Whitmer said of Oliver Cowdery (left), who  both saw the plates, that upon his death, which was not in Utah, but in Whitmer’s home on March 3, 1850: “Oliver died believing as I do today," which included a belief that Joseph was a fallen prophet, and that the Doctrine and Covenants contained false revelations. His sister is claimed to have said that Oliver, when at Council Bluffs, previous to his death, expressed, in her presence his regret and sorrow over the base doctrines and corrupt practices of the Brighamite leaders. (Tanner 1968, 28)
    So when Oliver also said that his letters, from which this above quote is obtained, is based on fact. What fact? If he knew something we do not, other than his mere opinion, he does not say nor imply that he does. Accepting the fact that he believed the two hills were the same, he simply has made up his mind from the data he was exposed to, that the hill Cumorah in upstate New York was the same as the hill Cumorah mentioned in the scriptural record. That is his opinion and he is free to express it and believe it. In the early days of the Church, this was not an uncommon thought, since the presence of the drumlin hill, so named by members of the Church, was the one and only hill Cumorah.
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part VII,” for answers as to where the overall Land of Promise is located and to what land the Prophets have spoken and the Lord indicated)

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