Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
     Blog comment: The lack of early writings by Joseph is lamentable regarding many matters of Church history (and no historian would claim there are enough records about anything from any period of history). In fact, isn't the lack of historical records the very reason Cowdery wrote the letters?”
Response: First, drawing conclusions such as this is, again, unworthy of any scholarly effort. Why Oliver Cowdery (left) did or did not do something is simply conjecture—guessing, and beyond our ability at this point in time to know without a written statement by him. Secondly, Joseph Smith was careful about recording what he felt should be recorded. He went to far greater extent in recording things about what he did and was exposed to than the vast majority of important people in history. It was his efforts that led later Church leaders to record their lives more fully. On the other hand, Joseph was quoted as saying, when asked about the details of his translation, that some things were better left unsaid. Third, in asking the question “isn't the lack of historical records the very reason Cowdery wrote the letters?” about the same as asking the question, “Isn’t the lack of Joseph not naming the hill in New York the hill Cumorah reason enough to suggest that 1) he didn’t think it was, 2) he didn’t know if it was, or 3) he didn’t want to even suggest that it was.
    However, as for Joseph Smith not leaving early writings, consider the History of the Church, originally the History of Joseph Smith, was an extensive project during Joseph’s lifetime that involved 20 different scribes writing down Joseph’s dictated life and his actions and involvements from 1829 to his death in 1844, though Volume 1 begins with Joseph Smith's birth in December 1805 and a brief recitation of his genealogy, with the first major event covered by the history being the First Vision, which dates to the spring of 1820, and continues on until 1833, with Volume 2 beginning in 1834, and Volume 6 ending in 1844.
    From 1844-1854, Apostle Willard Richards, who had scribed 4 years before that working with Joseph Smith, then from 1854 to 1856, Apostle George A. Smith edited the work. After Joseph’s death, apostle Wilford Woodruff’s extensive journal entries (he wrote in his journey ever day of his life beginning in 1835) were made available to verify and check dates and clarify statements made by Joseph Smith. When completed, President Brigham Young read the entire work and had it published under the title History of Joseph Smith. Most of the material that resulted in the work had been originally published in serial form over a 25-year period in Times and Seasons, the Deseret News, or the Millennial Star.
Top Left: 7 Volumes History of Joseph Smith; Top Right: Wilford Woodruff’s Journals; Bottom: Joseph Smith’s Journals
    It covers seven volumes, the first six attributed to Joseph during his lifetime (through June 1844), and the seventh volume is that period after his death and sometimes referred to as the “apostolic interregnum” of the Church. The point is, one could hardly find a more complete set of history of the development of a Church and the people involved as can be found among the LDS.
    Blog comment: “Consider again Cowdery's introduction to the letters (M&A Oct. 1834) and think about whether this sounds like he intended to promote unfounded traditions: "That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. SMITH jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints. To do justice to this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask the forbearance of our readers, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts."
    Response: This was the introduction to the publication of the letters Oliver Cowdery wrote. They were not written by Joseph Smith, and we have no way of knowing from this and what else has been written that Joseph played any significant or even active roll in correcting or in proof-reading them. On the other hand, as mentioned in the previous post, Oliver’s connection in his letters between the hill Cumorah in New York being the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is strictly his own belief and is not supported by anything Joseph Smith ever wrote or said that was written down. Then, too, we do not know to what extend Joseph was involved in the M&A messages and Cowdery’s letters, being as busy a man as he was at the time. On the other hand, we cannot derive from anything Joseph wrote that he had any opinion at all of these two hills being the same.
    Blog comment: “The evidence we have shows David Whitmer learning about the word Cumorah before he even knew what it meant. There is no evidence of a "communal interpretation of history" that, independent of Joseph and Oliver, made the connection to the New York Cumorah”
Response: What David Whitemer believed from this experience is not stated. That he heard the term Cumorah for the first time is noteworthy, but does not equate to his thinking the two hills were the same. At this point we might want to clarify something. When the Whitmers and Joseph Smith encountered Moroni on the road, he was carrying the plates not toward Cumorah, but to where Joseph was going so Joseph could continue with his translation.
    In fact, this was in the spring of 1829, and while residing at Harmony, Pennsylvania, Joseph was invited to be a guest in the Peter Whitmer home in Fayette Township, Seneca County, New York, where he hoped to finish the translation. But he was concerned about safely transporting the plates that considerable distance—150 miles. The Lord told Joseph that an angel would call for them to transport them.
    Many years later, David Whitmer told Elder Joseph F. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve about his wagon trip to Fayette with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. As they traveled across a section of prairie, they came upon a man walking along the road, carrying something that was obviously heavy in a knapsack on his back. Invited to ride, the man replied, “No, I am going to Cumorah.” Puzzled, David looked around inquiringly toward Joseph, but when he turned again to look at the man, he was gone. David demanded of Joseph: “‘What does it mean?” Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer’s home” in Fayette (Andrew Jenson, ed., The Historical Record, vol. 6, May 1887, pp. 207–9.) (From Church website, written by H. Doni Peterson, January 1992).
 Joseph Smith, the Whitmers and Oliver Cowdery were in Harmony, Pennsylvania and were traveling northeast for 150 miles to Fayette, New York; the Hill Cumorah is 30 miles to the Northwest beyond Fayette and is neither on a direct course from Harmony nor on the way to Fayette—there is no reason to assume Moroni was heading toward the hill Cumorah in New York since he was taking the plates to Fayette to deliver to Joseph Smith when the latter reached there
    The question I would ask is: why would Moroni, when he was going to Fayette with the plates to deliver them to Joseph so he could continue his translation, say he was going to Cumorah? Obviously, according to Joseph Smith, he was going to Fayette, but there is no reason to assume he was going to the hill Cumorah since Joseph said he was going to deliver them to him in Fayette. Thus, we might conclude 1) David Whitmer’s memory was a little faulty, or 2) Cumorah meant something else to Moroni than the hill in upstate New York.
    Blog comment: “If Moroni had not tutored Joseph or mentioned the name to David Whitmer, and if Joseph never had any revelation about the Nephites, then everyone would be on an equal basis, interpreting the text however they want.”
    Response: First of all, the scriptural record is not open to personal or private interpretation. Nobody is free to interpret the scriptures how they want. Second, assuming 58 years later, David Whitmer recalled Moroni’s comments correctly, we still have no reason to believe that Moroni was talking about Cumorah in regard to meaning the hill Cumorah in upstate New York. Unless, of course, Moroni meant he was traveling to the hill Cumorah where he was going to sit and wait until Joseph reached the area by buggy, a trip of at least four to five days, then travel over to Fayette to deliver the plates to him, 30 miles away. Obviously, Morini had to have meant something other than he was traveling to the hill Cumorah in upstate western New York.
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part VIII,” 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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