Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment regarding the name Cumorah: ”[While some say, the association of names and events was made and became so entrenched in the Saints’ understanding that it is difficult to separate the historical data from the communal story]…How difficult is it? There are a finite number of historical accounts, and all the known ones have been compiled and examined, as Gardner has done. There is room for further examination of the entire historical record, which Gardner has not done, but that's not a question of separation; it's a question of research and analysis. What’s to separate?]”
    Response: First, the blog author is referring to Brant Anderson Gardner, a BYU graduate, Masters in Anthropology from SUNY and worked on a Ph.D there in Mesoamerican ethnohistory. He is also an author of many books on the subject of Mesoamerica, and a frequent FARMS reviewer of other theories about the Land of Promise other than Mesoamerica, to which he obviously subscribes. Second, sometimes, when one is defending his position, such as the blog author, it becomes so narrow in his thinking he neglects to understand the reality of an argument, even if he disagrees with it.
Drawings like these were circulated around the Church and in Church Magazines for several years before a clarification appeared recently
    Take, for instance, that for as long as Church members have been talking about and discussing the translation of the plates, the vast majority of members have firmly believed that it was done with Joseph Smith looking at the plates through the Urim and Thumim and reading off the words to a scribe. This is probably due, at least in part, to the many pictures that circulated over the years in Church magazines, Primary and other class discussions, Library pictures, etc., of the translation process. When the Church published the seer stone recently and how the record was actually translated, with Joseph Smith looking into a hat at the stone and holding it around his head to block out the light so he could see the spiritual light, it came as quite a shock to most LDS members. Why would we not think that the hill in New York where the plates were found, which was called “Cumorah” by early members because the plates had been buried there become a iconic name and not necessarily a factual name of the Book of Mormon location? To ignore this point is to ignore history and the very nature of people.
Church Historian Steven E. Snow held press conference to announce the New Joseph Smith Papers volume in which the seer stone was introduced; (Right) Snow being interviewed after the press conference
    Blog comment: “It also might be of interest to know what a seer is, and what it meant at the time of Joseph and his contemporaries.”
    Response: Joseph Smith was raised in a family that read the Bible at a time in America when the Bible was one of the few books found in every home and was considered precious on the western frontier where books were hard to obtain and readily traded. In the Bible, which mentions seers repeatedly, it states “Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer” (1 Samuel 9:9).
    Consider the spiritual manifestation of the Children of Israel when they were told if they looked upon the pole Moses held, they would not die from being bitten by the poisonous snakes (Numbers 21:7-9; John 3:14-15)—a symbol, by the way, that became the widespread icon of the medical profession
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14,15)
    Iconic ideas come from events, knowledge, or beliefs, and over then years the Church members believed the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph looking at the plates and reading off, through the Urim and Thumim showed him and the scribe wrote it down. However, in reality, as was announced recently on August 4, 2015, and in somewhat greater detail, Joseph either did not even have the plates in the same room with him at the time he was translating, or the plates were shielded from view, such as by being covered with a linen cloth.
In fact, Oliver Cowdery stated that he did not see the plates until after the translation was finished. The process as all Joseph’s scribes have testified, was that he used a seer stone placed in a hat and then placed the hat brim around his face to block out the light so he could see the words displayed on the seer stone, which he then read off to the scribe to write down. This is a perfect example of what some claim happened in the early days of the Church as the term “Hill Cumorah” got started. The term certainly cannot be traced to Joseph Smith.
    Thus, the association of names, or in this case methods, easily caused a lack of “separation of the historical data from the communal story,” which, by the way has been a very common practice and occurrence throughout history.
    Blog comment: “In my view, the only "essential requirement" is that the historical events match the description in the text.”
    Response: The essential requirement is that the knowledge to make the separation is available and known, and that the one interpreting or compiling the information not have a personal axe to grind or a viewpoint he is promoting or selling and thus trying to skew the obvious meanings and understadnings.
    Blog comment referring to the hill Cumorah in New York: I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveller as he passes by."
The small, drumlin hill in New York known as the hill Cumorah. Before the Saints so named it, the hillock was so unremarkable it did not even have a name, and without the Church light poles and paraphernalia on it, would not even likely be noticed—when we drove by it four years ago, it was obvious it was there because of all the signs, but otherwise would not have stood out without being known
    Response: While it is true that this hill is obvious in the area because the entire land around it is as flat as land can be and this small hill does stick up and is noticeable; it is very unremarkable and would not be considered of any interest or a point of terrain of any import unless one knew the plates had been found there and it was the area of the Church today. In addition, it can hardly be said that it attracts the notice of passers by since without signs to point the way, it is very difficult to locate even when you are looking for it.
    Blog Comment: “It is a strategic location, because from the top you have a view in all directions. You can see Rochester, for example, which is about 25 miles away.”
    Response: First of all, 25 miles to Rochester (505’ elevation) as the crow flies from Palmyra (480’ elevation), we have a 25’ elevation difference, i.e., you are looking uphill. Cumorah is 130 feet high. Based on the geometric principles, at 136 feet in height, you can see 13.6 miles to the horizon, so a 6’ person standing on top of the hill Cumorah, at its highest point, could see about 13.6 miles and could not possibly see Rochester, 25 miles away.
Note the shape of the hill, tallest at one end and dropping to almost nothing at the other end, thus only for a very small place on the point of the hill is it 130’ high
    Based on the geometric principles, and considering the difference in elevation of 25 feet, plus the height of a 6’ person; that brings the height of 130 feet to 161 feet, which means the elevation point is 14.9 miles away, or you can see the horizon from the top of the highest point on the New York hill Cumorah from 14.9 miles away. Considering that the hill Cumorah is a drumlin, meaning its highest at the northern point and lowest at the southern point (see diagram above), the middle of the hill Cumorah in New York is approximately 65’ high—add the 31 feet different (6’ person and 25’ elevation between sites)—and you have a total height of 96’, which means you can see the horizon 11.7 miles away and not beyond.
    If Rochester is 25 miles away, you could not see it from the hill Cumorah since you could not see past the horizon, which would be about Fairport, New York, from the middle of the hill Cumorah and not past (in Book of Mormon times there were no skyscrapers, tall city buildings, etc). If you are standing on the highest point of the hill you could not see past the horizon 15 miles away or not past East Rochester, New York (10 miles short of Rochester).
    So much for seeing Rochester from the hill Cumorah (I have been there and your vision is quite limited to within a couple of miles from almost any point on the hill—there are trees and because of it being a drumlin, your vision is obscured by the changing height of the hill—to see around the hill, you would have to be at the highest point of the hill, i.e., the northern end). By way of example, a 3000 feet high elevation would give you about 65 miles to the horizon—you would have to be at about 370 feet to see 25 miles!
Looking out from a helicopter view about the hill Cumorah in New York, at about 350’ elevation, you can see a horizon about 23 miles; however, note the obscurity of seeing bodies lying on the ground because of trees, shape of hill, etc.
    In order to see the vision Mormon describes, you would have to be a lot higher than on this hill, and with an open, unobscured view from the hill and of the land about it, something the hill Cumorah in New York simply does not provide.
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part IX,” 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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