Sunday, December 27, 2015

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

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment: “Of course we have no evidence of how Joseph might have used the term verbally; written records reflect a small percentage of contemporaneous oral communication. The Book of Mormon itself tells less than one percent of the history of the people. That is why Oliver's detailed letters are so significant, not only regarding the New York Cumorah issue but many other issues of Church history.”
Response: First, to keep referring to Oliver Cowdery’s letters as though they are sacred scripture is, again, foolhardy and unscholarlythey are letters and they are opinions. Some, of course, are informational, but again they are ideas of Oliver Cowdery, not dictated to him by the Spirit. Secondly, whatever Joseph might have said is irrelevant heresince we have no idea what they might have been—what he wrote in his history of these events is critically important. Joseph was often quoted as saying what he said as a man was often stated out of context as though he had spoken as a Prophet and that he was very careful what he discussed verbally. But what Joseph wrote he knew would be interpreted in one way only and that might be why he did not write about the hill in New York as being named Cumorah but only as “the hill where the plates were buried.”
    Blog comment: “Gardner is not telling his readers about the historical evidence, but he is telling them that JFS relied on weak data? Gardner is not even informing his readers about Cowdery's letters, which JFS quoted at length?”
    Response: It might be of interest to note what exactly is involved in Oliver Cowdery’s letters that he wrote to Joseph Smith as well as those he wrote to W.W. Phelps. For the most part, they are not about the hill Cumorah. In fact, the eight letters written to Phelps, only a portion of the letter #7 had to do with Cumorah, all the rest were on different subjects. And the ones written to Joseph Smith, which began in late 1829 when Joseph wrote to Cowdery on October 22, about his returning to Harmony from Palmyra, saying in part, “Two of our most formadable persacutors,” he wrote, “are now under censure and are cited to a tryal in [a local Christian] church for crimes which if true are worse than all the Gold Book business.” Oliver replied by letter on November 6, 1829, and his December 28th letter, with comments about Joseph’s doing well and that “We rejoice the most to learn of your faithfulness in christ my dear Brother.” Both letters and others were about keeping from sin and believing in Christ the Lord.
    The typical morphology of conversion consisted of “awakening” to a sense of one’s sinfulness, and central to this spiritual evolution for Christians generally and Cowdery specifically was an emphasis on unmerited redemption. Also noteworthy in Cowdery’s letter is the way in which he employed phrases from the unpublished manuscript of Book of Mormon to give voice to these classic Christian sentiments. He wrote that the Lord “from all Eternity [prepared] a means whereby man could be saved on conditions of repentance.” Similarly, Cowdery commented that salvation requires “faith on that infinite attonement whic was to be mad[e] by a great and last sacrifice,” because “he has redeemed my soul from endless torment and wo” and from the “awful gulf” also reflects Book of Mormon language, and Cowdery’s notes in a postscript at the end of his letter that, “I have just got to alma commandment to his son in copying the manuscript.”
He also wrote about his own mission, his love for the Lord, and that “my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy,” noting that “Sanctification, as Cowdery knew and yearned to experience, was as a gradual and lifelong process,” and adding, “writing to us for we have not heard any thing from you since we left you last fall” Later in the letter, he added, “I have but a short time to write to you my bloved Bretheren as the mail leves thi[s] place in morni the morning I wish some of you to write me immediately a full letter of all your affairs and then I will write to you the situation of all the western tribes.” (Oliver Cowdery to Joseph Smith, January 29, 1831, as copied into Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith, March 3, 1831, Joseph Smith Papers, Church History Library).
The Evening and the Morning Star was published every month at Independence, Jackson County Missouri by William Wines Phelps. Oliver Cowdery’s letters to W. W. Phelps was in connection with this paper
    The point of all this is that Oliver’s letters to Joseph Smith and Joseph’s to Oliver had nothing to do with anything about the geography of the Book of Mormon and the Land of Promise.
That comment appeared only in one paragraph of his 7th letter to W.W. Phelps, along with a long, fancilful and poetic writing of the last battle of the Nephites and Lamanites, which was totally an invention of Cowdery, since nothing whatever is written in the scriptural record about the details of that battle.
    The idea that the blog author continues to refer to these letters and Joseph Smith’s involvement in them creates the idea that they were all or mostly about the geography and Joseph and Oliver’s agreement that the two Cumorahs were the same—which is not the case at allno such thing is ever mentioned by Joseph Smith.
    Blog comment: “I will have a separate post to focus on David Whitmer to show people how strong of a witness David Whitmer is.
    Response: David Whitmer’s case of being a whitness has to do with one conversation with Moroni in which Moroni merely states he was on his way to Cumorah, according to Whitmere, when in reality, according to Joseph Smith, he was on his way to Fayette with the plates to deliver them to Joseph when he arrived so the prophet could continue with the translation.
    Blog comment: “When you see Mesoamericanists trying to undermine the credibility of one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, doesn't it make you wonder what they're up to?”
Response: Since the blog author is placing so much emphasis on David Whitmer, it should be recognized that his testimony is not a solid issue. Take for instance his comment in his Address to All Believers in Christ, page 27, "If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to 'separate myself from among the Latter-day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so should it be done unto them.' In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness. I had been striving with them for a long time to show them the errors into which they were drifting, and for my labors I received only persecutions."
    This was received in 1838, meaning Whitmer claims God told him since that time, the Mormon church has "gone deep into error and blindness." In 1887, David Whitmer wrote: “which included a belief that Joseph was a fallen prophet, and that the Doctrine and Covenants contained false revelations." He states, "I have proof to verify my statement. If anyone chooses to doubt my word, let them come to my home in Richmond and be satisfied." He goes on to say: “Now, in 1849, the Lord saw fit to manifest unto John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself nearly all the remaining error in doctrine into which we had been led by the heads of the old church. We were shown that the Book of Doctrine and Covenants contained many doctrines of error, and that it must be laid aside.” It is also claimed that Joseph Smith himself said, "Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them" (Smith 1902, 3:232).
    My point is not in disparaging David Whitmer, nor Oliver Cowdery earlier, but in pointing out that the article on the blog in question hammers away at who he is criticizing for not telling the entire story—so it should be said, neither does he. And the entire story is more than he admits, himself, and is certainly not an issue about geography surrounding the hill Cumorah accept in one letter and only briefly, and quite fanciful in its entirely.
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XII,” 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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