Tuesday, December 29, 2015

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

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 Oliver Cowdery’s self-proclaimed letters as the source of the author of that blog claiming, “Founded upon facts," he wrote. Not speculation or popular tradition.”
    Response: It cannot be said that Oliver Cowdery’s opinion is founded only on fact. Neither Oliver or the blog author have presented any facts on the matter, only Oliver’s opinion and despite a claim to the contrary by him, Joseph Smith did not back up Oliver’s assertion about the hill Cumorah in any written matter.
    Blog Comment: “The idea of Moroni carrying only his abridgment thousands of miles defies what Joseph, Cowdery and David Whitmer said about the additional plates and artifacts they saw in New York. To accept the Mesoamerican setting, one must set aside all the historical accounts and embrace pure speculation instead.”
    Response: The blog author is referring to the so-called Cumorah Cave, which has been described as a room within the hill Cumorah in New York state. In fact, there are at least ten second-hand accounts describing the story of a cave in Cumorah, however, according to Cameron J. Packer (in “Cumorah’s Cave”) Joseph Smith himself did not record the incident (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13/1 (2004), pp 50–57).

The Hill Cumorah in upstate western New York. It is such a gradual incline to a short height that it is hardly remarkable and noticeable when approaching it from any angle except the north
    The reason Joseph did not was probably because as a drumlin, the hill Cumorah in New York is simply a pile of gravel scraped together by an ancient glacier. Thus the geologic properties of the hill would make a cave technically impossible because the hill is nothing more than a moraine laid down anciently by a glacier in motion, and is comprised of gravel and earth. Therefore, geologically, it is impossible for the hill to have a cave, and all those who have gone in search of the cave have come back empty-handed.
    Based on Nephi’s experience, “I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot” (1 Nephi 11:1), undoubtedly what was seen by those who recorded a cave, were likely seeing a type of vision.
    The story of the cave full of plates inside the Hill Cumorah in New York is often given as evidence that it is, indeed, the hill where Mormon hid the plates. Yorgason quotes one version of the story from Brigham Young and alludes to six others collected by Paul T. Smith. Unfortunately, none of the accounts is firsthand.
    Given that the angel Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously, it is not unreasonable to assume that he was capable of transporting them to a different location than the hill in New York. As Tvedtnes asks, "If they could truly be moved about, why not from Mexico, for example? (John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon by Brenton G. Yorgason," FARMS Review of Books 2/1, 1990, pp 258–259).
    Oliver states that when Joseph and he went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls (Brigham Young, "Trying to be Saints,” June 17, 1877, Journal of Discourses 19:38).
(Heber C. Kimball stated in 1856, “How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those re- cords this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments” (Journal of Discourses, 28 September 1856). In fact, according to Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball President [Heber C.] Kimball talked familiarly to the brethren about Father Smith, [Oliver] Cowdery, and others walking into the hill Cumorah and seeing records upon records piled upon table[s,] they walked from cell to cell and saw the records that were piled up.” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 5 May 1867).
    President Young said in relation to Joseph Smith returning the Plates of the Book of Mormon that he did not return them to the box from which he had received them, but he went into a cave in the hill Cumorah with Oliver Cowdery and deposited those plates upon a table or shelf.
In that room were deposited a large amount of gold plates Containing sacred records and when they first visited that Room the sword of Laban was hanging upon the wall and when they last visited it the sword was drawn from the scabbard and laid upon a table and a Messenger who was the keeper of the room informed them that that sword would never be returned to its scabbard until the Kingdom of God was established upon the Earth and until it reigned triumphant over every enemy. Joseph Smith said that Cave contained tons of choice treasures and records (Wilford Woodruff journal, 11 December 1869).
    “Brigham Young said that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before…It was about fifteen feet high and round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure. In the centre was a large stone table empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which lay scattered on the floor beneath. Formerly the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of Righteousness was upon the earth” (Elizabeth Kane Journal, 15 January 1873).
    Speaking of Brigham Young, Jesse Nathaniel Smith stated in 1874, “I heard him at an evening meeting in Cedar City describe an apartment in the Hill Cumorah that some of the brethren had been permitted to enter. He said there was great wealth in the room in sacred implements, vestments, arms, precious metals and precious stones, more than a six-mule team could draw” (Jesse Nathaniel Smith Journal, February 1874).
    Brigham Young also said, “I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting…[Don] Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader” (Journal of Discourses, 17 June 1877). Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet, 1877, tells a similar story, as does David Whitmer, s mentioned earl, 16 August 1878, in an interview with P. Wilhelm Poulson; as did Orson Pratt, in The Contributor, September 1882.
Certainly, sufficient evidence suggests that to certain early Church leaders, including Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, knowledge of a cave associated with the New York hill Cumorah opened before them and allowed them entrance. However, that this was an actual cave within the hill is simply not likely because of the makeup of that hill. The likelihood of it being some type of vision that opened before them as many early Saints, including Nephi as stated earlier and Joseph as he recorded many times, the point is the fact that a cave appeared in an area where caves cannot exist naturally, suggests that the actual appearance was of an object elsewhere that was brought to light within the existence of those present at the time.
    This in no way diminishes the existence and reality of the cave and its occupants, only that its actual physical existence was not within the hill Cumorah itself, no more than the numerous host of eminent spirits associated with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution appeared in a physical room in the St. George Temple that could not possibly have held their number.
In that event, the room opened up to a vision that Wilford Woodruff had when George Washington and the other Founding Fathers of this great Nation and other eminent men and women appeared to him in vision requesting their Temple work be completed in 1877. As Elder Woodruff stated: “Two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them” (April 1898 General Conference).
    As mentioned earlier, an interesting interview regarding this cave took place between David Whitmer and P. Wilhelm Poulson, as recorded in the Deseret Evening News, 16 August 1878, wherein Paulson asked where the plates were now and David Whitmer replied, “In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again.” Poulson then asked “Where is that cave?” to which Whitmer answered, “In the state of New York,” and Poulson asked, “In the Hill Cumorah?” to which Whitmer replied, “No, but not far away from that place.”

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