Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment: “This speculation about Joseph's motives is not supported by actual evidence. Instead, 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.”
    This comment is made as a result of the blog author’s critique of the statement “Although he [Joseph Smith] was in a perfect position to know a different name [of the New York hill Cumorah] and to correct the Saints, he didn’t. However, that should not be seen as confirmation that the tradition was correct, but rather that the Saints’ communal interpretation of history influenced Joseph’s descriptions of that history. Joseph not only allowed the communal creation of the hill name but embraced it."
Response: First of all, Joseph Smith never embraced the name or term Hill Cumorah in New York, never referred to it as other than “the hill where the plates were buried.” Second, the fact that Joseph did not correct people is likely the same reason he did not correct other statements, based on the right of an individual to his own opinion, i.e., the right to express his own opinion. An attitude Joseph Fielding Smith had when he told Sidney Sperry as we have earlier stated about Sperry having a contrary opinion than Joseph Fielding Smith: “you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine," Joseph Fielding Smith told Sperry. "You go ahead and publish it.”
    Blog comment: “No, it is not plausible. The difference is, Phelps published his association when he wrote, "It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim ["lights"] and Thummim ["perfections")." There is no evidence of anyone publishing speculation about the association of the hill in New York with Cumorah.” 
    Response: This comment is made as a result of the blog author’s critique of the statement “It is plausible that just as W.W. Phelps was the one to associate the interpreters with Urim and Thumim of the Bible, one of Joseph’s companions made the association between the hill from which the plates were taken with the hill in which Mormon had hid the plates.” However, I wonder how the Blog author justifies Oliver Cowdery’s comments about Cumorah in his Letter #7 to W.W. Phelps if that is not speculation. It certainly is neither found in scripture, in Joseph Smith’s writings, or in any official statement or position or belief of the Church.
    The problem is the blog author keeps confusing Cowdery’s testimony of the translation process with Cowdery’s opinion about the hill Cumorah. These are two entirely different issues, which he lumps together. One can accept Cowdery’s factual testimony of the translation process, yet still disagree with his opinion of Cumorah in New York being the hill Cumorah of the scriptural record, just like you can disagree with his 1838 statement that the Lord told him the Church was in error and the leaders were all falling away from the truth.
    Blog comment: “First, Gardner speculates about a "plausible connection" that is not supported by evidence. Then he assumes his imagined connection is based on a misreading of the text. I suppose if one is conjuring up "plausible connections," one might as well also conjure up faulty bases for those connections. But what is the point of this exercise?”
    Response: It is interesting that the blog author makes these accusations, which are correct, but fails to see that he is doing the exat same thing with his two extremely weak claims—his only two by the way—that Cowdery makes about believing the two Cumorahs are the same, and that Whitmer claims to have heard Moroni saying he was going to Cumorah, without any further explanation on the statement, as we’ve pointed out earlier in this series.
The problem is, opinions, even by a Church Leader are still just opinions, and any opinion without at least a semblance of supportive reasoning, i.e., why a person has that opinion, has little use in any scholarly study or work. Secondly, as has been stated here repeatedly, even if Moroni said what Whitmer remembered 58 years later, Moroni did not say he was going to the “Hill” Cumorah, only to Cumorah, which has two problems itself: 1) Joseph Smith said Moroni was going to Fayette to deliver the plates to him so he could continue his translation, and 2) We do not know what he meant by the singular term Cumorah. As an example, the term Cumorah, as used in the scriptural record applies to two physical locations, i.e., 1) the Land of Cumorah, and 2) the Hill Cumorah. If Moroni meant the hill, he did not say so, and it would be in opposition to what Joseph Smith said Moroni told him, and if he meant the hill, why didn’t’ he say so—and why would he be going there since it was 30 miles beyond Fayette (and not even on a direct line) where Joseph said he was going. Is it possible the term “Cumorah” meant something else to Moroni that we know? Or, if he meant the land, then Fayette might possibly have been within that area that Moroni knew as the Land of Cumorah in his mortal lifetime.The point is, we simply do not know and the statement cannot be used to justify a belief in the hill Cumorah in New York being the same hill as stated in the scriptural record.
From Harmony, Pennsylvania to Fayette, New York, is about 150 miles. The Hill Cumorah in New York is 30 miles beyond Fayette, and certainly not on a direct line of travel from Harmony
    Consequently, what is the point of these two unsubstantiated claims as well as their purpose in repeatedly citing them since one claim is strictly an opinion, and the other is without explanation or purpose in light of Joseph Smith saying Moroni told him he was heading to Fayette, making the hill Cumorah incorrect from what Moroni told him.
    Blog comment: “Nowhere does the text state that “Cumorah was not the resting place of the plates that Mormon gave to Moroni. The text is silent about the matter.”
    Response: In the same vein of discussion, it should be pointed out that nowhere in the text (scriptural record) does it state that the burial place of the plates was in the same place or hill that they were later disclosed to Joseph Smith and where he found them. The scriptural record and Joseph Smith’s writings are both silent about the matter.
    Blog comment regarding the burial of the plates in the hill Cumorah: “Think about it; how could Moroni record the burial place of the plates before he buried them? Theoretically, he could have written, “I intend to bury these plates in the hill Cumorah,” but under the dangerous circumstances he was in, writing such an intention would be pointless. Readers wouldn’t care about his intention; they would want to know where he actually buried the plates. But he couldn’t definitively state that until after he buried them!”
    Response: First of all, Moroni never tells us where he buried the plates while he was alive, only stating that he would do so (Mormon 8:4)—nor did he say anything about a “hill” or “Cumorah,” only identifying a burial place as being “in the earth.” Whether he knew by vision, by revelation, or by his own personal ideas, where he would bury them again is not known. And if he was told to bury the plates in a certain location by revelation or vision, he certainly could have stated the fact before he did so. And no dangerous circumstances can stop the Lord from bringing about his Plan whatever that might be. Such an argument, as presented above is both fruitless and in error.
Mormon hid the records in the Hill Cumorah save the few he gave to his son, Moroni, which few were the records Moroni gave to Joseph Smith
Second, to recount this, Mormon tells us that: “I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Mormon 6:6). What “few plates” Mormon gave to Moroni were those upon which Moroni completed his father’s record, wrote his translation of Ether, and then his own work. So at least we know that those “few plates” contained the record from Mormon to the end. And since Mormon states “I made this record out of the plates of Nephi,” referring to one record, then stated, “and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord,” evidently referring not only to second set of records, but those from which he abridged his record (stated as “this record” in this verse—Mormon 6:6). Then he added, “except these few plates I gave unto my son Moroni,” thus explaining that his record was the record he gave to his son in which he called them “these few plates.” These, of course, are the same plates that Mormon much earlier stated that he had to deliver to his son when he wrote him a letter, which Moroni included in his own work, “And if it so be that they perish, we know that many of our brethren have deserted over unto the Lamanites, and many more will also desert over unto them; wherefore, write somewhat a few things, if thou art spared and I shall perish and not see thee; but I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee” (Moroni 9:24, emphasis mine).
    Of these plates, Moroni only says, “Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not” (Mormon 8:4), later he added, “And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you” (Moroni 10:2). However, at no time does Moroni say where he “buried in the Earth” or hid up the records upon which he was writing, the records (the few plates) his father gave to him.
    Church members have speculated that they were buried in the Hill Cumorah by Moroni at that time, around 421 A.D. However, we do not know what Moroni did with the plates in 421 A.D. or at any time prior to Joseph Smith finding them where Moroni directed him to—in the Hill Cumorah in upstate western New York.
    Did Moroni bury them in the hill Cumorah stated in the scriptural record, in the Land of Many Waters, Rivers and Fountains, in the Land Northward? We do not know that. Nor do we know that he buried the plates in what was known to him in his mortal life as the Land of Promise. We only know that the records ended up in a nondescript hill near the area where Joseph Smith, Sr., moved his family to Palmyra Village in 1817, and then out into the log house on the farm along the Palmyra-Manchester border in 1819, which was a year before Joseph had his First Vision in the Sacred Grove in 1820.
When the plates were buried in the stone box on side of the hill Cumorah in New York is not known and cannot be determined from the written record of Moroni. Nor does he tell Joseph Smith when the plates were buried in the hill where Joseph found them. To say that this is the one and only hill the plates were buried in solves no problem, because Moroni could have transported them over any distance and in any direction from where he lived out his life—and it could have been done while he still lived, or it could have been done as a translated being, called an “angle” by Joseph Smith (this is borne out in the episode of Moroni being seen along the side of the rode carry the plates in a knapsack on his back, transporting the plates from Harmony to Fayette, i.e., that a translated being could carry the plates anywhere he chose, that is, was directed by the Lord).

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