Friday, January 29, 2016

This Land; This Continent

Again, we have a question/comment from a reader too extensive, and too important, in its answer to place in the comments section, so we are devoting an entire post to it.
    The comment received was: “You seem to think that the term used in the promise to Lehi “a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands” (2 Nephi 1:5), has to do with a land far larger than the United States, which can only be so described as a land of liberty, etc.” David S.
Response: One of the problems we make is thinking the Lord thinks in the same scope as we do, and that the early history of people covers the same land masses and concepts we have and think in today. Both thoughts and approaches are in error. From the time of Noah down to Lehi, a period of about 1700 years, the world only knew of the land masses of Europe, Asia and Africa. That was the world. Those were the countries of the world, the people of the world, the governments of the world—nothing else and nowhere else existed in fact existed to them.
    After that point in time, the Lord opened the eyes of some people through Lehi of an entirely new world existing halfway across the oceans which he had preserved “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land, it became a choice land above all other lands” (Ether 13:2).
Could anyone possibly think that entire phrase and huge land mass had to do with just a tiny portion of that land? Did the Lord not preserve all the land in that part of the world? That land, the Western Hemisphere, what became known as “the Americas” from 1500 until 1940s, was called one continent, the American Continent, and so labeled on all maps of the Western Hemisphere until far into the 20th century. This Western Hemisphere, was unknown to anyone (other than the Jaredites in complete secrecy) and held no place in the knowledge of all men at the time.
    By 1820, its origin and first settlers were still basically unknown to man, leading Moroni to tell Joseph Smith of a record, “giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang” (JS 1:34). That is, ”this continent,” as opposed to the “old continent,” or old world, or Asia (Middle East), etc. In fact, it was “this land” as opposed to the “old land,” the land the world had known since the beginning, the land the Savior walked, the Church was organized in, and the Apostles traveled.
In 1820, twenty years before Central American ruins were first seen and drawn, “this land” was the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, one continent—and it was addressed as such by Moroni, Joseph Smith, and later Church authorities.
    To the Lord, and obviously to the Angel Moroni, it was not a matter of borders of countries, but lands themselves that bore a promise. There was no country in the Western Hemisphere when the Lord promised Lehi that “we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:5); and “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7). And finally, “Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever” (2 Nephi 1:9).
When Lehi spoke to his sons and grandsons just before his death, he said, “And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem” (2 Nephi 1:3). Jerusalem, of course, was a specific land and had a name; the land just discovered by Lehi and the Jaredites before him, had no name and was never given a name—only “The Land of Promise.” How arrogant it is for us Americans (citizens of the United States) to believe that only our portion of this magnificent promised land is blessed. Canada is a magnificent land, Mexico is gorgeous as is the southwestern United States; Central America holds a beauty unparalleled in its scope and appeal; one would be hard-pressed to find another spot as stunning and commanding as the jungles of Brazil; the mountains of Peru; high valleys of Ecuador and Colombia, the coast of Argentina and the islands and cliffs of Chile.
    Clearly, those “Americans” who lay claim to the U.S. as the Land of Promise and nowhere else have never traveled. The Lord promised the land to Lehi and his posterity—a portion of land that was blessed from the beginning and held in abeyance after the flood waters receded and overall part and parcel of a much larger, magnificent land that encompasses about one-half of the world.
    A Land of Promise.
    There will come a time when we realize that the Lord’s promise of a land to his people is much larger than a small swath of land in the Eastern continents and only a portion of that land in the western continents. The city on the hill—a phrase from the parable of Salt and Light in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14), where he tells his listeners: "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
The phrase eventually became popular with American politicians, especially with Ronald Reagan who referred to this language and event on the eve of his election in 1980: “I have quoted John Winthrop's words more than once on the campaign trail this year—for I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining "city on a hill," as were those long ago settlers....These visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still…a shining city on a hill” (Election Eve Address, “A Vision for America,” The American Presidency Project, UC Santa Barbara).
    It is not a political statement. It is an understanding among the Lord’s people that his Church, his doctrine, his gospel is to be held up as a shining light to the world, and any city or land that is guided by its precepts to be a shining light to others, to travelers, to people, to the entire world.
    The United States is not the only Christian nation, the Western Hemisphere is full of Christian nations, in fact “there is no other national religion in this western hemisphere other than Christian” (University Record, University of Chicago Press, December 25, 1896, Vol 1 No39, p502).
    Nor do any people live in this land in captivity—not just the U.S., not just North America, but also South America and the entire Western Hemisphere. Nor are there kings governing this land. Were there kings here in the Western Hemisphere? Yes, even in the area of today’s continental United States; are there today? No. At this time, and for a while, there is no foreign government controlling any nation in the Americas.

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