Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The United States as the Land of Promise –Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the condition of the United States at the time Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith regarding information about plates on which is recorded information about a people of this continent and land and from whence they sprang. 
The United States in 1823, at the time Moroni visited Joseph Smith. Four countries: Russia, Spain, Britain and Canada held territory of the future U.S. at the time
    In addition to the United States in 1823, we need also look at the term “continent” at the time Moroni visited Joseph Smith. As has already been reported in this blog, when Moroni visited Joseph Smith in 1823 with the first of his instructions, he said, “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. He said there was a book deposited written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang” ("History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons 3 no. 12, 15 April 1842, 753; "History of Joseph Smith From the 'Times and Seasons'," Millennial Star 3 no. 4, August 1842, 53; name Nephi erroneously recorded).
    Today, we consider this continent as North America, which is the planet's 3rd largest continent, and includes 45 countries overall—including all of the Caribbean and Central America countries, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, the United States of America, as well as Greenlandthe world's largest island. It is almost exclusively located in the Western Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere. However, in Joseph Smith’s time and at the time Moroni visited Joseph, the “American Continent” was the entire Western Hemisphere, made up of both North and South America plus all the adjacent land, including Greenland.
Prior to World War II it was generally accepted by all map makers that there were five continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Antarctica. Not until World War II did the U.S. began to demand that North America was a separate continent
    However, in 1823, all of America was considered one continent, The American Continent, and so labeled on maps from 1507 (Martin Waldseemüller map, Universallis Cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorumque lustrationes) and taught in American schools up until the Second World War (Martin W. Lewis; Kären E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography, Berkeley: University of California Press,1997, ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2). 
    While it might seem surprising to find North and South America still joined into a single continent in a book published in the United States in 1937, such a notion remained fairly common until World War II. By the 1950s, however, virtually all American geographers had come to insist that the visually distinct landmasses of North and South America deserved separate designations).
    It might be of interest to know that once Europeans crossed the Atlantic, they gradually discovered that their threefold continental system did not form an adequate world model. Evidence of what appeared to be a single "new world" landmass somehow had to be taken into account. The transition from a threefold to a fourfold continental scheme did not occur immediately after Columbus, however. First, America had to be intellectually "invented" as a distinct parcel of land—one that could be viewed geographically, if not culturally, as equivalent to the other continents.
According to Eviatar Zerubavel, professor of Sciology at Rutgers University, and the author of Time and Life Maps, this reconceptualization took nearly a century to evolve, in part because it activated serious "cosmographic shock." For a long time, many Europeans simply chose to ignore the evidence; as late as 1555, a popular French geography text entitled La Division du monde pronounced that the earth consisted of Asia, Europe, and Africa, making absolutely no mention of the Americas. The Spanish imperial imagination persisted in denying continental status to its transatlantic colonies for even longer. According to Walter Mignolo, "The Castilian notion of 'the Indies' remained in place up to the end of the colonial empire; 'America' began to be employed by independentist intellectuals only toward the end of the eighteenth century." Yet by the early sixteenth century, the Portuguese cosmographer Duarte Pacheco and his German counterpart Martin Waldseemüller had mapped the Americas as a continent. While cartographic conventions of the period rendered the new landmass, like Africa, as distinctly inferior to Asia and Europe, virtually all global geographies by the seventeenth century at least acknowledged the Americas as one of the "four quarters of the world."
    As this brief account suggests, accepting the existence of a transatlantic landmass required more than simply adding a new piece to the existing continental model. As Edmundo O'Gorman has brilliantly demonstrated, reckoning with the existence of previously unknown lands required a fundamental restructuring of European cosmography. For in the old conception, Europe, Africa, end Asia had usually been envisioned as forming a single, interconnected "world island," the Orbis Terrarum (The World or The Earth).
The Orbis Terrarum, the first true Modern Atlas, written by Abrahanm Ortellius and originally published on May 20, 1570, by Gilles Coppens of Antwerp who published 53 maps under this title. The works were considered the summary of 16th century cartography
    The existence of another such "island" in the antipodes of the Southern Hemispherean Orbis Alterius (Alternate World)—had often been hypothesized, but it was assumed that it would constitute a world apart, inhabited, if at all, by sapient creatures of an entirely different species. Americans, by contrast, appeared to be of the same order as other humans, suggesting that their homeland must be a fourth part of the human world rather than a true alter-world. Thus it was essentially anthropological data that undermined the established cosmographic order.
    In the long run, the discovery of a distant but recognizably human population in the Americas would irrevocably dash the world island to pieces. Over the next several centuries the fundamental relationship between the world's major landmasses was increasingly seen as one of separation, not contiguity. In 1570 Ortelius divided the world into four constituent parts, yet his global maps did not emphasize divisional lines, and his regional maps sometimes spanned "continental" divisions. By the late seventeenth century, however, most global atlases unambiguously distinguished the world's main landmasses and classified all regional maps accordingly. Thus, the Greek notion of a unitary human terrain was disassembled into its constituent continents, whose relative isolation was now ironically converted into their defining feature. 
    Although the possibility of an Orbis Alterius was never again taken seriously, the boundaries dividing the known lands would henceforth be conceived in much more absolute terms than they had been in the past. Even as the accuracy of mapping improved dramatically in this period, the conceptualization of global divisions was so hardened as to bring about a certain conceptual deterioration.
    It is almost humorous to see that at the present time we find numerous Land of Promise theorists who are embarking on the same transition of accepting a time when the North and South American continents were considered one continent, and Moroni’s comment of “this continent” could possibly have included the entire Western Hemisphere. Their rejection of this idea is almost ironic as we compare it to the rejection of a new fourth part of the world for more than two centuries in European thought as shown above.
However, Church leaders have not had that difficulty. Time and again they have expressed their opinion that the Land of Promise extended to the entire North and South American landmasses, and the Western Hemisphere overall.
(See the next post, “The United States as the Land of Promise –Part III,” for more on the role of the U.S. in the Land of Promise, and specifically the many comments made by Church Leaders regarding the location of the overall Land of Promise)

1 comment:

  1. What? NO comments from those that believe the United States is the land of promise?