Thursday, February 4, 2016

The United States as the Land of Promise –Part III

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 was recorded information about a people of this continent and land and from whence they sprang. Also, what exactly was meant by “this continent.” 

During four separate trips that began in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as Cuba and the island later called Hispaniola, and the greater and lesser Antilles. He also explored the coast of Venezuela in South America, and later the Central American coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama
First, let us dispel the erroneous idea that Columbus discovered the United States. He did, in fact, discover the Americas for Europeans, but not the actual land we now know as the United States. As we see in 1 Nephi 13:12, the Spirit was to lead a man to the Land of Promise. In the 1879 Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt added the footnote which named this “gentile” as Christopher Columbus. Columbus himself set forth the view of himself as the fulfiller of biblical prophecies and of fulfilling the “islands of the sea” passages from Isaiah—writing in 1500, Columbus stated that God “made me the messenger of the new heaven an the new earth, He showed me the spot where to find it” (Grant R. Hardy, “Columbus: By Faith or Reason?” in Re-Exploring the book of Mormon, ed John W. Welch, Deseret Book, 1992, ch 9).
    Unfortunately, the prevailing opinion seems to be among many people and specifically among many theorist of the U.S. as the Land of Promise, that Columbus discovered America, or the United States. But in all actuality, Christopher Columbus discovered islands in the Caribbean, and Central and South America. He never stepped foot on what we now know as the United States, or even North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico).
Yellow Arrows show the Macuro cove—Columbus’ landing site—on the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela in South America where he landed, planted the flag, and explored the mainland and Orinoco River, as well as the Paria Gulf, which was originally named Gulf of the Whale (Golfo de la Ballena) until the whales were eliminated, then the Sad Gulf (Golfo Triste)
    His first two voyages were only to the Bahamas, his third voyage was to the Bahamas and the Northern portion of South America, where he planted the flag on the Paria Peninsula in present-day Venezuela in South America, on August 1, 1498, and his fourth voyage was to the Bahamas and Central America. If 1 Nephi 13:12 is referring to Christopher Columbus, that would mean the land he discovered was part of the “promised land.”
    Obviously, when Nephi saw Columbus crossing the ocean he states the explorer went forth “unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13:12), he had to have been referring to a much larger area than the United States, since Columbus never set foot on the United States nor did he see any of the seed of Nephi’s brethren except in those areas he landed, including Central and South America.
    Thus, Columbus’ voyage alone should dispel any thought that the United States is the entire and complete Land of Promise, excluding all other parts of the Americas. Now, as for the Continent, it might be of interest that President James Monroe’s 1823 (the year Moroni visited Joseph Smith for the first time) annual message to Congress contained what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine—presented by him in December 1823, warning European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere and that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or puppet monarchs. While the doctrine was conceived politically to meet major concerns of the moment, it soon became a watchword of US. Policy in the Western Hemisphere.
    It should also be of interest to note that in a talk by Ezra Taft Benson, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in October Conference 1979, A Witness and a Warning” he said, “In the decade prior to the restoration of the gospel, many countries of South America fought wars of independence to free themselves from European rule. Russia, Austria, and Prussia, however urged France to aid Spain and Portugal to restore their monarchies in South America. This effort was repulsed by a proclamation from the United States government known as the Monroe Doctrine…the Lord has promised, “I will fortify this land against all other nations” (2 Nephi 10:12).”
 James Monroe discussing his doctrine that became U.S. policy of protectionism to the Western Hemisphere in 1823
    Joseph Fielding Smith stated that “the greatest and most powerful fortification in America is the ‘Monroe Doctrine’…It was the inspiration of the Almighty which rested upon John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other statesmen, and which finally found authoritative expression in the message of James Monroe to Congress in the year 1823” (The Progress Of Man, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Co., pp. 466–67).
    Elder Benson also said, “The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. The priesthood of God was restored in 1829. Between those two dates is an interval of forty years. It is my conviction that God, who knows the end from the beginning, provided that period of time so the new nation could grow in strength to protect the land of Zion.” Obviously, it has fallen to the United States to be the protectorate of the Western Hemisphere, or Land of Promise, as it was the Nephite Nation on a much smaller scale anciently.
    Orson Hyde, an early LDS leader and contemporary of Joseph Smith said in 1853 that “this land would be a land of liberty” (2 Nephi 10:11) referred “to both North and South America and also the families of islands that geographically and naturally belong and adhere to the same”(JD 7:108).
President Wilford Woodruff prophesied that temples would “appear all over this land of Joseph, North and South America” (JD, 19:230). Joseph Smith said that “the whole of America is Zion itself from north to south”(TPJS 362). President Spencer W. Kimball tied all these thoughts together as he reminded the Saints in Brazil and Argentina that “Zion was all of North and South America, like the wide, spreading wings of a great eagle, the one being North and the other South America” (CR April 1975: 3-9). Wilford Woodruff stated: “This land, North and South America, is the land of Zion; it is a choice land—the land that was given by promise from old father Jacob to his grandson and his descendants, the land on which the Zion of God should be established in the latter days” (JD 12 January 1873, 15:279). Orson Pratt added: “And the Lord gave unto them the whole continent, for a land of promise…. (CR April 1947, p67). Ezra Taft Benson, said: “To the peoples who should inhabit this blessed land of the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, an ancient prophet uttered this significant promise and solemn warning: "Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ . . .” (The Lords Base of Operations, CR, April 1962, pp103-106).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that all of North and South America is a choice land: “The Book of Mormon informs us that the whole of America, both North and South, is a choice land above all other lands, in other words—Zion. The Lord told the Jaredites that he would lead them to a land ‘which is choice above all the lands of the earth’ [Ether 1:42 (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:73). Orson Pratt and John Taylor in a pamphlet said: “The western world, including both North and South America, is the land of promise to the remnant of Joseph” (pamphlet “divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon”). Said Elder Andrew Jenson, Church Historian's Officer, Conference Report, October 1921, p120, “We, therefore cast a glance southward into old Mexico and through the great countries beyond—down through Central America and South America, where there are millions and millions of Lamanites, direct descendants of Father Lehi." Spencer W. Kimball added, "About twenty-five centuries ago, a hardy group left the comforts of a great city, crossed a desert, braved an ocean, and came to the shores of this, their promised land. There were two large families, those of Lehi and Ishmael, who in not many centuries numbered hundreds of millions of people on these two American continents” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 601)
Obviously, the Lord had a special plan that involved the freedoms of America, for it was there that an environment of religious liberty was prepared in which the Book of Mormon could eventually be brought forth, the Church of Jesus Christ could be established, and other aspects of the restoration of the gospel could commence. Nephi's vision, however, did not end there but was expanded to include all Gentiles upon the land to whom the blessings of the Book of Mormon and the restoration would eventually be taken, who would, like that first group, have the opportunity to receive the gospel and help gather and be numbered with the remnant of Lehi's seed. Obviously, the U.S. would play a primary and all important role in this, but that does not mean that the mandate that the Book of Mormon events took place in Joseph Smith’s immediate vicinity. And as we can see from all these comments, it most certainly included all of the Western Hemisphere, both North and South America.

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