Monday, June 20, 2016

Has the Location of the Land of Promise Ever Been Revealed? – Part I

Before we start discussing what Prophet, Church Leader, or Apostles, past or present, has said about the geographical setting of the Book of Mormon, perhaps we ought to take a look at exactly what they would have entailed, had any of these great men actually have known the answer to the location of where Lehi landed. 
    First, we draw attention to a statement made by President George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency to four Church Presidents, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow. In addition, President Cannon was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1860 to 1901, and was called the “Mormon Richelieu” by the press in his position as the Church’s chief political strategist. He worked in the printing office of the monthly Times and Seasons and the weekly Nauvoo Neighbor, which had succeeded the Elders’ Journal.
President Cannon’s statement: The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography, but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task. The reason is, that without further information they are not prepared even to suggest. The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure” (George Q. Cannon “Book of Mormon Georgraphy,” The Juvenile Instructor, January 1, 1890).
    Second, it should be noted that the succession of the editorial position of the Times and Seasons is a little more complex than typically stated: When the Church left Missouri as a result of the 1838 Mormon War, the press and type for the elder’s Journal was buried in Brother Dawson’s yard in Far West. In April 1839, Elias Smith and Hiram Clark, among others, returned to the city and recovered the press and type. It was taken to Nauvoo and in June 1839 was given to Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, Joseph Smith’s younger brother, who served as the editors of the officially founded monthly and twice-monthly Mormon periodical in 1839, that was published on a press set up in the basement of a building.
    In December 1840, Robinson changed to exclusively book printing and dissolved his partnership with Don Carlos, who took over as the sole editor of the Times and Seasons. In May 1841, Robert B. Thompson joined as an editor. After the death of Don Carlos in August 1841, Robinson rejoined as an editor and worked with Thompson on a single issue before Thompson's death, just twenty days after the death of Don Carlos, on August 27. Robinson was then joined by Gustavus Hills for a few issues before he deeded the print shop to Joseph Smith.
In November 1841, seven of the Twelve Apostles met in council at the house of President Young, on the subject of the Times and Seasons; they not being satisfied with the manner in which Gustavus Hills had conducted the editorial department since the death of Robert B. Thompson. Ten days later it was voted that Ebenezer Robinson (left) be solicited to give up the department of printing the Times and Seasons to Elder Willard Richards, and if Robinson did not then Elder Richards was instructed to procure a press and type, and publish a paper for the Church.
    In the Times and Seasons Vol 3 No. 6, dated 15 January 1842, p663, Gustasvus Hills was announced as Assistant Editor in the Times and Seasons. According to some sources, discussion among the Twelve (and Joseph, at some meetings) in November 1841 that Hills was already having some informal input into the paper's contents before this date. However, on January 28, 1842, Joseph Smith received a revelation (not in the D&C, but History of the Church 4:503) that stated: “Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons, according to that manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel, saith the Lord. Amen.”
    It seems interesting that the exact wordage of the Lord is for the Quorum of the Twelve, not Joseph Smith, “take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons.” Most theorists read this that Joseph smith was told to take over the Editorial Department, “go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons, according to that manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel, saith the Lord.”
    On February 3, 1842, "Elder Woodruff took the superintendence of the printing office, and Elder Taylor the editorial department of the Times and Seasons; and he commenced by taking an inventory of the establishment this day” (History of the Church 4:513), and the next day, Joseph "closed a contract with Ebenezer Robinson for the printing office, including the paper fixtures, bookbindery, and stereotype foundry for a cost between 7,000 and 8,000 dollars" (History of the Church 4:513-514). Of the high price, Brigham Young later said, "The reason I paid such a price was [because] the Prophet directed the Twelve to pay him whatever he asked” (Millennial Star 13 February 1864, 26:119).
A month later, Joseph evidently became involved in the hands on editorial work, stating on March 2, 1842, "I read the proof of the Times and Seasons, as editor for the first time” (T&S No. 9, Vol. III; History of the Church 4:542). And then a week later, "Examining copy for the Times and Seasons, presented by Messrs. Taylor and Bennett...." (History of the Church 4:548). Then the following week, on March 15, 1842, Joseph provided a formal announcement that he was taking over as editor from Robinson and Hills: “This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward. I am not responsible for the publication, or arrangement of the former paper; the matter did not come under my supervision” (imes and Seasons Vol 3 No 9, 15 March 1842, p710).
    It should be noted that Joseph’s wordage is specific: “all papers having my signature henceforward." Herein lies the difficulty. Did Joseph mean by “all papers” those articles that were editorials, those articles that were published in the paper, the entire paper, or those only bearing his signature. Of course, different people, looking through different lenses, read different things here. This becomes specifically important when we come to the five articles, or editorials, regarding Mesoamerica about John L. Stephens book, Incidents of Travel in Mexico,” and Frederick Catherwood’s drawings of the Mayan ruins, for those articles, appearing following his announcement of his becoming the editor, are unsigned.
    As an example, two weeks later, on April 1, 1842, an extensive editorial on "Try the spirits." In History of the Church the article is denominated as "The Prophet's Editorial in the Times and Seasons" (History of the Church 4:571), in which it is not signed, but has ED at the conclusion (Times and Seasons Vol 3 No 11,  April 1842. p748). This seems to suggest that Joseph then signed his editorials with ED for Editor. However, three of the five articles about Incidents of Travel and Mesoamerica do not have any name or ED following the article.
    On the other hand, in June of 1842, another editorial on “Baptism for the Dead,” has ED following, but no corresponding proof from the History of the Church it was written by Joseph Smith. The same can be said of other editorials signed ED, covering “the Holy Ghost,” and “Mosaic traits among the Aztec in Mexico,” which draws attention to the plates found in the hill Cumorah and the account found in Mexico.
    Yet, during this month, a letter addressed to the Editor is published in its entirety with the following comment: “We publish the foregoing letter entire; and for the information of the citizens of the neighborhood where the circumstances transpired, take this opportunity of expressing our decided, unqualified disapprobation of the proceedings of William and Alford Young. If they have ever been united with this Church and are not cut off, we withdraw fellowship from them until they make satisfaction for what they have done..." (Times and Seasons Vol 3 No 16, 15 June 1842, p822).
Regarding this incident, there is a note in the The Nauvoo High Council Minute Books, where a meeting was held “according to adjournment and adjourned to the House of Councillor Aaron Johnson (left), January 8,1843, where it was “resolved that a piece be published in the Times & Seasons” stating that William & Alford Young have been restored to fellowship (they having been disfellowshiped by Joseph Smith) upon the complaint of John D. Lee and others and that the Clerk shall prepare the piece and make report thereof at the next council” (The Nauvoo High Council Minute Books of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, March 8, 1840, Book #1, Fred C. Collier, Collier Publishing, 2005; and signed by Hosea Stout who was appointed to act as Clerk Protem. On March 8, 1840).
    What we know from all of this is only that someone called for the Youngs to be disfellowshipped in an editorial in the Times and Seasons on June 15,1842, which was later done by Joseph Smith, and then later withdrawn by an act of the Church High Council on January 8, 1843.
(See the next post, “Has the Location of the Land of Promise Ever Been Revealed? – Part II,” for more information on who has said what about the specific location)

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