Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dealing With Opposing Information to One’s Views – Joseph Didn’t Mean or Write That…Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding a statement Joseph Smith made regarding both North and South America being Zion, and also other statements the prophet made that the Great Lakes Theorists want to claim he did not make. 
In this continuation, a letter to John Bernhisel who sent John L. Stephens book Incidents in Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, to Joseph Smith as a gift, is being discredited by the theorist of the website Book of Mormon Wars.
    According to the history involved as written on the website by the theorist: “John Bernhisel joined the LDS Church in 1837 while practicing medicine in New York City. In 1841 he was ordained bishop of the congregation in New York City. Bernhisel was a well-educated man, and in 1841 read Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan by John L. Stephens.
    Impressed by the book, Bernhisel gave the two-volume work to Wilford Woodruff in September 1841 with instructions to make sure it was given to Joseph Smith. Woodruff, who was on his way back from England to Nauvoo, delivered the book, as requested. It would appear that Joseph appreciated receiving the book, as he wrote a letter to Bernhisel acknowledging the gift.”
    The theorist then goes on to discredit this incident by saying:
    This statement is false. No one knows who wrote this letter; the handwriting remains unidentified. There is no evidence that Joseph dictated this letter or even knew about it. I've written a detailed analysis of the historical evidence, which shows that by far the most likely source of the letter is Wilford Woodruff.”
    Response: Now, when the theorist claims there is no evidence Joseph Smith wrote the letter, there is strong evidence he would have (i.e., had one of his scribes write the actual letter he would have dictated or told him what to write). After all, the gift was recorded, delivered to Wilford Woodruff according his journal, and placed in the hands of Joseph Smith. For the Prophet not to have made an acknowledgement of such a gift, which would have been costly in that day, would be to deny Joseph Smith’s natural appreciation for something done to him which numerous other occasions show deserved and received acknowledgement.
The letter, dated November 16, 1841, and over the signature of Joseph Smith, suggests this not to be a false statement at all, but one of accurate content. It should also be noted that in the course of the leadership of the Church, in those early days as well as today, no member, no matter how highly placed in the Church leadership roles, would write a letter for the prophet, over the prophet’s signature, that was not dictated by the prophet, told what to write by the prophet, or read afterward and approved by the prophet. Church leaders simply do not usurp the authority of someone over them!
    This theorist can claim the letter was written by Wilford Woodruff, but that is not the point. Joseph Smith used several people (scribes) to write letters, articles, even his own history, for him and from time to time he wrote some himself, but those were usually written to his wife, Emma. The Church correspondence and most of his personal writing was done for him by those he appointed to do so, and exactly what the process was with each letter or article is not known other than the fact that Joseph had others do much of his writing for him. It is interesting that this theorist makes that very claim in the writing of Letter VII by Oliver Cowdery with Joseph Smith’s involvement, yet seems to ignore or forget that when discussing this particular writing.
Left: John M. Bernhisel; Right: Wilford Woodruff
    What is important is that the letter bore the prophet’s signature, therefore the letter had the prophet’s approval or never would have been written, let alone sent.
    In addition, it might be noted that Bernhisel was a close friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. In fact, Joseph convinced Berhnisel to move to Nauvoo from New York and insisted that he live in the Mansion House with the Smiths. An additional note of interest is that Bernhisel was one of the few early citizens who had a university education which he used along with his considerable talents and energy to help reconcile the Utah Territory with the federal government in Washington D.C.
    It does not seem likely Bernhisel would have received a letter over Joseph Smith’s signature not authorized by the prophet since they had such a close relationship. In fact, if one were to study Bernhisel’s history within the Church one would be a little less likely to jump to such an unsupportable conclusion.
    In addition, while I am certainly not a Mesoamericanist nor Central Americanist in regard to the location of the land of Promise, this letter to Bernhisel deserves its rightful place in the events that took place in the latter part of 1841 regarding the prophet and the events of both this book, and his writings.
    In addition to what Joseph Smith said and wrote that is under attack by the Great Lakes theorists, let’s take a look at some other comments they hammer away at:
1. Theorist: “I presume you know that there is no direct evidence Joseph ever paid any attention to Mesoamerica.”
    Response: The theorists discounts Joseph Smith’s comments about Central America when writing to Berhisel about John L. Stephens Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,” by claiming he, Joseph, did not write the letter (see above). However, if you are going to go around claiming what is accepted is not correct, then you have to have some proof that is both accurate and makes sense. As seen above in the comment about the letter to Bernhisel, all the logic and reason behind accepting the letter written to Berhisel far outweighs this theorist’s personal view.
    Theorist 2: “All of this analysis conflates the "narrow neck" with the "narrow neck of land." They are two different locations, mentioned by two completely different civilizations--that's why they have two different terms.”
    Response: Isn’t that interesting. Somehow, someone forgot to tell them that we don’t know what the Jaredites called the narrow neck of land nor do we know what the Nephites called it—we only have Mormon and Moroni’s abridgements of their writing as found in their own words. Moroni called it a “narrow neck of land” (Ether 10:20). His father, Mormon, called it a “narrow neck” (Alma 63:5) and a “small neck of land” (Alma 22:32).  It should be noted, however, that a “narrow neck which led into the land northward” could only have been a narrow neck of land, for only land could lead across water from one land (Land Southward) to another land (Land Northward), and undoubtedly between the two, father and son, the same meaning is implied, for no other simple and understandable meaning or interpretation could be rendered. 
Thus, it cannot said that these are two different locations known by two different civilizations with two different names. “Narrow Neck” and “Narrow Neck of Land” are not two different names, especially when used by father and son recording their abridgements of different writings. The interesting thing is, the term “narrow neck” refers only to two things: 1) An isthmus, or 2) Neck of a person or animal. Since isthmus is the only one that fits the Land of Promise use of the term, then a narrow neck has to be an isthmus, or narrow neck of land.
    Now, before leaving this subject, and because this idea of Great Lakes Theorists that if you choose any other area but upstate western New York as the Land of Promise because it has in its location the New York hill Cumorah that you are wrong, is getting far more press and internet coverage than it deserves, I cannot close this article and move on without quoting two statements from the Book of Mormon Wars website of Wednesday, July 20, 2016, and asking one question: “In our opinion, a North American setting is the simplest and best explanation of Book of Mormon geography, but we don't object to others' ideas. We like to discuss the setting that we think is most consistent with Church history, fits the text, and is corroborated by geology, topography, anthropology, archaeology, etc.” And the second statement: “I think the text describes the North American setting, with Cumorah in New York. I think this setting reconciles everything Joseph taught, as well as the statements by Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. It makes sense out of the promises and prophecies. It fits the archaeology, anthropology, geography, and geology.”
    The question I have is this: “If you are going to champion the New York area as the land of Promise, then where are the scripture-stated descriptions of mountains? As an example:
1. “And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23);
2. “And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah that in the place of the city there became a great mountain” (3 Nephi 8:10)
    Again, I ask where are these mountains in your Land of Promise which you claim “fits the text” and "fits geography"?
    Since no hills, let alone mountains exist in this New York area, then what you are saying is that Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII is more important, more accurate, and more factual than the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, which obviously has to be wrong. Do you really want to stand so firmly on that ground?


  1. Del, theorist easily answer your question by redefining words. North is redefined to mean West by some and they never look back. This guy will say the word "mountains" in the Book of Mormon is referring to the hills in that area, or perhaps they will say it is referring to spiritual unseen mountains, or some other thing. See how easy that was?

  2. Del, I've found that they certainly do object most vehemently to other theorists. They are not interested in any facts when it comes to their pet theory. Letter VII is their revelation and no other proof can be accepted. Thanks for your efforts to shine the light on their gross errors in interpreting the scriptures. Ira

  3. erichard. Exactly. Interesting thing is,there are no hills in their land of Promise location. I drove over the entire area--flat as a pancake.

    iterry. It is interesting that they refer everything to Letter VII and almost nothing to the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon at all. One would think reading their stuff that the scriptural record is almost meaningless to them.