Friday, September 16, 2016

The Importance of an Adjective

An adjective is just a minor word in a sentence, used to modify a noun, generally by describing a particular quality of the noun not otherwise introduced, as in “Moses was a wise prophet.” The sentence could exist without the word “wise,” naming Moses as a prophet, however, the more important emphasis or meaning of the sentence is missed or left out if the word “wise” was not included. When a word is used, such as prophet, the added word “wise” modifies the meaning of the noun, or in this case, the word “prophet,” giving the word greater meaning and clarifying its place of importance. A prophet is an important calling, position, or person, but a wise prophet has even more status.
In the story “The Man in the Iron Mask” (L'Homme au Masque de Fer), by Alexandre Dumas perè, and based somewhat on the incident of a man named Eustache Dauger in 1669 and subsequently held in a number of French prisons under the direction of King Louis XIV, including the Bastille and the Fortress of Pignerol (modern day Pinerolo, Italy). In the most recent film version of the story, with Leonardo D’Caprio as the king and the unknown man in the mask as his twin brother, an idea popularized by famed philosopher Voltaire and writer Dumas, we see the father of the twins, one whisked away at birth and unknown to the world, was D’Artagnan, portrayed by the actor Gabriel Byrne, whom, at one point in the story where the king, depicted as arrogant and unworthy of the throne, reminds D’Artagnan, who he knows only as the chief of the king’s personal guard, that he is, after all, the king. D’Artagnan responds, “then be a good king.”
    In this case, “be a king” obviously would not have carried the full meaning of the father’s kindly interest and directive. But be a “good” king said it all. Don’t just be a king, be a good (morale, virtuous, effective, kind, wise) king. The issue here, obviously, was the kind of king Louis was to be, and the adjective “good” as used conveys the importance of it.
    The point is, when reading the Book of Mormon and trying to see amidst its writing information leading to a Land of Promise location, it is sometimes extremely important to see the adjectives that further explain the sentence being read, that many times people just skip over without giving it much thought.
    In this case, we are referring to Nephi’s comment, given much like D’Artagnan’s off-hand, but extremely important or valuable injunction to his son, in a secondary, almost oblique fashion, when he says, “we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8). The middle statement in this passage: “driven forth before the wind” is the one we’d like to draw attention toward. Had it just been “driven before the wind,” it might have suggested in any direction, to and fro, like a drunken sailor. But the word “forth” added, tells us “how” it was driven, that is, “before the wind.” In other words, it was “driven forth,” or “driven forward,” since the word “forth” means “forward.”
    To make sure we did not miss the comment, Nephi repeats in in the next sentence: “And after we had been driven forth before the wind…” (1 Nephi 18:9, emphasis mine). It might be noted here, that Nephi, though himself not a mariner, had obviously seen the local fishermen in their small, but highly maneuverable dhows sailing down the coast of the Red Sea and out along the Sea of Arabia off the coast.
While these small dhows can be turned suddenly and sharply (for a boat), by bringing the sail in line with the wind, the principle could not be used on a deep ocean going vessel because of its length and width and size of sail needed to the overall size of the vessel. However the understanding would not have been lost of Nephi, and knowing his vessel could not be maneuvered like that, he seems determined to point out to his reader that his vessel was pushed forward by the wind, and not dragged around in small maneuvers by it like the small dhows he had seen.
    Thus, we learn from this one word, how Nephi’s ship was powered (by sail) and how it was maneuvered (could only go forward) and could not tack (subject to the direction of the wind).
    Even though his vessel was steerable, it evidently had a rudder, once turning out of the wind it would have been immobile, or drifting with a current, such as into shore upon landing, but not under sail power at such a time.
In fact, for those who are not sailors in the crowd, let’s consider some basic understanding of sails and how they work. Much like a wing, where the top is curved, creating lift, and the bottom is straight, creating straight-through flow, thus the wing is lifted, or more accurately "pulled" upward; a sail can be so positioned as to create the same effect, thus dragging or "pulling" the ship forward into the wind, which takes a great deal of attention, effort, and expertise on the part of the crew for the sail has to be continually moved or altered to catch the wind.
In another case of an adjective being very significant in the scriptural record, take the prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite, when the Lord put into his heart to tell the Nephites of Zarahemla, “there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23), telling us that mountains will form, but what kind of mountains? Tall mountains—so tall, their height will be great. That is, the adjective “great” describes their height and modifies the noun “mountains.”
    Both of these adjectives provide us with very important information. As an example, we know from Samuel that during the crucifixion, mountains will tumble into valleys and valleys will rise into mountains. But what kind of mountains? Little mountains, big mountains, tall mountains, short mountains? We know that they were to become very high mountains, so high that the Lord has Samuel describe their height as “great.”
In South America we have both mountains that are very high, and mountains that are overwhelmingly noticeable and seen from just about anywhere in all the land 

So not only do we look for mountains in the Land of Promise, but we look for mountains “whose height is great,” or very tall mountains. We also know from Samuel that these mountains were to play a very important role in the Nephite mentality and future over their following nearly four hundred years after forming, for the purpose of these mountains rising from valleys into very high mountains was not only so they could be seen by all “to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men“ (Helaman 14:28).
Few places in the Western Hemisphere have such impressive, obviously noticeable mountains from any location as the Andes in South America

For the rest of the Nephite history, these mountains, which evidently could be seen in the Land Northward and in the Land Southward and, in fact, throughout the land, was to be a reminder to all Nephites that they would believe in Christ, in his atonement, in his crucifixion, and in his resurrection. So how is it anyone could claim a Land of Promise location that did not have mountains—that doesn’t even have hills--such as the Great Lakes, Heartland, or eastern U.S.?
    In any event, these two adjectives tell us 1) how to find where Nephi went and landed, and 2) how to verify that this location is the Land of Promise.
1. Simply follow the winds and ocean currents from the shore of the Arabian Peninsula (which do not go east into Indonesia, by the way), and follow them until there is a natural break in those winds to allow a vessel “driven forth before the wind” to make landfall (which just so happens to be only one place and that is around the 30º south latitude on the west coast of Chile, at the Bay of Coquimbo); and
2. Look around and see if this land has mountains “whose height is great,” covering both the Land Southward and the Land Northward, that can basically be seen from all over this area of the land of Promise (The Andes Mountains are the tallest mountains in the Western Hemisphere and have over 100 peaks higher than any other mountains in areas claimed to be the Land of Promise by various theorists).
    As in any writing, small words, sometimes just an adjective or two, can make all the difference.

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