Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Feeble Argument and Untenable Stance – Part II

Continuing from the last post on more of Jonathan Neville’s untenable argument about Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII as the definitive answer and rationale for the Hill Cumorah being located in New York. As we have written many times here, if one is going to find the location of the Land of Promise, one needs to start with the scriptural record, not with Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII, or any other written material or terxt.
    Where this concept comes into play is when one takes a scripture and changes, alters it, or uses it out of context in order to make it conform to one’s one belief or viewpoint and in this sense, it indeed takes on a secondary meaning of “distortion.” As an example, John L. Sorenson claiming that Mormon, who uses cardinal compass points to lay out the land of promise for our understanding in Alma 22:17-34, then claims Mormon had a different directional system in mind which was unknown to Joseph Smith and, evidently, unknown to the Spirit who oversaw the translation.
    However, in sticking with all of the scriptures involved in the scriptural record, using those points as written without change, hardly allows for a personal bias—it is in taking someone’s writing of their own viewpoint, such as Oliver Cowdery in Letter VII and then using that and that only as the entire basis of one’s view that is both “distortion” and a personal viewpoint in play.
The flat ground all around the small, low hill [in the center] is conducive to battles being fought by half a million men here that would have circled the hill, not just been on the West side as Cowdery erroneously claims in his Letter VII

    Just one point on Cowdery’s description when he claims that the entire battle took place in the west of the Hill Cumorah in New York, between that and another drumlin hill about a mile to the west. However, Mormon specifically says that when the Nephites arrived at Cumorah, they pitched their rents around about the hill, meaning all around the hill. Obviously, the battle would have ensued to wherever the Nephites were encamped at the Hill Cumorah. If Cowdery got that wrong, what else did he get wrong—certainly his poetic rhetoric of what the Nephites experienced is not found in the scriptural record, nor anything about the battle itself, which he expounds upon in Letter VII as though he was there--which can obviously be nothing more than his opinion.
    Jonathan: “For better or worse, I also tend to separate emotional elements in my analysis because I recognize how emotion colors arguments and perceptions.”
    Response: The problem is thus compounded when one takes a personal view, Letter VII, and states it all out of proportion to its place in the history of the Church as to supersede the scriptural record and all everyone else, contemporary to Oliver Cowdery and since his time, and ignore anything that is contrary to Oliver’s point of view. The problem is very obvious that Jonathan does not separate his personal bias on this matter with the facts of the scriptural record and other views stated by equally important General Authorities and Presidents of the Church who have spoken time and time again that the Land of Promise encompasses the entire Western Hemisphere, both North and South America and not just the United States. 
 As an example, take:
• Frederick G. Williams who wrote down that “The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship, they traveled nearly a south south East direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of North Lattitude, then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia then sailed in a south east direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chile thirty degrees south Lattitude” (Williams, Frederick G. III, Did Lehi Land in Chile? Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988, p. 1);
• Orson Pratt claimed that the Nephite landing site was on the coast of Chile near Valparaiso (Frederick J. Pack (Chairman of the Gospel Doctrine Committee of the Church) and George D. Pyper, The Instructor 73, No. 4, 1938, pg 160); Pratt’s influence in the church saw his geographic views published in the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon; and as early as 1832 publicly promoted the idea that Lehi “crossed the water into South America.”
• March 15, 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons, an editorial claimed Joseph Smith informed readers that Lehi “landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien” which would place Lehi’s landing on a western shore of South America” (“Facts Are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons, September 15, 1842, Vol. 3, No 22, p.922)
    We are not suggesting here that these people and others' belief in South America is the basis of our Land of Promise location. Our stance on South America is solely from following the information and descriptions given in the scriptural record, and the forty-four scriptures that match completely the South American region of Andean Peru. The point is, Oliver Cowdery was not the only person in those early days who had opinions or views on where the Book of Mormon took place.
In fact, when compared to the scriptural record which often states just the opposite, Oliver Cowdery’s personal opinion, even though shared by others, does not hold a candle of interest, nor should it. Even his West Valley position of the army does not hold true to the landform of the area. At best it presents a feeble argument in favor of the New York Hill Cumorah in New York but is in realty an untenable position. 
    If you have ever visited there, walked up on the hill itself and looked about, it is easy to see that any attacking Lamanite army, if the Nephites were not completely encircled about the hill, the attacking force could have swept over this low hill and attacked the Nephites in the west valley from the rear. The advantage Mormon must have considered is that his smaller force could cause the Lamanites to attack frontally, by have the hill to their rear and have it completely surrounded.
    Jonathan: “Why do critics suggest that "All nineteenth-century writers on Book of Mormon geography apparently assume that the place where Joseph Smith found the plates and the hill where the Nephites met their destruction were identical."
    Response: Actually, a study of the early Church and its members and leaders assumed that the entire North and South American continent was the Land of Promise, thinking North America was the Land Northward, South America the Land Southward, and Central America the Narrow Neck of Land. This was probably based on cursory reading of the work and glances at the America map. While I am not that old, even when I was a teen in the 1950s, that was pretty much the consensus of the average member, and I recall numerous discussions over the years to that effect in both Sunday School and Priesthood classes on the subject.
    Jonathan: “Now, why would they all "assume" that the Hill Cumorah was in New York?”
Response: Because it was where the plates were found by Joseph and it was assumed that was where Moroni buried them. Not until much later did readers get seriously into the geography and recognize that we have no idea where Moroni hid up the plates since he never says.
    Jonathan: “The answer should be obvious, but apparently it's not, so I'll spell it out.”
    Response: Having lived through the time and not merely researching it evidently as Jonathan does, discussions and comments never involved Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII, nor hardly any other early LDS leader’s comments. It just made sense from a cursory view of the scriptural record and the overall map. 
(See the next post,” A Feeble Argument and Untenable Stance – Part III,” for more on Jonathan Neville’s feeble argument and untenable stance of the Hill Cumorah being in New York as stated so frequently on Book of Mormon Wars website.

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