Monday, December 12, 2016

A Feeble Argument and Untenable Stance – Part III

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. 
    In response to his own questions and comments (see previous post), Jonathan then states what to him is the obvious:
Jonathan: “The first answer is Letter VII, which Oliver Cowdery wrote with the assistance of Joseph Smith. At the time, Joseph was President of the Church and Oliver was Assistant President. They wrote Letter VII as part of a series on Church history.”
    Response: This is misleading. Oliver Cowdery wrote Letter VII as part of a series of eight letters to W. W. Phelps about the origin and authorship of the Book of Mormon, and the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith became aware of Cowdery’s interest in including Joseph Smith’s story in his letters and wrote Oliver a letter, which Cowdery included in a letter to Phelps, telling of his early experience with the Agel Moroni.
    Joseph wrote: “Dear Brother, having learned from the first number of the Messenger and Advocate, that you were, not only about to ‘give a history of the rise and progress of the church of the Latter-day Saints;’ but, that said ‘history would necessarily embrace my life and character,’ I have been induced to give you the time and place of my birth.” Joseph then went on to write about his birth, life and character to the age of 21, mainly to offset so many inaccurate stories and accounts of his life that were floating around. He concluded with: “By giving the above a place in your valuable paper, you will confer a lasting favour upon myself as an individual, and, as I humbly hope, subserve the cause of righteousness. I am, with feelings of esteem, your fellow-labourer in the gosepl of our Lord. Joseph Smith.”
Letter VII begins with Cowdery writing to Phelps (This version uses the text from the 1844 publication, which contains corrections from the 1834 version of Cowdery’s letter): “You will remember that in my last I brought my subject down to the evening, or night of the 21st of September, 1823, and gave an outline of the conversation of the angel upon the important fact of the blessings, promises and covenants to Israel, and the great manifestations of favour to the world, in the ushering in of the fulness of the gospel, to prepare the way for the second advent of the Messiah, when he comes in the glory of the Father, with the holy angels.” Oliver then goes on to defend the fact that Joseph was awake and aware during this vision, adding, “But the tone of which I have been speaking is what would have been called an open vision. And though it was in the night, yet it was not a dream. There is no room for conjecture in this matter, and to talk of deception, would be to sport with the common sense of every man who knows when he is awake, when he sees and when he does not see.” Oliver goes on to write about the fact Joseph Smith could “not have been deceived,” adding, “the fulfillment of his words so minutely, up to this time, in addition to the truth and word of salvation which has been developed to this generation, in the Book of Mormon, ought to be conclusive evidence to the mind of every man who is privileged to hear of the same. He was awake, and in solemn prayer, as you will bear in mind, when the angel made his appearance; from that glory which surrounded him the room was lit up to a perfect brilliancy, so that darkness wholly disappeared.” Oliver goes on to confirm the fact Joseph was awake and aware, and that he heard the angel’s magnificent message with his ears, adding, “the vision was renewed twice before morning, unfolding further and still further the mysteries of godliness and those things to come. In the morning he went to his labor as usual, but soon the vision of the heavenly messenger was renewed, instructing him to go immediately and view those things of which he had been informed, with a promise that he should obtain them, if he followed the directions and went with an eye single to the glory of God.”
    It might also be of interest to learn a little about William Wine Phelps, who was an early leader of the Church, printed the first edition of the Book of Commandments (later the Doctrine and Covenants), and wrote numerous hymns that became standard works of the church. He was at times both close to and at odds with church leadership, and testified against Joseph Smith, providing evidence that helped persuade authorities to arrest the prophet.
Phelps, with Joseph Smith, asking forgiveness for offering false witness against the prophet and requesting to be reinstated in the Church
    He was excommunicated three times and rejoined the church each time. He was a ghost writer for Joseph Smith and was called by Joseph to serve as assistant president of the church in Missouri. He served on the Council of Fifty after the prophet's death, and supported Brigham Young as the new prophet.
    Jonathan: “They wrote Letter VII a few months before the Kirtland temple was completed; i.e., a few months before receiving the keys of the gathering and temple work directly from Moses, Elias, Elijah, and the Lord Himself.”
    Response: Again, Jonathan lays claim that the two wrote this letter together, when in reality, Joseph provided Oliver with an outline of these events, which Cowdery then wrote in a letter to Phelps. We have no corroboration that Joseph, himself, was actually involved in the letter writing or even in proofing the information.
    What we find is that Cowdery gives a third-person account of Joseph Smith’s experiences, such as “Alternately, as we could naturally expect, the thought of the previous vision was ruminating in his mind, with a reflection of the brightness and glory of the heavenly messenger; but again a thought would start across the mind on the prospects of obtaining so desirable a treasure—one in all human probability sufficient to raise him above a level with the common earthly fortunes of his fellow men, and relieve his family from want, in which, by misfortune and sickness they were placed.” But we have no verification that Joseph thought those words at all, or in that manner, or to that extent—we only have Oliver Cowdery’s written words in a letter to Phelps, which Joseph does not corroborate in the letter at all. As we read on, it sounds for all the world like Oliver trying to justify thoughts he claims Joseph had about the wealth and treasure of the proposed gold plantes of which Moroni had mentioned.
    Cowder adds, “It is very natural to suppose that the mind would revolve upon those scenes which had passed, when those who had acquired a little of this world's goods, by industry and economy, with the blessings of health or friends, or by art and intrigue, from the pockets of the day-laborer, or the widow and the fatherless, had passed by with a stiff neck and a cold heart, scorning the virtuous because they were poor, and lording over those who were subjected to suffer the miseries of this life.”
    Cowdery goes on with this introspective storyline, “Alternately did these, with a swift reflection of the words of the holy messenger—"Remember, that he who does this work, who is thus favoured of the Lord, must do it with his eye single to the glory of the same, and the welfare and restoration of the scattered remnants of the house of Israel"—rush upon his mind with the quickness of electricity. Here was a struggle indeed; for when he calmly reflected upon his errand, he knew that if God did not give, he could not obtain; and again, with the thought or hope of obtaining, his mind would be carried back to its former reflection of poverty, abuse,—wealth, grandeur and ease, until before arriving at the place described, this wholly occupied his desire; and when he thought upon the fact of what was previously shown him, it was only with an assurance that he should obtain and accomplish his desire in relieving himself and friends from want.”
So we have a painted picture from Oliver’s tongue subscribing to Joseph Smith the feelings of avarice at a time when he was fraught with concerns about being the poorest of the poor as he envisioned this great wealth that was soon to come into his hands. It is interesting that we have no other corroboration of this line of serous thinking of Joseph Smith regarding such a thoroughly covered subject in many publications. 
    Cowdery goes on to say that as Joseph Smith walked home from the fields after this second morning’s vision of Moroni with thoughts about the “history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus, must be interesting to every man.”
    It should be of note here that for the second time we find a mentioning of Columbus discovering “this continent” when, in fact, he never set foot or ever saw North America at all, but did set foot on Central America and South America.” Somehow that fact is lost to Jonathan and his Great Lakes followers, but is not lost in fact to those who are not trying to prove anything but state the facts as they have unfolded. 
(See the next post,” A Feeble Argument and Untenable Stance – Part IV,” 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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