Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Clarification of Mountains, Wilderness and Secret Places

Around 20 B.C., in the seventy-second year of reign of the judges, there were wars throughout all the land among all the people of Nephi (Helaman 11:1), “and it was this secret band of robbers who did carry on this work of destruction and wickedness” (Helaman 11:2). The war raged on for about eight years as a famine swept over the land. Finally, the people began to remember their God and called upon their leaders to get Nephi, a man they knew was righteous and close to God, to intervene in their behalf. 
   Toward the end of this period, “there were a certain number of the dissenters from the people of Nephi, who had some years before gone over unto the Lamanites, and taken upon themselves the name of Lamanites, and also a certain number who were real descendants of the Lamanites, being stirred up to anger by them, or by those dissenters, therefore they commenced a war with their brethren. And they did commit murder and plunder; and then they would retreat back into the mountains, and into the wilderness and secret places,” (Helaman 11:24-25, emphasis added).
    In stating that the robbers did retreat back into the mountains and into the wilderness, Mormon points out the difference in his understanding between “mountains” and “wilderness.”
All of these areas are considered wilderness, yet not a mountain or sand desert among them, which are also wilderness areas. The point is, we cannot pre-determine what is meant by “wilderness” in the scriptural record and say it is this or that when almost any type of topography qualifies for wilderness so long as it is unoccupied and undeveloped by humans

So many theorists, trying to make the scriptural record fit their models, try to tell us that the word “wilderness” in the scripture means some type of topography, such as mountains, or desert, etc. However, Mormon makes it clear that he considers wilderness one thing and mountains another, for he tells us that the Robbers disappeared into both places. And then he adds a third, “and secret places.” Thus, in addition to mountains and wilderness (an unoccupied tract of land), the Robbers also had “secret places” in which they either holed up, isolated and hidden, or that were less hidden, but that they were unknown where they could be hidden but not being known.
    As a result, in “not many years” they became an exceedingly great band of robbers and they did search out all the secret plans of Gadianton and thus became robbers of Gadianton (Helaman 11:26). Thus, again, we see that the intention originally of these murderers and plunderers were merely committing evil acts and hiding themselves away from, or within, the populace because they were unknown. But eventually, they sought out a cause, the safety of numbers and of secret organization to become a force for evil, making “great havoc, yea, even great destruction among the people of Nephi, and also among the people of the Lamanites” (Helaman 11:27).
The Gadianton Robbers continually grew in numbers with dissenters from both the Lamanites and Nephites

They grew because of dissenters, that is, Nephites and Lamanites who dissented from the way the majority of people lived, including their peaceful desires and righteous natures. This became apparent for as soon as the Nephites achieved peace (Helaman 11:21), and that the more part of the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, did belong to the church, dissenters arose in the cities and across the land and left to assemble with the Robbers in their secret places. And “in time, yea, even in the space of not many years, they became an exceedingly great band of robbers; and they did search out all the secret plans of Gadianton; and thus they became robbers of Gadianton” (Helaman 11:26).
    As they hid themselves that they could not be discovered, receiving daily an addition to their numbers, inasmuch as there were dissenters that went forth unto them.
    To counter this, and put an end to this work of destruction, the Nephites sent an army of strong men into the wilderness and upon the mountains to search out this band of robbers, and to destroy them (Helaman 11:28, emphasis added).
   Again, we see that Mormon separates the idea of “wilderness” from the “mountains.” As he does in a following verse when he adds, “And they were again obliged to return out of the wilderness and out of the mountains unto their own lands, because of the exceeding greatness of the numbers of those robbers who infested the mountains and the wilderness” (Helaman 11:31, emphasis added).
    It is interesting that the Robbers became so strong from dissenters from the Nephites and also the Lamanites, “that they did defy the whole armies of the Nephites, and also of the Lamanites; and they did cause great fear to come unto the people upon all the face of the land” (Helaman 11:32).
At this point, the Nephites became prosperous in the land and forgot their God and “did wax stronger and stronger in their pride, and in their wickedness; and thus they were ripening again for destruction” (Helaman 11:37).  By the eighty and sixth year, “the Nephites did still remain in wickedness, yea in great wickedness, while the Lamanites did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God, according to the law of Moses” (Helaman 1:13).
Now into this situation came Samuel the Lamanite to preach repentance to the Nephites in the city of Zarahemla, but after preaching for many days, they cast him out and he started to return to his own land when “the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart“ (Helaman 13:3).
    Now one of the things that the Lord put into Samuel’s heart to say, was regarding the birth and crucifixion of the Savior. And regarding the crucifixion, Samuel speaks of mountains.
    First of all, when Mormon wrote earlier of mountains, he used no adjectives to describe them, evidently suggesting that all the known mountains at the time of Helaman were low or normal or of no particular description. However, when Samuel speaks and Mormon abridges his comments, Samuel describes the mountains in the Land of Promise and specifically when speaking to the Nephites in Zarahemla, that the mountains that would rise up in the Land of Promise at the time of the crucifixion would be extremely high. He states: “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).
    Now what would have been meant by “a great height” of a mountain? After all, there had been mountains in the Land of Promise prior to this time. Mormon describes them just as “mountains,” a term that is used throughout the scriptural record, which attaches very few adjectives to describe any mountains.
    One place where a mountain is given an adjective description is when Nephi was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, and into “an exceedingly high mountain” (1 Nephi 11:1), which he verifies in the retelling to his brothers that it was “exceedingly high mountains” (2 Nephi 4:25), this time he uses the plural of mountains—though these were during visions for “on wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains.”

However, when Nephi saw the mountains in the Land of Promise tumbling into pieces (1 Nephi 12:4) as he witnessed the crucifixion in his vision, he does not describe them in any way—neither high nor in any way descriptive.
When he was following the Liahona to show him where to go to hunt after breaking his steel bow, he merely says “I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain” (1 Nephi 16:30). When Nephi is told to go into the mountain by the Lord, again there is no adjective used “I arose and went up into the mountain” (1 Nephi 17:7). In 3 Nephi during the destruction, it states: “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).
    Thus, it seems safe to suggest that the mountains that rose of which Samuel prophesied, were unusually high mountains, requiring a specific description so no one could misunderstand this important prophesy, which was given “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).
    Again, we see that the mountains of which Samuel spoke were to be ones “whose height was great,” meaning significant high so that no one could deny this was the fulfillment of the prophesy and would stand out as a testimony of the crucifixion of Christ on the other side of the world. In addition, we also see that the terms “mountains” and “wilderness” are not the same thing, despite so many theorists trying to tell us they are.

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