Thursday, October 26, 2017

Limiting Distances and Other Criteria – Part IV

Continuing from the last post regarding an article a reader sent in to us recently written by James Warr and our responses to their comments, and specifically regarding the Lord using snakes with both the Hebrews and with the Jaredites. 
   Also continuing with the directional system Warr tries to bring into question and suggesting, like John L. Sorenson, that the Nephites used a different north-south system than we do today, when Zeniff, in Mosiah as Limhi recounts, returned to the Land of Nephi to reclaim the land of their inheritance. He said: “I, Zeniff, in the thirteen year of my reign in the land of Nephi, away on the south of the land of Shilom…” (Mosiah 9:14).
When Ammon is sent back to the area of Lehi-Nephi, what Nephi, son of Lehi, called the Land of Nephi, and the city of Nephi when he first settled it. Ammon stops with his group and pitches his tents on a hill “north of the land of Shilom” (Mosiah 7:5, 16; 10:8; 11:13), Shilom, of course, being a city next to the city of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi).
    Now we know that Zeniff was returning to the south, to the Land of Nephi, from the Land of Zarahemla in the north—Mormon makes that quite clear (Alma 22:27). We also know that while Shilom was next to the city of Nephi, the land and city of Shemlon was also to the south  and deeper into Lamanite controlled lands. Consequently, the term “south” as Zeniff uses it is correct.
    In addition, since Ammon was coming from the north (Land of Zarahemla) and heading south (toward Land of Nephi), in stopping short on a hill, looking down on the land of Shilom (next to Nephi), he would have been to the north on the hill. Thus, both these instances of directions are correctly used.
    Later, Mormon’s abridgement covered the point that in the land of Zarahemla, the “people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land” (Mosiah 27:6).
    Thus, we can be fairly certain all these directions are correct, and used as we would use them today. Nor do we have any reason at all to doubt their being correct. Thus it is far more correct and makes for better understanding to see them used correctly, than try to claim they were not, since no case can be built against their proper use. Also since we have already discussed this in great detail we won’t go into detail here, but the point is that to the Hebrew, especially those from Jerusalem as Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Laban, Lemuel, the sons of Ishmael and their wives were, plus Jacob learning directions from his brothers Nephi and Sam…
…all understood the importance of east, or qedem (qadim) which means “east,” “in the east,” “eastward,” and according to James Strong (Hebrew Concordance), literally means “the direction of the rising sun.”
    While we in the West (United States, Europe, etc.) use north as our major orientation such as in maps which are always oriented to the north, the Hebrews use east as their major direction and all directions are oriented to this. For example one of the words for south is teyman from the root yaman meaning "to the right," i.e., “to the right of the rising sun.” The word West, means “behind me when I am facing the rising sun.”
    In the east, Arabs and Jews alike face east in prayer no matter where they might be. “And from wheresoever you start forth (for prayers), turn your face in the direction of Al-Masjid-al-Haram, that is indeed the truth from your Lord, and God is not unaware of what you do.” Obviously, then the Easterner’s very religious devotion is to face east when praying. For the Jew, “Like magnets attracted to metal, Jews, no matter where in the world they find themselves, turn their hearts and prayers, to one direction: Jerusalem. Why do Jews face east towards Jerusalem? “If I forget Jerusalem, then let my right hand forget its own strength (Psalms 137:5).” For the Jew, forgetting Jerusalem is tantamount to forgetting one’s identity. It is forgetting oneself. And by contrast, remembering Jerusalem is identifying with one’s very essence and inner-self.
    When Jews pray facing east, they are not merely turning to the capital city in the Promised Land of their forefathers—like a missile that narrows in on its targetthe soul of the Jew is programmed to seek out its source…the root of its holiness.
    Thus, Jews first face Israel, then as they reach Israel, they face Jerusalem, and lastly as they reach Jerusalem, they face the Western Wallsite of the Holy Temple. Ha-kotel ha-ma'aravi or "Western Wall,” considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Their direction is one of progressive holiness, one that narrows in and targets the highest level of closeness to the Divine Presence. And that’s the secret of Jerusalem—the place where the soul unites with its Creator, the life-line of all humanity.
    The point is, “east” is at the center of all things Hebrew, all things Jewish, all things Eastern. It is impossible for the Nephites, living the Law of Moses, not to know their cardinal directions based on “east” and the rising sun, which, in any latitude between the tropics (Capricorn and Cancer), which Mesoamerica falls, as well as several latitudes beyond to the north and the south, the sun rises in the east, traveling north and then back in the Northern Hemisphere from solstice to solstice.
    Sooner or later, Mesoamericanists, must come to understand that to the Hebrew, to those living the Law of Moses, the “east” was sacred, it was where God dwelt, it was the direction from which God would come, it held numerous sacred meanings. They would not have settled for an estimation, or an assumption about eastevery Hebrew, Jew, and Nephite would have known exactly where “east” was located! Not an east that is different from our east—but true east, where their religion, their God, their Temple, their history and future reside. Thus, it cannot be said they did not know the direction of east, or had a different understanding of east, or had a different direction for east.
    It is impossible to think and suggest otherwise.
    In addition, in 600 B.C. all the way to 400 A.D., during the Nephite nation’s 1000-year history, that like any ancient culture, their very lives depended upon knowing the true directions of the sun and its rising and settings through the course of the year for planting and harvesting. They had no corner stores or supermarkets, and in the beginning, not a single merchant selling food stuff—they had to know when to plant, and when to harvest. And Nephi is very clear that they did, for their “seeds they brought from Jerusalem grew exceedingly,” providing an abundant crop (1 Nephi 18:24), and when they planted again later (2 Nephi 5:11). And this is also true 350 years later when Zeniff planted seeds (Mosiah 7:22; 9:9, 14) that grew in such abundance the Lamanites came to war over it and later demanded one half of all the Nephite crops as tribute.
    It is time to ignore ideas like Sorenson's and Warr's and other Mesoamericanists that directions were changed—the very nature and essence of the Jews and Nephites demands that the Nephite directions were the same as those of ancient Israel as well as modern Israel. East is east, not somewhere else. It is time we read the scriptural record with the intent and understanding in which it was written and stop trying to make claims it meant something else!

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