Friday, December 29, 2017

Looking at Early Church Comments – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding Lucy Mack Smith’s aged commentary of events and conversation that took place some 20 years or more before her writing them down that were submitted by a reader who conflicted with our comment in an article about Joseph Smith not using the term “Cumorah” before the hill in Manchester, New York, became so known by early members of the Church. 
    As for the site that the reader listed in the comment, we have critiqued this subject numerous times (Letter VII and Oliver Cowdery's flowery rendition as he “waxed poetically” on what happened and what was felt by people during that final battle at Cumorah, which is not contained in any writings of Joseph, any Church documents, or the scriptural record, but only reflects his opinion as he stated in a series of letters with W.W. Phelps). Before responding or going further with Oliver's comments, you might want to look up on this blog and see what we have very extensively detailed on the subject.
The hill Cumorah (foreground). To the west is the West Valley, a small area about one to one-and-a-half square miles in size, where Oliver Cowdery claims the entire final battle took place between the Nephites and the Lamanites. One mile to the west another ridge runs parallel with the hill Cumorah, leaving what Oliver claimed was a beautiful vale between, and the site of the entire battle. According to Oliver Here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed. However, considering there were 230,000 Nephites in this battle and a significantly larger number of Lamanites (Mormon 6:7-8), there is no way the battle could have been fought in this small valley as Oliver claims, saying: In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites

The height of the hill is so low, only about 105-feet up a very gradual slope, it certainly would not have provided any hiding places (at ground level you can see through the trees and the area is far more open than it appears in these aerial photos) for Mormon, Moroni, and the other 22 survivors to hide as indicated in the scriptural record (Mormon 6:11)

Just one comment about Oliver's information, he claims (and the pictures of  the site you referenced show the area) that the entire battle of some half million or more people fought and died in a single valley (on the west of Cumorah) and that would have been impossible when we compare the small size of the valley and the huge numbers of men involved, plus the scriptures claim the Nephites were encamped “about the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:4)—keep in mind that the word “about” in the 1828 dictionary with which Joseph Smith was aware, since he used it in the teachings of the School of the Prophets, is defined as: “literally, around, on the outside; Around; on the exterior part or surface.”
    Thus, it should be understood that the Nephites were encamped all around the Book of Mormon hill Cumorah and that is where they fought, i.e., “around the hill,” not just on one side as Oliver so eloquently claims. Much of Oliver's facts were not accurate, that is, not found in or verified by the scriptural record, but added by him as we have described in previous articles, and his overall writing of this subject was mostly his own opinion. It is not accepted as Church doctrine, or official Church wordage of the Cumorah battle.
    In addition, to clarify the idea of Church Records regarding Joseph Smith, it should be kept in mind what as printed on Church website under “Sources Used in This Book” describing the current published “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” the third and fourth paragraphs: “The way in which these sermons were recorded is very different from the way sermons were recorded for later Presidents of the Church. Church Presidents who came after Joseph Smith used scribes to record in shorthand their addresses to Church members. When electronic recording devices, such as tape recorders and motion picture film, became available, these were used to record the precise words delivered by Church leaders. During the lifetime of Joseph Smith, however, shorthand was not in widespread use. Therefore, the sermons he delivered were recorded imprecisely in longhand, generally by scribes, Church leaders, and other Church members. Almost all of Joseph Smith’s addresses were given extemporaneously, without prepared texts, so the notes taken by those who listened to him constitute the only record of the discourses. While some lengthy reports of his addresses exist, most are summarizations of the messages delivered by the Prophet. Unfortunately, there is no record for many of the discourses given by Joseph Smith. Of the more than 250 sermons he is known to have delivered, reports or notes taken by scribes or others cover only about 50 of the sermons given.”
    This is not to lessen what we have, only to understand much is summarization, as all writings tend to be that were written “after the fact,” as was the information Lucy Mack Smith is credited with writing—the overall information is accurate, exact details were often questionable since they were based on memory.
    Also, under the “Rules of Transcription” in “The Joseph Smith Papers” project, the following is stated: “Text transcription and verification is therefore an imperfect art more than a science…Even the best transcribers and verifiers will differ from one another in making such judgments. Interested readers may wish to compare the transcripts with the images of the documents on this site to understand how these transcription rules have been applied.”
    This is not stated here in brief to suggest in any way the inaccuracy of Church history or any document in that historical record (or doctrinal information within the Book of Mormon), but only to point out what is taken for granted today, and therefore used as judgment as in your presenting Lucy Mack Smith’s comment, were not arrived at in the past as we understand they are today. Almost all such records of the past dealing with side issues (i.e., geographical locations, what some claims another said, etc.) were reliant on memory, and memory is faulty at best (this is true even when reading old journals).
    This is one of the reasons so many people have spent their entire careers at BYU and elsewhere in pouring over these ancient documents to make certain we have as accurate an understanding of the past as possible. But unless one pours over original documents, vets through investigation the process of documentation and pathway to current knowledge, it is unwise to use past quotes, other than the actual scriptural record, as support for a viewpoint. This is especially true when one gets that information from a theorist (one promoting a viewpoint), which is a major problem today that we have in understanding the past.
    As B. H. Roberts in 1909 wrote: “the generations who succeed us in unfolding in a larger way some of the yet unlearned truths of the Gospel, will find that we have had some misconceptions and made some wrong deductions in our day and time. The book of knowledge is never a sealed book. It is never ‘completed and forever closed;’ rather it is an eternally open book, in which one may go on constantly discovering new truths and modifying our knowledge of old ones” (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3 vols., Vol 3, pp503-504, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909). 
    We can say now that this observation pertains equally today to our continuing efforts to know the Book of Mormon better, both through study and also by faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment