Saturday, January 27, 2018

More Comments from Readers - Part III

More comments and questions from our readers of this blog: 
    Comment #1: “Your Book of Mormon talks about the Nephites having a compass, but the use of the magnetic compass was unknown in 600 B.C.” Jan A.
    Response: This is the type of problem we run into when people become critics over issues of history that they do not fully know, but trust to “general knowledge.” As an example, the function of magnetic hematite was well understood in both the Old and New Worlds before Lehi left Jerusalem.
Magnesia, Asia Minor, where magnetic iron was first discovered, and from whence the name Magnetic comes

Magnetite, or lodestone, is, of course, naturally magnetic iron, and the word magnetite comes from the name of a place in which it was mined in Asia Minor by at least the seventh century B.C., many years before Lehi left Jerusalem, called Magnesia, in what is today Turkey.
    In addition, China had such a compass before 200 B.C. in their “south-pointer” a spoon-shaped instrument in a cast bronze plate called a “heaven-plate” or “diviner’s board.” The original use of Ancient Chinese compasses was for maintaining harmony and prosperity with one’s environment in a philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment, as well as for telling the future—it was one of the Five Arts of Chinese Metaphysics, classified as physiognomy, that is observation of appearances through formulas and calculations.
    In ancient China, it was believed that if your home was placed in the right direction, then you would have a good life including good health and much wealth. Today, we know this practice as feng shui, which, as we know today, discusses architecture in metaphoric terms of "invisible forces" that bind the universe, earth, and humanity together, known as “qi.”
    Besides, the use of a magnetic compass would have been known to God from the beginning and since it was He who made the compass and provide it for Lehi, one cannot say it was unknown at that time. The word, of course, would not have been known, but translation is based on purpose and meaning, not always on specific words.
    Comment#3: “I think we should be careful to use any variation of the statement "the Book of Mormon doesn't mention them" as an argument against them. By the same token, we can't conclusively say that the east sea disappeared after 3rd Nephi simply because it is no longer mentioned. The most we can say is that the lack of mention is only supportive of the thesis, but it does not prove it. Let me give an example: the Book of Mormon makes no mention of any Lehites eating fish, it's completely silent on the matter. It does, however, mention other food and drink that they DID eat. Are we to then conclude that Lehites didn't eat fish because the Book of Mormon says nothing about it? I think most people would think that a ridiculous notion. Given the preponderance of "waters," "rivers," "fountains," and the "seashores" often mentioned, using our knowledge of human existence, and considering that there's probably not a single historical people anywhere in the americas who DIDN'T eat fish, it's probably safe to say they ate fish—even though the Book of Mormon doesn't explicitly say it. Just some thoughts” Wonder Boy.
    Response: As we have written from time to time, any and all information regarding the geography of the Land of Promise is to some extent assumptive, since it was not written as a geographical work, nor even a history, and much is not covered. On the other hand, as we have also said, that when Mormon makes reference to the “Sea East” twenty-four times, with 20 of them in his brief abridgement of Alma, and often regarding the Lamanites and wars, one might think that when he says “the war began among them” (Mormon 1:10), he neither mentions the Sidon River nor the Sea East. While that is not conclusive, it certainly does not fit in with his typical writing on the subject.
    As for your example of the fish, perhaps we ought to look at it in greater context to the writing of Mormon. As an example, if the scriptural record said the Nephites had eaten fish in 20 different references, then of a sudden said there was a drastic change in diet brought about by a cataclysmic event, then went on to say what they ate after that and did not mention fish, one might draw a rather conclusive, though assumptive, conclusion from this change in comment. If we are going to use examples, they need to be representative of the facts or the comparison.
    As for the Sea East, there are other factors—It did exist, it is frequently mentioned, and there was an island, and the Nephites had built several cities along that coast, which was mentioned numerous times, as was the fact that the Lamanites attacked these cities from time to time when commencing a war, etc., but when they commenced a war (which turned out to launch the final battles of the nation) the Lamanites were doing so in the area they had done so in the past (near the Sidon), yet no mention of the cities, Sea East, coast, seashore, etc. I take that as very particular, though as you say, not fact. Still, we have suggested other ideas on no less of suggestive things, which fit the picture better than something else. After all, when it comes to the geography of the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon, there are few concrete "facts"—mostly just ideas.
    Comment #3: “How did the plates get from South America to upstate New York?”  Carlisle J.
    Response: We might just as well ask, when Nephi in 1 Nephi 11:1 sat pondering in his heart, he was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which he never had before seen, and upon which he never had before set his foot—how did he get there? Or, we might ask, when Joseph and Oliver took the plates back to the Hill Cumorah in New York, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. They laid the plates on a table, under which was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads—since the hill in New York is a drumlin hill, that is a hill of glacial till where no cave could exist, where were they and how did they get there?
Typical Drumlin Hill
    To ask how the Lord accomplishes what he does is fruitless, or even how visions work. He labors in spheres far beyond our knowledge. Transporting items from one place to another for the one who helped create the Universe and formed the Earth, such questions are meaningless.
    As a guess about the plates, it may he been that this was done after Moroni was finished writing. That is, he took the plates to New York from the Ecuadorian area. How this was done, is not known. After all, the Lord has the power to move objects, matter, etc., at His will. On the other hand, many years after the event, David Whitmer told Elder Joseph F. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve about his wagon trip to Fayette with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. As they traveled across a section of prairie, they came upon a man walking along the road, carrying something that was obviously heavy in a knapsack on his back. Invited to ride, the man replied, “No, I am going to Cumorah.” Puzzled, David glanced at Joseph Smith inquiringly, but when he turned again, the man was gone. David demanded of Joseph: “‘What does it mean?’
    Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer’s home.” (Andrew Jenson, ed., The Historical Record, vol. 6, May 1887, pp. 207–9.)
    As we understand it, Moroni’s great mission after his translation (or resurrection) was to look after this Nation. He is its guardian angel, so to speak, and would be involved in just about everything righteous that takes place here. His moving the plates (wagon loads of plates) from Ecuador to New York would not be much of a deal for such a being—the Brother of Jared moved a mountain. On the other hand, we do not know and have not been told how he did that—the one thing that is certain, those plates were not originally buried in the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. Having been through that land and seen and walked upon the hill—nothing about it could possibly match the description within the scriptural record about Mormon’s last battle.


  1. The ancients were experts at observing the heavens. They named many of the constellations we see today in the heavens. They knew where North was located based on the heavens. They weren't ignorant of how they were oriented on earth. To say that they didn't know anything because they didn't have a compass is ignorance of the abilities of the ancients.