Saturday, March 24, 2018

Know the meaning of all things

After Lehi left his home at Jerusalem and took his family into the wilderness, “he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5), and after three days of traveling there, he “pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water” (1 Nephi 2:6), and named them the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laman (1 Nephi 2:8). There he stayed for upwards of two years, while sending his sons back to Jerusalem “to the house of Laban” to obtain the Brass Plates.
Nephi and his brothers return to Lehi’s tent in the wilderness with the brass plates, having been gone a sufficient time to fill their mother with dread that they had been killed during the trip

Then later, sending them back again to “the land of Jerusalem,” to Ishmael’s house “to bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 7:2).
    Before leaving the Valley of Lemuel, when they “took up the tent and departed into the wilderness, across the river Laman” (1 Nephi 16:12), Nephi asks to see the visions his father had earlier and discussed with his family. During that exchange with an angel as Nephi sees the birth of the Savior, the angel asks him if he “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” to which Nephi replied, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:16-17).
    It seems safe for those of us who study the geography of the Book of Mormon to also say, that we “do not know the meaning of all things.” As an example, we have been ridiculed by some when we have stated that the word “river” in connection with the Sidon, is not mentioned after the great destruction that occurred in 3 Nephi, nor do we read about the Sea East after that event, though it is mentioned often before that time, and suggest that it no longer existed. There has been such criticism even though it so clearly states that “the whole face of the land was changed” (3 Nephi 8:12); “the face of the whole earth became deformed” (3 Nephi 8:17), and “the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land” (3 Nephi 8:18).
    Of course, we do not know that the River Sidon was diverted, or that it no longer flowed in the same course, nor do we know that the Sea East no longer existed. Yet, there is sufficient cause to consider these points. For those who claim otherwise, we might repeat Nephi’s comment: “I do not know the meaning of all things.”
Samuel prophesied that valleys would become mountains “whose height is great”

After all, when we learn that “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), or that “mountains tumbled into pieces and the plains of the earth were broken up” (1 Nephi 12:4), and that “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), we ought to at least back up from our contrary thinking and consider what all that would mean in real facts. Take as an example, that rivers flow from mountain heights toward lowlands and the sea, but if you remove those mountain heights, what happens to the rivers? Obviously, they are going to be affected by the change.
    What of a sea? When cities sink into the ground and waters flow in to fill the void, when continents rise and inner seas are formed, and when those inner seas eventually drain toward the lower lands and the receding seas, what happens to the inland water ways? Obviously, there are going to be changes.
    However, John L. Sorenson, in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, on pages 45-46, states “The volume itself says that the changes at the Savior’s death were mainly to the surface…Thus the record itself gives no justification for supposing that the form or nature of the land changed in any essentials.” Yet, when Samuel the Lamanite is describing this coming destruction, which words the Lord put into his heart to speak (Helaman 13:5), he describes that destruction as not just surface, but says: “the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up… they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath” (Helaman 14:21, emphasis added).
    Samuel is being told by the Lord to tell the people that at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion, the solid rock beneath the Earth will be broken up into fragment beneath the Earth! One can only imagine what destruction to the Earth itself that would cause, for the rock foundation of the surface to be broken into fragments beneath the surface. In fact, mountains will disappear and lowland valleys will be raised into very high mountains. That alone should suggest a tremendous change in topography. Think of it. What if Salt Lake Valley was changed into a series of high mountains whose height was great. Wouldn’t that change the view of the entire area for many miles around, and wouldn’t that be very noticeable?
The city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the city of Gadiandi, Gadiomnah, Jacob, and Gimgimno have I caused to be sun, and made hills and valleys in thei places thereof; and the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah that in the place of the city there became a great mountain

Samuel then said that the angel told him that “many shall see greater things than these” (Helaman 14:28). What greater things could we expect to see across the land greater than mountains collapsing into level valleys and other valleys rising into very high mountains?

Does this sound like a cosmetic or just a surface change? Cities would sink into the ground and cease to exist, the course of rivers from the collapse of mountains and the rise of new ones, would change courses, coastlines would change and be altered. And this would take place “on all the face of this land” (Helaman 14:28). And after all this destruction, the disciple Nephi wrote: “And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood” (3 Nephi 10:10).
    Now in order for the Earth to “cleave together again,” it had to have been taken apart, or as Webster put it in 1828, “to part or divide by force, so split apart, to part or open.” This means the Earth was divided by force, split apart, opened up during this destruction, and then put back together again that it stood, meaning that it was placed back into its spherical condition after being taken apart or divided by force.
    It can hardly he said, then that this was basically a surface or cosmetic event.
    It would appear then, that theorists such as Sorenson and others who think such activity as described in the scriptural record was merely a simple and overall meaningless event that had no ongoing emphasis, simply misunderstand the levels of meaning that the Book of Mormon conveys of the events that took place within its writings. That the Earth was, at least in the area of the Land of Promise, completely changed, resulting in a difference, perhaps drastic, of the topography and geography, is more supportive of the scriptural record and its meaning than someone’s opinion to the contrary.
    That Mormon 350 years later understood the topography of the Land of Promise does not suggest that it wasn’t changed during the crucifixion, only that Mormon, having a complete written record of the geography before and after the event, understood the placement of both geographical states. If we are going to know and understand the meaning of all things, or at least of the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, then perhaps we need to be less adamant of old paradigms developed in the past by the opinions and beliefs of less knowledgeable writers, and more aware of what better and more accurate understandings that have taken place since, that have resulted from more expansive knowledge and research.
    One thing seems certain and that is just because one man created a Mesoamerican Model idea seventy-two years ago when he opened up the Archaeology Department at BYU, does not mean it is accurate today, especially in light of all the advanced knowledge that has been acquired about other areas that far better meet the ancient scriptural description than does Jakeman’s Maya and Guatemala theme.

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