Friday, March 2, 2018

When You Read the Scriptures Correctly – Part II

Continuing from the last post with the knowledge of truthful and accurate interpretation of the scriptural record solves and answers subsequent verses and comments, while inaccurate interpretations compound problems that need to then be dealt with individually by changing, altering, or trying to adjust the meaning of the scriptural record. Thus, when we understand the scriptural record the way it is written, all other passages fall in place and agree with that initial assessment. However, when we force an interpretation because of a pre-conceived idea, our tendency is to alter the scriptural meaning, which then causes difficulty in fitting subsequent passages to that meaning.
What was Columbus’ motivation to sail westward toward China and the Spice Islands?

Take for instance, the controversy over Columbus and his reason for wanting to find a route to China, India and the Spice Islands from the east. The popular view of Columbus today is that he was a cruel, iron-disciplined greedy gold-seeker, looking for honor and prestige at the expense of everyone else, bent on enslaving the peaceful native people and subjugating them to extreme bloody violence, brutality, and torture, despoiling the pristine environment, and establishing forced labor and slavery under a reign of terror in the New World.
    However, perhaps a look at how the Lord saw Columbus might be more important than some historians and groups ugly, misinterpreted and re-written view. For instance, Nephite wrote, upon seeing Columbus in a vision coming to America: “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13:12, emphasis added).
    To make sure we understand this “wrought upon,” in the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, defines “wrought” as “worked,” “guided,” ”managed,” ”influenced,” “prevailed on,” i.e., “his mind was wrought upon by divine grace.” Thus, the Spirit of God influenced and guided Columbus to discover America. For that to happen, Columbus had to have been a worthwhile and righteous man, and one in which the Lord could use to further his purposes.
    It is also interesting to know that Columbus himself though his voyage was the fulfillment of prophecy, and wrote: “The Lord purposed that there should be something clearly miraculous in this matter of the voyage to the Indies…I spent seven years here in the royal court discussing this subject with the leading persons in all the learned arts, and their conclusion was that all was in vain. That was the end, and they gave it up. But afterwards it all turned out just as our redeemer Jesus Christ had said, and as he had spoken earlier by the mouth of his holy prophets” (Delno West and August King, The Libro de las profecias of Christopher Columbus, Gainsville, University of Florida Press, 1991, p 107).
    Columbus also stated, “With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project…this was the fire that burned within me…who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the holy Spirit…urging me to press forward” (Libro, p 105).
The problem in dealing with pre-determination, like those who want to deride Columbus and judge a man who lived over 500 years ago by today’s standards, is that once someone decides something, they are unlikely to ever go back on that idea or change their mind. Look at those who read into the scriptural record what they want rather than what is actually written. As an example, for those who believe Lehi lived inside Jerusalem, rather than outside the city walls as the scriptural record states, much of the rest of what Nephi writes makes sense.
    As an example, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, a professional archaeologist and Professor of Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center in Israel, claims adamantly that Lehi lived inside Jerusalem, stating: “After assessing all the data, I suggest that Lehi's house was located in the city quarter of ancient Jerusalem called the Mishneh (the same location today is part of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City). 
    Yet, as the scriptural record discusses a comment by Nephi as he and his brothers huddled within Jerusalem after Laban threatened the life of Laman who had sought the brass plates, it is clear Lehi’s house was not within the city. Nephi states: “therefore let us go down to the land of our father's inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches” (1 Nephi 3:15, emphasis added), and Nephi adds, “we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things. And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban” (1 Nephi 3:22-23, emphasis added).
    Now, since Nephi and his brothers were already within Jerusalem (1 Nephi 3:10-14), to leave where they were and “go down” to where Lehi’s house was located (“down to the land of our inheritance”), tells us he did not live within Jerusalem, but outside of Jerusalem, as the word “at” suggested earlier in Nephi’s location of where his father had lived all his days.
    Yet, Chadwick goes on to write quite extensively of Lehi’s living inside Jerusalem, what his occupation within the city was, and how he had acquired the city location from his father who had fled the north to settle within Jerusalem—all of which is pure speculation on Chadwick’s part since not a single word of this is even suggested in the scriptural record, yet Chadwick goes on to state: “Lehi's house is sometimes said to have been "at Jerusalem" but not in the city Jerusalem, but this whole notion is not tenable since it does not correspond to the information in the Book of Mormon text.
    It is interesting how people can read the simple scriptural record and actually claim it does not say what it does—yet, Chadwick spends a very lengthy article trying to prove just that. Yet, many theorists do this, denying what is simply stated about numerous items mentioned in the scriptural record, and especially Mormon’s numerous descriptions of the land and how simple everything comes together when it is interpreted correctly, and someone is not trying to force a different meaning on the written words.
    This is the problem that Mesoamerican and other theorists have—they have to alter and keep changing or ignoring scripture because once committed to that land area, not much else makes a lot of sense the way it is described in the record by Mormon and others. Thus, more and more changes have to be included to make it work.
    The point is, when one understands the true meaning of a scripture, and interprets it correctly, one finds he has knowledge far beyond the actual scripture itself. In this case, we come to understand the man Columbus, not through someone else’s distorted view, but through those of the Lord and Nephi who wrote about him.
    Now, in this sense, we need to consider the concept of Book of Mormon Land of Promise geographical theories that abound in the field today. If we look at a few with the above in mind, we get a better understanding of what has happened to the scriptural record in the hands of careless scholars and how we need to be careful how we, ourselves, interpret the word of God as set forth, in the Book of Mormon, by Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni dealing with the geography of the land.
Let’s take the decisions John L. Sorenson made to claim Mesoamerica was the Land of Promise and Lehi’s landing site. One quick glance, tells you that it is laid out in the wrong direction, nearly 90º off of Mormon’s descriptions. But that did not deter Sorenson who then introduced the idea of “Nephite North” and an ancient Hebrew directional concept that allowed Sorenson to still claim Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise.
    However, this then led to a narrow neck of land that Mormon said a Nephite could cross in a day-and-a-half, which would be somewhere between 25 and 35 miles, yet the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Sorenson’s narrow neck, is 144 miles across according to the Mexican government.
    So that led to another change in the scriptural meaning and the introduction of Mohave Indians by Sorenson who he claims could cover 100 miles in a day. And since Mesoamerica did not have metallurgy during Nephite times, Sorenson tries to change history to show that metallurgy was there 300 years earlier than history has shown. Or that the record shows the Jaredites never settled the land south of the narrow neck, keeping it for an animal preserve and hunting, yet the Olmec (Sorenson’s Jaredites) are shown to have settled as far south as Honduras, well into Sorenson’s Land of Nephi—and another change of meaning was introduced.
    This list of alterations goes on and on.
    Or we come to Phyllis Carol Olive who decided to use the hill Cumorah in upstate Western New York as the hill Cumorah in the scriptural record. Of course, she then finds that this hill is to the east of her Sea East, contrary to Mormon’s descriptions, and that other lands are out of directional order, like Bountiful being to the West of Zarahemla instead of to the north, etc., or Samuel the Lamanite’s mountains “whose height is great,” in a land area with no mountains at all, and gradual elevations not much over 3000 feet. There are no four seas, no real Sea East, a tiny area for the Land Northward, a narrow neck that can be crossed in just a few minutes, a Sea West that would be useless to launch Hagoth’s ships into for they could only go a couple of miles north before running into land, etc. All of which, of course, require more and more creative answers that do not fit the scriptural record.
    In these and so many other cases, once the wrong interpretation is begun, subsequent passages lead to more and more errors that need to be corrected, requiring very creative responses that do not match the scriptural record and Mormon’s descriptions. However, once starting down such a road, the theorist is bound and determined to prove his correctness and the results get further and further off the mark.
    It is so much simpler to not begin interpreting with answers already in mind, but allow the scriptural record to take you where truth lies—it is an interesting and exciting way to deal with the scriptures, rather than having to try and come up with difficult answers that in the end simply take one further and further away from the truth.

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