Sunday, April 8, 2018

Putting Nephi’s Statements Together

One of the interesting but sad things regarding those who write about the Book of Mormon Land of Promise is the tendency of almost all theorists to treat statements of various prophet-writers as separate issues, and fail to link together meaningful understanding.
    Take, as an example, the statement Nephi wrote down of Jacob’s sermon in the temple when the latter was talking to the disgruntled Nephites that they had not been forgotten by the Lord, even though they had been driven out of the “land of our inheritance” (2 Nephi 10:20), referring to their leaving Jerusalem and now living “upon an isle of the sea.”
Lehi’s tent in the valley of Lemuel

To put Jacob’s comment into the proper perspective, we have to take a look at Nephi’s experience much earlier, when Lehi and his family and that of Ishmael were living in tents in the Valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 10:16), next to the River Laman, near the Red Sea. At this time, after being told of Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 8:2; 9:1), Nephi desired the same experience. He states: “after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot” (1 Nephi 11:1).
    During this vision, Nephi is afforded a prophetic understanding of events that were to take place after they were to reach their final destination in the Land of Promise. He was given a view of “the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities” including Nazareth (1 Nephi 11:13) and the birth of the Savior (1 Nephi 11:18-20). He saw the mission of the Savior and his crucifixion (1 Nephi 11:31-33).
The birth of the Savior

Nephi also records that he “beheld the Land of Promise” (12:1), and a “multitude gathered together to battle, one against the other” (1 Nephi 12:2). He saw the destruction that took place, with “mountains tumbling into pieces…the earth and the rocks rent…and the plains of the earth broken up…many cities that were sunk…many burned with fire” (1 Nephi 12:4). He also saw “the multitudes of the earth gathered together” and his “seed and the seed of his brethren” gathered together against each other to battle (1 Nephi 12:13-15). In addition, Nephi saw “the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land” (1 Nephi 12:20-22). He also saw “many nations and kingdoms…of the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:1,3).
Now, at this point in his vision, Nephi records that the Gentiles were separated from the Lamanites by many waters, and a man who sailed “upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13:12). That is, in his vision Nephi saw Columbus sailing from Europe to the Land of Promise in America; he then saw other Gentiles that sailed to the Land of Promise and the Americas, of the Spanish invasion of Central and South America: “I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten” (1 Nephi 13:14). He saw the “Gentiles gathered together upon the waters and upon the land also to battle” and that certain Gentiles “were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations” (1 Nephi 13:19).
Stated differently, Nephi was given a vision of Columbus sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to the Land of Promise in the Americas; of the Land of Promise and the battles that took place there; of the battles between Gentiles and the forming of the nations in the Americas. Nephi was also given a vision of the Devil’s domain, he saw “the many waters…all the earth…all nations, kindreds, tongues and people” (1 Nephi 14:11).
    It seems safe to say that Nephi was given a vision of the entire Earth, all the people upon it, and the actual configuration of the Earth, including the geographical confines of the Land of Promise, the Americas, and the nations that would occupy those areas. He saw the land from which Columbus sailed, and the land to which he sailed; he saw that Land of Promise and the many wars upon it, including the final battle that took place all across it, and both the Land Southward and the Land Northward.
    Now, fast forward to Jacob’s two-day prophetic speech to the unhappy Nephites who were so concerned about not being in Jerusalem—the original land of promise of the Hebrews—but on some distant land and possibly forgotten by the Lord. Jacob, knowing that was not the case, gave a lengthy sermon about the Lord knowing who they were, where they were and that they were not and would not be forgotten by the Lord; in which, among other things, he said in the Temple to the Nephites: “And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea. But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren” (2 Nephi 109:20-21). In effect, Jacob reminded them:
1. The Lord had given them great knowledge about their circumstances;
2. They had been driven out of Jerusalem;
3. They should not be unhappy;
4. They had not been cast off by the Lord;
5. They had been led to a better land;
6. The Lord made the sea their path;
7. They were on an island of that sea;
8. The Lord had made great promises to those on similar islands of the sea;
9. There were more islands in the sea than the one the Nephites occupied;
10. Those other islands were also occupied by people of the House of Israel.
    Jacob’s basic message was for the Nephites to “cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Nephi 10-23).
    Now, Nephi, who evidently conducted and presided at this conference in the Temple, recorded Jacob’s words, including that they occupied an island in the midst of the sea over which they had been led by the Lord. Keeping in mind that Nephi had seen in his extensive vision not only the appearance of the Land of Promise, but its entire history, followed this recording of Jacob’s sermon with:
    “And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me” (2 Nephi 11:1).
    So let’s consider Nephi’s words. He acknowledges that Jacob said many more things to the Nephites in the two-day conference in the Temple, yet only wrote down the little he did, and that little included being on an island in the midst of the sea! And it sufficieth him, that is, of all that Jacob might have said, Nephi was satisfied only to have written down that which he did on the record he considered sacred and that he did not “write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred” (1 Nephi 19:5)—and what he wrote down was Jacob’s statement that they were on an island in the midst of the sea over which the Lord led them to the Land of Promise. In fact, Nephi stated of his recording matters: “and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people” (1 Nephi 19:5).
    Yet, so many theorists pay so little attention to these words and often try to alter them to make them mean something they do not. In this way, theorists make every attempt to alter the plain and simple language of the scriptural record in order to justify and support their own personal beliefs and opinions regarding the Land of Promise.
    However, Jacob was specific—an isle of the sea, i.e., an island in the midst of the sea! Which sea? The sea over which they sailed—the sea over which the Lord led them.
    Consequently, Nephi considered it a sacred matter that we, in our day, understood that the Nephites were on an island! It seems it is time for theorists and Book of Mormon geographers to acknowledge that the Land of Promise, at least during Nephi and Jacob’s time, was an island. Not a seacoast somewhere distant—but an island for that is what the word “isle” meant which Joseph Smith translated through the power of the Spirit!


  1. What you've said here is all true Del, but the question is how are you going to convince anybody (ie BYU) who do not believe that the Lord can raise up a continent in 3 hours out of the ocean. Additionally, they do not believe in Noah's flood, and a young earth. In other words, I hate to say it but they do not believe in the literal interpretation of scripture.

    Years ago I had a good friend who was a Rabbi. We talked quite a bit about the scriptures and his perspective on things. The surprising thing that he said to me was that he believed that the scriptures were allegory and myth. The creation was not a literal thing to him. He believed the same as the current high brow professors at BYU. I'm mainly referring to the professors of religion not just the ones of science. They will never believe in the South American model because it goes against everything the world has taught them. It truly is a sad situation and something that has been a curse and stumbling block to the members of the Church.

  2. One could use the vision of Nephi against the Andes model too. They could say Columbus never landed on the west coast of South America. So Del better get together his counter arguments to be ready.

  3. erichard, Why would that make any difference? I've never heard that argument before.

  4. Columbus never landed in North America, Mexico or the west coast of South America. He landed in the Bahamas, some Caribbean Islands, and Venezuela (South America)