Wednesday, July 4, 2018

When Prophets are Acting as Prophets

It is important for those who read this blog to understand that we consider the spiritual messages of the Book of Mormon to be unquestionably far more important than the geography, or any other issue. At the same time, we also believe that a knowledge of the Jaredite, Nephite and Lamanite geography aids in our fully understanding the events that unfold within the scriptural record, especially those writings of Nephi and Jacob, and the abridgements of Mormon and Moroni. It seems obvious that the historical accuracy is critical to a full comprehension of the “most correct book” on the earth.
The valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, a quiet, beautiful valley located in northwestern Missouri near the community of Gallatin. Three years before he died, Adam called his righteous posterity into this valley and bestowed on them his last blessing (Doctrine & Covenants 107:53-56)

Most members understand and agree that the Garden of Eden, Adam-Ondi-Ahman, and the hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith uncovered the plates, were located in North America, and we know, the New Jerusalem will be built upon this American continent within what is now called the United States. It is also well recorded that both modern-day prophets and authorities have indicated that the entire Western Hemisphere, that is, what is now called the North and South American continents, which until a little before World War II were considered as one continent (and in many places of the world still are), is Zion and the overall Land of Promise. And within that larger breadth, the land given to the Jaredites and that region called the Land of Promise by Lehi and promised to him by the Lord, are but a small area within that overall Zion and Land of Promise.
    It also seems obvious that many geographical descriptions and passages in the Book of Mormon are well defined, specific and identifiable, making some areas easy to identify and others reasonably able to identify.  It is within this context that we labor to describe the Land of Promise as it is described and uncovered in the scriptural record, using that writing within the Book of Mormon as the sole factor in determining location, relationship, and composition of the geography, terrain, and interconnections of the lands, cities and settlements known to the Nephites and, to a lesser degree, to the Jaredites as the Land of Promise.
    Also, we would like to point out that short of a revelation or official Church stand on any given geographical feature of the Book of Mormon, we adhere to the belief of Joseph Smith that “The Scriptures say what they mean and mean what they say,” and stress the fact that anything the church authorities—including Joseph Smith—have said about “Book of Mormon geography is irrelevant if it conflicts with what is in the Book of Mormon itself. We base this on the fact that Joseph Smith himself said, “A prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such,” and again, when he complained to Jesse W. Crosby after turning down a request for his opinion, “he did not enjoy the right vouchsafed to every American citizen; that of free speech. He said to them that when he ventured to give his private opinion on any subject of importance his words were often garbled and their meaning twisted and then given out as the word of the Lord because they came from him. ("LaFayette C. Lee, Notebook," LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah; also in Remembering Joseph).
It is also found in Bruce R. McConkie, of the Quorum of the Twelve, who stated: “Every word that a man who is a prophet speaks is not a prophetic utterance. Joseph Smith taught that a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such. Men who wear the prophetic mantle are still men; they have their own views; and their understanding of gospel truths is dependent upon the study and inspiration that is theirs. Some prophets—I say it respectfully—know more and have greater inspiration than others. Thus, if Brigham Young, who was one of the greatest of the prophets, said something about Adam which is out of harmony with what is in the Book of Moses and in section 78, it is the scripture that prevails. This is one of the reasons we call our scriptures The Standard Works. They are the standard of judgment and the measuring rod against which all doctrines and views are weighed, and it does not make one particle of difference whose views are involved. The scriptures always take precedence.  (“Finding Answers to Gospel Questions,” Letter dated 1 July 1980. Published in Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings, Religion 370, pp471, 475, 2004).
    In fact, a First Presidency Message stated “The position is not assumed that the men of the New Dispensation—its prophets, apostles, presidencies, and other leaders—are without faults or infallible, rather they are treated as men of like passions with their fellow men” (B. H. Roberts, Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark, Vol. 4, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1970). This was verified by Joseph F. Smith July 16, 1902. "The theories, speculations, and opinions of men, however intelligent, ingenious, and plausible, are not necessarily doctrines of the Church or principles that God has commanded His servants to preach. No doctrine is a doctrine of this Church until it has been accepted as such by the Church, and not even a revelation from God should be taught to his people until it has first been approved by the presiding authority—the one through whom the Lord makes known His will for the guidance of the saints as a religious body. The spirit of revelation may rest upon any one, and teach him or her many things for personal comfort and instruction. But these are not doctrines of the Church, and, however true, they must not be inculcated until proper permission is given” (Joseph F. Smith to Lillian Golsan, July 16, 1902; Joseph F. Smith Correspondence, Personal Letterbooks, pp93–94; also in Dennis B. Horne (ed.), Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluation Doctrinal Truth, Eborn Books, Roy, Utah, 2005, pp221–222).
Obviously, the leaders of the Church are honest men and work diligently to accomplish their assignments, but they are imperfect men, and such imperfection exists among all men, whether members of the Church or not, leaders or followers, prophets or laymen. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father…but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Ether 12:6).
    What father does not want his children to be better than he? We all know of our imperfections and we all strive to help our children overcome theirs—but imperfections exist in all men, except Jesus Christ, and all imperfect men are subject to checks and balances when it comes to factual truth, for men do not know all things, and without a knowledge of all things, factual truth is beyond the reach of mortal men.
    Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency, in answer to a question about infallibility of the President of the Church, stated: “We do not believe in the infallibility of man. When God reveals anything it is truth, and truth is infallible. No President of the Church has claimed infallibility” ("Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered,” Improvement Era Vol15 No.11, September 1912).
    Therefore, it is imperative that what is written in this blog, and by all theorists regarding the location of the Land of Promise and interpretation of geographical settings in the Book of Mormon, be consistent with that scriptural record. Thus, as imperfect men, it is not incumbent upon us to determine Mormon or other writers meant something other than what they said, or that what they did say was wrong, inaccurate, or misleading.
    The Land of Promise as Mormon describes it (Alma 22:27-24) runs north and south, not east and west, and we cannot make that change and claim the Nephites had a different understanding of directions. Nor can we add peoples, cultures, and civilizations where they are not mentioned, other than to say that scientists, archaeologists, anthropologists, or historian make such and such a claim. But for a theorist to claim entire civilizations existed in the Land of Promise when Lehi arrived is contrary to the scriptural record, and to make a claim that others were there without a single big of doctrinal evidence other than one’s opinions, is simply not in keeping with the Book the Lord inspired Joseph Smith to translate. Nor is it within our purview of accuracy to claim Nephi did not mean a cow or a horse when he wrote of them, or Jacob meant something other than an island when he stated the Nephites were upon an isle of the sea (2 Nephi 10:20).
Our roll, in writing about the Book of Mormon geography and the Land of Promise is to expand, explain, or deepen understanding of what is said—not what is not said. One can add their opinion, but cannot state it as fact, no matter how sound it seems to them. Nor can one defy the laws of nature to put Lehi’s landing somewhere that would not have been possible in the time frame involved, unless there is a description of the Lord’s hand in bypassing natural laws. A ship “driven for the before the wind” can only go where the wind and currents drive it; a deep ocean vessel the size of Nephi’s ship could not have penetrated to the Great Lakes or even the area of Illinois (Zarahemla, Iowa) in 600 BC, nor can one claim that the Land of Promise was located in an area where metallurgy was not used until long after the annihilation of the Nephite Nation, nor claim the world was different in Lehi’s time without known and supportive scientific evidence.
    Nor can one claim people in the past have said things that they did not, nor lay claim someone of importance made a statement that is not factually verifiable to support their point of view. Nor can one ignore the strong and known life style, viewpoints, and spiritual meanings of the Jews of the time, from whom Lehi, Nephi, Sam, and Zoram sprang—those customs would hold true for quite some time after leaving Jerusalem.
    The point is, we are better off taking what modern-day prophets and leaders have said, short of a Church-supported agreement, as their opinions (which might well be correct, but we can assume so), nor the opinion or belief of modern academicians over the very clear and undeniable statements of fact made by Mormon and those who wrote the record. Nor should we assume that the Spirit and Joseph Smith made the translated record confusing, misleading, difficult to understand, or wrong! The Lord simply does not operate that way.
    The point is, and we have made this point numerous times, the scriptural record found in the Book of Mormon is 100% accurate and does not need a different explanation or viewpoint as to what simple words and phrases mean. The Lord did not provide us with an ancient record, through interpretation, that required an academician or “learned man” to interpret it for us. As brilliant as Hugh Nibley was, as smart as the professors at BYU were and are, their views, when they veer away from the scriptural record or are contrary to the record, are simply wrong—Mormon was correct in the history the Spirit worked with him to write and abridge, as the Spirit worked with Joseph Smith to translate it for us, the common man and woman, by whom it was meant to be read.


  1. thanks very much this was powerful

  2. I agree. Very good Del.

    When I read President Young's Adam-God teachings, I realize that he was teaching that Adam was a joint heir with the Savior of a previous earth, and that Savior is the Jehovah of the creation of this earth. The resurrected Jehovah and resurrected Michael/Adam came down and created it for Adam's spirit children. President Young repeatedly said he got this doctrine from Joseph. So his teachings are just a further understanding of the New Testament "joint heirs with Christ" doctrine.

    Jesus is the Jehovah of THIS earth, and Abraham and others will be joint heirs with him. President Young clearly taught that every earth has its own Savior. That is in harmony with Moses 1:34 which teaches that every earth has its own Adam. So the term Jehovah does not just apply to one being, but to a lineage of Saviors of worlds.

    However, I could never completely reconcile other things about it that President Young taught with the scriptures. Even if he got it from Joseph, that does not mean he got it all correctly.

    Yet I am not convinced that Elder McConkie is the one to decide what the truth is. The matter should just be left alone and not fully judged until the church has further revelation on the matter.

  3. I know this is off the topic of the BOM geography and so I’ll be brief. I’ve seen this discussion many times before about the so-called Adam-God doctrine. Many in the Church both scholars and theologians have tried to explain it without much success. Brigham told us that Joseph taught him this doctrine. It is a true doctrine therefore, but it has not been explained very well because neither Brigham nor Joseph had the scientific background to understand it. Now we do. It is over 175 years since this doctrine was revealed to Brigham from Joseph.

    The hint is given in the creation of Eve. God took a rib from Adam to create Eve. That should be your clue as to what the Lord is doing. God cloned Eve from the body of Adam. I’m sure I don’t need to go into a detailed discussion of cloning and why a rib was used. The same thing happened with Adam. The body and spirit of Adam was cloned from God. That is how Adam is our Father. He is an exact copy of God the Father. And in that regard we all descend from God. So, this doctrine should be clear as to what Brigham was trying to tell us but could not because the science had not been invented. It’s very simply to understand and Brigham nor Joseph made a mistake nor misspoke. I’m sure I don’t need to go any further than this.


    The link is to a site that has some articles on religion and the man that ran it called himself CD-Host.

    The man that ran the site did an article about what he thinks Brigham Young was trying to teach about Adam, now called the Adam-God Theory.

    I found it very interesting. And it makes sense to me. I have shown this to many other LDS people and I get the impression that they want to believe the crazy information about the Adam-God theory; that they did not want it to make sense. Just a feeling I got.

    Anyway, for those who are really interested, please read the article.