Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Are Theorists’ Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent with Scripture? – Part V

Continuing from the previous post regarding how any theorist can pick and choose any place to fit his or her idea of the location of the Land of Promise by ignoring the precise and clear language of Mormon, Nephi, Jacob and Moroni, or by changing the meaning, and even the wordage of the scriptural record.
    Earlier on this, we discussed how Joseph Smith never used the term “hill Cumorah,” instead using “the hill” or “this hill,” or “the place” used twice, and “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill…” when referring to the hill in western New York, suggesting it did not have a name, even after Joseph had met with Moroni in each of four previous years, and received considerable training from him. In fact, the hill was unnamed prior to 1829, and thereafter called “Mormon Hill,” and “Gold Hill,” by non-members and “Inspiration Point,” by members (A. P. Kesler, “Mormon Hill,” Young Women’s Journal, Vol.9, February 1898, p73).
The Pliny T. Sexton 187-acre “Mormon Hill Farm,” encompassed about two-thirds of the hill; the 96-acre Inglis farm covered the rest of the hill and the surrounding land—both purchased by the Church in the 1920s

In fact, Pliny T. Sexton owned a 187-acre farm called the “Mormon Hill farm,” which occupied two-thirds of the hill and later purchased by the Church in the 1920s (Thomas Cook History, 1930, in Dan Vogel, Mormon Documents, vol. 3, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 2000, pp243–50).
    In addition, in order to discredit a scriptural hill Cumorah in some other land, as though the Lord or Moroni required a physical walk of 2000 miles from Central America, or much further from South America, in order to carry the plates and deposit them in the drumlin hill in western New York from some distant hill Cumorah, an incident with Joseph Smith and the plates ought to suggest otherwise. In addition, the idea that arrowheads and other implements of ancient war have been found around the New York hill Cumorah since Joseph Smith obtained the plates there is not credible can easily be shown with the incident of treasure seekers digging in the hill before and after Joseph Smith obtained the plates.
    These two incidents, one of spiritual, yet physical movement of the plates, and the other regarding treasure seekers should be of particular interest:
Joseph Smith first uncovers the stone box and the plates within containing the sacred record of the Nephites 

1. The first has to do with the event in 1823 when Joseph first saw the plates after removing the large stone covering the location. After taking the plates out of a stone box buried in “a hole of sufficient depth” in the west side near the top of the hill, he set them down on the ground nearby and looked back into the stone box for other things of value (Oliver Cowdery, Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, 3 Vols, 1834-1837).
    However, when he turned around the plates had disappeared and the lid on the stone box was back in place. When Joseph attempted to get the plates back out of the box, the angel hurled him to the ground with a violent force. After three failed attempts to retrieve the plates, the angel told him that he could not have them at that time (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, S.W. Richards, Liverpool, 1853,pp85-86; Joseph Smith, “History of the Life of Joseph Smith,” in Dean C. Jessee Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2002, p3);
Digging for treasure through the use of diving rods and seer stones was a common practice by early Americans, especially in the northeast during what was called the Second Great Awakening period of religious fervor

2. In early America, the ritualistic search for treasure was a common activity for rural people during the early nineteenth century, and its lore can be traced back several centuries through Colonial America to Europe, where it was practiced by both pious Christians and respected leaders (Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Scribner, New York, 1971, pp234–237, 274, 317–18; Benjamin A. Botkin, ed., A Treasury of New England Folklore, Crown Publishers, New York, 1947, p536).
    During this time, including around the area in which Joseph Smith grew up, seer stones, divining rods, and dreams were commonly used in people’s treasure-seeking and was a near-universal belief that buried treasures were enchanted—and because of these supernatural elements, treasure seeking had a spiritual appeal, and most treasure seekers were spiritually inclined (Alan Taylor, “The Early Republic’s Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780–1830,” American Quarterly vol.38, no.1, Spring 1986, pp9-11,22-25).
    Consequently, it is no coincidence that the Second Great Awakening, the period that saw an enormous boom in church attendance and religious zeal, also saw a drastic increase in treasure seeking (Ibid, pp26-27). Thus, around the time Joseph Smith first began mentioning the gold plates in the nearby hill, money diggers and treasure hunters were digging in the hill looking for something buried there of value. However, nothing was ever found by them, and no objects of antiquity ever reported, including such things as arrowheads and ancient weapons.
The hill Cumorah in 1907. It is obviously the only such landmark around, but at such a limited height and size, hardly is reflective of the hill mentioned in the scriptural record

In fact, early treasure seekers have dug into the east side of the drumlin hill in New York before the gold plates had been first obtained by Joseph Smith, since such activity was certainly not unknown in the area. After the plates had been obtained, seekers of gold and treasure went to find the spot where Joseph removed the plates, however, they could not even find a place where the ground had been disturbed or dug into other than the much older hole dug into on the east slope of the hill  (Lorenzo Saunders, Letter to Thomas Gregg, 28 January 1885, Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of the Book of Mormon, Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1914, pp134-135; Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, vol.2, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1998, pp159-160; and vol.3, 2000, pp177-179). Later, however, there were many holes dug in the drumlin hill by treasure seekers after Joseph obtained the plates.
    The point of this being that in the first case, the gold plates were transported, albeit a short distance, without Joseph even being aware of it, back into the stone box that was then resealed by unseen hands; and in the second case, despite the diggings of people all over the hill Cumorah in New York, no signs of antiquity of any kind were ever found, long before the so-called tons of arrowheads were claimed to have been found around the hill, which ought to suggest that no war of annihilation of nearly half a million people took place there as so many Heartland and Great Lakes theorists claim.
    One of the first problems encountered in understanding the Hill Cumorah and its location, is that once Joseph Smith was shown the plates by Moroni, word got out that they were located in the nearby drumlin hill about three miles from the Smith farm. It wasn’t long before the first members of the Church, after the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, began referring to the drumlin hill as the hill Cumorah. It was a natural tendency in those early days to link where Joseph Smith obtained the buried plates in the hill in western New York and the place where Mormon hid the records,referred to in the scriptural record as the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6).
Mormon hiding the records in the hill Cumorah before the final battle, keeping out a small portion to give to his son, Moroni, and upon which both wrote their final statements regarding the final battle and the events of Moroni afterward

However, in more depthful reading, it is learned that while Mormon hid up the Nephite records that had been entrusted to him, he did not include the plates that became the Book of Mormon. Those he kept out and gave to his son, Moroni (Mormon 6:6), who was still writing upon them 36 years later following his lengthy wandering to keep clear of the roving bands of Lamantnies (Mormon 6:6), who were involved in a lengthy civil war following their total victory at Cumorah (Mormon 6:11; 8:3).
    Therefore, Mormon did not bury the plates that became the Book of Mormon, but gave them to Moroni, who had them in his possession 36 years later in 421 AD, when he bid farewell to his readers (Moroni 10:34). So what did he do with them? That is unknown. That he would have been near the hill Cumorah far to the north in the Land Northward is unlikely after 36 years of wandering to keep away from the Lamanites who overran the land. All we know is that Moroni said, when finishing his father’s record, “Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not” (Mormn 8:4).
    However, where he hid them is unknown, and to write about his hiding place of the records is neither scholarly nor worthwhile. They were hidden in or sometime after 421 AD in the Land of Promise. To claim the Land of Promise was located around the location Moroni showed Joseph Smith their location in 1823, is also neither scholarly nor worthwhile. And is certain not verifiable by the scriptural record.
(See the next post, “Determining the Location of Cumorah – Part VI,” for more on these criteria as to how theorists place geographical features of the Land of Promise wherever they want them to be despite what the scriptural record tells us)

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