Thursday, December 13, 2018

On the Language of Joseph Smith – Part III

Continuing with how theorists and others writing or talking about the Book of Mormon often mistake the meaning of words or phrases which either clouds the issue, changes its meaning, or draws inaccurate conclusions.
    Part of the problem in reading and understanding the scriptural record, which was written by people of the late BC and early AD period, translated by a person of the 19th century AD, and being read by a person in the 21st century AD. In addition, though the latter two speak the same English in the same country, the changes over the past 160 years has been considerable; and the original writers were Near Eastern Orientals.
    Naturally, over this length of time, many words have changed their meaning, and understanding of ancient Hebrew to modern Hebrew is also considerably different. On the other hand, some writing is quite clear and should be understood by all; however, many clear statements appear to be ignored by the modern reader.
When mountains toppled into valleys and valleys became great mountains (Helaman 14:23)

Take as an example, Samuel the Lamanites prophesy 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). Thus, it is clear that there were mountains in the Land of Promise before the cataclysm of the crucifixion took place, and during that event, many of those mountains collapsed into valleys, and where there were valleys in the land, many rose into mountains, “whose height is great,” suggesting that these new mountains were much higher in elevation than the previous ones.
    Yet, there are theorists who claim there were no mountains of any size in the Land of Promise, since their models basically encompass flat lands, such as found in Western New York and around Erie and Ontario lakes. Or, as in Mesoamerica, where the highest mountain in Guatemala is Volcan Tajumulco at 13,786 feet; Honduras’ Celaque at 9,416 feet; or in the Yucatan, which is almost entirely flat land, with a mountain in Belize along the east coast near the Guatemala border, called Doyle’s Delight at 3,852 feet.
    Obviously, both Mesoamerica and Great Lakes/Heartland American theorists prefer to ignore this prophecy, which came to pass in 3 Nephi 8, rather than acknowledge it.    However, the fact is, within a three-hour period mountains collapsed and new ones shot up to a great height, thus, any Land of Promise must have very high mountains upon it.
    In addition, in the Land of Promise, movement is very often discussed as being “up” and “down,” suggesting various levels of elevation significant enough to evoke such wordage; however, in the Great Lakes/Heartland theories, the land on which they have placed the Nephite nation has very little in the way of elevation changes, from the Great Plains around the Mississippi River to those of the Great Lakes area, the topography of the land is sufficiently flat as to not warrant such constant up and down discussion.
    Then there are those theorists who simply ignore the clear wordage of the descriptions of the Land of Promise. As an example, the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and rivers simply do not match the description of “seas” in the scriptural record. Nor Mormon’s description of the entire Land Southward being surrounded by water except for a narrow neck of land.
The 53-mile circumference Sea of Galilee, originally known as Lake of Gennesaret, named after the ancient town of Gennesaret (Ginosar), or later, by Herod, called Lake Tiberias, is a land-locked fresh water lake
A “sea” is not a river,” and though in ancient Hebrew a “lake” was often called a “sea,” i.e., Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and the Black Sea and Caspian Sea have no access to the Atlantic Ocean, while the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Sea (Persian Gulf), and the Red Sea do. It might be of interest to know that while this lake is currently called Galilee, a term in ancient Hebrew that meant “district,” and referred to the entire area north of Mr. Carmel from Dan to the Mediterranean.
    The lake itself was referred to as either Kinneret in the Old Testament, from Hebrew “kinnor,” meaning “harp,” describing the shape of the lake, or in New Testament times as Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:1), after the town by that name on the northwest shore, today called Ginosar. Galilee, on the other hand, was an overall term for a northern district, and in Isaiah’s time it was g’lil hagoyim meaning “Galilee of the Nations,” referring to the part of Israel inhabited by Gentiles.
    However, the main point is the use of the English word “sea” as used by Joseph Smith and approved by the Spirit in the translation of Mormon’s writing and the entire Book of Mormon. This is where Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language comes in, i.e., that language known to Joseph Smith in the area of New England where he grew up. In that dictionary, the word “sea” means “branch of the ocean, and upon the same level.” The dictionary also goes on to state about the definition of sea “Large bodies of water inland, and situated above the level of the ocean, are lakes.” And to explain the Biblical use of “sea” in translation, states: “The appellation of sea, given to the Caspian lake, is an exception, and not very correct. So the lake of Galilee is called a sea, from the Greek.”
    This means that the Great Lakes, being Superior at 600 feet; Huron and Michigan (which hydrologically are one lake) at 577 feet; and Erie at 569 feet are all considered “lakes” under the 1828 definition, being enclosed and higher than sea level. Lake Ontario, is also above sea level at 243 feet, though it does have sea access through the St. Lawrence river. Still, all these lakes are truly lakes and could not be called seas, though they are larger than the Sea of Galilee (64 square miles) and the Dead Sea (233 square miles), with Superior (31,700 square miles), Huron (23,007 square miles), Michigan (22,404 square miles), Erie (9,910 square miles), and Ontario (7,340 square miles).
The world’s oceans are interconnected, and hydrologically make up a single body of water, which includes the Southern Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, ocean bays and gulfs, etc. Truly, when Lehi looked out from the mountains overlooking Salalah in Oman, the name “Irreantum,” meaning “many waters,” was quite factual

Finally, under the definition of “ocean,” the 1828 dictionary states: “The vast body of water which covers more than three fifths of the surface of the globe, called also the sea, or great sea,” and “An immense expanse, pertaining to the main or great sea” (emphasis added). Thus, in 1828, as today, the term Ocean and Sea were synonymous.
    Another argument suggested by many theorists, mostly in an attempt to confuse the definition of “sea” is that the “Great Deep” mentioned in the Jaredite record separates that type of body of water from a body called “sea” mentioned elsewhere in the scriptural record. However, Webster’s 1828 definition of this shows they are the same: “Extending or being far below the surface; descending far downward; opposed to shallow; as deep water.” Thus, when the Jaredites crossed the “Great Deep” (Ether 2:25; 7:27; 8:9), the meaning is clear that it was the ocean or sea over which the barges traveled to the Land of Promise.
    Nephi used this same term, “Great Deep,” in talking about being preserved crossing it to the Land of Promise (2 Nephi 4:20), and in another place states: “Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” (2 Nephi 8:10, emphasis added), showing the only difference in “sea” and “Great Deep” is the depth of the sea. Thus Lehi crossed the sea and landed on the Land of Promise. As a result of this, we know that there is also a sea in the southwest of the Land of Promise where Lehi landed and was “the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28).
    The problem for Great Lakes/Heartland theorists, is that they do not have a southwestern seashore along the West Sea in which Lehi could have landed, thus they discredit the wordage to not interfere with their model. But the definitions known to Joseph Smith at the time of translation show that such wordage was both accurate and understandable.
    Consequently, these descriptions paint a very clear picture of the seas that surrounded the land. There is also clear description of all four seas, including a “north sea” and a “south sea” (Helaman 3:8). In addition, Jacob tells us that the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), which obviously means it was surrounded by water.
Meldrum’s map showing the incorrect placement of the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Zarahemla, landing (First Inheritance) not along the West Sea, misplacement of the Sea West, Sea East and Sea South

In addition, there is Rod Meldrum with his Heartland Theory which shows on a map his Land of Promise with the Land of Zarahemla to the west of the Land of Bountiful, both bordering in the north along the Jaredite lands, yet Mormon describes the Land of Bountiful being to the north of the Land of Zarahemla, describing this in Alma 22:28-29.
    In fact, the narrow strip of wilderness described in Alma 22:27, ran between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi—there is no mention of the Land of Bountiful bordering this narrow strip, though Meldrum places it there because he removes the Land of Zarahemla from being south of the Land of Bountiful. In addition, there was even a land in between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful (3 Nephi 3:23).
    The problems always arise when theorists ignore or try to alter what is written in the scriptural record. When we read what is written correctly, interpret words correctly, and place them in their proper context. Thus, the meaning of words used as they were understood by Joseph Smith would be critically important to understand what was written by him and his meaning in the scriptural record’s transcription. Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language allows us to know and understand Joseph’s meanings far more clear than any other dictionary or definitions.

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