Sunday, February 3, 2019

Being in the Camp of the Heartland Theory – Part II

Continued from the previous post with more of a reader’s comments and our responses regarding his Heartland beliefs.
• Reader: “We know from the Doctrine and Covenants that the land across the river from Nauvoo, Christ wanted it to be called Zarahemla.”
Response: To take a scripture that has other meaning within it and claim only one part meant something else, is contrary to religious study and understanding. The purpose of naming the settlement across from Nauvoo had to do with teaching members obedience. Consider:
1. While we do not always know why the Lord wants certain things, and often His purpose is unknown to mortal men. But on this occasion, He clearly tells us what was involved, by stating in answer to Joseph’s question: “What is the will of the Lord concerning the saints in the Territory of Iowa? Verily, thus saith the Lord, I say unto you, if those who call themselves by my name and are essaying to be my saints, if they will do my will and keep my commandments concerning them, let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name, that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come. Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it. And let all those who come from the east, and the west, and the north, and the south, that have desires to dwell therein, take up their inheritance in the same, as well as in the city of Nashville, or in the city of Nauvoo, and in all the stakes which I have appointed, saith the Lord” (D&C 125: 1-4, emphasis added).
2. One can clearly see that the Lord was teaching a valuable lesson to the early Saints. Nowhere in the scriptural account, or anywhere else, or even in the minds of the members of that era, did the name Zarahemla have any reflection on the original Mulekite-Nephite city of the Land of Promise. Nor was any mention found in Joseph Smith’s writings of this incident or the settlement across the river, or in the journals and records of the members or the Church leadership of that era.
3. There is no mention of any connection between the Montrose, Iowa, where the settlement named Zarahemla was located, and the Nephite city of Zarahemla in the scriptural record in such works as Richard E. Bennett, "Montrose, Iowa," in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, edited by Donald Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan, Arnold K. Garr (Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2000); or in Stanley B. Kimball, ‘Nauvoo West: The Mormons of the Iowa Shore,” Brigham Young University Studies, vol.18 (Winter 1978, pp132–142).
• Reader: “Those two points are very powerful to me that we are in the right area.”
Response: It should be kept in mind in determining important or powerful points you hear someone utter about regarding this:
Behold, there shall be great tempests, and 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”

1. The scriptural record is clear that there are “mountains of great height” (Helaman 14:23) in the Land of Promise, and that just south of the land of Zarahemla, there is a noticeable wilderness area that served as a break between the lands, and the Land of Nephi was at a much higher elevation than Zarahemla. Now consider this with the “flat as a pancake” terrain all around this Iowa settlement as well as Nauvoo itself. Recently we drove there, criss-crossing for hundreds of miles in several directions, and there is very little change in elevation of the entire area, which sits on a land called the southern Iowa Drift Plain, and Nauvoo area sits on the Mississippi Alluvian Plain. There are no hills here, let alone mountains whose height is great.
2. There are several Book of Mormon names used in North America for cities that do not reflect where those original Nephite cities were located, i.e., Manti, Nephi, Bountiful, Lehi, Moroni, and such Bible names as Ephraim, Eden, Moab, Jordan, Enoch and Noah.
• Reader: “Then there is the trek Joseph and company made from Ohio to Missouri (Zions camp) in which Joseph declared they were traveling over the lands of the Book of Mormon.”
Response: Nowhere in Joseph’s writings is such a statement made. What he did write, which was to his wife Emma in a letter dated June 4, 1834, while on the Zion’s camp trek in which he reminisced while on the banks of the Mississippi in Pike County Illinois, saying they had been “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, occasionally recounting the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendor and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed” (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, in the Joseph Smith Letters, pp57-58, spelling corrected).
    Note the term Book of Mormon is not used as you indicated, i.e., “Joseph declared they were traveling over the lands of the Book of Mormon,” but rather, he states “recounting occasionally stories of the Book of Mormon,” and all of that was to pass the time of day as they traveled. One needs to be careful not to make statements that are inaccurate.
• Reader: “Zelph's mound was referred to as the burial place of Zelph, a Lamanite, and good man who fought for the Nephites.”
Response: Joseph Smith never wrote anything about the event at all. It was the journal entries of seven of the Camp’s leaders who wrote about it, with many variances, but mostly saying: “Zelph, a white Lamanite warrior under the Prophet Onandagus.”
    However, Williams J. Hamblin, professor of history at BYU, after comparing the various accounts argued that "there are many difficulties that make it nearly impossible for us to know exactly what Joseph Smith said in 1834 as he reflected on the ruins his group encountered in Illinois” (William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. , no.1, 1993, pp161–197).
Reader: Then there is the Book of Mormon prophecy about the gentiles who will come to the America’s...”
Response: This was not a prophecy but a vision given to Nephi, who desired to see for himself the vision given to his father, Lehi (1 Nephi 9:1; 10:2,17; 11:1). In this vision, Nephi saw regarding the Land of Promise, wars and great slaughters between his seed [Nephites} and the seed of his brethren [Lamanites]; he saw the rending of the earth and rocks and the mountains tumbling into pieces; the plains broken up; many cities burned and others sunk and still others tumbling to the earth (1 Nephi 12:1-4; compare Helaman 14:23]; he also saw the annihilation of the Nephites (1 Nephi 12:19-20); and the continuing wars among the Lamanites after the Nephites were destroyed (1 Nephi 12:21).
When Columbus reached the New World, he never saw, sailed near or landed on North America—he set foot on the Caribbean Islands, South America, and sailed past Central America

Then, in this vision, Nephi saw the seed of his brethren [Lamanites] in the Land of Promise that were separated from the Gentiles [in Europe], and a Gentile [Columbus] went forth upon the many waters [Atlantic Ocean], even to thre seed of his brethren, who were in the promised land (1 Nephi 13:12). Nephi also saw many multitudes of the Gentiles [Spanish] on the Land of Promise that scattered the seed of his brethren [Lamanites] who were attacked, smitten [killed or severely injured], and driven (1 Nephi 13:14).
    Nephi then saw other Gentiles (Europeans) who had gone forth out of captivity [under the dictates of a king] who humbled themselves before the Lord, who were white and exceedingly fair and beautiful (1 Nephi 13:15).
    Now when we understand that the Land of Promise at this time was viewed by Nephi as central and South America, where Columbus actually landed “even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land,” and the terrible smiting of the Lamintes took place, where no kindness was shown to them, as did happen in North America with many tribes aligning themselves with the English or French and were treated well, at least for some time, we see that Columbus never set foot in Mexico or North America, yet he came to the land of promise where many thousands of the indigenous natives were killed and many thousands more enslaved by the Spanish.
(See the next post, “Being in the Camp of the Heartland Theory – Part III,” for more of this reader’s comments and our responses)

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