Monday, November 9, 2020

How Theorists Bend Scripture to Support their Models and Beliefs

 When most people read the Book of Mormon, they pay little attention to minor words, like “in” and “out,” or to substantive words like “roundabout” or “wilderness,” in which they think they know the definition, but often do not. Often people run across words in their reading that should be better understood but ignore the underlying meaning or the exact definition of the word, choosing to think of it as what they believe the word to mean, and translate it and the sentence it is in to have certain meaning.

Take the words “in” and “at.” In the beginning of Nephi’s record, he states that God’s throne “is high in the heavens” (1 Nephi 2:14), and the word “at” would not be used. Nor would “at” he used in the statement “and bring them down into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 3:4).

On the other hand, in the passage: “Not many days after the battle which was fought in the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 3:20, emphasis added), could also be written “at the land of Zarahemla.” However, here we have two different meanings. “In” means within or inside, while “at” means without or outside or near or around, etc. Thus, “at Zarahemla” means outside or around the land of Zarahemla; while “in Zarahemla: means inside the land, or boundaries of Zarahemla. This becomes important in the passage “my father having dwelt at Jerusalem all his days” (1 Nephi 1:4) places Lehi living around or nearby Jerusalem, making him a man of the earth, or farmer, rather than someone who lived inside the walls of Jerusalem—a fact which answers several other questions as the story unfolds.

The wilderness roundabout described by Mormon


“In” and “at” are prepositions, while “roundabout” and “wilderness” are nouns. In these various parts of speech, some words, especially nouns, have various meanings. As an example, the word “roundabout,” which today refers mostly to traffic roundabouts or circles, actually meant “not following a direct route; circuitous,” “meandering,“ “change or cause to change direction.” Thus, when Mormon described the narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, he said of the Land of Nephi: “which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore” (Alma 22:27, emphasis added).

This means that the Narrow Strip of Wilderness, which ran across the Land of Promise from east to west, curved upward to the north as it reached each coast, allowing the forming of a West Wilderness and an East Wilderness that ran along the seashore. This may not be of interest to many people, but when reading the Book of Mormon and the events of war, movement, and directions, knowing such things tend to be helpful for most people to picture accurately in their minds what is being described.

Moroni drives the Lamanites out of the East Wilderness and has Nephites move into the area, where they built the City of Moroni


In the above case, when Mormon goes on to describe Moroni driving the Lamanites out of the East and West Wildernesses (Alma 50:7,9), and the Nephites built the city of Moroni along the seashore of the East Sea (Alma 50:13), just north of that Narrow Strip of Wilderness, one can actually see these events knowing how the layout of the land and location of these places are. In Moroni driving the Lamanites (from the East Wilderness) back into their own land, Mormon wrote: “Moroni caused that his armies should go forth into the east wilderness; yea, and they went forth and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 50:7, emphasis added).

This places the east wilderness adjacent to the Land of Nephi, and connected to the Narrow Strip of Wilderness, in order to drive them down into their own lands to the south of the narrow strip.

In another example of wordage, we find Mormon describing Nephites in Hagoth’s ships traveling to a land “which was northward” (Alma 63:4). Now, in this case “was” is a verb, more specifically a linking verb, because it joins the subject with the part of the sentence that provides additional information about the subject. Moreover, this form of the verb “to be” also depicts a state of being. Thus, we find that “was” connects Hagoth’s ship sailing with the latter part of the sentence “northward.”

This ship which is sailing northward is a relative pronoun “which” is introducing or heading the adjectival clause “which ship is sailing northward, modifying the noun “ship.” Grammatically, the noun here is called the “antecedent” of “referent.” Whereas the “antecedent” is the word that precedes or comes immediately before the noun (ship), the referent is the word that refers to the noun (ship) modified.

Thus, it is a relative or pronoun relative because it relates to another word or thing, usually to some word that precedes it in the sentence. According to Noah Webster, this does not exist in any other language. Therefore, the use of “which” used here renders the sentence, “the land, which land was northward.”

In addition, in the English language, “the word “which” is a relative or pronoun relative because it relates to another word or thing, usually to some word that precedes it in the sentence. According to Noah Webster, this does not exist in any other language. Therefore, the use of “which” used here renders the sentence, “the land, which land was northward.”
In the case of the two other uses:
1. “the Nephites possessing all the land northward, yea, even all the land which was northward of the land Bountiful, according to their pleasure” (Alma 50:11). In this case, the “which” is a relative or substitute for the “land Bountiful,” thus the “which was northward” relates to a known land.
2. In the case of “Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward” (Alma 50:29). In the first usage of this sentence, the “which” is a substitute for the land “covered with large bodies of water,” and in the second usage, it is a substitute for the “ellipted” noun “land” as described as “large bodies of water.”

Hagoth’s ships went to a “land which was northward”


However, in Alma 63:4, the word “which” has no substitute (no other land or noun is described) and therefore is a relative of the land mentioned, i.e., a land which was northward—not othe land northward.
    In one response to this line of thinking, a reader once stated: “If Mormon had said, “into a land which was northward,” then any land that was northward of the land of Zarahemla would do.” But that is not true, nouns are often connected to a modifier somewhere in the sentence or preceding or subsequent sentence. Thus, if that was Mormon’s intent, it would have to be “departed into the north countries,” “went into the northern lands,” “left Zarahemla to the lands to the north,” “they went northward.”

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