Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lands of Appropriate Scale Part III – Other Peoples in the Land of Promise Part I

Once again, it might seem like beating a dead horse because of all the posts on the subject, but when John L. Sorenson’s writing is considered to be the epitome of Book of Mormon historical knowledge—“Those who comment on the historicity of Book of Mormon accounts henceforth are irresponsible or uninformed if they ignore or neglect Dr. Sorenson's present work,” according to Leonard J. Arrington, author, academic and founder of the Mormon History Association, is known as the "Dean and Father of Mormon History,” Truman G. Madsen, an emeritus professor of religion and philosophy at BYU, and BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, and John W. Welch, the founding director of FARMS, and the current editor of the periodical BYU Studies—it becomes important to continually show what Sorenson has written and compare it to the scriptural record.

First of all, Mesoamerican theorists all seem to believe there were other people in the Land of Promise at the time Lehi arrived. Sorenson goes further, stating that not only were there other people when Lehi arrived, but that they were living where Lehi landed.

In fact, is it necessary, as Sorenson does, to even ask, “Were there other populations present in the Americas who were not exclusively descended from Lehi's party?”

To most of us, the answer to this is not complicated. As has already been pointed out in numerous posts on this site, the Lord promised Lehi that the Land of Promise would be kept from other nations—which means other people. The scriptural record covers the Jaredites, who were led to the land by the Lord (Ether 2:7); Lehi was guided there by the Lord (1 Nephi 5:5), from which came the Nephites and Lamanites; and the Mulekites were guided there by the hand of the Lord (1:16). Thus, we know of those who inhabited the Land of Promise during the period of the Book of Mormon (Jaredites 2200 B.C., Lehi 600 B.C., Mulek 587 B.C.)

No other groups, peoples, families, communities, ship-wrecked people, other survivors (including Jaredite survivors), etc., are mentioned in the scriptural record, nor even suggested, refered to, or intimated. Hugh Nibley once said “there is nothing in the Book of Mormon to keep us from understanding that other people occupied the Land of Promise.” We might turn that around and say with emphasis: “There is nothing in the Book of Mormon to suggest there were any others in the Land of Promise.”

And to say there is nothing in the scriptural record to preclude others in the land, let’s consider some of the recorded information to the contrary.

1. Moroni wrote of the post flood condition of the Land of Promise: “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof” (Ether 13:2). Obviously, this suggests that before the Flood of Noah, people may have lived upon the land.

2. Moroni also precludes any others from living upon the land after the Flood other than the Jaredites, until the future event (Moroni’s past) of Lehi. Speaking of the Old Jerusalem, Moroni wrote: “from whence Lehi should come” (Ether 13:5), obviously meaning after the Flood, between when he was writing and the future coming of the New Jerusalem to the land of promise, he knew of nothing in the land until the Lehi colony was to arrive.

3. Moroni wrote that at some time in the future, another event would take place in the land of promise and that was the coming of the New Jerusalem.

4. Lehi was given a promise regarding this land “we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:5); and it shall be a land of liberty to them (2 Nephi 1:7).

(See the next post, “Lands of Appropriate Scale Part IV – Other Peoples in the Land of Promise Part II,” to see what other people were led to the land of promise)

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