Thursday, December 31, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XV

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment: “In the real world, it would be up to the resurrected Moroni to tell Joseph where the plates were buried—which he did—and then to make the connection to Cumorah, which, if Joseph and Cowdery and Brigham Young are to be believed, he also did.”
Response: The blog author keeps hammering away that Joseph Smith made a connection between the hill Cumorah in the scriptural record and the hill in New York “where the plates were buried,” but there is no written proof of this or anything to substantiate it. It is also not supportable that Moroni told Joseph Smith the two Cumorah’s were the same hill, nor do we know that Moroni ever called the New York hill by the name of Cumorah since such a comment as David Whitmer states does not include the word “hill” with “Cumorah,” to which he was not heading, but rather going to Fayette to deliver the plates to Joseph.
    Blog comment: “Readers wouldn’t care about his intention; they would want to know where he actually buried the plates. But he couldn’t definitively state that until after he buried them!
    Response: This is a silly comment since it is doubtful that the thought of telling his future readers where he buried the plates would have held any importance to Moroni—that was not the purpose of his writing his record, or abridging the Ether record. From reading Moroni’s own work (Book of Moroni) we can see where Moroni’s interest was in writing, as well as the last two chapters of Mormon’s book (Mormon 8 and 9), which was almost 100% doctrinal material.
    Blog comment: “if Moroni had not tutored Joseph or mentioned the name to David Whitmer, and if Joseph never had any revelation about the Nephites, then everyone would be on an equal basis, interpreting the text however they want.”
Response: First of all, to our knowledge in both the scriptural record and in subsequent statements by Joseph Smith of any conversation or comments between Moroni and Joseph, or David Whitmer, did Moroni use the term “Hill Cumorah” in relationship to the hill in New York. His only comment we know of is that it is claimed he said “I am going to Cumorah” to David Whitmer. The problem is, Cumorah could be anything and cannot be attributed to the specific hill in New York because: 1) he was not going to the hill Cumorah, but to Fayette to deliver the plates to Joseph Smith, according to Joseph’s own testimony; and 2) was he talking about the Hill Cumorah, or the Land Cumorah, or some other meaning associated with Cumorah that we do not know about?
    Blog comment: “What Gardner proposes here is a scenario in which everything Joseph wrote or said or incorporated into his history has no prophetic insight; i.e., a person reading the Book of Mormon today knows as much about it as Joseph Smith…In my view, that contradicts not only the historical record but the very purpose for having a prophet.”
    Response: Obviously, Joseph Smith knew a lot more than any of us; however, that does not mean we can go around guessing or speculating on what he knew. All we have is his writings to go by and since he never wrote about the two Cumorah’s being one, we cannot assume he thought that.
    Blog comment: “There are significant ancient walls and trenches in the area, and people have gathered thousands of arrowheads in the valley west of Cumorah—as well as on the hill itself. It may be true that people did not settle there; that's what the Book of Mormon claims. This was a battlefield, not a city.”
    Response: It seems that the blog author makes several wild statements that have no support or backing and fly in the face of other testimony of people who have serious sought artifacts on and around the New York hill Cumorah.
Take the story of John Sheldon Fisher (left), who along with his wife Lillian in 1940, purchased Valentown Hall and established the Historical Museum to house his diverse collection, which includes Iroquoiara, Military, Scientific, Folklore, Genealogical interests of the man known as Hiawasees, the name given to him by the Seneca Indians in 1964 at the time of his adoption by the Heron Clan—a name meaning "the eagle who gathers news and history" and it is an appropriate handle for the man who has spent most of his life gathering, chronicling and preserving the history of Western New York. Professionally, he has helped build the renowned archaeological collection of the Rochester Museum and Science Center and became the first county historian in Ontario County. Always active as a volunteer in community organizations, and shortly before his 80th birthday, in the summer of 1987, he was honored as the primary influence in the 42-year campaign that led to the dedication of Ganondagan, the first New York State Historic Site devoted to Native American Culture (Lewis Fisher, Victor Historical  Society & Historic Valentown, 2002, Victor N.Y., J. Sheldon Fisher, The Fish Horn Alarm, Heart of the Lakes, 1994). Victor, New York, is about 8 miles southwest of Palmyra, New York, and about 10 miles due west of the hill Cumorah.
    In 1993, then 86-years old, Fisher made the statement regarding the hill Cumorah that he “had a standing agreement with all of the bulldozer and backhoe guys. They would be doing jobs in the general area. “Many times I would beat them to the job, but, of all these years I have never found any kind of artifact around the hill [Cumorah] area. I’ve read the Book of Mormon trying to figure it out and spent several hours talking about the area's history. But I have never found any artifacts there—there just aren't any artifacts of the kind spoken of in that book around that hill.”
Arrowheads found in Genesee County, New York, between Rochester and Buffalo, about 360 miles west of the hill Cumorah—another huge site is around Lake George in northeastern New York. But none are on record as being found in the area of Cumorah
    Landon Smith’s experience of finding nothing while artifact hunting in the fields surrounding the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra has often been quoted. Though he has found numerous ancient Indian sites in eastern New York, the closest one to the Palmyra area is 60 miles away—not at the hill Cumorah. There simply are no artifacts, arrowheads, or broken flints that would have been left over from the making of arrowheads. In fact, with a 75-85% waste in making such artifacts, any area where such a battle would have taken place would have been filled with such flakes, slabs, and chips in the various work areas that would have existed in a battle involving at least six hundred thousand warriors (230,000 Nephites against an overwhelming Lamanite army)—there are none at the New York hill Cumorah site or around it.
    In archaeological report after report of New York, thousands upon thousands of arrowheads have been found from Lake George in northeastern New York state all through the state, even in the western upstate area, according to Christina Rieth, the state’s head archaeologist. Untold thousands of such arrowheads, pieces of stone tools and other artifacts dating way back into B.C. times, but nothing as recent as 400 A.D. that matches anything in the Book of Mormon.
    As the blog author evidently believes, to make a claim is sufficient to proving a point. However, no matter how many times he says it, there is not evidence from professionals of the area whose livelihood is involved in the finding, cataloguing and displaying of such arrowheads or other such artifacts in, on, or around the hill Cumorah in New York!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XIV

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment: “This speculation about Joseph's motives is not supported by actual evidence. Instead, the evidence we have shows David Whitmer learning about the word Cumorah before he even knew what it meant. There is no evidence of a "communal interpretation of history" that, independent of Joseph and Oliver, made the connection to the New York Cumorah.”
    This comment is made as a result of the blog author’s critique of the statement “Although he [Joseph Smith] was in a perfect position to know a different name [of the New York hill Cumorah] and to correct the Saints, he didn’t. However, that should not be seen as confirmation that the tradition was correct, but rather that the Saints’ communal interpretation of history influenced Joseph’s descriptions of that history. Joseph not only allowed the communal creation of the hill name but embraced it."
Response: First of all, Joseph Smith never embraced the name or term Hill Cumorah in New York, never referred to it as other than “the hill where the plates were buried.” Second, the fact that Joseph did not correct people is likely the same reason he did not correct other statements, based on the right of an individual to his own opinion, i.e., the right to express his own opinion. An attitude Joseph Fielding Smith had when he told Sidney Sperry as we have earlier stated about Sperry having a contrary opinion than Joseph Fielding Smith: “you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine," Joseph Fielding Smith told Sperry. "You go ahead and publish it.”
    Blog comment: “No, it is not plausible. The difference is, Phelps published his association when he wrote, "It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim ["lights"] and Thummim ["perfections")." There is no evidence of anyone publishing speculation about the association of the hill in New York with Cumorah.” 
    Response: This comment is made as a result of the blog author’s critique of the statement “It is plausible that just as W.W. Phelps was the one to associate the interpreters with Urim and Thumim of the Bible, one of Joseph’s companions made the association between the hill from which the plates were taken with the hill in which Mormon had hid the plates.” However, I wonder how the Blog author justifies Oliver Cowdery’s comments about Cumorah in his Letter #7 to W.W. Phelps if that is not speculation. It certainly is neither found in scripture, in Joseph Smith’s writings, or in any official statement or position or belief of the Church.
    The problem is the blog author keeps confusing Cowdery’s testimony of the translation process with Cowdery’s opinion about the hill Cumorah. These are two entirely different issues, which he lumps together. One can accept Cowdery’s factual testimony of the translation process, yet still disagree with his opinion of Cumorah in New York being the hill Cumorah of the scriptural record, just like you can disagree with his 1838 statement that the Lord told him the Church was in error and the leaders were all falling away from the truth.
    Blog comment: “First, Gardner speculates about a "plausible connection" that is not supported by evidence. Then he assumes his imagined connection is based on a misreading of the text. I suppose if one is conjuring up "plausible connections," one might as well also conjure up faulty bases for those connections. But what is the point of this exercise?”
    Response: It is interesting that the blog author makes these accusations, which are correct, but fails to see that he is doing the exat same thing with his two extremely weak claims—his only two by the way—that Cowdery makes about believing the two Cumorahs are the same, and that Whitmer claims to have heard Moroni saying he was going to Cumorah, without any further explanation on the statement, as we’ve pointed out earlier in this series.
The problem is, opinions, even by a Church Leader are still just opinions, and any opinion without at least a semblance of supportive reasoning, i.e., why a person has that opinion, has little use in any scholarly study or work. Secondly, as has been stated here repeatedly, even if Moroni said what Whitmer remembered 58 years later, Moroni did not say he was going to the “Hill” Cumorah, only to Cumorah, which has two problems itself: 1) Joseph Smith said Moroni was going to Fayette to deliver the plates to him so he could continue his translation, and 2) We do not know what he meant by the singular term Cumorah. As an example, the term Cumorah, as used in the scriptural record applies to two physical locations, i.e., 1) the Land of Cumorah, and 2) the Hill Cumorah. If Moroni meant the hill, he did not say so, and it would be in opposition to what Joseph Smith said Moroni told him, and if he meant the hill, why didn’t’ he say so—and why would he be going there since it was 30 miles beyond Fayette (and not even on a direct line) where Joseph said he was going. Is it possible the term “Cumorah” meant something else to Moroni that we know? Or, if he meant the land, then Fayette might possibly have been within that area that Moroni knew as the Land of Cumorah in his mortal lifetime.The point is, we simply do not know and the statement cannot be used to justify a belief in the hill Cumorah in New York being the same hill as stated in the scriptural record.
From Harmony, Pennsylvania to Fayette, New York, is about 150 miles. The Hill Cumorah in New York is 30 miles beyond Fayette, and certainly not on a direct line of travel from Harmony
    Consequently, what is the point of these two unsubstantiated claims as well as their purpose in repeatedly citing them since one claim is strictly an opinion, and the other is without explanation or purpose in light of Joseph Smith saying Moroni told him he was heading to Fayette, making the hill Cumorah incorrect from what Moroni told him.
    Blog comment: “Nowhere does the text state that “Cumorah was not the resting place of the plates that Mormon gave to Moroni. The text is silent about the matter.”
    Response: In the same vein of discussion, it should be pointed out that nowhere in the text (scriptural record) does it state that the burial place of the plates was in the same place or hill that they were later disclosed to Joseph Smith and where he found them. The scriptural record and Joseph Smith’s writings are both silent about the matter.
    Blog comment regarding the burial of the plates in the hill Cumorah: “Think about it; how could Moroni record the burial place of the plates before he buried them? Theoretically, he could have written, “I intend to bury these plates in the hill Cumorah,” but under the dangerous circumstances he was in, writing such an intention would be pointless. Readers wouldn’t care about his intention; they would want to know where he actually buried the plates. But he couldn’t definitively state that until after he buried them!”
    Response: First of all, Moroni never tells us where he buried the plates while he was alive, only stating that he would do so (Mormon 8:4)—nor did he say anything about a “hill” or “Cumorah,” only identifying a burial place as being “in the earth.” Whether he knew by vision, by revelation, or by his own personal ideas, where he would bury them again is not known. And if he was told to bury the plates in a certain location by revelation or vision, he certainly could have stated the fact before he did so. And no dangerous circumstances can stop the Lord from bringing about his Plan whatever that might be. Such an argument, as presented above is both fruitless and in error.
Mormon hid the records in the Hill Cumorah save the few he gave to his son, Moroni, which few were the records Moroni gave to Joseph Smith
Second, to recount this, Mormon tells us that: “I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Mormon 6:6). What “few plates” Mormon gave to Moroni were those upon which Moroni completed his father’s record, wrote his translation of Ether, and then his own work. So at least we know that those “few plates” contained the record from Mormon to the end. And since Mormon states “I made this record out of the plates of Nephi,” referring to one record, then stated, “and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord,” evidently referring not only to second set of records, but those from which he abridged his record (stated as “this record” in this verse—Mormon 6:6). Then he added, “except these few plates I gave unto my son Moroni,” thus explaining that his record was the record he gave to his son in which he called them “these few plates.” These, of course, are the same plates that Mormon much earlier stated that he had to deliver to his son when he wrote him a letter, which Moroni included in his own work, “And if it so be that they perish, we know that many of our brethren have deserted over unto the Lamanites, and many more will also desert over unto them; wherefore, write somewhat a few things, if thou art spared and I shall perish and not see thee; but I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee” (Moroni 9:24, emphasis mine).
    Of these plates, Moroni only says, “Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not” (Mormon 8:4), later he added, “And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you” (Moroni 10:2). However, at no time does Moroni say where he “buried in the Earth” or hid up the records upon which he was writing, the records (the few plates) his father gave to him.
    Church members have speculated that they were buried in the Hill Cumorah by Moroni at that time, around 421 A.D. However, we do not know what Moroni did with the plates in 421 A.D. or at any time prior to Joseph Smith finding them where Moroni directed him to—in the Hill Cumorah in upstate western New York.
    Did Moroni bury them in the hill Cumorah stated in the scriptural record, in the Land of Many Waters, Rivers and Fountains, in the Land Northward? We do not know that. Nor do we know that he buried the plates in what was known to him in his mortal life as the Land of Promise. We only know that the records ended up in a nondescript hill near the area where Joseph Smith, Sr., moved his family to Palmyra Village in 1817, and then out into the log house on the farm along the Palmyra-Manchester border in 1819, which was a year before Joseph had his First Vision in the Sacred Grove in 1820.
When the plates were buried in the stone box on side of the hill Cumorah in New York is not known and cannot be determined from the written record of Moroni. Nor does he tell Joseph Smith when the plates were buried in the hill where Joseph found them. To say that this is the one and only hill the plates were buried in solves no problem, because Moroni could have transported them over any distance and in any direction from where he lived out his life—and it could have been done while he still lived, or it could have been done as a translated being, called an “angle” by Joseph Smith (this is borne out in the episode of Moroni being seen along the side of the rode carry the plates in a knapsack on his back, transporting the plates from Harmony to Fayette, i.e., that a translated being could carry the plates anywhere he chose, that is, was directed by the Lord).

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XIII

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment regarding Oliver Cowdery’s self-proclaimed letters as the source of the author of that blog claiming, “Founded upon facts," he wrote. Not speculation or popular tradition.”
    Response: It cannot be said that Oliver Cowdery’s opinion is founded only on fact. Neither Oliver or the blog author have presented any facts on the matter, only Oliver’s opinion and despite a claim to the contrary by him, Joseph Smith did not back up Oliver’s assertion about the hill Cumorah in any written matter.
    Blog Comment: “The idea of Moroni carrying only his abridgment thousands of miles defies what Joseph, Cowdery and David Whitmer said about the additional plates and artifacts they saw in New York. To accept the Mesoamerican setting, one must set aside all the historical accounts and embrace pure speculation instead.”
    Response: The blog author is referring to the so-called Cumorah Cave, which has been described as a room within the hill Cumorah in New York state. In fact, there are at least ten second-hand accounts describing the story of a cave in Cumorah, however, according to Cameron J. Packer (in “Cumorah’s Cave”) Joseph Smith himself did not record the incident (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13/1 (2004), pp 50–57).

The Hill Cumorah in upstate western New York. It is such a gradual incline to a short height that it is hardly remarkable and noticeable when approaching it from any angle except the north
    The reason Joseph did not was probably because as a drumlin, the hill Cumorah in New York is simply a pile of gravel scraped together by an ancient glacier. Thus the geologic properties of the hill would make a cave technically impossible because the hill is nothing more than a moraine laid down anciently by a glacier in motion, and is comprised of gravel and earth. Therefore, geologically, it is impossible for the hill to have a cave, and all those who have gone in search of the cave have come back empty-handed.
    Based on Nephi’s experience, “I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot” (1 Nephi 11:1), undoubtedly what was seen by those who recorded a cave, were likely seeing a type of vision.
    The story of the cave full of plates inside the Hill Cumorah in New York is often given as evidence that it is, indeed, the hill where Mormon hid the plates. Yorgason quotes one version of the story from Brigham Young and alludes to six others collected by Paul T. Smith. Unfortunately, none of the accounts is firsthand.
    Given that the angel Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously, it is not unreasonable to assume that he was capable of transporting them to a different location than the hill in New York. As Tvedtnes asks, "If they could truly be moved about, why not from Mexico, for example? (John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon by Brenton G. Yorgason," FARMS Review of Books 2/1, 1990, pp 258–259).
    Oliver states that when Joseph and he went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls (Brigham Young, "Trying to be Saints,” June 17, 1877, Journal of Discourses 19:38).
(Heber C. Kimball stated in 1856, “How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those re- cords this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments” (Journal of Discourses, 28 September 1856). In fact, according to Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball President [Heber C.] Kimball talked familiarly to the brethren about Father Smith, [Oliver] Cowdery, and others walking into the hill Cumorah and seeing records upon records piled upon table[s,] they walked from cell to cell and saw the records that were piled up.” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 5 May 1867).
    President Young said in relation to Joseph Smith returning the Plates of the Book of Mormon that he did not return them to the box from which he had received them, but he went into a cave in the hill Cumorah with Oliver Cowdery and deposited those plates upon a table or shelf.
In that room were deposited a large amount of gold plates Containing sacred records and when they first visited that Room the sword of Laban was hanging upon the wall and when they last visited it the sword was drawn from the scabbard and laid upon a table and a Messenger who was the keeper of the room informed them that that sword would never be returned to its scabbard until the Kingdom of God was established upon the Earth and until it reigned triumphant over every enemy. Joseph Smith said that Cave contained tons of choice treasures and records (Wilford Woodruff journal, 11 December 1869).
    “Brigham Young said that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before…It was about fifteen feet high and round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure. In the centre was a large stone table empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which lay scattered on the floor beneath. Formerly the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of Righteousness was upon the earth” (Elizabeth Kane Journal, 15 January 1873).
    Speaking of Brigham Young, Jesse Nathaniel Smith stated in 1874, “I heard him at an evening meeting in Cedar City describe an apartment in the Hill Cumorah that some of the brethren had been permitted to enter. He said there was great wealth in the room in sacred implements, vestments, arms, precious metals and precious stones, more than a six-mule team could draw” (Jesse Nathaniel Smith Journal, February 1874).
    Brigham Young also said, “I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting…[Don] Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader” (Journal of Discourses, 17 June 1877). Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet, 1877, tells a similar story, as does David Whitmer, s mentioned earl, 16 August 1878, in an interview with P. Wilhelm Poulson; as did Orson Pratt, in The Contributor, September 1882.
Certainly, sufficient evidence suggests that to certain early Church leaders, including Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, knowledge of a cave associated with the New York hill Cumorah opened before them and allowed them entrance. However, that this was an actual cave within the hill is simply not likely because of the makeup of that hill. The likelihood of it being some type of vision that opened before them as many early Saints, including Nephi as stated earlier and Joseph as he recorded many times, the point is the fact that a cave appeared in an area where caves cannot exist naturally, suggests that the actual appearance was of an object elsewhere that was brought to light within the existence of those present at the time.
    This in no way diminishes the existence and reality of the cave and its occupants, only that its actual physical existence was not within the hill Cumorah itself, no more than the numerous host of eminent spirits associated with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution appeared in a physical room in the St. George Temple that could not possibly have held their number.
In that event, the room opened up to a vision that Wilford Woodruff had when George Washington and the other Founding Fathers of this great Nation and other eminent men and women appeared to him in vision requesting their Temple work be completed in 1877. As Elder Woodruff stated: “Two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them” (April 1898 General Conference).
    As mentioned earlier, an interesting interview regarding this cave took place between David Whitmer and P. Wilhelm Poulson, as recorded in the Deseret Evening News, 16 August 1878, wherein Paulson asked where the plates were now and David Whitmer replied, “In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again.” Poulson then asked “Where is that cave?” to which Whitmer answered, “In the state of New York,” and Poulson asked, “In the Hill Cumorah?” to which Whitmer replied, “No, but not far away from that place.”

Monday, December 28, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XII

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment on Brant A. Gardner’s reference that “Cumorah was either an impressive defensive position or a metaphorical location for the destruction of a people—perhaps both, in which the blog follows: “Already, we're veering into semantic problems. Gardner uses the term "Cumorah" loosely, but the context here suggests Gardner is referring to the hill Cumorah, which the text never says is an impressive defensive position. The defenses were established in the land of Cumorah, the extent of which the text does not explain. Mormon had to climb the hill to see his ten thousand who were hewn down, which indicates they were in the valley. There is no basis in the text for concluding the term refers to a metaphorical location.”
Response: First of all, “metaphorical” means that it is characteristic of or relating to metaphor, i.e., figurative. Obviously, that is the wrong word to use since “Cumorah” is not a figurative area, place, or idea, but an actual hill and a defined land. To understand this reality, Mormon tells us: “that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle” (Mormon 6:2).
    Cumorah, then, is a hill named Cumorah, in a land named Cumorah.
    Mormon also states: “we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4).
    Thus, we find that the Hill Cumorah was located in the Land of Cumorah, which land was located in the Land of Many Waters, Rivers and Fountains.” That is like saying the Jazz basketball team plays in the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City in the state of Utah.
    This statement by Mormon is quite clear and defining.
    Blog comment: “I think everyone agrees that the Book of Mormon setting cannot stretch from Mesoamerica to New York. Fortunately, Joseph never said it did. It was Orson Pratt, Benjamin Winchester, William Smith, John E. Page, etc., who made that claim. And it was Joseph in the Wentworth letter who edited out the hemispheric theory Orson Pratt was pushing.”
    Response: It does not require the Land of Promise to stretch anywhere. There were two locations, one, the hill Cumorah around which the Jaredites and Nephites fought, and two, the hill in New York in which Joseph Smith unearthed the buried plates. There is no suggestion anywhere in the scriptural record that these two hills are one of the same. This is also true of the Land of Bountiful, one in the Old World around the southern coastal area of Arabia, and one in the Land of Promise—there is also another in the State of Utah. There was a City of Zarahemla in the Land of Promise, and another in the State of Iowa; a city of Nephi and a city of Manti in the Land of Promise, and both are also cities in Utah; there was an Ephraim Hill in the Land of Promise and an Ephraim Hill in Ephraim, Utah; as well as a city of Judea in the Land of Promise, and a city of Judea in the Old World.
Left: Bountiful in southern Arabia (Salalah); Right: Bountiful in Utah, which was originally named Sessions Settlement and North Canyon Ward before being named after the Bountiful of the Old World found in the Book of Mormon in 1855
    The point is, duplicate names are rather common, not unusual. Why is it so difficult for some people to think there were two areas called Cumorah?
    It is also of interest to note that according to the blog author, Orson Pratt was “pushing a hemispheric theory,” while Oliver Cowdery was simply stating a fact that the hill Cumorah in New York was the same as the hill Cumorah in the Land of Promise. It is interesting how writers state facts in such a way that always tend toward their point of view instead of treating these two attitudes or beliefs equally, i.e., if Orson Pratt believed in a hemispheric theory, then Oliver Cowdery believed in a single Cumorah theory.
    Blog comment to the suggestion that Moroni himself may have called the hill Cumorah in honor of the one in Middle America. He may even have told the Prophet Joseph Smith about it, but of this we have no proof: “How would Moroni be "honoring" a hill in Mesoamerica by misleading Joseph into thinking the hill in New York was the one in Mesoamerica?
    Response: The point here is that Moroni may have called the hill in upstate western New York the hill Cumorah to tie the two hills together, one in the Land Northward where Mormon buried all the records, and the second where he buried the records in New York. If that took place, it is neither misleading nor causing anyone to think the two hills were the same other than those who advocate the Great Lakes or Heartland Eastern U.S. theories. But certainly not misleading. And duplicate names have been given to various places, both in the land of Promise and in the U.S. simply to honor or reference the former name and places. It is not a conspiracy to name Bountiful, Utah, after Bountiful in the Land of Promise, but an honorific reference to the Book of Mormon name and location.
    Blog comment: “Of course we have no evidence of how Joseph might have used the term verbally…”
    Response: Thus, we have no evidence he used it at all! And the fact that he avoided using it, calling it the hill where the plates were buried suggests he did not use it at all.
    Blog comment: “…written records reflect a small percentage of contemporaneous oral communication. The Book of Mormon itself tells less that it contains less than one percent of the history of the people. That is why Oliver's detailed letters are so significant, not only regarding the New York Cumorah issue but many other issues of Church history.”
    Response: The point is we cannot go around inserting names, places, events, or opinions into the record or history that are not mentioned or even referenced as such merely because we think they might have been left out. If the record doesn’t state it, then we have no right to add it on our own.”
    Blog comment: Sorenson's comments are pure speculation, derived from his own translation of the Book of Mormon…Contrary to Sorenson's claim, the New York location is in close proximity to the narrow neck of land, as the Joseph Smith translation describes it.”
    Response: At no time in the scriptural record does it state that the hill Cumorah is near the narrow neck of land or in close proximity to it. The information we have, by Mormon, is that the hill Cumorah is in “the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle…we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:2, 4).
Moroni tells us: they came “over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore” (Ether 9:3). Moroni also tells us that Coriantumr’s army in the final days of the Jaredites pitched their tents around the hill Rama, which “was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord” (Ether 15:11), and after a day of flight, the battle was renewed and when the last Jaredite Coriantumr killed Shiz that day, that “And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth."
    And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them” (Ether 15:33), telling us that the last Jaredite battles took place where the expedition of Limhi found Ether’s plates, and described: “having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel. And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold” (Mosiah 8:8-9).
    In Alma, Mormon says this area where the Jaredite ruins and bones was far northward “The Land of Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken” (Alm 22:30).
    From all of this we find:
1. Mormon hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to him, except for the few he gave his son Moroni (Mormon 6:6)
2. The hill Cumorah was in the Land of Cumorah
3. The Land of Cumorah was in the Land of Many Waters
4. The Land of Many Waters was beyond or north of the Land of Desolation
5. The Land of Desolation was north of the Narrow Neck of Land
    Thus it cannot be said that the hill Cumorah was near the Narrow Neck of Land, nor that it was in close proximity to the Narrow Neck of Land.
6. If we add to that the statement by Orson Pratt May 18, 1873 in the Journal of Discourses Vol 16,p 50, that “the hill Ramah, afterwards called Cumorah, where the Jaredites were destroyed as well as the Nephites,” we find that both Ramah and Cumorah are the same hill, placing both descriptions far to the north of the narrow neck of land.
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XIII,” for answers as to where the overall Land of Promise is located and to what land the Prophets have spoken and the Lord indicated)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XI

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments. 
    Blog comment: “Of course we have no evidence of how Joseph might have used the term verbally; written records reflect a small percentage of contemporaneous oral communication. The Book of Mormon itself tells less than one percent of the history of the people. That is why Oliver's detailed letters are so significant, not only regarding the New York Cumorah issue but many other issues of Church history.”
Response: First, to keep referring to Oliver Cowdery’s letters as though they are sacred scripture is, again, foolhardy and unscholarlythey are letters and they are opinions. Some, of course, are informational, but again they are ideas of Oliver Cowdery, not dictated to him by the Spirit. Secondly, whatever Joseph might have said is irrelevant heresince we have no idea what they might have been—what he wrote in his history of these events is critically important. Joseph was often quoted as saying what he said as a man was often stated out of context as though he had spoken as a Prophet and that he was very careful what he discussed verbally. But what Joseph wrote he knew would be interpreted in one way only and that might be why he did not write about the hill in New York as being named Cumorah but only as “the hill where the plates were buried.”
    Blog comment: “Gardner is not telling his readers about the historical evidence, but he is telling them that JFS relied on weak data? Gardner is not even informing his readers about Cowdery's letters, which JFS quoted at length?”
    Response: It might be of interest to note what exactly is involved in Oliver Cowdery’s letters that he wrote to Joseph Smith as well as those he wrote to W.W. Phelps. For the most part, they are not about the hill Cumorah. In fact, the eight letters written to Phelps, only a portion of the letter #7 had to do with Cumorah, all the rest were on different subjects. And the ones written to Joseph Smith, which began in late 1829 when Joseph wrote to Cowdery on October 22, about his returning to Harmony from Palmyra, saying in part, “Two of our most formadable persacutors,” he wrote, “are now under censure and are cited to a tryal in [a local Christian] church for crimes which if true are worse than all the Gold Book business.” Oliver replied by letter on November 6, 1829, and his December 28th letter, with comments about Joseph’s doing well and that “We rejoice the most to learn of your faithfulness in christ my dear Brother.” Both letters and others were about keeping from sin and believing in Christ the Lord.
    The typical morphology of conversion consisted of “awakening” to a sense of one’s sinfulness, and central to this spiritual evolution for Christians generally and Cowdery specifically was an emphasis on unmerited redemption. Also noteworthy in Cowdery’s letter is the way in which he employed phrases from the unpublished manuscript of Book of Mormon to give voice to these classic Christian sentiments. He wrote that the Lord “from all Eternity [prepared] a means whereby man could be saved on conditions of repentance.” Similarly, Cowdery commented that salvation requires “faith on that infinite attonement whic was to be mad[e] by a great and last sacrifice,” because “he has redeemed my soul from endless torment and wo” and from the “awful gulf” also reflects Book of Mormon language, and Cowdery’s notes in a postscript at the end of his letter that, “I have just got to alma commandment to his son in copying the manuscript.”
He also wrote about his own mission, his love for the Lord, and that “my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy,” noting that “Sanctification, as Cowdery knew and yearned to experience, was as a gradual and lifelong process,” and adding, “writing to us for we have not heard any thing from you since we left you last fall” Later in the letter, he added, “I have but a short time to write to you my bloved Bretheren as the mail leves thi[s] place in morni the morning I wish some of you to write me immediately a full letter of all your affairs and then I will write to you the situation of all the western tribes.” (Oliver Cowdery to Joseph Smith, January 29, 1831, as copied into Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith, March 3, 1831, Joseph Smith Papers, Church History Library).
The Evening and the Morning Star was published every month at Independence, Jackson County Missouri by William Wines Phelps. Oliver Cowdery’s letters to W. W. Phelps was in connection with this paper
    The point of all this is that Oliver’s letters to Joseph Smith and Joseph’s to Oliver had nothing to do with anything about the geography of the Book of Mormon and the Land of Promise.
That comment appeared only in one paragraph of his 7th letter to W.W. Phelps, along with a long, fancilful and poetic writing of the last battle of the Nephites and Lamanites, which was totally an invention of Cowdery, since nothing whatever is written in the scriptural record about the details of that battle.
    The idea that the blog author continues to refer to these letters and Joseph Smith’s involvement in them creates the idea that they were all or mostly about the geography and Joseph and Oliver’s agreement that the two Cumorahs were the same—which is not the case at allno such thing is ever mentioned by Joseph Smith.
    Blog comment: “I will have a separate post to focus on David Whitmer to show people how strong of a witness David Whitmer is.
    Response: David Whitmer’s case of being a whitness has to do with one conversation with Moroni in which Moroni merely states he was on his way to Cumorah, according to Whitmere, when in reality, according to Joseph Smith, he was on his way to Fayette with the plates to deliver them to Joseph when he arrived so the prophet could continue with the translation.
    Blog comment: “When you see Mesoamericanists trying to undermine the credibility of one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, doesn't it make you wonder what they're up to?”
Response: Since the blog author is placing so much emphasis on David Whitmer, it should be recognized that his testimony is not a solid issue. Take for instance his comment in his Address to All Believers in Christ, page 27, "If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to 'separate myself from among the Latter-day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so should it be done unto them.' In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness. I had been striving with them for a long time to show them the errors into which they were drifting, and for my labors I received only persecutions."
    This was received in 1838, meaning Whitmer claims God told him since that time, the Mormon church has "gone deep into error and blindness." In 1887, David Whitmer wrote: “which included a belief that Joseph was a fallen prophet, and that the Doctrine and Covenants contained false revelations." He states, "I have proof to verify my statement. If anyone chooses to doubt my word, let them come to my home in Richmond and be satisfied." He goes on to say: “Now, in 1849, the Lord saw fit to manifest unto John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself nearly all the remaining error in doctrine into which we had been led by the heads of the old church. We were shown that the Book of Doctrine and Covenants contained many doctrines of error, and that it must be laid aside.” It is also claimed that Joseph Smith himself said, "Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them" (Smith 1902, 3:232).
    My point is not in disparaging David Whitmer, nor Oliver Cowdery earlier, but in pointing out that the article on the blog in question hammers away at who he is criticizing for not telling the entire story—so it should be said, neither does he. And the entire story is more than he admits, himself, and is certainly not an issue about geography surrounding the hill Cumorah accept in one letter and only briefly, and quite fanciful in its entirely.
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XII,” for answers as to where the overall Land of Promise is located and to what land the Prophets have spoken and the Lord indicated)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part X

Continuing with the previous posts regarding one of our readers sending us information of a blog and asking our opinion and comments, and here continuing with the information on Zion’s Camp and the discovery of Zelph and the mentioning of Cumorah.  
Left: Image of the hill within which they found the bones of Zelph, a white Lamanite Joseph Smith said was killed in battle; Right: the map of the Illinois River where the hill was located 
    “The longest and most detailed near-contemporaneous account of Zelph’s discovery was written by Levi Hancock, later one of the Presidents of the Seventy. Hancock reports that the land was named Desolation and Onendagus was a king and a good man but says nothing about his being a prophet. However, he does inform us that Zelph lost all his teeth but one and implies that Zelph was relatively aged at death. He makes no mention of the Hill Cumorah or of Onendagus’s wide fame other suggest, but does write that Zelph was a white Lamanite.” (Kenneth W. Godfrey, What is the Significance of Zelph In the Study of Book of Mormon Geography? Neal A. Maxwell Institute Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999) pp70-79, 88).
    As has been reported in these pages in the past, there were several accounts of what Joseph reported and no two agree with one another and only Oliver Cowdery makes a connection between the hill Cumorah in New York as the hill Cumorah in the scriptural record. In fact, some recorders claim Joseph Smith was present at the time of finding the bones and others claim he was not there, and after comparing the various accounts William J. Hamblin 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 2/1 (1993): 161–197) 
In addition, in 1842 Willard Richards (left), then church historian, was assigned the task of compiling a large number of documents and producing a history of the church from them. He worked on this material between 21 December 1842 and 27 March 1843, which was during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Richards, who had not joined the church until 1836, relied on the writings or recollections of Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and perhaps others for his information regarding the discovery of Zelph. Blending the sources available to him, and perhaps using oral accounts from some of the members of Zion’s Camp, but writing as if he were Joseph Smith, historian Richards drafted the story of Zelph as it appears in the “Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1.”
    With respect to points relative to Book of Mormon geography, Richards wrote that “Zelph was a white Lamanite, a man of God who was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus who was known from the [hill Cumorah is crossed out in the manuscript] eastern Sea, to the Rocky Mountains. He was killed in battle, by the arrow found among his ribs, during a [last crossed out] great struggle with the Lamanites” [and Nephites crossed out] since it was “unclear as to whether it was the final destruction of the Nephites or the last battle of Zelph’s people, whoever they were, and may refer to a battle between the Nephites and Lamanites, or a battle between Lamanites and other Lamanites” (Kenneth W. Godfrey, “An Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metalfe’s Assumptions and Methodologies,” FARMS Review of Books, Provo, Utah, Maxwell Institute, 1994, 6(1).
It should be noted that according to Kimball, it was later in the day while continuing on the journey westward that the Prophet Joseph Smith made the identification of the person whose bones they had found, which is consistent with Hancock’s statement, and Kimball’s account makes no explicit reference to the Nephties. George A. Smith recorded in his journal that Joseph Smith was not even with them when they dug up the bones.
    Thus, with such varied reports, it is difficult to say that one word, whether Cumorah or another, can be relied upon when several Church leaders all recorded different things in describing this singular event.
    Blog comment: [Regarding the story of David Whitmer and Moroni saying "No I’m going to Cumorah”] “When you see Mesoamericanists trying to undermine the credibility of one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, doesn't it make you wonder what they're up to?” 
    Response: One might ask the same question of the Blog author when he keeps referring to Joseph Smith as having claimed both hills are one of the same when there is nothing written by him that says this or even implies this; nor does Moroni’s claimed statement from David Whitmer that he (Moroni) was going to Cumorah ring true when, in fact, he was going to Fayette according to Joseph Smith to deliver the plates to Joseph so he could continue with the translation (the Hill Cumorah is 30 miles beyond Fayette in New York). So we might ask, who is up to what?
It should also be pointed out that in 1938 Elder Joseph Fielding Smith (left) wrote an article published in the Deseret News arguing against what he then termed the "modernist" theory that the final battlefield of the Nephites and Jaredites may have been in Central America rather than in New York. In 1956 this article was included in a selection of Elder Smith's writings compiled by his son-in-law Bruce R. McConkie. Although Elder Smith would later become president of the church in 1970, his article arguing for a New York location as the scene of the final battlefield was written many years before he was called to that position, and he apparently never revisited the question as president of the church. There is evidence that Elder Smith may have softened his opposition on the Cumorah question.
Fletcher B. Hammond and his maps of (left) the Land Southward, and (right) the Land Northward he presented to Joseph Fielding Smith 
    In a letter written to Fletcher B. Hammond (left), who argued emphatically for a Central American location and had sent Elder Smith a copy of his findings, the apostle explained, "I am sure this will be very interesting although I have never paid any attention whatever to Book of Mormon geography because it appears to me that it is inevitable that there must be a great deal of guesswork."  Apparently, he did not consider his 1938 argument as settled and definitive or as a measure of doctrinal orthodoxy.   
Sidney B. Sperry (left), after whom an annual Brigham Young University symposium is named, was also one who initially supported the New York Cumorah view (that is, an area of New York as the final battlefield of the Nephites and Jaredites). During the 1960s, as he began to explore the issue, he came to a different conclusion. Reversing his earlier position, he wrote: "It is now my very carefully studied and considered opinion that the Hill Cumorah to which Mormon and his people gathered was somewhere in Middle America. The Book of Mormon evidence to this effect is irresistible and conclusive to one who will approach it with an open mind. This evidence has been reviewed by a few generations of bright students in graduate classes who have been given the challenge to break it down if they can. To date none has ever been able to do so."  
    Sperry, who was very familiar with what Joseph Fielding Smith had previously written, told Elder Smith that he did not feel comfortable publishing something that contradicted what the apostle had written, but that he and other sincere students of the Book of Mormon had come to that conclusion only after serious and careful study of the text. Sperry said that Elder Smith then lovingly put his arm around his shoulder and said, "Sidney, you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. You go ahead and publish it" (Matthew Roper, "Losing the Remnant: The New Exclusivist "Movement" and the Book of Mormon A review of "Prophecies and Promises; The Book of Mormon and the United States of America" by: Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum; FARMS Review 22/2 (2010): 87–124). 
(See the next post, “America is the Land of Promise—But Where is America? – Part XI,” for answers as to where the overall Land of Promise is located and to what land the Prophets have spoken and the Lord indicated)