Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Understanding Abraham and the Creation – Part II

Continuing with Abraham’s account of the creation and the principles behind it so we can better understand how the Earth was changed during the crucifixion and why it was not merely a cosmetic event, but a change that was extremely complex and performed in a specific and exact manner. 
    To put this in perspective, we need to keep in mind that in Genesis, the Creation is represented as the work of one Personage—God. In Abraham, it is the “Gods” that do all the work. Consider, as an example the wordage used in Genesis: “Let us go down,” suggests at least more than one. Who else, or who were the others involved in the "us" of the organization or creation of the Earth?
Obviously, the plural form, “Let us go down” begs that question—who was involved in the Creation?  In the temple, we learn that Elohim directed the creation of all things, first the spiritual, second the physical. Under his direction, Jehovah and Michael were sent down to oversee the physical creation.
    While some might argue that Michael (Adam) could not be a god before he came to earth as a mortal, we might want to be reminded that Christ or Jehovah did the same thing. He was the God of the Old Testament and the babe in Bethlehem. So the Gods involved in the Abraham rendition of the Creation are Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael.
    Michael was directly involved in the preparation of the physical world in which he and his posterity would undergo a mortal probation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote: “Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of ‘the noble and great ones,’ to whom the Lord Jesus said: ‘We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:22–24).
    According to Joseph Fielding Smith, “It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74–75).
Bruce R. McConkie added, “Our great prince, Michael, known in mortality as Adam, stands next to Christ in the eternal plan of salvation and progression. In pre-mortal Michael was the most intelligent, powerful, and mighty spirit son of God, who was destined to come to this earth, excepting only the Firstborn, under whose direction and pursuant to whose counsel he worked. ‘He is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men.’ (Teachings, p. 157.) The name Michael apparently, and with propriety, means one ‘who is like God.’ And in the creation of the earth, Michael played a part second only to that of Christ.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., p. 491.)
    Brigham Young stated quite clearly, “Though we have it in history that our father Adam was made of the dust of this earth, and that he knew nothing about his God previous to being made here, yet it is not so; and when we learn the truth we shall see and understand that he helped to make this world, and was the chief manager in that operation. He was the person who brought the animals and the seeds from other planets to this world” (Journal of Discourses, 1854-1886], 3: 319).
    It should obviously be understood, that Christ, under the Father, is the Creator; Michael, his companion and associate, presided over much of the creative work; and with them, as Abraham saw, were many of the noble and great ones. The Prophet Joseph Smith thus taught that “the Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Man Adam,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 10).
One of the interesting elements of the account of the Creation as it is given in chapters 4 and 5 of Abraham is the use in chapter 4 of the verb to organize, by which we are given to understand that the Gods formed the heavens and the earth out of preexisting materials. (See Abraham. 4:1, 12, 14–16, 25, 27.) This flies in the face of centuries of Christian tradition, which insists that God created the universe ex nihilo (i.e., “from nothing”).
   Again, current scholarship supports the Book of Abraham in the age-old doctrine of ex nihilo—that is, creation out of nothing. However, such a doctrine cannot be found in Genesis or anywhere else in biblical writing. In fact, we learn from early Jewish writings that God created the universe by giving form to formless matter. It was not until the second century after Christ, and thus after the Apostles, “that Christian thinkers began, under the influence of Greek philosophy, to teach creation ex nihilo, and the doctrine only gradually, over much time, gained acceptance.” (Daniel C. Peterson, “News from Antiquity,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 20)

During the Nauvoo period, Joseph Smith continued to speak about the Creation in terms of organization. His belief that physical matter had an eternal nature (D&C 93:33) was paramount to this belief.
William Clayton (left), the Prophet’s private secretary, reported Joseph Smith as saying in 1841, ‘This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live.”
    In the famed King Follett discourse, delivered at general conference in April 1844, Joseph Smith presented an extensive treatise on creation as organization. He told the Saints that the word create comes from the Hebrew word baurau [bara], which means to organize, and that “God had materials to organize the world out of chaos … [which] may be organized and reorganized but not destroyed.”
    As he stated, the word “create” did not mean to create out of nothing; it meant to organize; “the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos-chaotic matter, which is element, which element had an existence from the time [God] had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end" (HC 6:308-309).
    In fact, Parley P. Pratt, an apostle and close associate of Joseph Smith, wrote, "Matter and spirit are the two great principles of all existence. Everything animate and inanimate is composed of one or the other, or both of these eternal principles…. Matter and spirit are of equal duration; both are self-existent, they never began to exist, and they never can be annihilated…Matter as well as spirit is eternal, uncreated, self-existing. However infinite the variety of its changes, forms and shapes; …eternity is inscribed in indelible characters on every particle" (HC 4:55).
    Although these teachings were new for his time, Joseph Smith’s ideas received little attention from his non-LDS contemporaries. Members of other sects in the nineteenth century accepted the idea of ex nihilo creation without reservation. Consequently, Christians dismissed any alternative as irrelevant.  
John Rogers Herbert’s painting of the Assertion of Liberty of Conscience by the Independents at the Westminster Assembly of Divines

    Most accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, a document drawn up in 1643 when the English Parliament called upon the “learned, godly and judicious Divines” to meet at Westminster Abby to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England. 121 Puritan clergymen participated for the purpose, during the English Civil War, to provide official documents for the reformation of the Church of England. The document, which stated that God made the world ‘of nothing,’ was eventually adopted by Congregationalists in the form of the Savoy Declaration in 1658. Along the same line, the Baptists of England modified the Savoy Declaration to produce the Second London Baptists Confession in 1689. For more than three hundred years, various churches around the world adopted the confession and the catechisms as their standards of doctrine, subordinate to the Bible.
    “To the people of Joseph’s day, steeped in such long-standing traditions, the ideas presented by Joseph Smith must have seemed implausible” (Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, “The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 32–33).
George Q. Canon (left) stated on this subject, “Another step has been made in advance…which is astonishing; I refer to the doctrine of the eternal duration of matter. When first this was made known it was ridiculed everywhere by religious people, who viewed it as a principle, the teachings of which detracted from the dignity and glory of God. The popular idea was that this earth was created out of nothing. This was the almost universal belief among Christians. Joseph Smith said it was not true. He advocated the doctrine that matter always had an existence, that it was eternal as God Himself was eternal; that it was indestructible; that it never had a beginning, and therefore could have no end. God revealed this truth to him. (Journal of Discourses, 24:61)
    The Confessions start out declaring that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the inspired, written Word of God, and as such, the Bible is considered "the rule of faith and life." The Holy Scriptures are said to possess infallible truth and divine authority, containing "all things necessary for [God's] own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life", so that no new revelations or human traditions can be added to it. With such an adamant approach to religion, Joseph Smith’s pronouncement was more than the average person could manage, while others met the pronouncements with strong resistance and outright blasphemous allegations.
(See the next post, “Understanding Abraham and the Creation – Part III,” for more information regarding Abraham’s account of the creation and the principles behind it so we can better understand how the Earth was changed during the crucifixion and why it was not merely a cosmetic event, but a change that was extremely complex and performed in a specific and exact manner)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Understanding Abraham and the Creation – Part I

This article is a combination of information available regarding views of Church Leaders over the years and an in-depth explanation of Abraham Chapter 4. It follows the previous four articles about the changes that occurred in 3 Nephi 8.
For those who have asked over the years “why we need three versions of the scriptures?” and in particular to this article, why we need three versions to the story of creation, the answer is quite simple, though perfectly exact and important—first, we need three versions by the law of witnesses. The phrase "It is written" (gegraptai), used often in the New Testament, settles the matter beyond reasonable doubt, for it expresses nothing less than the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures and ascribing it to the New Testament writing (Romans 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:7; Galatians 1:8, 9; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). 
   Thus Gegraptai as used in New Testament writings and the apostolic text is placed on a par with the writings of the Old Testament (2 Peter 3:15, 16; Revelation 1:3). The concept of faith found in the New Testament is consistent with this witness, for faith is simply obedience to the witness of the apostles, i.e. the New Testament Scripture (Romans 1:5; 16:26; 10:3). We should note that this apostolic witness is fundamentally distinguished in this respect from other manifestations of the Spirit, which demand of the congregation (ekklesia) not only obedience, but also a critical discernment between the true and the false (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1).
For this witness deserves unconditional faith and obedience, in its written as well as in its oral form) Herman Ridderbos, Studies in Scripture and its Authority, Erdmans, Grand Rapids, 1978, p21). Thus, we see that authority for speaking (or writing) was critical among the ancients and drove the dialogue they used.
    In addition, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1), is an important understanding of the Law, which dates back to two or three witnesses in Deuteronomy 17:6). In fact, the ancient Jewish law states: “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” (Deuteronomy 19:15). This was such an important principal it is found repeatedly in the Bible and for the most serious of matters: “Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die” (Numbers 35:30), and is repeated in the Gospels, “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:16).
    Thus, most crucial doctrines are repeated at least three times in the scriptures. When the Lord says every word must be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses, He includes his own. 
    Secondly, in our day, no other doctrine takes precedence over the creation. Without it, we are left with Evolution’s “Big Bang” Theory of something out of nothing; without it, we lose where we came from and why we’re here; without it, we are faced with a godless world as we see today among so many. As one scientist was quoted saying recently when confronted with the silliness of evolution: “It is better to accept evolution with all its faults than have to accept the alternative.” The alternative being to believe in God.
Yet, Genesis is merely one account of the creation. Abraham adds a second witness, that not only supports Genesis, but adds a unique story line of creation. Why would Abraham have included it in his writings? It should be noted that the subject of the creation is one of great complexity, not the simple story often told to Primary-age children. Thus this second version is critical to our understanding this complexity.
    Third, we have several accounts of the First Vision, the ministry of Christ, the Atonement, the plan of salvation, the signs of the last days, and the conditions during the millennium.
    Yet, none of the various accounts exhaust the subject; each contributes to its advancement line upon line, even though important elements may be repeated. We need not regard them as competing or as being at odds with each other, but rather, as enhancing our understanding of the whole of the subject.
    Thus, as Keith Meseervy stated, “Accounts of the Creation could be infinite in their variety because the subject is complex and because individual needs and specific emphases are different. An elaboration of some of the contributions of each of the four accounts (Temple version is the fourth) enables us to better appreciate each.” (“Four Accounts of the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, 51-52).
    So what does Abraham’s version provide us that is unique? Several things. First, the record boldly declares that “the Gods” created the heavens and the earth—a statement of blasphemy for 1835 Christianity to introduce there being more than one God.
    Second, Abraham confirms and states quite clearly that the Earth was organized and formed by the Gods rather than created ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing. And third, the Gods watched those thing which they had ordered until they obeyed and “the Gods said: “We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient” (Abraham 4:18, 31).
This demonstrates how God controls the elements.  He commands, and they obey (Helaman 12:7-8). Additionally, from chapter 5 we learn that the Gods counseled in the beginning, that the spirit of man is placed into the physical body, and that the creation-organization took place according to the time of Kolob; “for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning” (Abraham 5:13).
    Thus, Abraham included the creation in his writings to give us a second witness to the truth of the organization of the Earth and all things, and since he received this information through the Urim and Thummim, we can be certain it is both accurate and exact. This is so we understand that the authority of the Scripture is not located in human brilliance or witness. It is not found in the person of Moses, Paul, or Peter. The authority is found in the sovereign God Himself. The God who "breathed out" the words through human writers stands behind every statement, every doctrine, every promise and every command written in the Scripture. After all, it was "In the past [that] God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways" (Hebrews 1:1).
    It was by the means that Abraham was given a vision of the pre-earth life and the council in heaven.  Nowhere in scripture are these concepts more clearly taught. This doctrine frames the entire creation story. His authority, as a writer of God-breathed Scripture, is above all other authority. Why? Because God, himself, told him, and authorized him to write of it for the benefit of all future generations.
    Finally, then, we know the greatest of all questions, “Why did God make the earth?” “What is it all for?” It gives us a reason for the creation—that we may “prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25). Thus, we have both the questions and the answers surrounding the creation-organization of the Earth and man’s placement upon it.
    While Abraham’s version parallels the account in Genesis, it differs in certain very important ways. Obviously, the record of Abraham preserved in the Pearl of Great Price goes beyond the Bible but receives support from sources that Joseph Smith could not possibly have known. As an example, the Arab Muslim antiquarian al-Tabari preserves reports that Abraham was granted a vision of the Creation (Ibn Jarir al-Tabri, The History of the Prophets and Kings [Tarikh al-Tabari], SUNY Press, 2007 [915 AD]).
And while it seems quite natural to us—thanks to the book of Abraham—to know of the council in heaven at which the creation of man was planned, that knowledge is not found in the Bible. It is found, though, in several ancient documents, all of which were first published in this century” (Daniel C. Peterson, “News from Antiquity,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, p20).
(See the next post, “Understanding Abraham and the Creation – Part II,” for more information regarding Abraham’s account of the creation and the principles behind it so we can better understand how the Earth was changed during the crucifixion and why it was not merely a cosmetic thing, but a change that was extremely complex and performed in a specific and exact manner)

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Problem With Time – Part IV • And the Earth Did Cleave Together Again – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding how the changes in 3 Nephi 8-9 came about.
     Thus, evidently, during this three-day period, the earth was not only broken up, but actually separated apart along some type of lines of original organization, for the scriptural record tells us that following all of this tumult and destruction, it “did cleave together again, that it stood” (3 Nephi 10:10, emphasis mine). For something to “cleave together” or be put back together, it must first “cleave apart” or split apart—thus this destruction of 3 Nephi 8 must have been something so severe that it not only shook the entire earth for three hours (at least the Land of Promise area), followed by three days of darkness, but brought the severed parts back together again at the end of this period.
While all this was going on, the Gods were evidently realigning the land masses within the Land of Promise.
    With the land masses of the Land of Promise no longer cleaving together, the work of realignment could take place quickly and in a simple manner, with the elements forming mountains, “whose height was great,” plus lift the rest of the continent up out of the sea, and all the other activities that the disciple Nephi saw and observed. For those who have a hard time seeing a mountain range of great height form in three hours, or three days, one need only realize that the Gods who organized the world initially were no doubt busy realigning this one area, the Land of Promise, as the Earth groaned and moaned under the pressures exerted on it.
    Thus, the continent came up, the Sea East receded into the Atlantic, mountains of moderate height tumbled apart and fell, becoming part of the valleys and former valleys grew suddenly into mountains “whose height was great.” Cities disappeared in this realignment, hills covered some cities while others were sunk into the earth or beneath the sea.
    At the same time, the huge rock masses beneath the surface were broken into pieces, seams and cracks formed along the lines where once the earth “cleaved” together, cities were sunk, buried, and covered over, while rivers and lakes formed and reformed as the mountains rose quickly to towering heights, evidently displacing former water ways and forming new runoffs.
    While this work of the Gods was continuing, the destruction and punishment of the evil populace was taking place, with populations drowned, buried in the ground, and mountains forming upward over occupied cities. Obviously, former seasides were washed away, as cities fell and sank, tsunamis swarmed in to fill the sink holes, oceans reformed around the Land of Promise and the work being done shook the land so forcefully, the surviving people thought the entire Earth would come apart. And indeed it was, though under Priesthood control, while all of these events took place.
    Then in the morning of the fourth day, after the period of darkness where nothing could be seen, no fires lit, no light shown, the Gods reunited the land and elements “and the earth did cleave together again, [so] that it stood” as it had stood before these events.
With this in mind, it is no mystery how mountain ranges could form so quickly, how rivers, lakes, and oceans could realign, how the bulk of a continent could rise out of the sea—the Earth (or the Land of Promise area) was returned to its original construction (organization) formation and the work of organization (reorganization) took place as it had many millennia before, and then the various parts, sections, levels, etc., were put back together again (“cleave together again”) and the Earth “stood” once again in its place.
    How simple the Lord works to bring about his Plan and how far off the mark is man in trying to figure out how things are done. And all the time the answer is right there in the scriptural record—we just have to read and understand it. No wonder we have been told for generations to ponder the scriptures—that is, to meditate and think deeply on the word of God, not just read it like a novel, or speed read so many verses or chapters at a time to meet a goal—but to ponderreally study out the word and understand it.
“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity” Albert Einstein

    Consider these scriptures trying to teach us the value of pondering:
• “Mary pondered these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19);
• “As I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away” (1 Nephi 11:1);
• “My heart pondereth the scriptures” (2 Nephi 4:15);
• “Nephi went his way, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown” (Helaman 10:2-3);
• “Go to your homes and ponder upon the things which I have said” (3 Nephi 17:3);
• “Remember how merciful the Lord hath been, and ponder it in your hearts” (Moroni 10:3);
• “Ponder upon the things which you have received” (D&C 30:3);
• “While we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings” (D&C 76:19);
• “I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures” (D&C 138: 1-11);
• “I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith History 1:12).
    After all, in studying the scriptural record, and trying to determine what words and phrases mean, there are definitely times when solitude is better than company, and silence is wiser than speech. It seems obvious that we would be better members if we were alone more often, waiting on God and gathering through meditation on His Word and spiritual strength to gain understanding, knowledge, and comprehension before involving ourselves in the writing and teaching of others regarding God’s word.
Pondering a scripture... gives great direction to life. The scriptures can form a foundation of support. They can provide an incredibly large resource of willing friends who can help us. A memorized scripture becomes an enduring friend that is not weakened with the passage of time” Elder Richard G. Scott

    As we have been taught by the brethren for generations, we ought to ponder the things of God, because that is how we gain real understanding from them. For as we have been told, all answers are in the scriptures.
    Far too often we read quickly, don’t consider what the words always mean, nor try to understand what at first we pass right over without giving it much thought. When the disciple Nephi wrote, and Mormon repeated, “And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood” (3 Nephi 10:10), we read it and go on without thinking what “cleave” means, and if it “cleaves together again,” when did it not “cleave together, after it had been put together initially?” “when did it not stand in its place”?
    When Eloheim said to Jehovah, “Look, yonder is matter unorganized. Go ye down and organize it into a world like unto the other worlds we have heretofore organized,” we should consider what exactly that means, for the Lord, Jehovah, did exactly as he was told, and organized this matter, forming the world we now live upon. How did he do it? The details are unknown, but through the power of the Priesthood, he and the gods Abraham mentions, organized this planet, bringing together matter from other areas, perhaps from other worlds, to form the one upon which we stand. That involved bringing together ancient matter, matter that was thousands, millions, even billions of years old to form this planet about thirteen thousand years ago—thus we have a planet that is young, made of matter that is very old.
    Truth, after all, is something like the cluster of the vine: In order to have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser's feet must come down joyfully on the bunches or else the juice will not flow; and the grapes must be properly tread or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by pondering and meditation, tread the clusters of truth if we desire the knowledge and comprehension from them.
Thus, we see that this planet was put together by bringing various elements together and in some way cleaving them together so that they “stood” as one overall object—the world—and when it came time to realign its parts, at least the area of the Land of Promise, those sealed or “adhering” parts were separated by the same power that brought them together and those exposed parts were realigned into a new configuration with mountains whose height is great and rivers, lakes, and oceans changed.
    It was all “ordered by the gods,” and they “waited until they had been obeyed,” then “saw that it was good,” and reformed the Earth or that part we call the Land of Promise. Then “The earth did cleave together again, that it stood,” and the weeping, and the waiting of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer” (3 Nephi 10:10).

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Problem With Time – Part III • And the Earth Did Cleave Together Again – Part I

Hold onto your hats, for we are in for a unique ride of discovery. Not often do we get to find a new idea in the scriptural record, but this one should stay with you for a very long time. While most of the theorists who work with, write about, and believe they understand the geography of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise, this is going to challenge some Old Paradigms, such as the destruction of 3 Nephi 8 being mostly surface and cosmetic. “After all,” they tell us, “Mormon living 300 years afterward knew and understood the Land of Promise before and after the damage wrought during the crucifixion, so there couldn’t have been much change resulting from the destruction.”  
   But wait until you see this. Wait until you realize what the disciple Nephi did say and didn’t say and what Mormon wrote without writing it in today’s language. Based on the destruction covered in 3 Nephi 8, there were 30 points listed in the previous post covering all that took place. But it was written by Mormon in his language of his day, and certain explanations of our day are left unsaid the way we would say them now.
As an example, because of Star Trek and Star Wars and the myriad of other science-fiction movies that have been made and books written, today we have a language of the future no earlier generation had, and no generation of antiquity, or even thought of having. As an example, we know what to call Buck Rogers’ “Blasters,” “Ray Guns,” and Star Wars “Phasers,” etc., using “Lasers” “kinetic energy” or “directed energy” concepts. The Navy now even has a NAVSEA Energy and Electric Weapons Division, that will put in place this summer on the U.S. Ponce, a “Directed Energy Weapon.”
But what would we have called this weapon a hundred years ago if some futuristic event occurred where we came in contact with laser-based naval warfare, and a group who had one? Or what about EMs (Electromagnet Railguns) that use no gunpowder or fuel? Or what about a “drone” fifty years ago, or today’s “Sentient.”
    The point is, when we read language written in Mormon’s time, which was mostly event-based—“the whole land was changed and deformed,” “the earth was carried up on the city,” or “a great and terrible tempest; and there was a terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder”—which Joseph Smith dutifully translated, but not in today’s language, such as “A Type 5 tornado (or Category 5 Hurricane), accompanied by a 9.8 earthquake, with EF-5 winds.”
    So we have to understand certain phrases and what they meant in the past as to what is their equivalent today.
    As an example, “cleave” means “to stick,” “to adhere,” “to hold to.” It also means exactly the opposite, “to part or divide by force,” “to split or separate,” “to part or open along natural lines.” Usually the word is used with a descriptive word: “to cleave unto,” “to cleave to,” or “to cleave together.” But also “to cleave apart,” or “to cleave asunder.”
    Thus, when the disciple Nephi wrote: “And the earth did cleave together again,” what exactly did he mean? Well, for something to “cleave together again,” it first had to have been separated or split apart earlier. And this split apart had to have been “divided by force or rive,” that is torn apart violently.
    So Nephi tells us that in the beginning of the storm, the earth (at least that part known as the Land of Promise) was torn apart violently and then, after the three days, “And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away” (3 Nephi 10:9). In that moment or time, then, “The earth did cleave together again, that it stood” (3 Nephi 10:10).
    Thus we can see that the Land of Promise was torn apart, all this damage and rebuilding (mountains falling into valleys and other valleys being raised to mountains, “whose height is great”), took place, and after that three days in which it took place, the earth (or Land of Promise) did “cleave together again” that is, that area once torn apart was placed back together again “to stick, to adhere, to hold to.” At this point, Nephi adds, “that it stood,” that is, the earth once again cleaved to itself, and it stood, i.e., it stood as it had before it was torn apart as the storm arose.
That is, it came back together again, and it remained together by whatever force holds earths together.
    Now here is the interesting part: “cleave” once again means to either to part or stick along pre-determined or natural lines.
    While we do not know how the earth was organized, along what lines the different parts, layers and sections were placed, or in what order they were laid down, we do know that “matter unorganized” was “organized” by the Gods.
    As Abraham put it: “And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth” (Abraham 4:1). As the Gods ordered matter to be placed, we learn that “it was so as they ordered” (Abraham 4:9,11) and “that they were obeyed” (Abraham 4:10,12). And the work of the Gods continued and they ordered and “the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed” (Abraham 4:18), and “the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good” (Abraham 4:21). And in conclusions, “the Gods came down and formed these the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods formed the earth and the heavens” (Abraham 5:4).
    Therefore, we can understand that the Gods ordered the forming of the Earth in steps and stages until it was all completed. Once again, we are not told in what order, formation, pattern or placement the different parts of the Earth were laid out, though we know the sequence of events during the six time periods, but in the end, it was as we see it today.
    Now, in some way the Gods formed the earth in a manner where layers were placed on layers as we can see from cross-sections of the geologic structure. In other areas the sections were not so pronounced, and in still others the sections are fewer, etc. In some places the crust is thicker or thinner, like sea beds as opposed to continental land forms. How exactly it was put together we are not told, nor is it important in this stage of our existence to know, but that it was put together in stages is obvious, both from the scriptural record and from our observation as well as scientific views.
So when the storm was about to hit the area of the Land of Promise at the time of the
crucifixion, the building blocks of how the earth was put together in that area we call the Land of Promise—an area set aside from the beginning to be this location, and originally constructed (organized) with that purpose in mind, was taken apart. That is, it no longer “cleaved” together, but apart. The seams were “undone” the joints were “opened” the formations were “untied” or “unfastened” and the earth “groaned” from the effort and the people thought the earth was going to “divide asunder,” that is, break into bits and pieces.
    Obviously, in the condition the Earth, or the area of the Land of Promise, was in, being separated along the lines of its organization it is no wonder it felt like to the surviving populace that the entire land was going to “divide asunder,” that is break into bits and pieces, for there would have been no stability for it did not “stand in its place” as it normally had since it was first organized, and the effect the tempest storm and shaking and overall destruction had was so pronounced that the people feared greatly.
(See the next post, “The Problem With Time – Part IV - And the Earth Did Cleave Together Again – Part II,” to see how the Lord brought about the sudden changes in the Land of Promise that are recorded in 3 Nephi 8-9)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Problem with Time – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, listing here more information about the destruction in 3 Nephi 8 and its significant meaning in understanding the location of the Land of Promise.    First, let us return to 3 Nephi 8, since we need to understand exactly what happened then, and how it affected the land and what can be seen from this today. Let us go over the list of things that took place:
1. Great storm, greater than any ever been seen in all the land (8:5)
2. Strong and terrible tempest (8:6;12,17; 10:14)
3. Terrible thunder that shook the whole earth as if it were to divide asunder (8:6:12,17)
4. The Earth cleaved apart (10:10, emphasis added—we’ll come back to this all important point)
5. Shaking of the whole earth as if to divide asunder (8:6,12,14,17,19; 10:9)
6. Exceedingly sharp lightning never before seen or known in all the land (8;7,12,17);
7. Burning of Zarahemla (8:8,24; 9:3)
8. Burning of the cities of Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, and Kishkumen (8:14; 9:9-10; 10:14)
9. Sinking of the city of Moroni into the sea (8:9; 9:4)
10. Waters come up over the cities of Onihah, Mocum, and Jerusalem (9:7; 10:13)
11. The whole face of the land in the Land Northward was changed and deformed (8:12, 17)
12. Whirlwinds that carried away people (8:12,16; 10:13-14)
13. Breaking up of highways and earth (8:13)
14. Shaking and breaking up of cities, destruction of inhabitants (8:14,15)
15. People killed by falling objects that crushed them to death (10:13)
16. Earth opened and people and perhaps cities fell into (10:14)
17. City of Moronihah covered with earth (9:5)
18. Cities of Gilgal, Gadiandi, Gadiomnah, Jacob, and Gimgimno sunk, and were covered by hills and valleys (9:6,8)
19. Places were left desolate (8:14)
20. Breaking of rocks in two, broken and fragments scattered over the face of the whole earth (8:18; 10:9)
21. Earth broken, creating seams and cracks on all the face of the land (8:18)
22. Earth did cleave together again (10:10)
23. Three-hour duration of initial events (8:19)
24. Three-day duration of thick darkness (8:19,22,23; 10:9,13)
25. The Earth trembled, rocks rent, dreadful groanings, and tumultuous noises lasted three days (10:9)
26. Conspicuous and unmistakable darkness (8:20)
27. No fires or lights (8:21)
28. Very dry wood (8:21)
29. Objects and people could not be seen (8:21)
30. Vapors of smoke that killed people (10:13-14)
    Since some of these statements may not be clear to everyone, let us define certain ones that might be misunderstood:
• “In all the land” means in all of the Land of Promise
• “Divide asunder” means to break up into bits and pieces
• “Cleave apart” means to split apart or sever along natural lines or grain
• “The whole earth” means the entire Land of Promise and some lands “round-about”
• “On all the face of the land” means all of the land in the Land of Promise
• “Cleave together” reunited or bring together along natural lines or seams
• “Groanings and tumultuous noises” are the result of tectonic plates slamming into each other and the grinding of the earth that pushed by one and subducted the other. Such sounds have been recorded in Ecuador occasionally in modern times, so figure the noises that would occur when these movements were magnified during a three-hour period to cause all the damage and change described.
    On another seldom understood subject, is the statement in connection with this destruction that “And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood” (3 Nephi 10:10).
Left: In chopping wood, when the axe “cleaves” the block of wood, it cuts in the direction (Right:) of the grain. Note white arrow running with the grain

    As mentioned above, “to cleave” means to separate along given lines, such as in chopping wood, i.e., you put the wood vertically to expose the grain and chop the axe downward so it cuts into the grain, splitting the wood along its natural connections.
    Thus, evidently, during this three-day period, the earth was not only broken up, but actually separated apart along some type of lines of creation or organization, for the scriptural record tells us that following all of this tumult and destruction, it “did cleave together again, that it stood” (3 Nephi 10:10, emphasis mine).
    Obviously, then, for something to “cleave together” or be put back together, it must first “cleave apart” or split apart—thus this destruction of 3 Nephi 8 must have been something so severe that it not only shook the entire earth for three hours (at least the Land of Promise area), followed by three days, but brought the severed parts back together again at the end of this period (see the next post for a detail discussion on this issue).
    We can recognize this severity when we consider what was taking place in a larger picture, i.e., the disappearance of the Sea East as those parts of the South American continent were brought up out of the ocean as the eastern land tilted upward, raising the western shores upward as well and bringing the 2.67-million-square-mile Amazon Basin up out of the sea. In fact, the Amazon drainage basin, often referred to as Amazonia, covers an area roughly 40-percent of the entire continent, and is still partially underwater with rainforests and flooded forests. While much of it came only level with the sea and remains a swampy, boggy, water-seeped land that pours approximately 7,740,000 cubic feet of water—roughly the equivalent of 88 Olympic-size swimming pools—flow from the river into the Atlantic Ocean every second. And the Orinoco River, called the Orinoquia, or drainage, covers 340,000 square miles and drains at the rate of between 100,000 and 200,000 cubic feet per second
It is interesting that the concept of volcanoes in 3 Nephi 8 is the only viable explanation of the events that took place; however, as we have reported previously, this is the reason Heartland, Great Lakes and Eastern U.S. theorists discredit the idea of “volcanoes” during this time because 1) volcanoes are not mentioned in the scriptural record, and 2) they have no volcanoes in their Land of Promise models in central and eastern U.S. Yet, the point is, any reasonable person reading the passages in 3 Nephi 8 would conclude that volcanoes were being described, and understand that they are not mentioned because the word “volcano” did not exist in any vocabulary at the time of Mormon.
(See the next post, “The Problem With Time – Part III,” for more on this discussion and for an eye-opening discussion on an area of the scriptural record never discussed before of which we are aware)

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Problem With Time – Part I

As Science gains more information, and technology improves to evaluate that information, the scientific beliefs have changed drastically over the years. As an example, on a single issue—the Age of the Earth—science has changed its mind numerous times.  
In the 1700s the Earth was believed to be 6000 years old, but by 1774, it was believed to be at least 75,000 years old. However, during these years evolutionists began to realize that it would have taken far longer for life to have evolved than a mere 75,000 years and started discussing an Earth that was millions of years old.  In 1893 the Age of the Earth was thought to be 55 million years old; and in 1911, it was believed to be between 340 million years to accomodate for a much longer period of time for life to evolve than first believed. Yet, by the 1920s that age was bumped up through the hundreds of millions and in 1926 the age settled on 1,640 million or 1.64 billion years. 
    When I first entered school in 1941, the earth was considered to be 3.2 billion years old under the principle that "given enough time, anything could happen" principle and, in 1946 it was believed to be 3.6 billion years old. Finally, in 1953 it was thought to be 4.5 billion years old, and by 1957, it had arrived at 4.55 billion years old with a plus or minus figure of 0.07 billion years. 
    During most of those years, it wasn't that any evidence of any kind promoted the increase in age, only that new discoveries kept showing how long it would take for life to independently evolve in the manner many scientists believed it occurred. In a matter of just 16 years with science technology at a well advanced state, science claimed the Earth’s Age expanded  1.35 billion years. In 2015, the best estimate of the Earth’s Age had been downgraded to 4.55 billion years with a plus or minus figure of 0.02 billion years. A figure that is now well established in the minds and conscience of most educated people and in the minds of most people in general.
    Herein lies one of the major problems with placing the location of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise. Is the Earth thousands of years old as the Lord has said, or anciently old, in the billions of years, as science claims? Naturally, to an “Old Earth” person, scientist or not, placing the Land of Promise in South America makes no sense at all, since it is claimed to have been an island, and South America has not been an island for many millions of years, nor has it been disconnected from Panama for a like number of millennia.
    However, to a “Young Earth” person, who accepts the Biblical age of the Earth, which would place the Earth’s age around 13,000 years old to-date, as the Bible tells us, an island South America in the age of man makes sense. This is the problem that most members of the Church have today is in seeing the huge continent of South America and knowing from Book of Mormon study that the Jaredite and Nephite Land of Promise was nowhere near that size, thus they are forced to look elsewhere, and at the moment, that seems to be between Mesoamerica and North America for the location of their models.
Readers of the Book of Mormon often limit their ability to fully grasp and understand the contents when they dismiss its geographical setting as something unimportant. While it is true that the Church has no official position on geography, and it is certainly secondary to the teachings about Christ and being a Another Witness of the Savior, its authors constantly felt physical details were important enough to include in their writing numerous references to the physical setting of events--especially Mormon who was abridging the record for a future people to read.
    As a writing consistently linked to physical details, not just common statements or preaching of theoretical platitudes and lofty doctrine. Authors of the scriptural record spent time to describe specific hills, valleys, rivers, cities, and lands with names and real physical locations carefully and accurately woven into the story. There are temples, thrones, prisons, fortifications, markets, and social structures to match: priests, kings, lawyers and judges, soldiers, and merchants. In some cases, these details matter a great deal and are part of the message for our day.
    Of course, it should be noted that such trappings of native American life are not the type of things that Joseph Smith would have known living in upstate New York in his era, but they are elements of authentic cultures of the Americas that took place many thousands of miles away from where he grew up, and the only material that offers hope of reasonably locating the places built into the record of the Book of Mormon. They matter not just for validating or defending the work, but for better understanding what happened, to whom, and why, sometimes with added understanding in drawing lessons for our day and our lives.
    Thus, we can see that if it could be shown without a question of a doubt that South America was an island along the Western Andean shelf as geologists tell us, but during the Book of Mormon era, from about 2100 B.C. until the time of the crucifixion when “there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward [and] there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward” (3 Nephi 8:11-12), and “the face of the whole earth became deformed” (3 Nephni 8:17), then South America would be a much more viable location for the Jaredite kingdom and the Nephite nation to call the Land of Promise.
    So one of the first things the Mesoamericanist has to do to disqualify South America is to claim the changes wrought by the terrible destruction in 3 Nephi 8 was not so terrible after all, but just a few surface changes, cosmetic, which is the exact approach taken by John L. Sorenson in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon.
    The problem lies in understanding. What actually took place at the time of the crucifixion during the three-hour period of destruction described in 3 Nephi 8. Until we fully understand this event, we can in nowise understand the location of the Land of Promise for those so inclined. Even Sorenson claims: “Tempest, earthquake, and risings and sinkings of the land are vividly described” (p318), and goes on to admit “the face of the whole earth became deformed and even basic rock strata were cracked.” However, he then goes on to say, “So we need to use restraint in the picture we allow our minds to construct of the totality of the destruction…we should not go beyond what the text declares with measured care” (pp319-320).
Part of the problem lies in the lack of common language between Mormon and Joseph Smith. After all, the word “tornado” was unknown to Mormon, as well as several other words we use today to describe such devastating events. But we also need to recognize that such events bring about such results that are so well known and documented and sometimes easily to describe, such as whirlwind/tornado. Sorenson in his book cite several events in Mesoamerica, yet, others could be cited around what is loosely called the Ring of Fire, or the circum-Pacific Belt, that is the major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where a vast number of all earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the world occur.
    In a huge horseshoe shape around the Pacific, this Ring of Fire is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes. About 90% of the world's earthquakes and 81% of the world's largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire. It is also important to know that this area is not limited to Mesoamerica as Sorenson tries to imply—it covers approximately 25,000 miles, of which about 4,400 miles is along South America and only about 1,400 miles of Mesoamerica coastline, of which there are between 35 and 40 volcanoes in Mesoamerica and 142 volcanoes in South America—all along the western coastal belt.
    According to James L. Baer: “One of the more active subduction zones of the world is located along the western coast of South America and the western edge of Central America. The west coasts of South and Central America have the geologic features that one would expect to find at the site of such a disaster [as described in 3 Nephi]” (“The Third Nephi Disaster, a Geological View,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19/1, Spring 1986, p130-131).
In fact, “The mountainous area of South America abuts a long, linear ocean trench [that] exceeds 20,000 feet in depth and is bordered along the shore by mountains more than 22,000 feet high” (p130).
    Thus the elevation difference of more than 40,000 feet along the South American west coast makes this a likely site for large-scale fault development, allowing blocks of earth to slip oceanward. Such a slippage could occur during a devastating earthquake and could explain the loss of the city of Moroni into the depths. It should be noted that high-altitude air photos of the Andean Mountains reveal what may be disconnected segments of an ancient highway system, apparently separate by considerable vertical displacements, which could have been disrupted by the earthquakes described in 3 Nephi 8.
    As Nephi wrote: “And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease -- for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours -- and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land” (3 Nephi 8:19). And the people mourned, filling the air with their moanings and groanings over their fate: “and the great destruction which had come upon them” (3 Nephi 8:23).
(See the next post, “The Problem With Time – Part II,” for more information about the destruction in 3 Nephi 8 and its significant meaning in understanding the location of the Land of Promise)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More Comments from Readers Part V

More comments and questions from readers of the blog: 
    Comment #1: “Sorenson claims that the Jaredite final battle was really only a war among two familes and not universal to all Jaredites. That means that there could have been Jaredites that were not destroyed—who lived on into Nephite times, contrary to your opinion” Ken J.
    Response: Sorenson promotes the continuation of the Jaredite people as Hugh Nibley did before him for the simple reason that their Mesoamerican model demands other people exist in the area besides Nephites; however, when he says some didn’t take part, we need to remember that when Shiz ran before Coriantumr, they evidently passed through several populated areas because his army “swept off the inhabitants before them, all that would not join him” (Ether 14:27).
Ether dutifully recorded the history of the Jaredites to be later included into the history of Lehi and the Land of Promise. Ether was a prophet to the entire Jaredite Kingdom, not a couple of small families

    It should be noted there is a noticeable difference between gathering together everyone in the land and just a portion of the people. Moroni makes it clear that at the end, Ether wrote that “And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for Coriantumr were gathered together to the army of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz were gathered together to the army of Shiz. Wherefore, they were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive. And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children -- both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war” (Ether 15:13-15).
    However, when just a family or smaller group was involved, Moroni made that clear as in the case of Akish demanding the family swear allegiance to him and his planned evil deeds (Ether 8:13), and when Morianton gathered together an army, it is singled out as not everyone, but just “an army of outcasts” (Ether 10:9). But when talking about the Jaredites as a whole, it was all, everyone, and “they did gather together all the people upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether”(Ether 15:12).
    It is amazing that Sorenson clings so doggedly to a belief of Jaredite survival that he ignores all the references to the total Jaredite destruction.   
    Comment #2: “Are you suggesting that when Mosiah discovered Zarahemla, that he merely followed one of the Nephite roads to the north and down into the Land of Zarahemla?” Jon J.
    Response: No. There likely would have been no roads built in that direction beyond the Sacred Valley, such as a road from Cuzco over to Urubamba and on to Ollantaytambo, and another from Cuzco over to Pisac and along the Urubamba River from Pisac to Ollantaytambo.
    Comment #3 “The record states that when Lehi turned and traveled east across the desert, they lived on raw meat in the wilderness. However, under the dietary laws of the Jews, they were not permitted to eat raw meat. More specifically, they could not eat meat that had visible blood in it, and they could not drink the blood (Genesis 9:4 and Deuteronomy 12:23). How do we justify this conflict?” Carlos R.
Response: The meat that Lehi’s family ate in the wilderness was probably dried and cured like jerky, which the Lord “made sweet” tasting. There would have been no blood yet it was not cooked over a fire. In the scriptural record, the term “raw meat” is used by Nephi when he writes: “that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings” (1 Nephi 17:2). While we, today, tend to associate raw meat with a slab of uncooked meat or barely cooked meat as in a steak, etc., the term raw meat means only that it was not cooked. Uncooked meat in the wilderness is often jerked, that is, raw meat that is cut into strips, salted and dried in the sun—generally it is tough and hard to chew; however, the Lord evidently softened that of Lehi’s raw meat that it “nourished them and did strengthen them” (1 Nephi 17:3).
    Comment #4: “You appear to be negative about a United States only Land of Promise. Why is that?” Adrian H.
    Response: Partly because the scriptural record shows an initial landing where the winds and currents die down along then 30º south Latitude of the Chilean coast, an area today called then Bay of Coquimbo and La Serena. From there immigrants in Hagoth’s ships traveled north, and we find a well-developed civilization in Central/MesoAmerica, and from there we find a spread of at least Lamanite culture moving further north into North America.
Joseph Smith in Zion’s Camp receives a visions regarding the White Lamanite Zelph and the prophet Onandagus known from the sea to the Rocky Mountains

    In the U.S. we find the story of Zelph and Zion’s Camp, and the prophet Onandagus, including Joseph Smith’s letter to his wife, Emma, making comment about the Plains of the Nephites in the area. Taken as a whole, we find that all of the North and South America being the overall and total Land of Promise, with parts of it dedicated to certain groups, such as the Jaredites and the promise to Lehi and his posterity in the more southern portion, i.e., South America; North America being the seat of the Church and world government from which Christ will reign, etc.
    Also because of:
1. Joseph Smith stated “…speaking of the Land of Zion, It consists of all N[orth] & S[outh] America” (Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, edited by Dean C. Jessee, “Joseph Smith’s July 19, 1840 Discourse,” Brigham Young University Studies 19:3 (Spring 1979), p. 392. Four years later, in 1844, Joseph added, “The whole of America is Zion itself from north to south” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p362; Doctrines of Salvation, vol 3, 1956, pp73-74).
2. Orson Hyde in referring to the Land of Promise stated: “This land means both North and South America, and also the families of islands that geographically and naturally belong and adhere to the same” (JD 7:108).
3. B.H. Roberts who said, “…these two American continents [North and South]. These continents are a promised land.” (History of the Church, p552fn)
4.Wilford Woodruff said, “This land, North and South America, is the land of Zion; it is a choice land—the land that was given by promise from old father Jacob to his grandson and his descendants, the land on which the Zion of God should be established in the latter days.” Journal of Discourses (12 January 1873), 15:279.
5. Pres. Spencer W. Kimball said, “Zion was all of North and South America, like the wide, spreading wings of a great eagle, the one being North and the other South America” (Conference report April 1975, 7U, pp31-33).
6.  Ezra Taft Benson added: “This is our need today—to plant the standard of liberty among our people throughout the Americas…the struggle for liberty is a continuing one—it is with us in a very real sense today right here on this choice land of the Americas” Conference Report (October 1962), pp. 14–15; and according to Ezra Taft Benson, this included North America and South America (The Teachings of Ezta Taft Benson, 1988, p123)
7. Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the First Council of Seventy for 26 years, and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 13 years, said, “The Americas are the land of Joseph—the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, the land of the Nephites, the land of the Ephraimites who are gathering in the latter days.”
Also, Nephi he saw in a vision “I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13:12). This man, Columbus, never saw or set foot on North America, but only Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean.
    There is much more, including the descriptions in the scriptural record simply do not match the Land of Promise a Great Lakes theory shows or any other Heartland or U.S. model.