Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Other People in the Land of Promise

No matter that there are numerous statements in the scriptural record that the Land of Promise was reserved for Lehi and his posterity and that any comment about others being led to that land all made in the future tense—meaning beyond the time of Lehi—nearly all Theorists claim that there were others in the Land of Promise when Lehi arrived. Some claim it was surviving Jaredites, and still others claim it was an unknown people who occupied the land.

Were there others in the Land of Promise watching as Lehi landed?


As an example, Mesoamerican guru John L. Sorenson of BYU states: “A number of statements in the Book of Mormon text indicate the presence in Lehi’s promised land of peoples other than those descended from Lehi’s party. Reasons the topic is not addressed more explicitly in the record include a focus on the Nephites (and not on other people), a generic treatment of Lamanites, and a desire not to waste space on something obvious or insignificant.

Another theorist, Joseph Allen, former director of LDS Institutes and CES Instructor, also of BYU, makes a similar comment: “Perhaps a better question is, does the Book of Mormon allow for people being in the promised land when Lehi arrived?  Under normal circumstances it is genetically impossible for the numbers of people mentioned in the Book of Mormon to stem from two families (Lehi and Ishmael) in such a short period of time.  Within 30 years after the arrival of Lehi in the New World, there were major divisions, many wars and contentions, and a substantial amount of building. Furthermore, Jacob’s statement in 545 B.C. suggests that there were a vast number of people living in the New World at the time.  “I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites…” (Jacob 1:14).

Michael R. Ash for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) has said: “Such statements do not preclude the possibility that others already lived in the land of promise. The Lord promised that other nations—which up till this point had referred to Old World nations—would not know about and overrun their land. (Imagine the changes that may have happened had the New World been common knowledge among European and Old World nations of Lehi’s day!)

Or the statement by another theorist, Matthew Roper, also of BYU: “Latter-day Saints have long been open to the idea that peoples not mentioned in the Book of Mormon may have migrated to the Americas either before, during, or after the events described in the Book of Mormon and that these various peoples intermingled with those of Israelite or Jaredite descent.”

Another Theorist has weighed in with: “It seems highly probable that when Lehi and his family arrived in the Promised Land they found a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land. A people without government, without religion, and perhaps with but minimum language skill. The core of their culture had been destroyed. While once a great and cultured people, they by the time of Lehi's arrival had been scattered and divided. Had they by that time degenerated to a level of mere subsistence? Our record gives us few clues.”

Another people in the land when Lehi landed?


However, it seems the authors of these comments intended the information to be about another people who were “a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land.” Obviously, not the Mulekites—so who were these people to which this article draws our attention?

On the other hand, the scriptural record, unchanged and unaltered, tells us another story. According to Lehi, there should have been no people in the land, for it was intended as an inheritance for his family and their descendants, “A land which the lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed, yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever” (2 Nephi 1:5; 3:2; 10:10). It was also “covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever” (2 Nephi 1:8) and “that they may possess this land unto themselves” (2 Nephi 1:9).

It should also be noted, for those theorists who like to point out that others could be led to the Land of Promise, that the Lord covenanted with Lehi that the Land of Promised would be “a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed” (2 Nephi 1:5, emphasis added); also, “that the Land of Promise was for any “who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:8, emphasis added).

Note the important phrase “should be.” which is a future tense statement. That is, the Lord was promising Lehi that the land would be reserved for him and his posterity because “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations” (2 Nephi 1:8, emphasis added)—again, a future tense statement. In addition, the Lord told Lehi “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring” (2 Nephi 1:7).

Again the Lord said, “Wherefore I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land” (2 Nephi 1:9, emphasis added).

Thus, there can be no question that shortly after Lehi landed, the Lord promised him that the land would be kept for his posterity free of others until such time as the Lord would lead others there. And the others the Lord was commenting about were the Gentiles coming to this land as Nephi saw in his vision—which was the coming of Columbus (1 Nephi 13:12), the Spanish conquistadores (1 Nephi 13:14), and the Gentiles coming out of England (1 Nephi 15-19) and the establishment of the Constitution of the United States and, in fine, not utterly destroy the descendants of Lehi (1 Nephi 13:30).

Lehi and Nephi’s vision


All these things both Lehi and Nephi saw in their visions before ever setting sail for the Land of Promise. At that time there were no other people in the Land of Promise and would not be, other than Lehi’s combined family, for some 2000 years when Columbus discovered the Western Hemisphere and later the English and Spanish settled the land.

To claim that “It seems highly probable that when Lehi and his family arrived in the Promised Land they found a fairly significant but scattered people already inhabiting the land“ and to claim that the Land of Promise was covered or scattered with people when Lehi landed is neither “highly probable,” nor “consistent with the Book of Mormon record” of the Land of Promise, and certainly is in opposition to the several promises the Lord gave to Lehi for himself and his descendants.

As for groups or people not mentioned in the Book of Mormon, such as Nephi’s sisters until toward the end of his record—however, they were eventually included! The Mulekites, not necessary for the Nephite storyline, were also mentioned! We never know which of Ishmael’s daughters married Nephi, or the names of his children, or the son who was the second Nephite king. Even so, they are all alluded to in the scriptural record (1 Nephi 7:19; 16:7; 18:19; Jacob 1:15). Even though some of these very briefly mentioned, the Theorists would have us belief the land was filled with other people not only not mentioned, but not even suggested or to which a single writer alludes.

It is completely unrealistic to believe that not a single writer, nor Mormon in his abridgement, nor Joseph Smith in his translation gives even one name or word to suggest another people inhabited the Land of Promise when either the Jaredites landed or when Lehi reached the land.

The problem with theorists is that they depend upon the writing of men and not the scriptural record. Take for instance, Anthropologists who claim that the Olmec proceeded the Maya in Mesoamerica, and that numerous other cultures existed at the same time in Mesoamerica: Zapotec, Chalcatzingo, San José Mogote, Monte Albán, Matacapan, Copán, Teotihuacan, and Tikal. In order to accommodate these cultures, the scriptural record has to be altered to include people in the land when Lehi arrives or people in the land during the time of the Nephites. Either way, there is no scriptural record indication that such is factual.

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