The revealed text

The revealed text
The light of revelation at the Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver worked upstairs to finish translating the Book of Mormon

Monday, February 29, 2016

Lesson 10: He Inviteth All to Come unto Him

This lesson covers 2 Nephi 26-30. I'll make some notes on specific verses that Gospel Doctrine teachers may want to discuss in class.

In chapter 26, Nephi outlines the future: Christ's visit to the Nephites, the destruction of his people, etc. These prophecies are more specific than we sometimes realize. The table I posted last week shows that this chapter comes from Isaiah 29. In case you didn't notice that, here's how Nephi divides up Isaiah 29:

Isaiah chapter            Book of Mormon location
Isaiah 29:3-4*              2 Nephi 26:15-16
Isaiah 29:5*                2 Nephi 26:18
Isaiah 29:6                  2 Nephi 6:15
Isaiah 29:6-10             2 Nephi 27:2-5
Isaiah 29:13                2 Nephi 28:9
Isaiah 29:14a*             1 Nephi 14:7a; 22:8a; 2 Nephi 25:17b; 29:1a
Isaiah 29:15a*             2 Nephi 28:9a

Isaiah 29:21b*             2 Nephi 28:16a

One of my books has an entire chapter on the three versions of Isaiah 29 that we have thanks to latter-day revelation, but I'm not going to get into that much detail here.

Let's look at 2 Nephi 26:16--For those who shall be destroyed [the Nephites] shall speak unto them [those who have dwindled in unbelief] out of the ground [from the plates buried in Cumorah] and their speech shall be low [Heb. bowed down in homage, humbled, or in mourning] out of the dust [as low as they can go], and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit [Joseph Smith would speak their words to Oliver Cowdery in familiar Biblical terms].

This verse is quite interesting in light of Oliver Cowdery's recitation of what Moroni told Joseph Smith. "He [Moroni] said this history was written and deposited not far from that place," referring to Joseph's home. 

Key point: The Book of Mormon was not written thousands of miles away and then transported to New York.

2 Nephi 26:17 For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God.
This is exactly what Mormon explained in Mormon 6:6:

And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore 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.

The Nephites gathered in the land Cumorah; Mormon made this record; he hid the other records in Cumorah (which Oliver described and Brigham Young later reported); and he gave "these few plates" to Moroni. [Later, of course, Moroni would return to the hill Cumorah in New York and bury these plates in the stone and cement box from which Joseph would recover them. Oliver Cowdery described the box in more detail than Joseph did.]

Key point: The Book of Mormon was written in the same land where the final battles took place, just as Moroni told Joseph Smith (as reported by Oliver Cowdery). 

2 Nephi 26: 19 And it shall come to pass, that those who have dwindled in unbelief shall be smitten by the hand of the Gentiles.
20 And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches...

Nephi's descendants would be smitten by the Gentiles, whom he identifies as building up many churches. This is an interesting detail because when we compare the Spanish conquerors in Central America with the English conquerors in North America, which of the two built up many churches? The Spanish were Catholic; the British were protestants who built up many churches: Episcopalian, Methodist, Calvinist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, and many other denominations.

Some people might claim this verse refers to physical churches they built, and both the Catholics and the Protestant denominations built lots of physical churches. But look at verse 21:

21 And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.

This is an apt description of the fights between the various protestant denominations. Among Catholics, one parish doesn't content with another, and they're all subject to the Pope. By contrast, the Great Awakenings in the U.S. led to tremendous envying, strifes and malice. Look at how Joseph Smith described what he observed where he was growing up:

a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions. (Joseph Smith-History 1:6)

Key point: Joseph Smith and Nephi were describing the same Gentiles, in the same location--western New York.

2 Nephi 27 tells us how Joseph was going to translate the text. Remember, Joseph and Oliver worked on this part of the Book of Mormon last. They started with what is now Mosiah 1 (and was originally Mosiah chapter 3, but Martin Harris lost the first two chapters). Joseph and Oliver were at the Whitmer farm when they translated 2 Nephi. They were almost finished with the whole translation when they got to 2 Nephi 27 and read, for the first time, the prophecy of how Joseph was going to translate.  

2 Nephi 27:9 the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another

Joseph delivered the words to Oliver Cowdery, but before that, he delivered them to Martin Harris, Emma Smith, Emma's brother, and others.

2 Nephi 27:20 wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.

This passage shows how Joseph used the seer stone. He simply read the words that appeared on the seer stone; i.e., the words which the Lord gave unto him. Some scholars think Joseph got ideas that he articulated, but this verse corroborates the accounts that said Joseph read what was written on the stone.

2 Nephi 27:22, 24 Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me... And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him...

Here again, Nephi explained that Joseph Smith was going to read the words. He read them out loud--delivered them--to the scribes (mainly Oliver Cowdery). Then, as verse 22 instructed, he showed the plates to the three and eight witnesses and returned the book (the plates).

Key point: Nephi had seen Joseph Smith and described how he would translate the record, using the seer stone and a scribe.

That's enough for this lesson, but hopefully you can see how much detail these verses contain, and how perfectly they describe the North American setting.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lesson 9: My Soul Delighteth in the Words of Isaiah

Whenever I've taught Gospel Doctrine, the Isaiah material is one of my favorite topics. His writing shows up in every course of study, one way or another.

There are plenty of resources for studying Isaiah, so I'm not going to replicate any of the traditional Isaiah commentary. However, few if any commentaries point out that Isaiah is critical for Book of Mormon geography.

First, Isaiah tells us which direction Lehi sailed when he left the Arabian peninsula. Lehi sailed west, past the horn of Africa (Ethiopia) and around the continent to the Atlantic, which he crossed to get to North America. See my post here.

Second, Isaiah provides an important key to interpreting Alma 22, which we'll discuss when we get to that chapter.

Third, Isaiah tells us a lot about the latter-day events and that, in turn, tells us a lot about Book of Mormon geography. For example, where will the Lord raise an ensign? 2 Nephi 15:26-29; 21:12.


One resource I wished I had is this map of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. There's no web page; you just go to this link and download it. I have no idea who prepared the document, but I know some people are afraid to download stuff, so I'm posting it below. You can download the images for your own use, but I liked the table at the end best.

Kudos to whoever created this originally!

Isaiah ‘mapped’ to the Book of Mormon

There are whole chapters and ‘blocks of chapters’ that match up (the ‘blocks’ in the map) above).  But, scattered throughout the Book of Mormon, are other quotes, one or two verses at a time, some from the same Isaiah chapters as the blocks (bolded italics), some from other chapters, and some that are not direct quotes, but paraphrased verses from Isaiah (these are marked with an asterisk *).
Isaiah 2–14
2 Nephi 12–24
Isaiah 29
2 Nephi 27
Isaiah 48-49
1 Nephi 20–21
Isaiah 50–51
2 Nephi 7–8
Isaiah 52
3 Nephi 20
Isaiah 53
Mosiah 14
Isaiah 54
3 Nephi 22
Isaiah 5:26*
2 Nephi 29:2
Isaiah 9:12-13
2 Nephi 28:32
Isaiah 11:4
2 Nephi 30:9
Isaiah 11:5-9
2 Nephi 30:11-15
Isaiah 11:11a*
2 Nephi 25:17a; 29:1b; compare 25:11
Isaiah 22:13*
2 Nephi 28:7-8
Isaiah 25:12*
2 Nephi 26:15
Isaiah 28:10, 13*
2 Nephi 28:30
Isaiah 29:3-4*
2 Nephi 26:15-16
Isaiah 29:5*
2 Nephi 26:18
Isaiah 29:6
2 Nephi 6:15
Isaiah 29:6-10
2 Nephi 27:2-5
Isaiah 29:13
2 Nephi 28:9
Isaiah 29:14a*
1 Nephi 14:7a; 22:8a; 2 Nephi 25:17b; 29:1a
Isaiah 29:15a*
2 Nephi 28:9a
Isaiah 29:21b*
2 Nephi 28:16a
Isaiah 40:3*
1 Nephi 10:8
Isaiah 45:18*
1 Nephi 17:36
Isaiah 45:23*
Mosiah 27:31
Isaiah 49:22
1 Nephi 22:6
Isaiah 49:22*
1 Nephi 22:8; 2 Nephi 6:6
Isaiah 49:23a*
1 Nephi 22:8b; 2 Nephi 10:9a
Isaiah 49:23
2 Nephi 6:7
Isaiah 49:24-26
2 Nephi 6:16-18
Isaiah 52:1a*
Moroni 10:31a
Isaiah 52:1-2
2 Nephi 8:24-25
Isaiah 52:7*
1 Nephi 13:37; Mosiah 15:14-18; 27:37
Isaiah 52:7-10
Mosiah 12:21-24
Isaiah 52:8-10
Mosiah 15:29-31; 3 Nephi 16:18-20; 20:32-35
Isaiah 52:10*
1 Nephi 22:10-11
Isaiah 52:12*
3 Nephi 21:29
Isaiah 52:13-15*
3 Nephi 21:8 -10
Isaiah 53:8, 10*
Mosiah 15:10-11
Isaiah 54:2b*
Moroni 10:31a
Isaiah 55:1*
2 Nephi 26:25
Isaiah 55:1-2 
2 Nephi 9:50 -51

Source:  Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, Victor Ludlow, Deseret Book, 2003.  Also, Book of Mormon Reference Companion, Dennis Largey, Editor, Deseret Book, 2003

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lesson 8: O How Great the Goodness of Our God

At first glance, you might think that 2 Nephi 9-10 has nothing to do with Book of Mormon geography, right? The lesson rightly focuses on the Savior's Atonement. No need for supplemental materials on that topic.

Here are some things to consider.

2 Nephi 9:41 says "the way for man is narrow." Compare that to other passages in the text that refer to narrow places, such as a narrow strip of wilderness, a narrow neck, a narrow neck of land, etc. Then consider various proposed maps of Book of Mormon geography and see how they interpret the term "narrow." The obvious anomaly is a "narrow neck of land" that is over 100 miles wide.

2 Nephi 9:53 says, "he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel." Where do the scriptures say the descendants of Lehi live? Hint: See D&C 28, 30 and 32.

What land qualifies as the fulfillment of the following prophecy?

2 Nephi 10:10 But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.

 11 And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

 12 And I will fortify this land against all other nations.


Last week I said I'd discuss 2 Nephi 5 later. Here are some of the main points, taken from chapter 11 of Moroni's America:

2 Nephi 5:5-7

In Chapter 4, Lehi dies. Then, in chapter 5, Nephi separates from the Lamanites.

the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. Wherefore, I, Nephi, did take my family, and … all those who would go with me…  And we did … journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents. (2 Nephi 5:5-7)

These verses don’t tell us much about where Nephi went, other than “into the wilderness.” He gives no directions or specific distances.

However, he gives an interesting clue. It was only after “we had journeyed for the space of many days” that “we did pitch our tents.” This seems surprising. Nephi specified that they took their tents with them. Why did they wait until after they had journeyed for many days to pitch them?

One possibility is that the tents were semi-permanent; i.e., not the kind of thing they would set up for one night’s sleep. Maybe the tents were big and complex and would take a long time to set up or take down. Another possibility is that they were on the run from the Lamanites and could not stop, but that seems unlikely over “many days.”

A third possibility that I find persuasive is that they were traveling by boat and simply stayed on the boats until they reached their destination.

It is common knowledge that ancient people tended to travel on or along rivers and waterways. This is particularly true where vegetation is dense and only the rivers offer a clear pathway. Rivers have the added advantage of a definite location. You can navigate them easily, provided you don’t get lost by following the wrong tributary.

The people in Nephi’s group would have been familiar with boats; after all, Nephi had built the ship on which they had all crossed the ocean, and indigenous people were familiar with the rivers. Although Sidon is the only river named in the text, other rivers are mentioned. Mormon explains that his work could not contain even “a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people… and their shipping and their building of ships.” (Helaman 3:14) It seems unlikely that all of this activity took place on one river, and only after hundreds of years of history (the time period which Helaman covers).

Taking these factors into consideration, it would be surprising if Nephi and his people did not use boats to travel through the wilderness in the new world, particularly after he had been warned to put distance between him and his brothers. Dense vegetation covers Georgia and Alabama. Had he hacked a trail through the forest, his brothers could easily follow.

With these assumptions, I looked at maps to see what routes Nephi could have taken for his escape. Later in the text we learn that Nephi ascended to a higher elevation; the City of Nephi is always up from the place of their fathers’ first inheritance. The highest locations in the area are in the Appalachian Mountains, such as in eastern Tennessee.

I found a river that leads from the coast to the mountains, which I consider a plausible candidate for Nephi’s route to the land of Nephi.

Figure 15 is a proposed map with rivers displayed in white. The arrows depict Nephi’s route.

Figure 15 - Nephi's escape

2 Nephi 5:20-21

Once he had established his people in the new area, Nephi reflected on what had happened.

Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord…. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint. (2 Nephi 5:20-21)

Hearts like flint. This is a surprising metaphor. Something must have triggered Nephi to compare his brothers’ hearts to flint. No other scriptural passage makes this analogy (Later, Jacob quotes Isaiah, who uses flint in two passages, but neither of these relate to Nephi’s metaphor. See 2 Nephi 7:7 and 15:28).

What made Nephi think of flint?

It turns out that the river in Georgia that I propose Nephi followed is named Flint River. The name comes from the abundance of flint in that riverbed, a source that has supplied Native Americans in the region for hundreds of years. Of course I’m not saying Nephi named this river, but had Nephi followed any other riverbed in the area, he may not have come across an abundance of high-quality flint and would have thought up a different metaphor to describe his brothers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Special supplement--which way did Lehi go?

Lesson 5 addressed the question of which way Lehi sailed when he left the Arabian peninsula.
Lehi had to sail southwest or southeast

As a reminder, here is the graphic from that lesson.

In my analysis, I discussed what Nephi wrote about the voyage, including their preparations. I proposed that Lehi sailed west, down the coast of Africa, and across the Atlantic to North America. I also discussed the voyage of the Phoenicia as a modern-day example of Lehi's voyage would have taken place, using actual ocean current, prevailing winds, and even 600 BC technology.

Apart from what Nephi wrote, there is another reason to conclude that Lehi's group sailed west instead of east.

Isaiah prophesied that he would.

Isaiah 18:1 refers to "the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia." Victor L. Ludlow, in his book Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, notes that modern prophets and apostles have identified this verse as describing America. I'll get into the detail of that below, but first, why would Isaiah describe America as "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia?"

Anciently, Ethiopia (also called Cush) was the land south of Egypt, as shown in this map.

The Israelites to whom Isaiah was speaking were not familiar with Ethiopia; it was just the undefined area south of Egypt.

It's exactly where Lehi sailed when he left the Arabian peninsula, as you can see from the map above.

Brother Ludlow gives an alternative explanation of the Hebrew:

"the identification of the 'land shadowing with wings' with America gives us a basis for studying the rest of the chapter. The remainder of verse 1 and the first part of verse 2 can be translated as follows:

Which land is [far] beyond the rivers of Cush [Africa]. He sends out envoys by sea and in swift vessels of reeds over the face of the waters." (VLL translation)

Obviously, the land of America is beyond the rivers of Africa; indeed, it is beyond the ocean surrounding Africa. In biblical Hebrew, a term for ocean does not exist, but particularly large bodies of water are called rivers or seas, so that the land beyond the 'rivers' of Africa might also mean beyond the oceans of Africa."

Brother Ludlow's explanation clarifies that Isaiah is referring to the land beyond the oceans of Africa--not the oceans of India. It's an important distinction and clarification.

Although Nephi never directly quotes from Isaiah 18, surely he was familiar with these passages. He would have realized that the promised land, where the Lord would raise the gospel ensign in the latter days, was "beyond the oceans of Africa" and so he knew which direction to sail.

With the benefit of hindsight, we should be able to figure this out ourselves.

(I think some of Nephi's prophecies that don't quote Isaiah directly are paraphrasing or referring to Isaiah 18, but I don't have time to explain that here. Just look at a "nation scattered" and realize that the phrase "whose land the rivers have spoiled" is usually translated as "whose land the rivers divide" or "whose land is divided by rivers." Then recall that Mormon tells us the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi were "nearly surrounded by water" and you'll get the idea.)


Here is more detail for those interested:

Isaiah 18:1-3 reads:

Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia : that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto, a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled ! All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains ; and when he bloweth the trumpet hear ye."

The "land shadowing with wings" has long been interpreted by LDS leaders and authors to refer to the Americas. Hyrum Smith famously said "the gathering will be from  the nations to North and South America, which is the land of  Zion. North and South America are the symbols of the wings; the gathering from the old countries will always be to head quarters." 

Brother Ludlow's book discusses the interpretation aspects of this in more detail. The book Understanding Isaiah by Don and Jay Parry also has a good discussion on the topic.

One blogger has noted this: Joseph Fielding Smith said the following in the April 1966 General Conference, "America was discovered because the Lord willed it. The gospel was restored in America, rather than in some other land because the Lord willed it. This is the land "shadowing with wings" spoken of by Isaiah that today is sending ambassadors by the sea to a nation scattered and peeled, which at one time was terrible in the beginning (Isaiah 18:1-2). Now that nation is being gathered, and once again they shall be in favor with the Lord." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1966, pp. 12-15).


Bonus material.

Since I'm working on a Church history book that will be released soon, those interested in detail might enjoy this little tidbit.

Hyrum Smith's statement is widely quoted as if it was the first allusion to Isaiah 18 that connects the passage with North America. However, as near as I can tell, he got the idea from Benjamin Winchester.

Two points to begin with. First, Hyrum Smith was visiting Winchester in Philadelphia in May 1841, shortly after Winchester published his interpretation in the April 1 Gospel Reflector. Second, Hyrum purchased a bound copy of all the editions of the Gospel Reflector. Whether he learned this interpretation direction from Winchester during his visit or whether he read about it later, it does appear he got the idea from Winchester.

In the April 1, 1841, Gospel Reflector, Winchester quoted Isaiah 18:1-3 and then wrote the following long explanation. Before quoting it, I note two things. First, Winchester was providing his own translation of the Hebrew characters, which he reproduced in the Gospel Reflector but I don't show here. Second, he was thinking of Ethiopia as North Africa, which makes sense because he's thinking of Isaiah looking at it from Palestine, but I don't think Winchester was right about that. Obviously, one can't see over the horizon from Palestine. Instead, I think Isaiah was anticipating Lehi's journey to the promised land, as I explained above.

Still, Winchester's overlooked commentary has been very influential because of the impact it had on Hyrum Smith.

So here is Winchester in his own words:

That the residence of Isaiah was in Palestine no one disputes : therefore in order to comprehend this saying it,is necessary for us to imagine ourselves standing on that land, and then look in the direction of Ethiopia (consequently West,) to find a land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. The North part of Africa, or the Barbary States were anciently called Ethiopia. The land of America is the only land that will answer his description. However we opine that an improvement in the translation of the above may be made with propriety, which will throw much more light upon the subject.

We read, or translate it thus :

[Hebrew characters]

Ho! to a land in the shadow (or symbol or the appearance) of wings, Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” Now it is probable that he saw this land in a vision, and indeed, whoever will look at the map of North and South America, will discover that they are very much in the shape of the wings of a bird : hence he breaks out with the interjection, " Ho ! to a land, &c.," and then predicts what shall be done :
" That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of [Hebrew characters]  papyrus upon the waters." Historians say that papyrus was a flagy shrub that anciently growed in the marshes near the river Nile, and that the bark of it was used to make ropes and sails for ships, covering and wearing apparel, &c. : and the roots were used for fuel, and building ships. The word vessel in the bible is ambiguous ; therefore, he used the word papyrus to signify water crafts, sufficient to escort the servants of God over the sea.

Now reader the subject is perfectly plain ; and as the prophetic vision rolled before the prophet's mind, he saw first, a land in the shape of wings, beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, which is the land of America, for the most obvious reason, there is no other land in the shape of wings beyond Ethiopia. And his saying the rivers of Ethiopia, instead of the land, places the direction immediately West from Jerusalem.

Second, he saw that the ambassadors of the Lord should be sent from this land ; third, that they should be transported over the sea in vessels or ships, of what he called papyrus, perhaps for the want of a better term to express his meaning, (for the present model of ships was then unknown.) It is probable that this generation, in the vision with all its works was present before him ; therefore, he saw our majestic ships with all their sails set, which looked to him like the sails that were anciently made of papyrus- Fourth, he said they should be sent from this land to a nation that was terrible from the beginning ; but hitherto meted out and trodden down. The Israelites were a terrible people from the beginning; but they have been trodden down, and scattered to the islands of the sea, and among all the nations of the earth. Thus the servants of God are to go from this land to all nations to proclaim the gospel, and gather Israel. Fifth, he describes this land as being the place where the ensign was to be lifted up, and where the gospel trump should be blown first, in the last days.

He also said, " all the inhabitants of the earth see ye, and when he bloweth the trumpet hear ye." Indeed, the Book of Mormon has come forth on this land, and the Lord has sent his angel to confer the holy priesthood upon his servants once more, or renewed the gospel dispensation, and organized his kingdom, &c., and in a word the Lord's banner is exposed to view upon this land, and all men are invited to both see, and hear. This corresponds with what the prophet
says in another place, which we have before quoted, " And he will lift up an ensign from afar and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth, and they shall come with speed swiftly." Some have enquired, saying, if Israel is to be gathered upon the land of their fathers, why not this ensign be raised upon the land of Canaan where the prophets received their revelations, instead of this land ?

Answer: because the scriptures say, that it shall be done here — on a land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. Indeed, this is a land from whence the ambassadors of the Lord shall go forth to all nations ; and instead of missionaries being sent here from Europe by divine direction, the servants of God shall be sent from this land. Some of those ships that
the prophet saw have already escorted some of the servants of God to other nations, and ere long they will go to earth's remotest bounds.

It is the work of Jehovah and he will roll it forth till his covenant people are gathered, and the way prepared for the kingdom of heaven. This is the land of Joseph — the place where Zion will be located and established for the Millennium*. The law of God shall go forth from this to all nations — the work of deliverance has commenced here to deliver Israel from captivity, and turn ungodliness from Jacob.

* We shall hereafter prove from the scriptures that this Zion is to be located in America.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lesson 7: I know in Whom I Have Trusted

This lesson includes 2 Nephi 3 and 5, which are both very important in terms of understanding Book of Mormon geography issues.

The manual summarizes the chapters this way:

2 Nephi 3: Lehi teaches his son Joseph about the ancient prophet Joseph, who prophesied of Joseph Smith. Lehi teaches Joseph that their descendants will be blessed through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

2 Nephi 5: The anger of Laman and Lemuel increases against Nephi. The followers of Nephi obey the Lord’s command to separate from the followers of Laman. The Nephites live “after the manner of happiness,” and the Lamanites are cursed for their wickedness.
Consider carefully what Chapter 3 says.

6 For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins. Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins...unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins."

The seer, of course, is Joseph Smith. The fruit of Lehi's loins, of course, are the Lamanites. One could interpret this to mean that, long after his death, Joseph's teachings would make their way to the Lamanites thousands of miles away and they would esteem him highly. However, the text does not say that. If the promise Lehi explains here was equally applicable to everyone on earth--that the choice seer's words would be sent to Lehi's descendants like everyone else--then what is the significance of the promise? What is different about the promise that Joseph of old thought was so important that he recorded it, and that Lehi would teach it to his sons?

The key points are that the seer, to be named Joseph, would be "raised up unto" and "esteemed highly among" the Lamanites, and "that unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins." Joseph received a specific promise that his descendants would know this seer, and that the seer would bring the word directly to his descendants.

What indigenous people did Joseph Smith personally teach? If you don't know, look up the Sac and Fox Indians, who came to Nauvoo specifically to meet Joseph. That's what these paintings depict. Joseph Smith taught the American Indians who lived in the same country where Joseph did. Surely this is what Joseph of old saw, which was why it was so significant to him.

In addition, Lehi taught his children that the seer would have a spokesman.

Think about how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. He had a seer stone, and he read the words that appeared on it, and who wrote them down? Oliver Cowdery. Here's how Lehi explained it to his children, quoting the Lord.

v. 17. "But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand [the writing on the seer stone that Joseph read out loud] and I will make a spokesman for him [Oliver Cowdery]... And I, behold, I will give unto him [Cowdery] that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins [Oliver wrote the words of the Nephites as Joseph read them off the stone], unto the fruit of thy loins [the Lamanites]; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it. And the words which he shall write [the Book of Mormon] shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins [the Lamanites]."

Oliver Cowdery was the first missionary called by revelation, recorded in D&C 28:8.  "And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them.

That's exactly what Oliver did. He, along with Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer, left New York in October 1830 to walk 1500 miles to the Indian tribes in the Midwest.

It was a difficult journey that required tremendous faith. It's yet another evidence of the power of Oliver Cowdery's testimony and knowledge regarding the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Priesthood, and other events.

And it was all in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joseph of old that Lehi taught his children, as recorded in 2 Nephi 5.

For more information, read the lesson in the Church history manual here.


Looks like I'll have to discuss chapter 5 next week. It's a very important chapter in understanding what Nephi encountered in the New World and where he went when he left his brothers. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lesson 6: Free to Choose Liberty and Eternal Life

This lesson focuses on the "land of promise" and the associated covenants as explained in 2 Nephi 1-2. The main point of the lesson is that we can "choose liberty and eternal life" through Jesus Christ. This is a spiritual message that applies to every human being, and of course is the most important lesson from these two chapters.

My focus for this supplement is on the "land of promise" as the place where Lehi landed and where his descendants lived for a thousand years until Moroni buried the record. Can the description of the "land of promise" tell us anything about the setting of the Book of Mormon?

I think it can.

2 Nephi 1 provides descriptions of the promised land that fit only one place.

Cherokee Indians forced from their homeland
Before discussing the detail, though, it's important to realize that in one sense, the covenants apply to people everywhere in the world; i.e., people who keep the commandments prosper in a spiritual sense, regardless of their material circumstances, the government under which they live, etc. In that sense, every land is a promised land for the people who live there; i.e., "the place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” See this lesson.

Obviously Lehi didn't land everywhere in the world, or everywhere in the Western hemisphere. He, like the Jaredites and the Mulekites, landed in one place. Does this mean they landed at the exact same spot? No, because it wasn't until hundreds of years later that Lehi's descendants encountered the remains of the Jaredites and then the descendants of Mulek (the people of Zarahemla). Yet all three groups lived on the land of promise, the land choice above all other lands. So if we can figure out where they landed, we have an idea of the extent, and maybe the boundary, of the land of promise.

In lesson 14 I'll discuss where the Mulekites landed, and in lesson 45 I'll discuss the Jaredites. For now, I'm just looking at where Lehi landed. As we look at Lehi's description of his promised land, we see that he described, in unmistakable fashion, North America--specifically, a land that would eventually become part of the United States of America.

Trail of Tears map
[Some people consider this idea from a political perspective, but I avoid that.*]

I won't take the time to go through each of these in detail, but look at these attributes of Lehi's land of promise, all from 2 Nephi 1:

- a land which is choice above all other lands [this phrase is repeated several times, including among the Jaredites, who were also brought to "a choice land above all other lands." Both Ether and Lehi, when speaking about the choice land, referred back to the beginning of man, and Adam and Eve. Where was the garden of Eden?]

- a land which the Lord God hath covenants with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed [where is Lehi's seed? See D&C 28, 30, 32.]

- a land covenanted
--unto Lehi,
--unto Lehi's children forever, and
--unto all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord [where is the world's melting pot?]

- there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.

- this land is consecrated unto him whom he [the Lord] shall bring.

- if they serve him according to the commandments, it shall be a land of liberty unto them [Interesting that the song "America," containing the lyric "sweet land of liberty," was composed in 1831, the year after the Book of Mormon was published, and was first performed in public on July 4, 1831]

- they shall never be brought down into captivity, except for iniquity.

- this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations. [There were few if any parts of the world that were completely uninhabited in 600 BC, but this verse does not require that. It requires only that "other nations" did not know about this promised land. Lehi landed in a place that was sparsely populated in 600 BC, such as by groups of hunter/gatherers, not in a place that already had nation-states, such as Central America.]

- many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.

- if 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.

- they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves.

- if they reject the true Messiah, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from the them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten. [What indigenous people have had their lands taken from them and have been scattered and smitten (i.e., put on reservations)?]

Here's some food for thought. The Book of Mormon, which contained Lehi's prophecies, was published in March, 1830. The infamous "Indian Removal Act" was passed by Congress on May 28, 1830. Here's a description of what happened.

"At the beginning of the 1830s, nearly 125,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida–land their ancestors had occupied and cultivated for generations. By the end of the decade, very few natives remained anywhere in the southeastern United States. Working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton on the Indians’ land, the federal government forced them to leave their homelands and walk thousands of miles to a specially designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River. This difficult and sometimes deadly journey is known as the Trail of Tears."

For a more detailed map, click on the image below or go here.

*Some people have objected to a North American setting for the Book of Mormon on the ground that such an idea represents deplorable American Exceptionalism. I don't think politics should have anything to do with this analysis. We are seeking to understand the scriptures, in this case 2 Nephi 1-2, so we should look at the prophecies and the relevant facts. It diminishes no one in any country to determine where Lehi landed. For those who aren't familiar with this discussion, you can read an analysis by an author who has sold over a million copies of books promoting the Mesoamerican theory to the youth of the Church here.