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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gospel Doctrine classes so far

In the last two weeks, we've attended Gospel Doctrine classes in Hawaii and Tennessee. In one class, the teacher brought up the Journey of Faith video; in the other, people discussed the Scriptures Legacy video. I'll use these experiences to comment on what is happening so far in 2016 Gospel Doctrine classes. People throughout the Church are interested in external evidence of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, including the basic question of geography. Fortunately, there are good answers. Unfortunately, there are some very bad answers continuing to be circulated.

Journey of Faith describes Lehi's journey from Jerusalem to the land Bountiful on the Arabian peninsula. It's an excellent video and gave us some good ideas of places to visit on one of our trips to Israel. For example, we probably wouldn't have visited Timna, the ancient Egyptian copper mining area, if we hadn't watched Journey of Faith. When we were there, we met two other couples, one from Israel and the other relatives from the U.S. We explained we were from Utah and they recognized some of the parallels between Utah and Israel: a large salty sea (Dead Sea/Great Salt Lake) fed by a smaller fresh water lake (Sea of Galilee/Utah Lake). They hadn't known the river between the two was called the Jordan River in Utah as it is in Israel. They knew Utah was a desert like Israel, with irrigation from the mountains to make the land productive. But then, since we were in Timna, they pointed out what they thought was a distinction: "One thing you don't have in Utah is a large copper mine like we have here at Timna."

They hadn't heard of the Bingham (Kennecott) Copper Mine, visible from everywhere in Salt Lake Valley, which is the largest man-made excavation in the world and has been in production for over 100 years.

Back to the video. The web page describes it like this:

"The images of the Arabian desert captured in the film Journey of Faith make Alma's description all the more vivid. The film seeks to capture in word and image both the monumental challenges that Lehi and Sariah faced in the wilderness and the importance of this venture, which was celebrated and remembered by their descendants for a thousand years thereafter." 

Obviously, the reference to Alma should be Nephi. (The web page has several technical issues besides this typo.)

I recommend the first video titled Journey of Faith.

However, there is a major problem with other parts of the web page (and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute generally). There is a section titled "The Three and Eight Witnesses." It concludes, "The testimony of these eleven men, added to those of Joseph himself and those who helped him with the translation add strength to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the narrative that forms the basis for the Journey of Faith." However, the rest of the web page ignores and contradicts what two of the Three Witnesses said.

There is a section titled "The Book of Mormon: External Evidences Part II" that focuses on "The New World." It focuses on Mesoamerica!

Here's the justification given on the page: "Although several theories have been advanced as to the location of the Book of Mormon narrative, the most work has been done in Mesoamerica... Since Journey of Faith: The New World focuses on Mesoamerica, that will be the scope of this article."

There are so many logical and factual errors here I can't list them all, but this rationale is equivalent to saying "Although several variations of Christianity have developed over the years, including Mormonism, the most work has been done based on Christianity based on the Nicene Creed, so that will be the scope of this article." What possible relevance is "the most work" when the work is based on a flawed premise?

The entire Mesoamerican theory is based on the premise that Oliver Cowdery was a liar. 

Cowdery wrote that it was a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place within the one-mile wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York. (See Letter VII.) Joseph helped him write that, had his scribes copy Cowdery's letter into his own journal, and had Cowdery's account republished multiple times in Church publications while he was alive. Yet the Mesoamerican proponents insist Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were merely speculating, repeating a false tradition, etc.

So if you're teaching Gospel Doctrine classes (or if you're attending classes), the only value of the video The New World is to see how deeply the false Mesoamerican ideas have infiltrated the Church. You owe it to yourself to get educated about these issues and learn all you can about the North American setting.

Scriptures Legacy. This video was produced by the Church and is excellent. You can view or download it here. The description from the is a good summary: What if Moroni had met his demise before he could hide the sacred gold plates in the Hill Cumorah? And what if William Tyndale’s translations of the Holy Bible had been destroyed by King Henry VIII?

An account of Christ appearing to people in the Americas is recorded in 3 Nephi 11.

One of the most striking aspects of the video is its depiction of Christ visiting the Nephites in North America, as this image from the video shows.

Finally, we're not looking at pagan Mayan pyramids in Central America as if they were Nephite structures.

Maybe next we'll get a video supporting what Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith said about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

And then, maybe, eventually, the Maxwell Institute will stop promoting the Mesoamerican geography just because "the most work" has been done there.

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