Book of Mormon/Geography/Disdaining the statements of Joseph Smith

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Statements made by Joseph Smith about Book of Mormon geography

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Question: Should we reject statements made by Joseph Smith regarding Book of Mormon geography?

Some wish us to accept earlier statements by Joseph as prophetic and binding, while ignoring the content of later statements which do not match their personal theories

It is claimed that LDS scholars "disdain" Joseph Smith by rejecting statements that he made regarding Book of Mormon geography.

Joseph Smith made several statements about Book of Mormon geography. The content of his statements changed over time. Some wish us to accept earlier statements by Joseph as prophetic and binding, while ignoring the content of later statements which do not match their personal theories. They attack those who disagree with them as "discounting and disdaining" Joseph, while ignoring that their theories likewise discount later statements made by Joseph.

Other believers in Joseph Smith's divine call have decided that the differences in Joseph's statements over time suggest that his earliest statements were not based on a prophetic revelation about the specifics of Book of Mormon geography. Their desire to consider all of Joseph's statements led them to this conclusion, not a desire to "disdain" or "discount" him.

Since Church leaders have been clear that there is no revealed Book of Mormon geography, it seems strange to claim that those who agree that Joseph made no definitive prophetic statement are discounting the Prophet. If leaders of the Church have not believed there is an official geography from Joseph or anyone else, does this mean that they too are "discounting or disdaining" Joseph?

The implication being made is that LDS scholars who have speculated that Joseph Smith did not know the exact location of the Book of Mormon events are "disdaining" Joseph

One DVD narrator claims that the "fruit of the Central American theories" is that LDS researchers are "dismissing Joseph Smith," as illustrated by the following quotes. The narrator claims that the names of these authors are being withheld "because this is not about the individuals."

Quote #1: "Since Moroni offered Joseph Smith only a brief sketch, it is unlikely that he revealed to Joseph a comprehensive knowledge of Native American origins. It is important to understand that Joseph Smith did not have access to this knowledge. He translated the book, but apparently did not know the scope of its geography."
—Name withheld
NOTE: This quote is from LDS scholar Matthew Roper.[1]

Quote #2: "Exactly what Joseph Smith believed at different times in his life concerning Book of Mormon geography in general is also indeterminable. I think it's quite clear where Joseph Smith thought it was. Evidently, Joseph Smith's views on this matter were open to further knowledge."
— Name withheld
NOTE: This quote is from LDS scholar Kenneth W. Godfrey.[2]

Quote #3: "The historical sources give no indication that Moroni's instructions to the young Joseph Smith included geography. Nor did Joseph Smith claim inspiration on the matter. Ideas he later expressed about the location of events reported in the book apparently reflected his own best thinking."
—Name withheld
NOTE: This quote is from LDS scholar John Sorenson.[3]

President Hinckley was not referring to LDS scholars when he talked of people "disdaining" Joseph Smith - he was talking of apostates

After showing these "name witheld" quotes, the DVD narrator then claims that the following quote from Gordon B. Hinckley is the "end-sign":

"It is a constantly recurring mystery to me how some people speak with admiration for the church and its work while at the same time, disdaining him through whom, as a servant of the Lord, came the framework of all the church is, all that it teaches and all that is stands for. They would pluck the fruit from the tree while cutting off the root from which it grows."

The implication, of course, is that LDS scholars who have speculated that Joseph Smith did not know the exact location of the Book of Mormon events are "disdaining" Joseph. On the back of the cellophane DVD wrapper is a sticky label imprinted with the following notice:

"Correction Notice: A quote from President Hinckley used in the presentation is used incorrectly and will be removed from the next version of the DVD. It was incorrectly understood that the Prophet was speaking of all people who dismiss Joseph Smith, including LDS scholars; however it has been brought to my attention that President Hinckley spoke specifically of non-members and did not specifically mention scholars. As stated in the presentation, if there are mistakes, they will be corrected."

However, despite the presence of the disclaimer on the back of the DVD case, in the live seminar titled "Introduction to Book of Mormon Evidences," the presentation still displays the quotes from LDS scholars and then refers to those that make such statements as "discounting and disdaining" Joseph Smith.[4]

President Hinckley was not referring to LDS scholars when he talked of people "disdaining" Joseph Smith - he was talking of apostates.


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Matthew Roper, "Nephi's Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 91–128. off-site
  2. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "What is the Significance of Zelph In The Study Of Book of Mormon Geography?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): 70–79. off-site wiki
  3. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 1.
  4. This was true at least as of "The Firm Foundation's" 6 March 2009 seminar presentation.


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