The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Monday, January 4, 2016

Consensus by abstract map?

People are talking about reaching a consensus about Book of Mormon geography by focusing on an abstract map, based on the text.

In my view, this is impossible, and therefore pointless. No two people will independently come up with the identical abstract map. For one thing, the text is vague about distance and direction. A Boy Scout couldn't find his way through a small forest if he had only vague instructions about distance and direction. For another, the landmarks that are given use generic terms that are susceptible to multiple interpretations.

It's easy to see this by comparison with the Bible. There is disagreement about such basic locations as Mount Sinai. I don't think anyone could reach a consensus about Biblical locations based solely on the descriptions in the text.

Take Genesis 39:1.

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

Does this mean Egypt was a valley, or that Dothan was on a mountain? How far away was Egypt? In what direction?

Then we have to figure out how this description be reconciled with Genesis 13:1: "And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south."

No Biblical scholar tries to come up with an abstract map. Why should Book of Mormon scholars try to do so? 

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