Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nosy Neighbors

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What did Mrs. Harris (Martin Harris’s wife) do at the Joseph Smith Sr. cabin near Palmyra, New York?

A)                 Help Lucy Mack Smith milk the cow
B)                 Heft the golden plates
C)                 Give Joseph Smith Jr. a ear full for pulling Martins attention away from their farm
D)                 Search for the plates when the Smiths weren’t home

Yesterday’s answer:
(B) Panama
What looks like the first consensual interpretation of Book of Mormon geography among him (Joseph Smith) and his associates was sweeping: The land southward was the whole of South America; the land northward, the North American continent. One indicator of that is an 1836 record in Frederick G. Williams’s handwriting attributing the statement to Joseph Smith that “Lehi and his company . . . landed on the continent of South America, in Chile, thirty degrees, south latitude.” Church leaders B. H. Roberts and John A. Widtsoe, both careful critics, were hesitant to accept the statements’ origin with the Prophet, yet it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the Prophet had once held this view, since other early Church members seem to have believed it. (Williams later claimed that the statement about Chile was made to him by an angel rather than by Joseph.) In view of the fact that the Prophet’s ideas matured on other subjects over time his thinking on Book of Mormon geography could also have undergone change. In 1842, an editorial in the Church newspaper the Times and Seasons (September 15, pages 921-22) asserted that “Lehi . . . landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien (Panama).”  

Franklin D. Richards and James A. Little, eds., Compendium (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1886), 289; Brigham H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, vol. 3. The Book of Mormon, vol. 3 (Salt Lake City: Deseret news Press, 1926, 501-03; John A. Widtsoe, “Is the Book of Mormon Geography Known?” in A Book of Mormon Treasury: Selections from the Pages of the Improvement Era (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1959), 128-29; Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon (Independence, Missouri: Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1942), 93.

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