Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester Part 3

The previous Times and Seasons editorial provided a lengthy extract from Stephens and Catherwood's Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. The author of that editorial believed that the structures found in Palenque provided incontrovertible evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. In the same volume and issue of the Church-owned newspaper as the last editorial, this conclusion is continued in three additional paragraphs. I'm not primarily concerned with authorship of the editorials as of yet, so much as I'm concerned as to what the editorials actually assert regarding Book of Mormon geography, and specifically whether any limitations are imposed upon that geography. The previous two editorials allowed for the region from Central America up to Ohio to be considered Book of Mormon lands, with the last editorial providing emphasis upon the area of Palenque as being uniquely in support of Book of Mormon events (specifically citing 2 Nephi 5 as a corroborating text). The editorial below is further assessed for clarification and elaboration upon these previous assertions.

The column on the left represents the Times and Seasons editorial with commentary in the right-hand column being mine. 

Times and Seasons 3/22 (Sept 15, 1842):921-922


From an extract from "Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America," it will be seen that the proof of the Nephites and Lamanites dwelling on this continent, according to the account in the Book of Mormon, is developing itself in a more satisfactory way than the most sanguine believer in that revelation, could have anticipated. It certainly affords us a gratification that the world of mankind does not enjoy, to give publicity to such important developments of the remains and ruins of those mighty people.

When we read in the Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on to this continent from the confusion and scattering at the Tower, and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from sea to sea, with towns and cities; and that Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country according to the word of the Lord, as a branch of the house of Israel, and then read such a goodly traditionary account, as the one below, we can not but think the Lord has a hand in bringing to pass his strange act, and proving the Book of Mormon true in the eyes of all the people. The extract below, comes as near the real fact, as the four Evangelists do to the crucifixion of Jesus.-Surely "facts are stubborn things." It will be as it ever has been the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah. Now read Stephen's story:

"According to Fuentes, the chronicler of the kingdom of Guatimala, the kings of Quinche and Cachiquel were descended from the Toltecan Indians, who, when they came into this country, found it already inhabited by people of different nations. According to the manuscripts of Don Juan Torres, the grandson of the last king of the Quiches, which was in the possession of the lieutenant general appointed by Pedro de Alvarado, and which Fuentes says he obtained by means of Father Francis Vasques, the historian of the order of San Francis, the Toltecas themselves descended from the house of Israel, who were released by Moses from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and after crossing the Red Sea, fell into Idolatry. To avoid the reproofs of Moses, or from fear of his inflicting upon them some chastisement, they separated from him and his brethren, and under the guidance of Tanub, their chief, passed from one continent to the other, to a place which they called the seven caverns, a part of the kingdom of Mexico, where they founded the celebrated city of Tula."

The author cites Stephens and Catherwood's book, which is specifically limited to Central and Mesoamerica, as providing support for Nephites and Lamanites dwelling on this continent. The isolation of Mesoamerica by Neville must then be a modern imposition upon the editorials, since the author of this editorial does not present any reservations incorporating Mesoamerica with North America in terms of Book of Mormon geography.

Jaredites are asserted to have covered the "whole continent" from sea to sea.

It is claimed that Lehi landed south of the Isthmus of Panama.

Stephens cites Fuentes, who claimed that the "Toltecas" claimed to be Israelites who separated themselves from Israel and founded the city of Tula, in central Mexico.
The author of this editorial identifies Book of Mormon lands to include Central America. The author even asserts that the approximate landing location of the Lehites was perhaps at the southern end of Panama. The spread between Tula and southern Panama represents approximately 2,000 miles. The "continent" isn't explicitly defined by the author, but increasingly it seems that the author included everything north of South America proper to be within their definition of this "continent." This corresponds perfectly with maps of the day as well: see Finley's 1827 map, and this Call & Inglis 1840 map. It would seem that the author of these editorials believed Book of Mormon geography to have began with the Lehite colony in southern Panama followed by migration northwards through Meso and Central America, up to Ohio and Tennessee, but believed that much of the Book of Mormon narrative presumably took place in Central and Mesoamerica.

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