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Directions in the BoM


Scottie

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Markk had a great observation that I would like to further explore.

First, I am a bit rusty on the specifics, so please correct me if I get anything wrong.

1) Apologist argument for the route Lehi took from Jerusalem to NHM, Bountiful and finally to where they built the ship to take them across the ocean seem to match exactly a well used nomadic trail. How could JS have possibly known this?

2) Apologists for the LGT argue that the directions in the new world are turned 90 degrees to account for the bodies of water. North becomes west, etc.

First off, am I understanding the arguments correctly here? If so, shouldn't there be some consistency in directions? It doesn't seem as if you can have both.

Thoughts?

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2) Apologists for the LGT argue that the directions in the new world are turned 90 degrees to account for the bodies of water. North becomes west, etc.

Not at all. See link for one such argument of directions. Basically, sometimes North means "Northish" or East, "Eastish" -- the direction sun might rise (which changes with the year). The Book of Mormon doesn't explain to us the cultural meaning of these directions explicitly and so they must be inferred.

vectors.jpg

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2) Apologists for the LGT argue that the directions in the new world are turned 90 degrees to account for the bodies of water. North becomes west, etc.

From what I've seen, that argument is limited to a small handful of apologists.

If so, shouldn't there be some consistency in directions?

In my opinion, yes.

It doesn't seem as if you can have both.

People pick and choose as they see fit.

I simply don't happen to agree with those who say Joseph's translation of "north" something means something entirely different than plain English.

In my view, that denigrates Joseph's role as translator - via the gift and power of God.

I've seen a good number of European models for the world which flip the world map 90 degrees. So I don't have an objection to someone asserting the Nephites had a different perspective as to which way was up. However, saying "north" is a botched translation simply doesn't fly with me.

But if that approach works for them, so be it.

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Those who argue for the Grijalva as Sidon need to shift the directions, those who argue for the Usumacinta as Sidon generally keep all of the cardinal directions in place. Although I don't adhere strongly to one model or the other, from my background growing up in Long Beach I can tell you that north does not always mean north. The 405 North and the 605 North freeways will take you to very different directions (and they intersect nearly perpendicular to each other).

Nofear's diagrams nicely illustrate the Mesoamerican concepts of world directions.

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Markk had a great observation that I would like to further explore.

First, I am a bit rusty on the specifics, so please correct me if I get anything wrong.

1) Apologist argument for the route Lehi took from Jerusalem to NHM, Bountiful and finally to where they built the ship to take them across the ocean seem to match exactly a well used nomadic trail. How could JS have possibly known this?

2) Apologists for the LGT argue that the directions in the new world are turned 90 degrees to account for the bodies of water. North becomes west, etc.

First off, am I understanding the arguments correctly here? If so, shouldn't there be some consistency in directions? It doesn't seem as if you can have both.

Thoughts?

I really dont think they had compasses back then so its kinda like jhon wayne noddin his head and saying "well boys we,d better get headin north". :P

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I really dont think they had compasses back then so its kinda like jhon wayne noddin his head and saying "well boys we,d better get headin north". :P

While they didn't have compasses, they knew how to tell directions with remarkable accuracy. It isn't an issue of ignorance. The could have defined the cardinal directions the way we think of them today. It just doesn't appear they chose to do so, or more accurately, when the Book of Mormon uses cardinal directions that it means exactly the same thing we mean them to be today.

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Not at all. See link for one such argument of directions. Basically, sometimes North means "Northish" or East, "Eastish" -- the direction sun might rise (which changes with the year). The Book of Mormon doesn't explain to us the cultural meaning of these directions explicitly and so they must be inferred.

vectors.jpg

Where I live we still give directions that way. When talking about the Sun Valley area we will say "up north" when it is really north east. Or when asked I will say I live north of Twin Falls when it really is north west.

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Why would God, as the ultimate translator of the book, have given Smith the word "north" to write down if the direction in Smith's world is actually known as "west"?
With a few exceptions, I think most of us would argue that God wouldn't. But I imagine the minority who advocate such a drastic reorientation have some justification.
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Why would God, as the ultimate translator of the book, have given Smith the word "north" to write down if the direction in Smith's world is actually known as "west"?

I don't think God gave him the word. I think Joseph already knew the word for the cardinal directions. You all seem to think the translation was a word for word dictation. I don't subscribe to that.

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I simply don't happen to agree with those who say Joseph's translation of "north" something means something entirely different than plain English.

In my view, that denigrates Joseph's role as translator - via the gift and power of God.

Of course, one of the most helpful of Joseph's translations comes in 2 Nephi 25:1-5, in the discussion of how we can't expect to understand the things of the Jews save it be that we are taught after the manner of the Jews. That is, we have to know the cultural context. And for the Nephites listening to Jesus speak in 3 Nephi are told that they "cannot understand all" his words, but that they have to go home and "prepare" their "minds" for the morrow. That is, Joseph's translations do not ask us to presume that there is such a thing as a "plain" meaning for every text. What makes any meaning seven seem to be plain is a function of how well prepared we are to interpret what we are looking at. The text never interprets itself. We always bring something to our readings. To mention such things is not to denigrate Joseph's role as a translator, nor to ignore our role in interpreting what we read, but to recognize such factors. That Joseph played a role as a translator. That any translation across languages and cultures brings along translation and cultural issues. If the Gift and Power of God negated such issues for translation, it is inconsistent that the Book of Mormon translation should expressly insist on the importance of studying relevant contexts, and preparing our minds.

"To a mouse, cheese is cheese. That is why mousetraps work."

Context can make a huge difference in meaning. For instance, if I say say, "I took something out of the boot," that might mean something very different to an American and an Englishman. The same ambiguity in meaning shows up if I say, "I sat on the bonnet." If I ask for a biscuit, an Englishman and and American might give me something very different in return.

One of the things we do know about the translation process is that it involved Joseph Smith's language, understanding, and weakness, and that is required that he "study it out in his mind." Something else we know is that he didn't always anticipate or understand what he was translating. For example, he had to be convinced that Jerusalem had walls. Someone who does not know English can look at any English passage where Nephi describes "words of plainess" and be completely baffled. We never just read. We read into. Words are data, and "All data are theory laden."

For another example, the FARMS Insights recently had an article talking about how the 1828 dictionary definition of "mark" could affect a reading of Jacob 4 on "looking beyond the mark." A few years ago, the Insights had another article (by me) describing how a comparison with Ezekiel's use of "mark" and the underlying Hebrew could affect our reading of the verse. What is interesting is that the two readings are inconsistent. Both contextualize differently, though both using language available to Joseph Smith. (Ezekiel's use is proximate as that offered in the recent Insights.) The question is, which meaning did Joseph Smith as a a divinely inspired translator want us to follow? Does raising the issue denigrate Joseph Smith as a translator with respect to a work as simple as "mark"?

In Mesoamerican thinking Northward describes a quadrant, not a vector. A quadrant is inherently less precise than a vector. And the "-ward" suffix occurs frequently in the Book of Mormon.

Another issue is who is writing the word on the plates, Nephi, or Mormon, and in what context? They surely weren't using Google maps to get their orientation.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I don't think God gave him the word. I think Joseph already knew the word for the cardinal directions. You all seem to think the translation was a word for word dictation. I don't subscribe to that.

That's an interesting response. For one thing, you appear to not accept the descriptions of the translation method wherein words appeared on the stone and disappeared once they were properly recorded.

How do you envision the translation process? We know it could not be anything at all like you or I would translate a document, because we could only do so if we knew both the source and target languages well. Because of that knowledge, we would be able to make informed decisions wherever concepts do not easily translate directly.

We know Smith did not know the source language, so the only alternative to a word-for-word method seems to be that he was shown images and ideas, which he then had to describe using words of his choosing. Assuming such a method, it would have been his choice of to use a directional term that may not have accurately described what he saw (using "north" to describe something that was really more like "west-northwest," or "away from the sea").

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I don't think God gave him the word. I think Joseph already knew the word for the cardinal directions. You all seem to think the translation was a word for word dictation. I don't subscribe to that.

So by this logic, we shouldn't accept that the trail Lehi used is any kind of direct hit, right? We have no way of knowing if the directions in the BoM really describe the directions Lehi went.

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So by this logic, we shouldn't accept that the trail Lehi used is any kind of direct hit, right? We have no way of knowing if the directions in the BoM really describe the directions Lehi went.

Uhh. Where by any stretch of the imagination did I say that? Are you trying to build straw men agian. Please don't extrapolate when you havn't a clue.

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As an aside, does anybody know the cultural-linguistic use of the words for cardinal directions for the Jews around 600 B.C.? I know by the time of Ptolemy, the Greeks had a fixed, rigid sense for them (incidentally, we tend to orient our maps with North as up because it is the convention that Ptolemy employed). But, I really don't know anything about Jewish cardinal directions and their historic use.

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Nephi's north was not necessarily Mormon's north. They're from (almost literally) different worlds and lived in completely different cultures. It would be like expecting modern Americans to be the same as Europeans during the Middle Ages -- except back everyone up a few thousand years.

In other words, it's very possible that the word evolved to take on whatever new meaning was needed by the people using it.

Do I necessary believe that's what happened? No. But it definitely seems plausible to me, and perhaps even likely.

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So by this logic, we shouldn't accept that the trail Lehi used is any kind of direct hit, right? We have no way of knowing if the directions in the BoM really describe the directions Lehi went.

I'd guess that if the directions didn't point the way they should, apologists would recommend whichever reorientation was needed to support their theory of the journey through the middle east.

But they would probably point out that, thankfully, they don't seem to need to.

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True North. We have magnetic compasses all over the ship with provided deviation tables. ;)

I am wondering if those are the same deviation tables (in general aviation we use the term "declinations") used by Nephi, the Brother of Jared, and other BoM peoples? :P

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I'd guess that if the directions didn't point the way they should, apologists would recommend whichever reorientation was needed to support their theory of the journey through the middle east.

But they would probably point out that, thankfully, they don't seem to need to.

I'm guessing that your guess is constructed of straw, and ironically has an orientation unrecognizable to those you are guessing about. :P

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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