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Use of the word wilderness in the BofM


poulsenll

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In the process of making a list of the geographic features mentioned in the Book of Mormon I was intrigued by the word wilderness. After looking up its meaning in various dictionaries I found it interesting that the primary meaning is always given as uninhabited or undeveloped with desert listed as secondary yet the Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon translates the word as desert rather than silvestre which means wild or unpopulated. Does this reflect the mindset of members of the Church in Utah and the presence of so many deserts in the western U.S.?

Larry P

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In the process of making a list of the geographic features mentioned in the Book of Mormon I was intrigued by the word wilderness. After looking up its meaning in various dictionaries I found it interesting that the primary meaning is always given as uninhabited or undeveloped with desert listed as secondary yet the Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon translates the word as desert rather than silvestre which means wild or unpopulated. Does this reflect the mindset of members of the Church in Utah and the presence of so many deserts in the western U.S.?

Larry P

The archaic use of the word "desert", which fits with the Spanish terminology, is a wild, uninhabited and uncultivated tract. It can also be a desolate or forbidding area. So it is not necessarily an "arid land with usually sparse vegetation; especially such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annually". Oddly enough, a desert can be an area of water apparently devoid of life, but I much doubt this has to do with the "land of many waters (Mormon 6:4)" or a "land among many waters (Mosiah 8:8 )."

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The archaic use of the word "desert", which fits with the Spanish terminology, is a wild, uninhabited and uncultivated tract. It can also be a desolate or forbidding area. So it is not necessarily an "arid land with usually sparse vegetation; especially such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annually". Oddly enough, a desert can be an area of water apparently devoid of life, but I much doubt this has to do with the "land of many waters (Mormon 6:4)" or a "land among many waters (Mosiah 8:8 )."

Having served my mission in Latin America, specifically southern Mexico, "este lugar se queda desierto" this place is left desolate.

It signifies more of a no mans land, than anything else. A place left desolate. And there are several places especially in Tabasco and in Veracruz that could easily qualify as no mans land, not to mention place of many waters.

The lack of ruins along the Sierra Madre de Chiapas chain (with the lone exception of Iglesia Vieja near Tonala) and the Sierra that bisects Guatemala, would suggest that area being a wilderness.

That is one connotation of the word 'desierto'.

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In the process of making a list of the geographic features mentioned in the Book of Mormon I was intrigued by the word wilderness. After looking up its meaning in various dictionaries I found it interesting that the primary meaning is always given as uninhabited or undeveloped with desert listed as secondary yet the Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon translates the word as desert rather than silvestre which means wild or unpopulated. Does this reflect the mindset of members of the Church in Utah and the presence of so many deserts in the western U.S.?

Larry P

More than likely Larry. Even though JS grew up in the dense woods and mountains and never saw one.

BTW cool petroglyph avatar. Looks Hawaiian.

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BTW cool petroglyph avatar. Looks Hawaiian.

Southwest indian. Kokopelli a fertility god but thought to be based on traders from Mexico bring trade goods to the southwest.

Larry P

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1 Nephi chapter two gives some indication that "wilderness" is a translation of at least two different words:

[4] And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.

[5] And he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea; and he did travel in the wilderness with his family

Finally,

[6] And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness

These verses are rather puzzling unless the "wilderness" is actually two completely different words, with slightly different meanings. The Eskamos have several words which mean snow, with different nuances. So there are probably several words for wilderness which also have different nuances, but is lost in the English translation.

The answer to the OP is -->> all of the above.

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I've studied Book of Mormon geography (hence my name). I think that I can confidently say that in the first Book of Nephi it reffered to desert but by around Mosiah's time it probably refers to mountainous and unihabited forest. The usage of up and down is remarkably consistant in the Book of Mormon between places and it allows us to form a rough sketch of the elevations in BoM lands. Zarahemla is in the Sidon river basin and the mountains around it are referred to as wilderness. John L Sorenson created a list of geographical clues from BoM and called it The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book. It is useful if you are trying to make your own map.

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I've studied Book of Mormon geography (hence my name). I think that I can confidently say that in the first Book of Nephi it reffered to desert but by around Mosiah's time it probably refers to mountainous and unihabited forest. The usage of up and down is remarkably consistant in the Book of Mormon between places and it allows us to form a rough sketch of the elevations in BoM lands. Zarahemla is in the Sidon river basin and the mountains around it are referred to as wilderness. John L Sorenson created a list of geographical clues from BoM and called it The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book. It is useful if you are trying to make your own map.

I tend to agree with those who have proposed that it has multiple meanings. Cdowis may be right that the underlying language of the plates had more than one word but JS used wildernes for both words.

Incidently, I have already created my own version of the geography. What I am attempting now is to write an article that might be of use for others who would like to better understand the geography described in the BofM. In order to do this I need to set out the meanings of the various geographical terms used in the text. Sorenson did a great job but unfortunately he interpreted directions from a modern viewpoint instead of one based on ancient concepts of directionality. This resulted in an attempt to justify skewed directions in order to fit the internal map to the real world. No such skewing is necesary if one uses the ancient preconquest concept of directions based on the sun's movements rather than a fixed two dimensional modern map. The distribution of directional references in the BofM support the ancient directional concept of mesoamerica which predicts that there should be more references to northern and southern directions than to eastern and western directions.

Larry P

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I tend to agree with those who have proposed that it has multiple meanings. Cdowis may be right that the underlying language of the plates had more than one word but JS used wildernes for both words.

Incidently, I have already created my own version of the geography. What I am attempting now is to write an article that might be of use for others who would like to better understand the geography described in the BofM. In order to do this I need to set out the meanings of the various geographical terms used in the text. Sorenson did a great job but unfortunately he interpreted directions from a modern viewpoint instead of one based on ancient concepts of directionality. This resulted in an attempt to justify skewed directions in order to fit the internal map to the real world. No such skewing is necesary if one uses the ancient preconquest concept of directions based on the sun's movements rather than a fixed two dimensional modern map. The distribution of directional references in the BofM support the ancient directional concept of mesoamerica which predicts that there should be more references to northern and southern directions than to eastern and western directions.

Larry P

very interesting, I will be looking forward to reading all that you publish. :P

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