Monday, July 31, 2017

Accepting the Scriptural Record

Another example of missing important information is found in then destruction of the Land of Promise at the time of the crucifixion.
Mormon states that the thunderings, lightnings and tempest lasted “for about three hours,” but that the people said it lasted much longer—to which Mormon wrote “Nevertheless, all those great and terrible things were done in the space of about three hours” (3 Nephi 8:19). Now, the question arises, how did Mormon (or the disciple Nephi who first recorded the incident) know it was “about three hours” when others thought it was much longer?
    There is only one possibility, and that is the disciple Nephi was told by the Spirit of the Lord, who recounted the information (Christ recounts the entire events in Chapter 9, and states his identity [3 Nephi 9:15; 11:20]). The point is, if we do not pause in our reading and study what is written we miss important information—in this case, not only that the Spirit of the lord told Nephi who would have written it down, and Mormon restated it in his abridgement, but that the Lord has been instrumental in other scriptural statements that prophets have written. Thus the scriptural record takes on a whole new meaning of not just being what a prophet wrote, but what the Lord was directly involved in, providing the reader with less and less reason to question, alter, change, or add to what is written as so many theorists are want to constantly do.
    It is interesting in his book, John L. Sorenson spends five full pages (pp318-323) on this event but never once expresses any importance to the time frame and the implication of the three hours. We can also turn to the involvement of the Spirit restraining different prophets from writing more than the Lord desired, which also shows the Lord’s involvement with the scriptural record.
As an example, when Moroni was abridging Ether’s record, he wrote: “And I was about to write more, but I am forbidden” (Ether 13:13); and “Therefore I, Mormon, do write the thing which have been commanded me of the Lord” (3 Nephi 26:12); and “the things which they did utter were forbidden that there should not any man write them” (3 Nephi 26:16); and speaking of the scriptural record, the Lord in his ministry to the Nephites said, “Write the works of this people, which shall be, even as hath been written, of that which hath been…And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged” (3 Nephi 27:24,26); and “Behold, I was about to write the a names of those who were never to taste of death, but the Lord forbade; therefore I write them not, for they are hid from the world” (3 Nephi 28:28); also “And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you all” (Mormon 3:20); and “therefore, I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen, because of the commandment which I have received” (Mormon 5:9); Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them, and I have written them” (Ether 4:5); and “Wherefore, I Moroni, am commanded to write these things” (Ether 8:26); also “And behold, I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard” (1 Nephi 14:28).
    There are many others, but this should show that the Spirit of the Lord was actively involved in what the prophets wrote in the Book of Mormon scriptural record.
    Thus, this kind of knowledge enables us to have increased faith in the accuracy of the scriptural record and not be confused by seemingly difficult problems such as Sorenson states regarding the animals mentioned by both Nephi (1 Nephi 18:25) and Moroni (Ether 9:17), wherein Sorenson asks (p294), “So what might the Nephites term translated by Joseph Smith as cow actually have signified?”
Perhaps, then, since the Lord was involved in this writing, the word “cow” mean “cow,” the standard bovine brought to the promised land by the Jaredites and was available in the land when Lehi arrived. In that same vein, perhaps “horse” meant “horse,” and “cattle” meant “cattle,” etc. In fact, we can count on this since “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
    We might also add for Sorenson’s benefit, that Mormon’s “north” meant “north,” his “south” meant “south,” his “east” meant “east,” and his “west” meant “west,” the exact same terms we know and understand them to mean today—if not, then God certainly is a God of confusion, and the scriptural record cannot be understood by anyone who reads it but that we need an academician to interpret it for us.
    But since the scriptures tell us “that God is not the author of confusion,” then we can rest assured that when we read a word or phrase in the scriptural record of which he, himself, was involved in the writing, we can rest assured that what is said is both accurate and truthful.
    Thus, like when the Nephites questioned the three hour limit to the terrible events written about, they were inaccurate, and had to be corrected by the written word of the disciple Nephi that those events did take place in “about three hours”—we can accept what is written without question and without doubts. We can be assured because of the Lord’s involvement in the scriptural record, accept that "cow” was what was meant, not “deer,” or “bison” or “cameloid,” as Sorenson suggests, but actually “cow” as the record states. And if the scriptural record differs or disagrees with modern thinking or findings or so-called worldly dating or academics, then we can also rest assured that the scriptural record is correct and need not be altered by well-meaning, but arrogant men or women who think they know more than the Lord.
    This, then, holds true for all such statements found in the scriptural record!
So when John L. Sorenson (left) writes regarding the Book of Mormon (p294), “In those cases we have to find another way to read the text in order to make sense of it,” we can see beyond his lack of understanding and faith in the Lord to the simple fact that the Lord was involved directly in the writing of the scriptural record and therefore what is in the record is correct and factual and should not be questioned merely to promote a contrary personal viewpoint.
    Nor do we need to question or raise a question about a fact that we simply do not personally understand when, in fact, the answer can easily be found with a little personal effort and study. Take, as an example, Sorenson’s comment (p289), “The answer is not obvious. Consider for a moment Nephi’s statement that upon reaching the promised land they found both “the goat and the wild goat” in the forests of their new-found land (1 Nephi 18:25). How did an untamed “goat” differ from a “wild goat”? The traits distinguishing the categories are not apparent.”
    However, as any zoologist can readily tell you, a “wild goat,” or Capra aegagrus aeggarus, is a widespread species of goat, with distribution ranging from Europe and Asia Minor to Central Asia and the Middle East, and is considered the ancestor of the domestic goat—an animal that with which Nephi would have been familiar since its existence in the Middle East would have been within his homeland around Jerusalem.
Bezoar Ibex, Capra aegagrus aegagrus, a species of the genus Capra and subfamily Caprinae and family Bovidae, a wild goat found in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, one of six subspecies of the wild goat

On the other hand, a domestic goat (called a feral goat if left in the wild and unattended by humans), or Capra aegagrus hircus, (often referred to as a “billy goat” or “nanny goat”), anciently domesticated from the “wild goat,” but over time has become very different in appearance and can easily be determined on sight.
Left: Wild Goat; Right: Domesticated Goat. As can be seen, they are quite different

Another example is how the hill Cumorah has developed over the years into not just the hill where Joseph Smith was led to obtain the plates for translation, but to become the single and only hill Cumorah, and the one which is claimed to have been meant within the account of hill Ramah and Cumorah in the scriptural record. Oliver Cowdery was, perhaps, the first to state in no uncertain terms his belief that the hill Cumorah in western New York was the same hill Cumorah as found in the scriptural record, with his statements in Letter VII, which was one letter in a series of letters written from Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, and published by Thomas Ward and John Cairns, Liverpool, in 1844, after first being published in the LDS Messenger and Advocate (Vol 1 No 10)å, July 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio, regarding the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
    In this letter, Cowdery makes numerous statements that are obviously his, embellishing the sparse account in the scriptural record, with one glaring error when he states that in the valley to the west of the hill (an area about a mile long and a mile wide), he indicates the final Nephi-Lamanite battle took place; however, the Nephites were camped all around the hill (Mormon 6:4), not just in the West, and would have been so assembled when the Lamanites approach for battle. Besides with a Nephite army of 230,000, and a Lamanite army that was much larger because Mormon makes a point of stating that “they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers” (Mormon 6:8), and there is no way half a million to three-quarters of a million men could all fight and die in the small valley to the west of Cumorah as Oliver so adamantly and unequivocally states (pp34-35). And certainly there is nothing in the scriptural record to indicate anything about this hill Cumorah in New York is connected with the hill Cumorah of the scriptural record—in fact, we don’t even know if Moroni hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormonwe onlyh know they were in the hill in New York near where Joseph lived and could have been transported there in numerous was at any time over a 1500 year period 421 A.D. to 1828 A.D.)
Yet Phyllis Carol Olive in The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, bemoans her disappointment of all other theories of the location of the Land of Promise, and states “Perhaps the time has now come to concentrate more heavily on those lands surrounding the only known landmark we have—the Hill Cumorah in New York state." 
    However, other than a name, there is no connection in the scriptural record to the hill Cumorah in western New York, and much, including its small size and low height, to suggest it is not the same as the one described by Mormon, along with numerous other problems that do not match the scriptural record.
    Yet, the theory persists.
    Numerous other examples can be given to show how theorists love to try and tell us that what is written in the scriptural record is not complete, accurate, or means something other than what it implies, but we will let the above suffice nor now.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Matter of Reference

Several years ago when I retired, we moved to Southern Utah and built a large family home for us and our seven children and their small families. We lived on the main floor and the walk-out basement, containing five Bedrooms, two Baths, Kitchen, Family Room, Game Room, Living Room, etc., was for our family, which often came to visit and stay for several days over the next ten years.
When we started to build, we worked out how much wood framing, beams, supports, etc., it would take, and went to the local lumber yard and ordered it delivered, as well as bags of cement for the slab, drywall sheets, roofing, etc. Unlike the pioneers, we did not have to chop down trees, debark them and cut the boards for lumber; nor did we have to clear a forest of tree stumps, plant fields of corn, wheat, barley, etc., or plant fruit trees, grape vines, and vegetables for our food.
    The idea of already cut lumber, S4S boards (sanded four sides) all exact length, buying doors already packaged with door framing, was very appealing. Had we had to make our own lumber, our 7400-square foot home would have been maybe 1000-square foot and still taken much longer to build. And pre-mixed concrete bags, requiring only water to mix and use, pre-cut and precisely measured tile for flooring, pre-made kitchen cabinets, pre-sized and randomly-cut rock for fire places, standard-sized drywall and plywood sheets, etc., without which the labor would have been unimaginable. As it was, with all the labor-saving devices available, still took my wife and I and one part-time helper eleven months to complete the large home.
    Frankly, I cannot envision what it would have taken to build anything without power tools, nail guns, sanding machines, routers, etc., let along cut trees for all the lumber we used, by splitting the logs, then cutting, sanding and finishing the wood by hand. It would seem that modern man would not, under almost any situation considering doing by hand what can easily be done (and usually better) with machine help.
    Yet, therein lies the rub of understanding the past. Not living in a modern, convenient world is so far from the thinking of people today that when they study or think about the past, they naturally think about it from the perspective of a modern man. As an example, when Noah was instructed to build the Ark, we don’t usually think actually how long it took. In fact, it took Noah more than modern man’s entire lifetime—one hundred years, from his 500th year to his 600th year.
How long would it have taken him to cut enough trees, strip and slice into boards the lumber needed to build the Ark?
    When we write a journal, we take a piece of paper, a ball-point pen and start writing—or just begin typing on the keyboard or typewriter, printing out the results. We don’t have to find ore, smelt it, shape and pound it into sheets of metal. When we have to travel from one place to another, we just get in our car and drive there. We don’t have to concern ourselves with terrain, paths, canyons rivers, etc. The road is already in place and about as straight a course as possible.
    When I was a kid and mom decided on a chicken dinner, my dad caught one of the older hens in the coop our back, cut off its head, hung it on a line to drain the blood, and then my job was to pluck off the feathers—something I absolutely detested doing, and perhaps it is the reason I never liked chicken as an adult and still don’t. Today, in our society, very few people have to kill something before they can cook it for dinner.
    When Lehi traveled from Jerusalem to the Sea of Irreantum, he didn’t go in a straight line as we basically travel today. He had to travel where the wells for water had been dug and were located. Nor did he travel each day, but took several rest stops where he relaxed for several days before setting out again. This is one of the reasons an ancient Old Testament Prophet was so surprised to see a future where man could travel without unlatching his shoes.
When I was a kid, we used to travel from Los Angeles back to southern Utah to visit relatives and my dad had to hang on the bumper canvas bags for water in case the water levels in the radiator dropped too low, and we drove from gas station to gas station, and ate at strategically placed restaurants along the way—all with little concern. On the other hand, Lehi hung bags of feed on his camels and when hungry stopped and cooked a meal, typically a lengthy affair as he had to carry his food with him until it ran out, then kill game along the way.
    There is no question traveling and living is far simpler and convenient today than in Lehi’s time. We all know this! However, when we read the scriptural record, we tend to pay little attention to such things and skip over their significance. After all, when Nephi broke his bow, and the other bows lost their spring, not only was it an extremely important event—it was critical and meant the difference between life and death (how many life and death situations do we face?) for without bows they had no way to kill game to feed their party (1 Nephi 16:14,15) of upwards of 50 to 60 people, including children. To have no way to provide food for the group, they were faced with starvation (when is the last time we were faced with no way to obtain food?)
    Along this same line, when reading the scriptural record we tend to ignore the important information that should be obvious but is so often overlooking yet holds significant information meant to help us better understand what we are reading. Take as an example, the concept of terrain. If we do not take into account the terrain of the Land of Promise we often arrive at conclusions not warranted by the facts.
During their journey along the Red Sea, Nephi tells us the information written on the Liahona (from time to time) led them “in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16). So what is meant by “the more fertile parts”? When Joseph Smith translated this phrase, the word “fertile” meant “fruitful, rich, producing in abundance, as fertile land, ground, soil, field or meadow. The word is rarely applied to trees or animals, but to ‘land.’ Rich, having abundant resources, able to produce abundantly.”
    So what was meant by the “more fertile parts of the wilderness”? If “wilderness” means “desert’ as Hugh Nibley claims, or “mountains” as Sorenson claims, etc., then how fertile would either place be? But since “wilderness” means an unoccupied uncultivated tract of land as Webster states in his 1828 dictionary, then we understand that Nephi is telling us that certain parts of the land along the Res Sea were more fruitful, having more natural resources for their needs and use than others. But why did they need the Liahona to point out such a simple fact since they were following a well-established route from water hole to water hole along the coast?
   This then leads us to the need to understand what was meant by a trail, such as the Frankincense Trail leading from Oman across to the Red Sea and then up the coast past Jerusalem and beyond to Syria. By explanation, this trail was not a well-marked path or road like we might think, but a wide swath in the wilderness as much as several miles wide, where caravans and groups traveled often not even in sight of one another. To know where the “more fertile parts” were located, Lehi needed the Liahona to show him.
    This also gives us a better insight as to the terrain through which they traveled, the hardships involved and the importance of minor points not always apparent in a quick reading, which often leads us into thinking along inaccurate paths.
The entire point is that our frame of reference causes us to think along certain lines when we read Lehi’s or any other event or story, and our references causes us to interpret what we read in light of our own experiences and understanding. If a person has never been along the coast of the Red Sea, they probably would not know what it was like for Lehi and his party to travel there, conversely, if a person thinks the Jaredites departed from the Pacific coast as Hugh Nibley claimed, they would be left to wonder how an isolated area like Salalah had wild honey and fruit trees when Lehi arrived after the Flood killed all living things there and no one settled there before Lehi arrived. This problem would tend to cause the reader to think Salalah and Khor Rori had been occupied before Lehi arrived, therefore the existence of the honey and fruit trees (neither of which would have existed there without the man bringing them there), which in turn leads to the erroneous belief that there were skilled boatwrights there to help Nephi build his ship. This same kind of erroneous thinking leads Mesoamericanists to insist that there were other people living in the promised land when Lehi arrived.
    As stated earlier in this article, it is all a matter of personal reference. How much of what we read is our own bias or prejudices on the subject and how much is based on knowledge and fact or on hearsay and opinion. When we read the scriptural record, we need to understand that our own personal beliefs and points of reference determine in whole or in part what we interpret and what we understand. If that is based on erroneous ideas, other material than the scriptural record, such as opinions and speculations, then the chances are quite high that our interpretation and understanding will be affected and typically in an inaccurate direction.
Take, as an example, when someone comes up with a theory that is obviously flawed, such as the recent idea of Lehi landing in Florida. If one reads the person’s ideas and because it sounds plausible (especially to the less knowledgeable), and accepts the idea without doing any due diligence of their own—such as checking out sea currents and winds, location of landing against the described terrain Nephi provides, the lack of mountains (such as Florida), then they night well start down an irreversible path toward an inaccurate assumption. This is what happened with the theories of the Heartland and the Great Lakes in the eastern United States theories as well.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

School of the Prophets – Lectures on Faith

The School of the Prophets, or sometimes called School of the Elders, first met on January 23, 1833, in response to a revelation (D&C 88:119-133) instructing the Church to prepare priesthood members to carry the gospel to the world.
They then met through the winter and early spring of 1833, usually above Newel K. Whitney’s store. It was during the February 27, 1833, meeting, that Joseph Smith received the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89), which thereafter was binding upon members of the school, and eventually the Church.
    Joseph Smith presided and Orson Hyde was the instructor, with enrollment restricted to certain priesthood leaders and never exceeding 25 people. They were initiated through washing of the feet, then reaffirmed their commitment and mutual goodwill by exchanging a formal salutation at the commencement of leach class, which began at sunrise and dismissed in the late afternoon.
    The school ended in April 1833 when spring weather permitted active missionary work to begin and never reconvened. Instead, a series of educational efforts expanded on the original idea and took on additional responsibilities with one of these added areas known as the School of the Prophets (or School of the Elders), which took place in Jackson County, Missouri, during the summer of 1833 and in Kirtland from the Fall of 1834.
    These schools had larger enrollments and taught an expanded curriculum. The Kirtland school was led by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams (the First Presidency) and William E. McLellan, and heard the lectures that were later published in the Doctrine and Covenants. The School was closed in 1836 and did not reconvene until the Church moved west. In 1867 in Salt Lake City Brigham Young reorganized the School of the Prophets in connection with the University of Deseret. The First Presidency presided over a theological class of ecclesiastical officers and selected priesthood holders that served as a forum for the discussion of questions related to the spiritual and temporal concerns of the Church. The class later separated from the University, and branch classes were established in major LDS communities throughout the Intermountain West, with a total enrollment that eventually exceeded 1,000 members.
President Brigham Young dissolved these branches of the Schools of the Prophets late in the summer of 1872 and then reorganized in November of that year a Salt Lake City School of the Prophets for General Authorities and other invited priesthood leaders. Participants numbering more than 200 discussed theology and also temporal concerns. This school helped introduce cooperative enterprises into LDS communities. When United Order organizations were incorporated in the spring and summer of 1874 to facilitate economic cooperation, the Salt Lake City School of the Prophets dissolved and some of its functions were absorbed by local united orders, but President John Taylor reconvened the School of the Prophets in the fall of 1883 and invited Church General Authorities and a select group of other Church leaders to participate. President Taylor followed the ceremonies of the original school, with a branch established in St. George, Utah, in December 1883. These schools probably ceased to operate in early 1884, with no subsequent attempt by the Church to organize further Schools of the Prophets.
    The First Lesson (Lecture First) was on the subject “of Faith,” and referred to as “Faith is the first principal in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness, necessarily claiming the first place in a course of lectures which are designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrines of Jesus Christ.” The lesson was six pages long and in verse form contained 24 verses and was followed by Question and Answer period involving 13 questions and answers asked and given of those present.
    Then followed the Second Lesson (Lecture Second), which covered “The Object of Which Faith Rests.” This lesson was 18 ½ pages long, covering 56 verses and a Q&A of 150 questions and answers, of which the majority had to deal with dates of birth and longevity of the Old Testament Patriarchs, specifically from Adam to Abraham. As lesson verse 34 states: “The reason why we have been this particular on this part of the subject [i.e., the dates of birth of the Patriarchs, their ages and their lineage sons] is that this class may see by what means it was that God became an object of faith among men after the fall,” also “and the evidences which these men had of the existence of a God was the testimony of their fathers in the first place.”
The point being that “Adam thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God.”
    To further understand this, we know that Methuselah was 187 years old when Lamech was born and Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born. Now Lamech, the father of Noah, as well as Methusaleh, Enoch, Jared, Mahalaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth and Adam were all living at the same time—and Adam had walked and talked with God. Put a different way, Adam died in the 930th year of the world, Enoch was translated in the 987th year of the world Seth died in the 1042nd year, Enos in the 1140th year, Cainan in the 1235th year, Mahalaleel in the 1290th year, Jared in the 1422nd year, Lamech in the 1651st year, and Methusaleh in the 1656th year—it being the same year in which the Flood came” (vs 41).
    This means Noah was 84 years old when Enos died, 234 when Mahalaleel died, 366 when Jared died, 595 when Lamech died, and 600 when Methusaleh died which was “the year Noah entered the Ark.”
    We see from these dates in Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price “that Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methusaleh, Lamach, and Noah all lived on the earth at the same time. And that Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Jethusaleh and Lamach were all acquainted with both Adam and Noah. From this it is not only how the knowledge of God came into the world, but upon what principal it was preserved—thus from the time it was first communicated, it was retained in the minds of righteous men, who taught not only their own posterity, but the world” (vs 43,44).
Thus we see that following all these dates down through time we have a complete and unquestionable dating system of the world and the time of the Flood—the latter having begun in Noah’s 600th year in the 1656th year of the world according to the Second Lecture, Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price, providing three witnesses to these dates. Thus the Flood began in 2344 B.C., lasted just over a year, ending in 2343 B.C. when Noah left the Ark—not in 3100 B.C. as the Mesoamerican Popol Vuh states, as Mesoamericanists John L. Sorenson, Alan C. Miner and David A. Palmer, and numerous others claim.
    The point is, this was such an important concept that the Prophet Joseph Smith wanted to get across to the leadership of the early Church, that he never would have used dates and information that was not absolutely accurate, and having translated the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, in which these dates are found, as well as in Genesis of the Old Testament, of which he later went through and corrected information, though not changing any dates or sequences, it seems obvious that this information is absolutely accurate as it is found in the scriptures and was the basis of not only the Second Lecture on Faith, but one of the underpinning concepts of why this information was imperative to be taught in the Second Lesson, which is also shown to be of great importance when 150 questions were asked and discussed regarding it—almost all of the questions dealing with these very dates—to make sure the brethren well understood their correctness and the their impact of showing how all the early Patriarchs knew each other and that the information handed down was known to all at the basic same time and all came from its source—Adam—which they all knew and heard from his lips personally.
    Thus, we can safely understand that those dates, which show the Flood came in 2344 and ended in 2343 B.C. are absolutely, without a doubt, correct!
    Which should also give us an understanding of absolute knowledge as to the other information contained within the scriptural record of which Joseph Smith was involved and we have as our Standard Works. This alone should tell us that all those who try to fudge the record, alter it, change it, correct it, replace it, etc., are doing so not from any inspired point of view, but simply from their own arrogant speculation, believing they know more than did the prophet.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Word of Joseph

Over the past few months we have written several articles regarding the so-called Malay Theory regarding the fallacy of Lehi, and the Jaredites before him, landing on the Malaysia Peninsula and that this area in Indonesia was the Land of Promise of the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. At each article a discussion in the comments section ensued where a defense of the Malay Theory of Lehi’s landing on that Peninsula took place (the last one amount to over a running dialogue between several readers of over 50 comments).    Regardless of the extensive evidence to the contrary and showing without question that Lehi landed in a Land of Promise that was located in the Western Hemisphere, called the Americas, this contrary dialogue has continued.
Despite the fact that Joseph Smith tells us that the Angel Moroni told him the record (gold plates) that he was about to receive contained a record of the people “of this continent” and “from whence they came,” and the record itself clearly states and identifies the location from whence they came as Jerusalem (and the Tower of Babel in the case of the Jaredites), and there that two groups were basically located in the same general area (Land Northward and Land Southward) this dialogue about Lehi’s landing in Malay had continued for months on end. In a recent defense of the Malay Theory, the comment write has rejected Joseph Smith’s statement regarding Moroni’s comment in light of the argument that what is not found in the Book of Mormon directly is to be rejected, quoting our own writing about the need to not stray from the Book of Mormon in our writing about the Land of Promise—which is good advice for any theory about where the principal group (Jaredites, Nephites, Mulekites) landed and lived.
    On the other hand, it has to be acknowledged that the words of the very person who handed over the hidden records of these ancient groups, one angel Moroni, that last of the Nephites prophets, and final writer of the scriptural record, the one who, after writing the closing and final words of the record, hid up the plates and then appeared to Joseph Smith 1500 years later and eventually led him to the hidden records and commanded Joseph to translate the records, should be believable in his statements as to where his people, the Nephites, (from Lehi to Mormon and himself) originated and where they were and where their progenitors lived.
    If Moroni is not to be believed on a par with the record itself (part of which he wrote himself and another part he personally abridged), then what of the claim the record is accurate to begin with? Surely, Moroni’s instructions, explanations and information about the plates, the Nephite history and their origin are as truthful and accurate as the record itself.
Then there is the translator himself, one Joseph Smith, who was assigned by the Lord to do the translation. Surely, what he had to say about the record, the people, and their origin is as truthful and accurate as the record he translated. If it is not, then what is the point of the record being accepted if not the translator of the record being believed?
    So let us take a look at what Joseph Smith tells us about the origin of the people he wrote about—from whence they came and where they landed. After all, if we are going to accept and believe what Joseph Smith translated then we have to accept what he said about the people and their history which he translated. If we reject Joseph’s words, then we must reject what he translated—it is as simple as that. And if we are going to set ourselves above this man who translated the record and claim he was wrong in what he said about the very history he translated, then we are indeed more arrogant and stubbornly resistant to common sense and reality than we ought to be.
So let us turn to the Wentworth Letter, which Joseph Smith personally wrote on March 1, 1842, at the request of Mr. John Wentworth (left), editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, regarding the early history of the Church and Joseph Smith’s involvement. First of all, according to B.H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy: “The letter is one of the choicest documents in our church literature; as also it is the earliest published document by the Prophet personally, making any pretension to consecutive narrative of those events in which the great Latter-day work had its origin…For combining conciseness of statement with comprehensiveness of treatment of the subject with which it deals, it has few equals among historical documents, and certainly none that excel it in our church literature” (History of the Church, pp535–541. The Wentworth Letter was originally published in Nauvoo in the Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, and it also appears in A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:55).
    In this letter, which again is the background of Joseph’s translation work and development of the Book of Mormon and the experiences of the early Church and its members, Joseph wrote regarding the translation itself and the people who originally wrote the scriptural record: “I was informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, government.” He went on to say about the plates: “In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of the languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by the records that America in ancient times had been inhabited by two distinct races of people.
The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before the Savior’s birth. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph” (DHC Vol IV, pp 535-541, as found in Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Third Edition, compiled by Alma P. Burton, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1965).
    As should be clear to anyone, Joseph Smith tells us that both the Jaredites and Lehi landed in the Americas, “this continent,” making their landing in the Western Hemisphere. This is not a debatable issue. In addition, the Book of Mormon tells us “from whence they came,” with the Jaredites coming from Mesopotamia, or the Tower of Babel” (Ether Chapter 1), about, according to the Bible dating, 2100 B.C. (Genesis Chapter 11), and that the Book of Mormon tells us that where Lehi landed and where Nephi traveled to (on foot) after Lehi’s death, was the same area or land where the Nephites spent their entire history.
    Thus, it should be understood that the Jaredites and the Nephites landed in the Western Hemisphere and remained in the same general area for their 1000-year history. At no time in the more than 500 pages of the scriptural record do we find any indication—not a single word—to suggest that they landed anywhere other than the Land of Promise, the Americas, where they spent their entire 1000-year history.
    Joseph Smith said of this: “The inhabitants of this continent anciently were so constituted, and were so determined and persevering, either in righteousness or wickedness, that God visited them immediately, either with great judgment or blessings. But the present generation, if they were going into battle, if they got any assistance from God, they would have to obtain it by faith” (DHC, Vol V, p 390). On page 189, Joseph added: “The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our Western tribes of Indians; having been found through the ministration of an holy angel, and translated into our own language by the gifts and powers of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last fourteen hundred years.”
Joseph Smith, the translator of this record, who knew and understood the Nephites and their origin and history far more than any man, tells us they landed on this continent, in the Americas, and that is where the entire record unfolds—the Book of Mormon tells us Lehi came from Jerusalem, so they left Jerusalem and sailed directly to and landed in the Western Hemisphere.
    This should set to rest and end any ill-founded speculation regarding theories that do not center within the Western Hemisphere. For anyone to continue to champion Malay, Africa, or anywhere else other than the Americas is simply burying their heads in the sane and ignoring the truth surrounding this landing issue. In order to continue to tout Malay, one has to ignore that obvious truth of the fact that the very person who translated the record has told us in no uncertain terms that Lehi and the Jaredites before him landed in the Americas! Period! End of Discussion!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How Theories Get Started – Part III

-->Continuing from the previous post regarding how theories get started despite the facts surrounding a theory so often show just the opposite of what the theorists is trying to claim. As mentioned in the previous post, the theory of the Great Lakes being the Land of Promise runs into trouble immediately with Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy, as well as the theory of Central America being the Land of Promise runs into trouble regarding the Darien Gap. Here we have two other theories, regarding Malay and Africa, that run into trouble with what the Angel Moroni announced to Joseph Smith.
The Jaredites leaving Babylon on their trek to the seashore, which they would call Moriancumer

In addition, Apostle Mark E. Peterson in a talk entitled “The Angel Moroni Came!” in October 1983 General Conference, stated in part, “…including the account of still an earlier people, the Jaredites, who came to this continent from the Tower of Babel” This continent. Not the Asian continent as in the Malay Peninsula! Not the African continent, as in the Somalia-Comoros area! But this, i.e., the American continent!
    In addition, Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, told that over a four-year period “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode” (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, first ed., Liverpool: Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards, Liverpool, 1853, pp84–85; emphasis added). 
    Once again, this continent refers to the continent of the Americas prior to when the U.S. government began demanding that North America be separated from South America in name terminology sometime prior to the Second World War.
A map created and Published in St. Dié (near Strasbourg) France, in 1507, which was labeled: Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru que lustrationes (The Universal Cosmography according to the Tradition of Ptolemy and the Discoveries of Amerigo Vespucci and others), its current repository is Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.

Dating to April 25, 1507, this first map showing the name “America," was created by the renowned world map maker of the time, Martin Waldseemüller, which was to document and update new geographic knowledge derived from the discoveries of the late fifteenth and the first years of the sixteenth centuries, and included data gathered during Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages of 1501–1502 to the New World—Waldseemüller’s map supported Vespucci’s revolutionary concept by portraying the New World as a separate continent, with the Pacific as a separate ocean, and represented a huge leap forward in knowledge, recognizing the newly found American landmass and forever changing the European understanding of a world divided into only three parts—Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Schöner’s 1515 map of America re-drawn on an equirectangular projection and on the same uniform scale as that of Waldseemüller of 1507 (E.G. Ravenstein, Martin Behaim: His Life and His Globe, London, George Philip & Son, 1908, p36)

The problem with some people is their lack of understanding of correct terminology of North and South America. Currently there are many different continental models. In the United States, the model that is used and taught in schools is the 7 continent model (North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, Antarctica), which divides North and South America into two different continents; however, in many other parts of the world and most of Latin America, the continental model is of only 6 continents (America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, Antarctica) with the Americas as one single continent, with North, South and Central America simply the names of the regions within the continents. 
    In fact, while it might seem surprising to find North and South America still joined into a single continent in a book published in the United States in 1937, such a notion remained fairly common until World War II, which is when the U.S. began calling North and South America separate—which was coincidental, of course, with the idea that American geopolitical designs at the time, which sought both Western Hemispheric domination and disengagement from the "Old World" continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, by the 1950s, virtually all American geographers had come to insist that the visually distinct landmasses of North and South America deserved separate designations. This was also the period when Antarctica was added to the list, despite its lack of human inhabitants, and when Oceania as a "great division" was replaced by Australia as a continent along with a series of isolated and continentally attached islands. The resulting seven-continent system quickly gained acceptance throughout the United States.
However, even today, it is still considered one continent in such areas as France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Greece as well as much of Africa, all of Mexico and the countries of Latin America (“The Continents of the World,” Retrieved September 2, 2016. Africa, the Americas, Antarctica, Asia, Australia together with Oceania, and Europe are considered to be Continents; “Map and Details of All 7 Continents,” Retrieved September 2, 2016. In some parts of the world students are taught that there are only six continents, as they combine North America and South America into one continent called the Americas).
    The point of all of this, and an extensive explanation has been given, that there is absolutely no question that in the minds of those in North America at the time and in the U.S. specifically, the Americas (both North and South America) were considered a single continent when Moroni visited Joseph Smith on the night of September 21, 1823 and told him that “there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang” (Joseph Smith History 1:34, emphasis added). 
    This statement tells us that the “former inhabitants” were on the American continent (Western Hemisphere), and the writing of Nephi tells us “the source from whence they sprang,” i.e., Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4) and was, as this story begins, living “at his own house at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 7), which, without question, tells us “from whence they sprang,” i.e., Jerusalem.
    So there is no possibility, as Malay theorists claim, that Lehi left Jerusalem, sailed to Malay, then later sailed to the Land of Promise or to the Western Hemisphere, since Moroni tells us the book is about the people of “this continent.”
    Yet, the theory of Malay persists.
    As one theorist claims: “My approach in doing this research has been to focus primarily on the text itself. Sometimes we may start off with certain biases. For example, we may want to create a geographical model that fits with certain statements made by the prophet Joseph Smith. Or, we may try to make our model fit with known locations of ancient Mayan or Olmec cities. My feeling is that these biases can lead us off course. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to keep our minds open to all possibilities and focus on the text of the Book of Mormon itself.”
It is too bad most theorists do not do that in focusing on the descriptions Mormon left us.
Turning bits and pieces into an idea, an idea into a belief, a belief into a Theory

Yet, what starts as a singular belief, whether about the Great Lakes, Heartland, North America, Central America, Mesoamerica, etc., or about Malay, Africa, Baja, Florida or anywhere else, a short time ago has built into a full-blown Theory with all these different views, despite each being contrary to the scriptural record, its introduction, or the various supportive statements of Church Leaders throughout the time from Joseph Smith to now. That a singular statement may appear to match a singular idea is not the same as having all the information available to us, specifically in the scriptural record, as well as elsewhere, match the area being claims.
    Unfortunately, once an idea is introduced, even though it violates numerous scriptural references and statements, it quickly builds into a "fact"  based on uninformed "believers" repeating it, and soon becomes a Theory and then acquires a life of its own despite the lack of any overall and all-encompassing connection to the actual scriptural record and descriptions Mormon and others left us.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How Theories Get Started – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding how theories get started despite the facts surrounding a theory so often show just the opposite of what the theorists are trying to claim. As mentioned in the previous post, the theory of the Great Lakes being the Land of Promise runs into trouble immediately with Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy that the Lord put in his heart for him to teach the Nephites in Zarahemla, and then later the Lamanites when he returned home.     From the last post statement regarding geological terms, and the quote began, which also states:
“Two million years ago, the snow and ice that had been accumulating in monstrous quantities in the northern hemisphere became, in some places, two miles thick; the tremendous pressure of its weight caused the ice to flow, forming a massive continental ice sheet. During the Ice Age, glaciers invaded all but a small area of New York state.”
In fact, regarding the Great Lakes, glacial lake plains are generally flat, such as the Erie, Ontario, and Huron Plains that border Lake Erie from Buffalo, New York, to Cleveland in Ohio. This lack of topography results from silt and clays filling in the lake’s deep beds and the shallow parts having their edges reduced to slopes.
    As an example, the Erie Plain consists largely of sediment laid down by a series of proglacial lakes that existed between 25,000 and 11,700 years ago and has remained as such ever since as can be seen today, and were created by glaciers of the Wisconsin glaciation or last ice age. The plain was covered by the waters of several glacial lakes that once occupied the Lake Erie basin, with the sediments deposited in these lakes from the surface material of the plain forming the glaciolacustrine deposits consisting largely of interlaminated clay, silt, and fine sand that overlie glacial till.
    Continuing with the Western Museum and Science Center article: “Due to long-term temperature changes, the southern edge of this glacier retreated and advanced several times, scraping, pushing and dragging huge volumes of rock and soil. Stream valleys deepened; others filled with glacial debris. Colossal boulders were picked up and deposited many miles away. Glacial runoff streams deposited piles of smaller, sorted sentiments like sand and gravel.
Map shows when the retreating ice margins (white area) were well to the south of Lansing, the land sloped away from the ice, and thus water was not ponded in front of it, causing meltwater streams to form, washing sediment out, away from the ice.  The sand and gravel, which these streams could not carry, was laid down as outwash (green area), in broad, flat outwash plains; the original advancing Ice Lobes seeking out the lowest preexisting spots on the landscape, are shown by number: 1-Superior; 2-Chippewa; 3-Green Bay; 4-Michigan; 5-Saginaw; 6-Huron-Erie; thus showing the entire area was mostly flat plain as it still is today

“Mounds of glacial debris called drumlins have a characteristic steep north slope and gentle south slope, and are common in the northern Finger Lakes region. Eskers, kames and kettle holes are other glacial formations that can be explored and studied at Mendon Ponds Park in southeastern Monroe County.
    “Western New York's sparkling lakes, drumlin hills, deep gorges, raging waterfalls and broad fertile valleys owe their beauty to these geologic beginnings. The preglacial Genesee River once had two branches that converged in Livingston County and flowed north to join the east-west flowing Ontarian River, whose valley eventually became the Lake Ontario basin.
“As the Ice Age waned and the glacier retreated, great piles of rock and soil, called moraines, dammed the southern ends of many valleys. Vast amounts of water poured off the melting glacier and collected in these valleys, forming, among others, Western New York's beautiful appendage-like Finger Lakes. Twelve thousand years ago, the Genesee River's northward trek was blocked by the Valley Heads moraine near Portageville, Allegany County, and forced over the rocky Letchworth Plateau, beginning an erosional process that would create the two gorges and broad valley now found in Letchworth State Park. The Rochester gorge and waterfall had similar beginnings” (Western New York, “The Land Before Time,” Genesee Country Magazine, Rochester Museum and Science Center).
    The point is, all this weight of ice and glaciers and the scraping as it receded, left the entire area thousands of square miles making up the area proposed to be the Land of Promise, very flat, with a few hills, called drumlins, of which the hill Cumorah is one, that rise barely a hundred feet pock-marking the landscape. If the people who claim and write about western New York being the Land of Promise would be honest with this, they would see it is impossible to justify this area as the Land of Promise since it simply does not fit even this brief description of the land Mormon so clearly describes.
Go in any direction from the Lake Erie-Lake Ontario area, traveling into New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc., the so-called Nephite and Lamanite lands of this theory and you see not mountains, “Whose height is great, but flat land as far as the eye can see

Not only is this land extremely flat now, with a gentle slope toward the lakes, but it was always such dating back to the first ice lobes that flowed into it because of its flatness. There were no mountains of any kind before the crucifixion, and none since.
    Yet, this Theory persists!
    In another example, Joseph Smith never stated exactly where The Book of Mormon took place, however, they all believed that The Book of Mormon took place over all, or at least part, of the Western Hemisphere so any and all Indian cultures in North and South America (the Hemispheric geography theory), were Book of Mormon peoples. In fact, all the statements made in Joseph Smith’s lifetime are consistently located all over the Western Hemisphere, and not secluded to one area over the other. On the other hand, none were even considered to be outside the Western Hemisphere. Throughout the history of the Presidential and General Authority comments about the subject, not a single one can be found that suggested Lehi landed outside the Western Hemisphere, such as in Africa or Malay (Indonesia). 
    In this and the last century numerous leaders and prophets have made it crystal clear that this Western Hemisphere is the North and South American continents, and that this is the (overall) Land of Promise of the Book of Mormon. In fact, according to Tyler Livingston’s research, between 1830 and 1844, of the 37 comments made by Joseph Smith concerning Book of Mormon geography throughout his life, all support a Western Hemispheric setting. Not only that, but he allowed several opinions of North, South, Central, and Hemispheric geography of The Book of Mormon to be published, taught, and re-published without any correction. The provided facts show that 14 dealt with Mesoamerica, 12 with North America, 1 with South America, and 10 with Hemispheric America (both North and South America).
    In fact, Livingston concludes with “the evidence points in the direction that Joseph Smith did not know the exact area of The Book of Mormon. And just like today, both the Prophet , and the Saints were allowed to speculate on these locations without any correction.
In addition, Moroni, when telling Joseph Smith of the plates, told him “there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants” (Joseph Smith History 1:34, found on the Church website,
(See the next post, “How Theories Get Started – Part III,” to see how theories become entrenched in our daily thinking without their necessarily being consistent with the scriptural record, but simply someone’s personal and speculative viewpoint)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

How Theories Get Started – Part I

It is always interesting to see how theories get started and then build and sometimes grow into uncontrollable ideas like a forest fire sweeping across the hills. Often there is no rhyme or reason for the theory in the first place, but for some reason, the glaring knowledge of why it could not be possible is ignored and shoved aside with hopes no one will discover that knowledge—or the researchers or writers are just too lazy to do their due diligence to see if the idea could possibly fit the facts and reality.
Take Orson Pratt's theory of Lehi landing just south of Panamaas he stated: “For some who read the Book of Mormon, with maps of the Western Hemisphere in view, the Isthmus of Panama seems an easy fit for the Book of Mormon’s “narrow neck of land” [and the] “running battle,” culminating in the destruction of the Nephite nation, started at “the Isthmus of Darien” (Panama) and “ended at Manchester” (western New York).” He never attributed his beliefs to Joseph Smith or inspiration or anything other than his opinion, yet the theory grew in shape and size over the following years.
    While persisting for some time, the eventual modern theorists began to narrow that scope somewhat. As one recent theorist claims: “I could have started off by studying existing research, but I deliberately avoided doing so, because I wanted to come to my own conclusions without being influenced by other people’s ideas.” Trouble is, he should have done some research, for he places the city and Land of Bountiful right in the middle of the Darien Gap rainforest jungle, an area almost impossible to pass through, let alone build in. He also states: “Mapping the events in the Book of Mormon does involve a lot of guesswork. But we can figure out quite a lot through a process of deductive reasoning.”
    The problem is, no amount of deductive reasoning is going to change five all-important and critical facts:
1. The area where Panama and Colombia join, where the Isthmus of Panama joins South America, is the most difficult, dangerous, and impassable rain-forest jungle known anywhere in the world, called the Darien Gap;
2. This Gap is about 100 miles across and 60-80 miles long, is uninhabited, and has been a block of modern advancement in the area since the Spanish first arrived in 1501;
Pan American highway ends at Yaviza with such jungle between Yavisa and Columbia that the only way to get to Columbia is by boat or airplane

3. The Pan-American Highway, which covers about 19,000 miles, stretching from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuala, Argentine (Tierra del Fuego) at the tip of South America, connecting 21 different countries, has never been built through this Darien Gap—with early highway builders between 1923 and 1950 finding no way to bridge this jungle, and modern technology unable to close the Gap, thus leaving the Central America and South America disconnected;
4. The Gap is not inhabitable, modern-equipped groups with the latest equipment cannot find a way to get through it, with no roads and most travel accomplished by river boats riding the strong flowing currents;
5. During the six-month rainy season the Gap is completely flooded; the heat, humidity and plant life destroying anything in its path the other six months of the year; and rivers keep travel even on the fringes down to a minimum.
In this day and age it is difficult to imagine that there is a place on Earth where a road cannot be built, where transportation of any kind is not possible, and where even foot traffic does not exist for passage from one end to the other

Battling this Gap, more than 2,000 Scottish colonists perished from malaria and starvation in the last decade of the 17th century, and in 1854 numerous explorers died from disease and exposure on a U.S. Navy survey expedition, stopping plans for a grand canal project through the isthmus.
    While explorers and adventurers occasionally brave the outer fringe regions of the Gap and its wall of dark, unruly jungle, few go into the Gap, though some have tried to brave defeat the jungle, but the area is strewn with failure after failure, especially where off-road vehicles were attempted and left behind to rot because of their inability to make it through.
Today, not even the most experienced adventurers would consider going into the Gap without GPS, compass, decent maps, spot locator, sat phone, good field tested equipment and first aid kit. A few 4-wheel vehicles have tried the journey, and even a motorcycle or two, but few have ever made it through this area called this 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest the most dangerous jungle in the World. The first vehicular crossing was achieved in 1960 by a Jeep and Land Rover expedition, averaging  about one mile per hour over 136 days. 
Even motorcycling through was nearly impossible as numerous adventurers learned. For if the natural barriers don’t stop you, or the mud and impassable terrain, trying to float your bike downriver, typically results in being rescued by someone with a boat to pull you out

It would be impossible for modern technology to build a city that could keep the jungle from encroaching and overrunning it, let alone the Nephites building a city of Bountiful and others in the area around the time of Christ which this theory claims.

 The Darien Gap is a remote, roadless swath of jungle on the border of Panama and Colombia, largely untouched by the modern world, and is one of the least visited places on the planet
Yet, this theory persists!
    The same can be said for the Great Lakes Theory, for example. Despite the fact that the Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith obtained the plates, not much else about the area in Western New York fits the reality of Mormon’s extensive descriptions of the Land of Promise. As we have mentioned many times, the one simple point about no mountains being anywhere in the entire area of New York that would qualify for Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy, which the Lord put in his heart to say to the Nephites of Zarahemla, regarding that at the time of the Savior’s death there would be valleys that would turn into mountains “whose height is great,” is simply ignored by all these Great Lakes theorists as though it was never said, even though the Lord, himself, said it was to be an example of his power and existence that could not be denied (Helaman 14:23).
    It is not just that mountains would rise, “whose height is great” that do not exist anywhere in the entire proposed Land of Promise, we also learn that there were mountains already in existence in the Land of Promise that would disappear, “mountains tumbling into pieces” as Nephite tells us (1Nephi 12:4) and becoming valleys: “there shall be many valleys laid low, like unto a valley” (Helaman 14:23). Now the interesting point of this regarding the Great Lakes area, and if you have not driven through western New York, you ought to do so because this problem is really borne out, and that is there never have been mountains in this area. In fact, as stated in geological terms as found in the Western NY Genesee County Magazine, and the Western Museum and Science Center: “The abundance of fossilized corals in some regional rock formations confirms that most of Western New York was once covered by a warm, shallow sea. Abundant corals and shelled animals were the basis of sedimentary rock, the bedrock that lies beneath the region's pastoral scenes.”
(See the next post, “How Theories Get Started – Part II,” to see how theories become entrenched in our daily thinking without their necessarily being consistent with the scriptural record, but simply someone’s personal and speculative viewpoint)