long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

50 years ago - lands of promise

Discussions about Book of Mormon geography sometimes involve the question of where Lehi's "land of promise" was. That's a valid question that people can reach different conclusions about. 

The key point for us today is that wherever Lehi's land of promise was located, in our day, the land of promise for everyone on Earth is the place where they already live. The idea of one "land of promise" changed 50 years ago.

Unlike in Orwell's Animal Farm, where some were "more equal" than others, no land today is more of a land of promise than anywhere else.


The New Testament says Abraham "sojourned in the land of promise." (Hebrews 11:9)

Lehi sought and obtained a different "land of promise." For me, it seems obvious that the "land of promise" for Lehi was eastern North America, but I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. 

The Jaredites were brought to "a land of promise" as well. (Ether 2:9) People debate whether that was the same as Lehi's land, but again, it seems obvious from Moroni's account. 

"And now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country." (Ether 1:1) Where is "this north country" to which Moroni referred?

Moroni himself told Joseph Smith directly that the record was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home near Palmyra. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/69

This is simple, clear, and unambiguous. "as plain as word can be." 

The reality that many people have reinterpreted these passages to mean something else does not change what we can all read. But that's all fine.


The phrase "land of promise" occurs with this frequency in the scriptures:

OT (0) NT (1) BM (22) DC (3) PGP (1) [Jonathan Edwards used the phrase 15 times]

The phrase "promised land" occurs with this frequency:

OT (0) NT (0) BM (21) DC (0) PGP (0) JE (31)

The phrase "lands of promise" occurs only in the Book of Mormon (twice).

The significance of the phrase "lands of promise" became apparent 50 years ago when President Harold B. Lee gave one of the longest General Conference talks in recent times. 

In it, he endorsed the principle that the land of promise in our day is the area where we live. In our day, there is no need for Latter-day Saints to gather to any particular area. Instead, every part of the planet is a land of promise.

This is an important principle for everyone to remember so we don't think one "land of promise" is better than another "land of promise."


We have also been promised by the Lord: “Behold, and lo, I will take care of your flocks, and will raise up elders and send unto them. Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.” (D&C 88:72–73.)

Today we are witnessing the demonstration of the Lord’s hand even in the midst of his saints, the members of the Church. Never in this dispensation, and perhaps never before in any single period, has there been such a feeling of urgency among the members of this church as today. Her boundaries are being enlarged, her stakes are being strengthened. In the early years of the Church specific places to which the Saints were to be gathered together were given, and the Lord directed that these gathering places should not be changed, but then he gave one qualification: “Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.” (D&C 101:21.)

At the Mexico City Area Conference last August, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve, in a thought-provoking address, made some comments pertinent to this subject, and I quote a few sentences from his address:

“Of this glorious day of restoration and gathering, another Nephite prophet said: ‘The Lord … has covenanted with all the house of Israel,’ that ‘the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God’; and that ‘they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.’ (2 Ne. 9:1–2.)

“Now I call your attention to the facts, set forth in these scriptures, that the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church; of coming to a knowledge of the true God and of his saving truths; and of worshiping him in the congregations of the Saints in all nations and among all peoples. Please note that these revealed words speak of the folds of the Lord; of Israel being gathered to the lands of their inheritance; of Israel being established in all their lands of promise; and of there being congregations of the covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again.”

Elder McConkie then concluded with this statement, which certainly emphasizes the great need for the teaching and training of local leadership in order to build up the church within their own native countries:

“The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”

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