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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Kirk Magleby, Jonathan Edwards, and isles of the sea

It has been brought to my attention that my friend Kirk Magleby, "Chief Evangelist" of Book of Mormon and Scripture Central and therefore a devout M2Cer, posted an explanation of how the scriptures support his assumption that the Lehites sailed east from the Arabian peninsula to the west coast of Central America. (M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.)


It's always great to see people working on the scriptures, so post this interested me. This is a long post that probably few will read, but it was useful for me to assess Kirk's claims in detail. I wish we could collaborate on this type of work, but I've been pushing on that string for many years now, to no avail. 

Kirk's post is a thoughtful analysis of verses from the Book of Mormon. It's a good example of how everyone can read the identical scriptures and yet come away with different interpretations because of assumptions, inferences, theories, etc. Yet Kirk's approach looks outcome-driven to me because he skips over relevant passages.

As I read the same verses, I reach a much different conclusion than Kirk does. 

Hopefully it's also a good example of how a friendly discussion over differences of opinion can help enlighten readers by giving them alternatives to think about, without aiming at any particular conclusion. We seek to enable and facilitate the formation of informed opinions and decisions.

My comments are made in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. 

Clarity means looking at the actual scriptures and related context.
Charity means assuming everyone acts in good faith, sincerity, etc.
Understanding means seeking to understand Kirk's points, while also understanding alternative interpretations, all with the objective of helping people make informed decisions without seeking to persuade, compel, coerce, convince, or convert anyone.

IOW, this is another example of nomorecontention.com and a case of multiple working hypotheses.

Kirk's original post in blue, my comments in red, quotations from original sources in green.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Lehites Sailed East

Noe Correa, a brilliant Scripture Central colleague, shared this insightful exegesis with me today. I thought about it for several hours, and am convinced Noe's conclusion is correct. 

Naturally Kirk is convinced because Correa's interpretation confirms Kirk's bias for M2C. Others looking at the identical scriptures reach a different conclusion. We'll look at the series of assumptions, inferences, and theories that lead to both Kirk's and alternative hypotheses (the FAITH model).

When the Lehites left their Bountiful harbor in modern-day Oman, they sailed east toward India, Indonesia, and the Philippines before crossing the Pacific and landing on the west coast of Mexico or Guatemala.

Clarity: Kirk states this as a fact, not an assumption, inference, theory, hypothesis, etc. While it may be good persuasion technique to state a theory as a fact, Kirk simply (i) assumes they arrived on the west coast of Central America and then (ii) assumes they arrived there by sailing east and across the Pacific. 

As we'll see, Kirk confirms his bias by assuming that the phrase "those who are in the east" in 1 Nephi 21:13 (i) was added by Nephi when he quoted Isaiah, (ii) that Nephi applied that phrase to his own people, and (iii) that Nephi reached this conclusion because he sailed east from the Arabian peninsula.

Charity and understanding: We assume Noe and Kirk are acting in good faith. We want to understand their beliefs, not persuade anyone that they are right or wrong.

Let's try to understand his reasoning and compare it to other working hypotheses.

Likely Route of Lehite Voyage 
Likely Route of Lehite Voyage 

Clarity: Now it's only a "likely route," which is better, but because he still ignores alternatives,* we have no way to assess the relative likelihood of Kirk's conclusion.

Clarity: Kirk's concept is the one RLDS scholar L.E. Hills proposed in his 1923 map, which built on his 1917 map. This was a departure of the speculative belief that Lehi landed in Chile, which Orson Pratt even included in his footnotes in the 1879 LDS edition of the Book of Mormon. Those footnotes were deleted in the 1920 LDS edition. 

Map by L.E. Hills, 1923

Up to this point, our single clue in the text of the Book of Mormon that pointed to a Lehite landfall on the Pacific coast of the Americas was Alma 22:28 that says the place of the Lamanites' fathers' first inheritance (aka land of their first inheritance Mosiah 10:13) was bordering the seashore on the west in the land of Nephi. 

Clarity: The "aka" is a giveaway that this is another unstated assumption. It's interesting that Kirk describes this as "our single clue" because the clue consists of another unstated assumption. Anyone can read the actual verse and see it doesn't say or imply "Pacific" or even "west coast."

28 Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.
(Alma 22:28)

To understand why, picture any island. The north and south coasts both have an east and a west side. The east and west coasts both have a north and a south side. Someone living "on the west" of the island could be living along the southern, western, or northern coast. For example, Havana is "on the west" of Cuba, and it borders along the seashore, but it is on the northern coast. 

IOW, if we take the text of Alma 22:28 as a fact, we see it could describe a variety of settings. To interpret the text, we apply our assumptions and inferences. In this case, Kirk assumes a Central American setting, so he interprets the verse to mean the west coast of Central America. That's a plausible interpretation, given his assumption, but it's not driven by the text itself.

Everyone who has proposed a setting for the Book of Mormon interprets Alma 22:28 according to their assumptions. Lots of other interpretations are feasible. For example, I assume a North American setting, so I interpret the verse to refer to the west part of the Land of Nephi along the south coast; i.e., roughly the panhandle of Florida to the Mississippi River. Again, an assumption that satisfies the text. 

Almost all Mesoamerican geographers locate the land of Nephi in highland Guatemala, so west by the seashore would be in the general vicinity of Izapa near the mouth of the Suchiate River which is the boundary between modern Mexico and Guatemala.

Kirk's theoretical landing spot

Clarity: "Almost all" is a dual logical fallacy, combining the Appeal to Authority (Mesoamerican geographers) with an Argumentum ad Populumn, which presumes a proposition must be true because most/many believe it to be true. We would normally dismiss arguments based on these fallacies, but let's unpack this one a little. 

Clarity: By "Mesoamerican geographers" Kirk means M2C believers, because outside of the M2C bubble, exactly zero "Mesoamerican geographers" locate the land of Nephi anywhere in Mesoamerica. Within the M2C bubble, there are different assumptions and interpretations. Because Kirk doesn't acknowledge or identify those who are not among the "almost all" group of M2Cers, we can't compare their ideas with Kirk's to see which are more plausible. 

Clarity: Here we see the pure assumption that is critical to Kirk's worldview. He first assumes that the land of Nephi is in Guatemala. Then he assumes that "west by the seashore" (a non-textual term) means the Pacific coast. But as we saw with the island example, the text does not state or imply that there is a west coast. A west coast is merely one of several interpretations.  

So far, all Kirk is doing is explaining that his assumptions--not the text, but his assumptions--lead to his overall hypothesis. Which is fine, of course. It's axiomatic that his assumptions, inferences, and theories lead to his M2C hypothesis. 

The same is true of everyone's interpretations of the text. We find affinity to an interpretation based on our own assumptions, inferences, etc.

Noe now adds a second confirming data point. 

Clarity: Noe's point is not "data" but another series of assumptions that corroborate (but don't confirm) Kirk's own assumptions. 

Charity and understanding: Again, we charitably assume Noe and Kirk are acting in good faith. We seek clarity because we want to understand their beliefs and not to persuade anyone that they are right or wrong.

His [Noe's] logic is:
1. Nephi quoting Zenos says the Lord in the last days will remember and gather Israel from the isles of the sea and the four quarters of the earth. 1 Nephi 19:16. 


Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth. (1 Nephi 19:16)

Jacob explicitly says the Nephites were upon an isle of the sea. 2 Nephi 10:20-21. 


nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea. (2 Nephi 10:20)

The Lord also refers to the posterity of Lehi on an island 2 Nephi 29:11 in one of the quarters of the earth. 


11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

Clarity: the verse refers to "all men." It doesn't mention the posterity of Lehi by name, but we can reasonably infer that the posterity of Lehi are included among those in the islands of the sea. 

But notice Kirk's assumption that the verse puts Lehi's "island... in one of the quarters of the earth."

Instead of putting the island "in one of the quarters of the earth" as Kirk claims, the verse separates and distinguishes the "islands from the sea" from the four quarters of the earth.

Zenos did likewise in the verse above, separating "the isles of the sea" from "the four quarters of the earth." 

This is an important point because as a Biblical phrase "four quarters of the earth" refers to the "Eastern continent" known to Biblical authors, who were unaware of the "Western continent." By separating the "islands of the sea" from the four quarters and from the "east, west, north, and south," these two passages suggest that "islands of the sea" refers to the "Western continent" unknown to Biblical authors. 

Obviously, that's an assumption. People can compare that assumption with Kirk's assumption that Lehi's island is in one of the (unspecified) quarters of the earth.

Another passage distinguishes the two concepts, distinguishing "the isles of the sea" from "the four parts of the earth."

8 And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance. (2 Nephi 10:8)

This brings up an interesting point about the usage of the term "isles."

The 1808 collection of the works of Jonathan Edwards, which was on sale at least from 1818-1823 in the Palmyra bookstore Joseph Smith frequented, included this famous passage in which Edwards interprets Isaiah to be referring to America:

And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America. 

'Tis signified that it shall begin in some very remote part of the world, that the rest of the world have no communication with but by navigation, in Isaiah 60:9, "Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring my sons from far." 

It is exceeding manifest that this chapter is a prophecy of the prosperity of the church, in its most glorious state on earth in the latter days; and I can't think that anything else can be here intended but America by "the isles that are far off," [see Isa. 66:19] from whence the firstborn sons of that glorious day shall be brought. ...

And if we may suppose that this glorious work of God shall begin in any part of America, I think, if we consider the circumstances of the settlement of New England, it must needs appear the most likely of all American colonies, to be the place whence this work shall principally take its rise.

And if these things are so, it gives us more abundant reasons to hope that what is now seen in America, and especially in New England, may prove the dawn of that glorious day: and the very uncommon and wonderful circumstances and events of this work, seem to me strongly to argue that God intends it as the beginning or forerunner of something vastly great. 

Edwards' interpretation corroborates the distinction the Book of Mormon makes between the "isles of the sea" (the New World) on one hand and, on the other hand, the "four quarters of the earth," the "four parts of the earth," and the "east, west, north and south" (the Old World).

That Edwards also anticipated that the glorious work of God in the latter days (i.e., the Restoration) would begin in New England is a topic for another post, but here we note that New England consists of six states in the Northeastern United States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Joseph Smith was born in Vermont and his ancestors lived in Massachusetts. Joseph explained that the Restoration started when he was about the age of six when he was living in Vermont. He had life-threatening leg surgery that led him to become a religious seeker, which in turn led to ensuing events of the Restoration.

Like other Latter-day Saints, I have noticed the influence of Jonathan Edwards on the non-biblical language in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and Joseph Smith's personal writings. My "nonbiblical intertextual database" of Book of Mormon words and phrases is available on Kindle. A summary/overview is here:

An early draft version of the NID is here:

Back to Kirk's post.

2. Nephi reiterates the prophecy that the children of Israel will be gathered from the four quarters of the earth. 1 Nephi 22:25.

And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; (1 Nephi 22:25)

This passage alludes to the biblical "four quarters" framework of the Old World in Revelation 20:4 (the only biblical passage that uses the phrase "four quarters of the earth") and blends other biblical passages. Because of the biblical framework, we would not expect this passage to mention "isles of the sea" and it doesn't.

Bible: 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. (Revelation 20:7–8)

Book of Mormon: 25 And he gathereth his children (John 11:52) from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him (John 10:4, 14); and there shall be one fold and one shepherd (John 10:16); and he shall feed his sheep (John 21: 16,7), and in him they shall find pasture (John 10:9).
26 And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; (1 Nephi 22:25–26)

This is similar to the way 2 Nephi 21:9 uses the biblical phrase "four corners of the earth" in language identical to Isaiah 11:12 (see also Revelation 7:1), with no mention of the "isles of the sea." 

3. In 1 Nephi 21:8 Nephi quotes Isaiah 49:8, but as part of his "likening" Isaiah to his people (see 1 Nephi 19:23), Nephi adds the phrase "O isles of the sea" which explicitly makes the Lord's words in the Isaiah passage refer to the Nephites.

Clarity: here is the full verse.

Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; (1 Nephi 21:8)

Clarity: Kirk assumes that Nephi inserted the phrase instead of simply quoting the original ancient version of Isaiah. As we saw from Jonathan Edwards, Isaiah spoke of the isles of the sea. In fact, the first verse of this chapter, in both Isaiah and 1 Nephi, addresses the isles specifically:

Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. (Isaiah 49:1)

Nephi's version has an additional sentence at the beginning, but otherwise quotes Isaiah exactly. 

And again: Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far; the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. (1 Nephi 21:1)

Because the chapter starts out by addressing the isles, Nephi had no need to interject another reference to the isles. That leads me to infer the passage was in the original Isaiah.

Regardless of whether the extra passage in verse 8 came from Nephi or Isaiah, the passage does not refer to the Nephites explicitly or exclusively, as Nephi explains in the next chapter.

4 And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away. (1 Nephi 22:4) 

Jacob also points out that other tribes also live on the isles of the sea.
21 But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren. (2 Nephi 10:21)

We see that Isaiah was not referring only to the Nephites but to "the more part of all the tribes," and we don't know where the other tribes are any more than Nephi and Jacob did. Except we know they are not in the Old World because of the way the "isles of the sea" are separated from the "four quarters of the earth," etc. That's why Jonathan Edwards' explanation still makes sense today. 

4. Nephi, still quoting Isaiah, says the house of Israel will be gathered from the north, the west, and the land of Sinim. 1 Nephi 21:12. The earliest text we have of Isaiah is the great Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and rather than "Sinim" it says "Syene" which is Aswan in southern Egypt. 

Clarity: Here's the passage:

And then, O house of Israel, behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. (1 Nephi 21:12)

First, we note that Kirk claims the term in the Book of Mormon is incorrect.

We briefly digress to note that because the Book of Mormon uses the term "Sinim," it must be the correct term if Joseph read words off a stone in the hat (SITH); i.e., the stone would have supplied the term "Sinim" and those who believe in SITH necessarily believe the words that appeared on the stone were correct. 

Or, if Joseph was translating the engravings on the plates "after the manner of his language" (D&C 1:24) as I believe, he would have used the KJV terminology he was familiar with, which Kirk implicitly claims when he says the term in the Book of Mormon is incorrect.

Bible scholars have been divided on the meaning of Sinim, and most infer it means a distant land, presumably China.  

The name occurs in Isaiah's prophecy of the return of the people from distant lands: "Lo, these shall come from far; and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim" (Isaiah 49:12). The land is clearly far off, and it must be sought either in the South or in the East. Septuagint points to an eastern country. Many scholars have favored identification with China, the classical Sinae. It seems improbable that Jews had already found their way to China; but from very early times trade relations were established with the Far East by way of Arabia and the Persian Gulf; and the name may have been used by the prophet simply as suggesting extreme remoteness. Against, this view are Dillmann (Commentary on Isaiah), Duhm, Cheyne and others. Some have suggested places in the South: e.g. Sin (Pelusium, Ezekiel 30:15) and Syene (Cheyne, Introduction to Isa, 275). But these seem to be too near. In harmony with his reconstruction of Biblical history, Cheyne finally concludes that the reference here is to the return from a captivity in North Arabia (EB, under the word). While no certain decision is possible, probability points to the East, and China cannot be quite ruled out.

Obviously, if the Book of Mormon is correct and the passage refers to somewhere in the East, then Kirk's assumption doesn't work. 

If the passage refers to Aswan, as Kirk and many commentators suggest, it wouldn't seem to qualify as "from far" as explained above. Aswan is only about 1/3 the distance from Jerusalem compared to the coast of Oman, for example. But anything's possible. 

As far back as 1669, the Christian theologian Increase Mather disagreed with the China interpretation, favoring the idea that it signifies the south, which corroborates Kirk's interpretation.

Some think that the Tartars are the ten Tribes: But ... others upon better grounds affirm the contrary, that the Tartars are not the progeny of the ten Tribes, yet many Israelites there are scattered amongst them. And many of them are in China. Hence some learned ... men are of opinion, that by the Land of Sinim, Isa, 49.12. is meant China. But although I think not so, for Sinim there may well be interpreted (according to the exact scope of that place, declaring a gathering of Israelites out of the four corners of the earth) as signifying the South, and therefore the word may well intimate a place ... in Egypt called Sin) yet it is true, that many Israelites are dispersed in those parts. In a word, it is justly believed, that if all the Israelites which be in the world were ... together, they would make the greatest Nation [Page 57] upon the whole earth. 
(from WordCruncher, 17c: 1660s; 1669, N00091 / 5. THE MYSTERY OF,70¶)

Most modern Bible translations replace Sinim with Aswan, as Kirk concludes, and commentators think that it signifies a symbolic gathering "from the south," not merely from one specific location. 

Let's say, for discussion purposes, that Kirk's assumption is the most plausible, still recognizing it is not a fact but an assumption that Joseph translated "after the manner of his language" by incorporating the KJV term.

So, Isaiah is referring to the house of Israel gathering from the north, west, and south. But north, west, and south are not good enough for Nephi because it leaves his people out of the picture.

5. So in 1 Nephi 21:13 Nephi inserts the phrase "for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established" to complete the quadripartite partition of the earth into four quarters. 

Let's unpack these two claims. 

Clarity: Here are the two passages in context, with the added material in bold.

1 Nephi: And then, O house of Israel, behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. (1 Nephi 21:12, 13)

Isaiah: Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
¶ Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:12, 13)

The first thing to notice is that this passage does not say that those "who are in the east" would be gathered or "come from far." It says they would be "established" and "shall be smitten no more. We'll discuss that more below.

We saw from Increase Mather's analysis that there was no need to add an "east" reference to invoke the gathering concept. After all, verse 12 says "these shall come from far," which would encompass people coming from long distances in every direction. Specifying north, west, and Sinim might have specific purposes, as we'll discuss below.

Even if, as Kirk claims, Nephi was completing the "quadripartite partition of the earth" for some reason, that still has nothing to do with those who are on the isles of the sea. We've already seen both that (i) Nephi was on an "isle of the sea" (the New World) and that (ii) those on the isles of the sea were distinct from those being gathered from the biblical phrase "four quarters of the earth," the "four parts of the earth," and "east, west, north and south" (the Old World). 

In fact, Kirk previously claimed that Nephi "likened the scriptures" to his people by inserting the phrase "O isles of the sea." Now he's claiming that Nephi instead identifies his people as "in the east." 

We follow his logic that both terms could be descriptive of the same location; i.e., the "isles" can be "in the east." But because the "isles of the sea" are distinct from the "four quarters of the earth," they would not be in or part of any of the quarters, north, south, east or west. They are separate from the Old World. Otherwise, the verses that distinguish between the two sets of locations would be superfluous. 


While lots of interpretations may be possible (multiple working hypotheses), recall that this passage does not say those "who are in the east" would be gathered or "come from far." It says they would be "established" and "shall be smitten no more." 

Why don't those "in the east" come "from far" like the other groups?

We also ask, to where are those who are coming "from far" coming? That is, what is their gathering place? 

Verse 13 is consistent with verse 12 if the people gathering from the north, west and south (assuming Sinim means south) are coming to establish those "in the east." 

IOW, those "in the east" are not "coming from far" because they are already in the gathering place. Or, those coming from the north, west and south will be established "in the east."

What does "established" mean in verse 13?

Isaiah uses the term "established" only five times. Latter-day Saints are familiar with Isaiah 2:2

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (Isaiah 2:2)

But that verse refers to the "mountain of the Lord's house," not "those who are in the east." 

Three other usages of "established" don't seem relevant, but Isaiah 16:5 reads, "And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David. (Isaiah 16:5) The tabernacle of David to be established is in Jerusalem in the land of Israel in the Old World.

Isaiah uses "establish" three times. This verse refers to the throne of David, which again is in the land of Israel in the Old World. 

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. (Isaiah 9:7)

This verse also refers to Jerusalem. 

I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence,
And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6–7)

These passages connect "establish(ed)" directly with Jerusalem in Israel in the Old World. That makes sense, because Israel is the place of gathering for Judah. 

Could Israel, or Jerusalem specifically, be described as "in the east?"

Notice, it is not only "those who are in the east" but "the feet of those who are in the east."

The phrase "the feet of those" appears only three times in scripture, all in the Book of Mormon.

13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; (1 Nephi 21:13)

 15 And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!
 16 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
 17 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever! (Mosiah 15:15–17)

The latter two verses are intertextual with Isaiah and Nahum, both of which refer to the Old World:

7 ¶ How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7)

15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off. (Nahum 1:15)


The third usage of "establish" is in one of the verses we've been discussing:

Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; (1 Nephi 21:8)

What about "smitten no more" here?

Isaiah 5 explains how Israel was "smitten" and scattered. Here we see that after the gathering, Israel--those in the east--will be "smitten no more." The promised land of the Bible will finally be established.

This is how Jacob describes what would happen in the future to "those who were at Jerusalem."

And after they have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel, behold, the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted.
Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance. (2 Nephi 6:10–11)

If those who would be smitten are those living in Israel (in the east), 1 Nephi 21:13 has nothing to do with those on the "isles of the sea" who, as Nephi and Jacob said, were led away before Lehi was. 

However, another interpretation could mean that while those in the west, north and south are scattered, those "in the east" are not gathered but instead are "established" and "smitten no more." This could refer to those "on the isles of the sea" who lost the lands of their possession.

Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten. (2 Nephi 1:11)

We can see that both Israel in the Old World and the Lehites in the New World were "smitten." We could be dealing with a dual fulfillment prophecy, or a case of "likening the scriptures." Both locations can be considered "in the east," both will be "established" and both will be "smitten no more."

That would sort of support Kirk's next claim, although with a different rationale.

Nephi is saying that his people, the Nephites and Lamanites, are in the east relative to Isaiah's Jerusalem. 

Clarity: Whether Nephi is saying this or not is a theory, not a fact. It would be clearer to write something such as "Nephi may be saying..."

If both Jerusalem and Nephi's land are "in the east," we have to ask, relative to what?

An isle can be "in the east," but every place on the planet is both east and west of one another. As Kirk points out, east and west are relative terms. It's a question of relative distance. Jerusalem is "east" of points west from where people would be gathered.

Somewhat ironically, it turns out that Mesoamerica is closer to Israel on the west, not the east. If you look on a globe, you can see both Israel and Mesoamerica on one half of the globe when Mesoamerica is west of Israel, but you can't when Mesoamerica is east of Israel.  

Kirk would argue that Nephi would have considered himself east of Jerusalem if he sailed east, a reasonable assumption. But we can also assume that Nephi knew the world was round so that east and west are relative terms.

Plus, if Nephi was writing from, say, Tennessee, he would know he was in the eastern part of the North American continent and thus was "in the east" relative to the rest of the land mass. 

Land of Nephi in Tennessee

This is an interesting point because the Native Americans "in the east" of the United States were the ones who lost their lands of possession and were smitten and scattered west, south and north. For them to be established again "in the east" would put them back in their lands of possession. This would explain why they are gathered from the west, north and south, but not the east.

The North American setting is also consistent with Isaiah 18:1-2, as I've previously discussed here:

and here:

Back to Kirk.
This means that the Lehite voyage sailed east from the Arabian Peninsula Bountiful. Nephi literally puts words into Isaiah's mouth to reflect the location of Lehi's posterity in the prophetic geography.

Kirk repeats his assumption that Nephi changed Isaiah instead of quoting the original Isaiah, but more importantly, as we've seen, Kirk's interpretation is only one of several possible ones. 

In my view, if Nephi inserted "in the east" as a clue to his location, his readers would have inferred he meant east of Jerusalem but in the Old World. This seems obvious because both Nephi and Jacob emphasized that the "isle of the sea" was distinct and separate from the four quarters of the earth.

Had Nephi written "in the east on an isle of the sea," Kirk's view would be more plausible.

I find this analysis an excellent example of how the scriptures can be used to justify a variety of interpretations. 

And with this discussion and comparison of alternatives, now everyone can make up their own mind with a better informed decision.

Was it possible to sail west from Oman anciently? Yes. Philip Beale in his replica ship Phoenicia demonstrated that single masted square riggers ca. 600 BC could have circumnavigated Africa just as Herodotus said the Phoenicians did. On the south coast of Oman, prevailing winds are seasonal. Westerlies predominate part of the year, then easterlies the other part. See the blog articles "Where did the Mulekites land?" and "Pacific Winds and Currents."

The Phoenicia, of course, demonstrated routes across the Atlantic that replicated plausible routes for both Lehi (circumnavigating Africa before crossing the Atlantic to North America) and Mulek (sailing west through the Mediterranean and across Atlantic), but that is a topic for another day!


*Note that Kirk doesn't mention, and therefore apparently did not even consider (let alone present), other possible routes. For example, Lehi could have sailed south along the eastern coast of Africa, crossed the Atlantic, and then sailed up the west coast of South America. Even though this involves a south, west, and north voyage, they could still consider themselves "east" of Jerusalem because, as Kirk points out, east and west are relative terms (as we'll see below) and the Nephites would know the earth was round, having crossed the ocean(s). They could deem themselves "east" of Jerusalem even if they got there by sailing west. That is, if Central America really was "east" of Jerusalem.

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