Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-Three: Joseph Smith and the “Dews of Carmel”


101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Is A Prophet

Evidence Thirty-three:
Joseph Smith and the “Dews of Carmel”©

For being an uneducated backwoods northeastern American farm boy, Joseph Smith seemed to have an uncanny understanding of Near Eastern geography and its symbolical use in the scriptures.  

Today’s evidence of Joseph's divine calling is drawn from such geographical symbolism. It is brief but really quite potent. There is a sentence in verse 19 of Section 128 in the Doctrine and Covenants that has captured the attention of alert readers.  It is the last sentence in that verse which reads:
“As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them [those who bring good tidings]!
There is only one Carmel that could possibly be the referent here–Mt. Carmel in the state of Israel. It is a relatively high promontory which runs from southeast to northwest, and its headland or point serves as the southern end of Haifa Bay on the northern coast of Israel. It is famous for a number of reasons, probably chief of which is the story of the duel between Elijah and the Priests of Baal on the top of this mountain as told in 1 Kings 18. Carmel means the garden of God. Compared to some of the deserts in the southern and eastern parts of the land it really is a lush and garden-like region.

Why would Joseph Smith liken the knowledge which the Lord was going to give his people in the day of the Restoration to the “dews” of Carmel? What did he know of Mt. Carmel or of those dews? Though Mt. Carmel is mentioned in the Bible, the “dews of Carmel” are not. So this is new whole cloth from Joseph Smith.  Where did this metaphor come from? And what do we know about dew on Mt. Carmel which would help us understand it?

Well, here is where it gets very interesting. When I was in Israel with my family to help with a BYU Semester Abroad in the late 1980s, a resident instructor called this passage to my attention and told me that a book published by the Hebrew University had some very interesting information on the subject. Once we moved in to the new Jerusalem Center on Mt. Scopus, I visited Hebrew University which is virtually next door. I found the book in their university bookstore and purchased it. It was expensive. In it I found this remarkable statement in a subheading on “Dew” in a section on “Moisture and Precipitation” in the Holy Land:
Dewfall provides a limited amount of moisture even during the dry summer, and is important to summer crops such as watermelon.  The nearer the area to the sea, the better are its prospects for dewfall on windless nights when the soil grows colder than the air which touches its surface.  In general, the Coastal Plain has more dew than inland regions; richest is Mount Carmel, which has an average 250 nights of dew per year.(1)
Ho, ho, ho, how about that! Two-hundred-fifty nights a year, Mt Carmel receives dew–on average. That is 68.4% of the time. And it is the highest of any place in the Holy Land. How did Joseph Smith know that? I wonder if Joseph’s critics will be able to find some almanac or geography of Israel in the Manchester, New York library with that information in it? I bet some have tried to find such a source available in America in 1842, when Section 128 was written, from which they can argue that Joseph Smith culled it. He was the Great Eclectic you know.

For me, the answer is simple. He did not know that information, but the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth did. And he was Joseph Smith’s source. I can almost see a hint of a smile on Heavenly Father’s face when he gave that information to Joseph, just dropping this little “zinger” in for the fun of it, waiting for brother Ogden to discover it in Israel. I love such “divine mechanics” as my wife refers to them.

But lets not finish this without one final point–the point of the metaphor in D&C 128:19.  It is worth reading the entire verse for context:
19) Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received?  A voice of gladness! [The gospel is the good news.] A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy.  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth!  As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!
The knowledge of God is to descend upon those who bring glad tidings of good things, as the dews of Carmel. Silently, almost imperceptibly, but very regularly, abundantly, the knowledge comes as does the dew. Joseph Smith himself was such a tidings bearer. Indeed, for this Dispensation he is the tidings bearer. Joseph Smith was also such a recipient. Indeed, for this Dispensation he is the recipient of the knowledge of God, not line upon line, or paragraph upon paragraph, or even page upon page. In his case it came book upon book–four books!

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.

Notes:

1.  Efraim Orni and Elisha Efrat, Geography of Israel, fourth revised edition.  (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1980), p. 147.  I thank Dr. D. Kelly Ogden for directing me to this source.  He did his PhD studies in historical geography in Israel. With David Galbraith he taught at the Jerusalem Center for many years.  He now teaches at BYU.

4 comments:

  1. Wow. That was amazing. Thank you for sharing this. It is amazing just how prophetic this man was, how inspired he was and chosen he was. I am actually preparing for my sunday school class right now, saw that passage, "as the dews of Mt Carmel..." and googled it. This was the first or second site to come up. Thank you! And yes, thank God for Joseph Smith!

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    1. Thanks Surfish, glad you liked it and I hope it may be of some interest to your Sunday School class.

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    2. Thanks Surfish, glad you liked it and I hope it may be of some interest to your Sunday School class.

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  2. Last Sunday we were doing this lesson, I wish i found this much earlier, in our lesson we talked about glad tidings are the importance of baptism for the dead... we didn't talk about "Dews of Carmel" we simply let it go.

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