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Friday, November 16, 2012

Tangential note on the name "Utah"

Updated Nov. 19, 2012 with background information about Isaiah 2:

Background
In Isaiah 2, there is a prophecy about the last days that speaks of a temple being built in a mountainous region:

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 enations shall flow unto it.

3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the flaw, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

The "mountain of the Lord's house" is generally understood to refer to the temple of the Lord, which symbolically is like a mountain. Some LDS people have interpreted this passage, esp. verses 2 and 3, as a prophecy of a future time when a temple will be built in a high, mountainous place that will serve as an international center for the work of gathering the House of Israel. Some have also interpreted verse 3 to mean that there will be two global centers, one in Jerusalem and one in Zion (i.e., the New World Zion), perhaps in the Millennium.

If you're looking for possible correlation of the prophecy in Isaiah in a modern setting, some of us Latter-day Saints have the audacity to point to the Salt Lake City Temple built in the mountain heights where we find the international center of the Latter-day Saints, reaching out to nearly all nations to gather scattered Israel and teach the world the restored Gospel.

Tangential Note:
I have heard many times that the name "Utah," given to the State by non-LDS politicians, means "top of the mountains" in the Ute or Paiute language. I've long assumed this was just a "faith-promoting rumor," but an acquaintance of mine several years ago contacted the Ute Indian Tribal council and was told that Ute means "high place/mountain tops," and was used to name themselves after the terrain in which they lived (Utah territory). However, this contradicts the current website of the Ute Indian Tribe, which has this FAQ information (accessed Nov. 16, 2012):

Is it true that Utah got its name from the Ute Indians?

Yes, However, it is unclear where the pronunciation came from, as the word Ute is sometimes pronounced "Oot", "Yoot" or "Yutah". Furthermore, the word Ute, means "Land of the Sun" in Ute, and they refer to themselves as who call themselves "Nuciu", or "Noochew", which means, "The People".

The Utes are called "the Mountain People," but called by whom? Jan Petit in Utes: The Mountain People (Boulder, CO: Johnson Printing Company, 1990) explains that while the Utes called themselves "Nuche" meaning "the people" or "we the people," the nearby Pueblo people called them "Mountain People" and the Spaniards called them "Yutas" (Petit, p. 1). According to Wikipedia's article on the Ute Indians (accessed Nov. 16, 2012),

The word Ute means "Land of the sun" in their language. "Ute" possibly derived from the Western Apache word "yudah", meaning "high up." This has led to the misconception that "Ute" means people high up or mountain people.

The mountain link for "Utah" may exist, though it may not be because of what the Utes called themselves but perhaps rather because of what the Pueblos, Apaches, and/or Spanish called them. So one can forgive those who have propagated the misconception mentioned at Wikipedia, including the Utah State Government official website (now archived) which used to contain this statement: "The name "Utah" comes from the Native American "Ute" tribe and means people of the mountains." See also the page at http://www.50states.com/utah.htm, which still (as of Nov. 2012) indicates that the name "Utah" comes from the Native American "Ute" tribe and means "people of the mountains." Well, they are the people of the mountains, as Jan Petit's highly acclaimed book title reminds us.

Now if the Utes were and are called the people of the mountains (though not necessarily by themselves), then maybe the name Utah, imposed on would-be Deseret-dwellers by non-Mormons, might fit Isaiah 2 at least well enough for the sake of pleasant irony. Not extremely cool, and maybe not quite as "faith promoting" as some have thought, but still a fun factoid, or semi-factoid in this case.

(This information was used to update my LDSFAQ page on prophecies of Joseph Smith.)

12 comments:

How To Be Superwoman said...

Well, whether or not Utah actually means "mountain" or not, the House of the Lord was still established in one of the highest mountain rangest on earth. That seems to fulfill the prophecy jsut fine!

Eric the Half-bee said...

For the record, the Bogotá, Colombia temple sits at over twice the altitude of Salt Lake City. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, it's even higher. Google Earth shows them at 8,388 and 8,724 feet respectively. The Wasatch, topping out at 12,000', aren't really that remarkable for their height. I love the perspective that travel can give.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Certainly was established in some nifty mountains and in a huge, noteworthy mountain range. So I, too, am willing to put a check-box next to Isaiah 2.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to square "what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem" with what the LDS Church says concerning Utah and Salt Lake City, but I just don't see the connection. Ah, well, what could I possibly know about the meaning of my beloved Jewish scriptures? I'm just a Jew. And of course my own forebears appropriated their Babylonian sources every bit as creatively and brazenly as the Mormons have done with their Jewish sources, so I can hardly complain.

But on the truly important question here I have to agree with Eric above: as mountain ranges go, the Wasatch ain't nothin' special. If Isaiah's "highest mountain" is to be understood literally, then God is a Tibetan Buddhist.

-- Eveningsun

KhyEllie said...

In her defense, I believe Superwoman was making a reference to the Rocky Mountains, one of the oldest and highest mountain ranges on earth (Note she didn't say THE highest range)not just the Wasatch.

On a side note, I'm used to hearing some thoughtful insights from you Eveningsun, but I didn't see anything there. Would you like to point out what connections the LDS Church has made that so confuse you?

Anonymous said...

Between Zion and Utah, for starters. And maybe next, between the House of the Lord in Jerusalem and the LDS Temple in Salt Lake.

-- Eveningsun

Jeff Lindsay said...

I added a background section to help clarify why Isaiah 2 is meaningful to Latter-day Saints. Hope that helps show where some of us are coming from.

Paul Senzee said...

Isn't Zion, New Jerusalem at Jackson County, Missouri? From where the Lord will rule for a millenium.

Anonymous said...

There will be a dual world capital, both Jackson County, and old Jerusalem. Tribe of Judah will gather to old Jerusalem, Tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) will gather to the new. Not all, as there won't be room, but at least the leadership.

Anonymous said...

Dual nature here: Isaiah 2:3,
... for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Anonymous said...

Dual nature here: Isaiah 2:3,
... for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.


Isaiah 2:3 is not evidence for "dual nature," it's an example of the basic Hebrew poetic technique of parallelism. "Zion" and "Jerusalem" refer to one place, not two. This is Bible Studies 101. For confirmation, consult any "Bible as literature" textbook.

-- Eveningsun

KDT said...

First, it should be noted that Christians in general (and not Latter-day Saints only) face the same kind of difficulty.

Indeed, Jewish convert to Christianity Michael L. Brown has an entire series devoted to "Answering Jewish Objections," one volume of which refers to such oft-repeated objections as:

"The Torah doesn't speak of Jesus at all!"

"You're completely misinterpreting Isaiah!"

"This verse has absolutely nothing to do with your Jesus! It's not even a messianic prophecy!"

(See: http://www.amazon.com/Answering-Jewish-Objections-Jesus-Messianic/dp/0801064236/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369779222&sr=8-1&keywords=answering+jewish)

So Christians who want to fling mud at Latter-day Saints for supposedly twisting scripture to suit their own private agenda are hereby invited to get off their respective high horses.

Secondly, though many would not openly recognize the fact, there are a number of Jews who gladly acknowledge that such words as "Zion" can refer to MULTIPLE different things, and thus the assumption that it refers always, invariably, and without exception to the famous Temple Mount is simply and demonstrably false:

http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/tzedaka/birthright.htm

(I am referring here to faithful, believing Jews, not to embittered, sardonic "secular Jews".)