Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pearls in the Land of Promise

In the scriptural record it is written by the Disciple Nephi and abridged by Mormon, that the people “had become exceeding rich and were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel and all manner of fine pearls” (4 Nephi 1: 24). This is the only mention of pearls in the entire scriptural record, though often the term “precious things” is used (Mosiah 11:8; Alma 1:29; Helaman 12:2; 3 Nephi 6:2; Ether 9:17). It is interesting to note that, true to the typical colors of the Mesoamericanist, the finding of pearls in the Americas has been attributed to Mesoamerica to tie in the early Jaredite and Nephite people. 
     Using Michael D. Coe and Alfonso Caso’s work (Handbook of Middle Americans 3:697, 915), Miller and Roper make a strong case for Mesoamerica being the center of the excellent pearls found in the Americas and sent to Spain under “Book of Mormon Lands,” #5, “Pearls,” by stating that the pearls “were known to be abundant off the coast of southern Mexico and were prized by Mesoamerican peoples from Pre-classic times.”
Green Arrow: Northern Mexico; White Arrow: La Paz, Baja California Sur; Red Arrow: Southern Mexico; Yellow Arrow: Peru

However, like all Mesoamericanists, they state only that part of the facts that support their point of view. In truth, according to Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols (professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Languages at Drury University and considered an expert in Venezuelan literature and culture) and Kimberly J. Morse (professor of history at Washburn University, and another expert in Venezuelan history), “New World Pearls were first found in 1499 in Venezuela” (Venezuela, Greenwood, 2010, pp26-27).
    The two biggest areas of interest to the Spaniards as they landed along the northern coast of Venezuela in 1498 was the abundance of pearls, and indigenous slaves for shipment to Hispaniola and Cuba. It is also important to note that “the conquest of indigenous empires in Mexico and Peru made those two areas the focal points of the Spanish empire in the Americas” (p28); however, when the Venezuelan pearl fisheries yield fell off in 1540, the Spaniards divided all of its American territories into two large administrative units, the Viceroyalty of New Spain (which included what is now the U.S. southwest) and the Viceroyalty of Peru, and shifted their pearl attention toward Peruvian coastal waters and the Gulf of California (Elizabeth G. Nichols and Kimberly J. Morse, Venezuela, ABC-CLIO, Oxford, England, 2010, p29).
While pearl-bearing oysters and other clams occur in both fresh and salt waters the world over, the most precious (“fine”) pearls come from tropical to sub-tropical seas. They are known to be abundant off the coasts of northern and southern Mexico, especially the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) along the coast of Baja, and have been prized by indigenous Americans for millennia, and are some of the world's rarest gems. While no precious pearls have been reported from coastal or fresh waters of the northeastern United States, the coastal waters of Peru have produced beautiful pearls as long as Mexico, and were discovered there around the same time.
    As for the fabulous pearl quality found in these two areas, the “Panamic Black-Lipped Pearl Oyster” (Pinctada mazatlanica) and the ‘Rainbow-Lipped Pearl Oyster” (Pteria sterna), both of which are quite capable of producing pearls in a wide array of colors, from an opalescent white, golden-bronze, grays, greens and blues, pinkish-violet, and all the way to jet black.
In fact, by the 16th Century, the "black pearls" of the Gulf of California had earned the title of "Queen of Gems, Gem of Queens," since so many of them adorned the crowns of European Kings and Queens, as well as their clothing, necks, hands and ears—and some Pearl Specialists, like C. Denis George of Australia, and Sohei Shirai of Japan, consider these Mexico to Peru pearls to be Superior than other varieties of pearls, due in no small part to their beautiful luster and unique overtones. It should also be noted that at the time of the Spanish, the city of La Paz, in Lower California, became the black pearl center of the world—however, this is not Mesoamerica! In fact, it is approximately 1400-1500 miles north of the area of Guatemala and the claimed area of the Mesoamerican Nephites.
    Not only were coastal (salt water) pearls found all along the Peruvian coast of a specially high quality, matching those of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez, but fresh water pearls were also found. In addition, conch pearls from the queen conch, S. gigas, though rare, have been collectors' items from since Victorian times. These conch pearls occur in a range of hues, including white, brown and orange, with many intermediate shades, but pink is the color most associated with the conch pearl, such that these pearls are sometimes referred to simply as "pink pearls.” 
    In some gemological texts, non-nacreous gastropod pearls used to be referred to as "calcareous concretions" because they were "porcellaneous" (shiny and ceramic-like in appearance), rather than "nacreous" (with a pearly lustre), sometimes known as "orient." Today the term "pearl"—or, where appropriate, the more descriptive term "non-nacreous pearl"—is used when referring to such items (CIBJO “Pearl Book”. GIA Gems and Gemology Magazine News), and under Federal Trade Commission rules, various mollusc pearls may be referred to as "pearls" without qualification, thus they have always been considered pearls of a very high quality.
The value of pearls has always been extremely high. Before the creation of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved almost exclusively for the noble and very rich. A jewelry item that today's working woman might take for granted, a 16-inch strand of perhaps 50 pearls, often costs between $500 and $5,000.
    At the height of the Roman Empire, when pearl fever reached its peak, the historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman general Vitellius (left) financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother's pearl earrings. In fact, the Egyptians and later the Romans prized pearls above all other gems. Pliny, the world’s first gemologist, writes in his famous Natural History that the two pearls were worth an estimated 60 million sestarces, about $9,375,000 with silver at $5 an ounce.
    The Arabs, perhaps, have shown the greatest love for pearls, with the depth of their affection enshrined in the Koran, especially within its description of Paradise, which reads: "The stones are pearls and jacinths; the fruits of the trees are pearls and emeralds; and each person admitted to the delights of the celestial kingdom is provided with a tent of pearls, jacinths, and emeralds; is crowned with pearls of incomparable luster, and is attended by beautiful maidens resembling hidden pearls."
    Although non-nacreous, the Peruvian surface of fine conch pearls has a unique and attractive appearance of its own. The microstructure of conch pearls comprises partly aligned bundles of microcrystalline fibres that create a shimmering, slightly iridescent effect known as "flame structure." The effect is a form of chatoyance, caused by the interaction of light rays with the microcrystals in the pearl's surface, and it somewhat resembles Moire silk.
    Obviously, then, not only were pearls a prized gem anciently among the Nephites, it is one of the natural items to be found in the land of Promise. It is interesting that in Mesoamerica, when you separate that land from the rest of Mexico, the famed pearl of the Mexican coasts is hardly found in Mesoamerica at all.
    It should also be noted that pearls were the New World's biggest export until the full development of gold and silver mines took place in Mexico and Peru. As a matter of fact, the value of the pearls imported to Spain from Mexico and Peru exceeded that of all other exports combined. For this reason, in Europe, the Americas became known as "the lands where pearls come hither."
    And, most importantly, the gold and silver mines in Mexico were, for the most part, in northern Mexico, not within the area of Mesoamerica! Out of the top 13 gold and silver mines in 2011, only two were in the very northern reaches of Mesoamerica (northern Jaredite lands), and not accessible to the Mesoamerican Nephites until the last century B.C.
It should also be noted that when the Spanish arrived, they built the third colonial church a block and a half southwest of the famed Inca center, the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, not far from the Casa Garcilaso de la Vega and the gravesite of Gonzalo Pizarro, half brother to Francisco Pizarro, between 1657 and 1680. The 51-inch tall monstrance (a vessel in which the consecrated Host is exposed to receive the veneration of the faithful), and weights 49 pounds, is encrusted with one thousand five hundred eighteen diamonds and fine gems, sixteen hundred pearls, one amethyst, one topaz, three emeralds, many dozens of rubies and some other precious stones, including the world’s second largest pearl and is shaped like a siren.
    It appears, then, that the pearls mentioned in the scriptural record were the ones found in Peru, since that is an area where the Nephites are claimed to have been whereas, in Mesoamerica, there were no pearl areas for the ones known to have existed were not within the area known as Mesoamerica.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why Mormon Gave So Many Geographical Details – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding what Mormon meant in Alma 22:32, and why these Mesoamerican theorists simply do not agree with Mormon’s descriptions and, therefore, his location of the Land of Promise. 
    First of all, the purpose of Mormon writing this insert is not only in explanation or description of the Land of Promise relating to where the Nephites and Lamanites were and the lands they occupied, but what separated them and how they were divided in the land. The purpose of his doing so seems clear—he was about to embark on a lengthy description of the wars and interactions between the Nephites and Lamanites (as found in Alma and Helaman) and wanted his future reader, who would not be well acquainted with the land like he was to be able to relate to the information, battles, journeys and missionary efforts that would be involved. After all, it is always easier to picture events in your mind’s eye if you have an understanding of the area, terrain and geography in which they take place, and how one event relates to another.
    Therefore, we need to keep in mind that since much will take place around this land between the narrow neck of land to the north and the narrow strip of wilderness in the south, Mormon gives us a complete rundown on where everyone was and how these different areas related to one another—he was in reality drawing a mental map for us.
The Line between Desolation and Bountiful

First of all, let’s restate the scripture Mormon wrote, and then respond to the questions this scriptural reference elicits:
1. Distance of a day and a half journey—How far is a day and a half journey?
Response: The width of the narrow neck of land is of critical interest to the reader as battles not only take place there, it marked the location of a future treaty that Mormon makes with the Lamanite king, but also is the single piece of land between the Land Southward and the Land Northward. Now since the Nephites made a special effort to keep both defectors and Lamanites out of that area, Mormon shows us the width of it as to how this was done, which also makes more sense to us when we get into the future event when Moroni sends Teancum to head off Morianton’s attempt to reach the neck and pass and obtain egress into the Land Northward.
    Knowing that a future generation, and likely with another language (“No man knows our language”), Mormon is faced with using terminology that will be known to the future reader in relationship to distance. Obviously, whatever the Nephites used for “mile” would not be known to us, so he chose to use a person walking to illustrate the distance.
    So that distance can be figured by us to be the distance an average man would cover walking through wilderness in a day and a half—or about 18 hours. Which, by all reasonable estimates would be between 25 and 30 miles distance as we have detailed in numerous earlier occasions.
In the Book of Mormon time, a Nephite was what we would call today the Common Man

2. For a Nephite—why is Nephite here used and not Lamanite or person?
Response: In trying to tell us a distance, would Mormon have chosen a marathon runner? An athlete? A special dispatch courier? It makes more sense that he would choose a normal person—that could be compared against a future normal person. In this case, he chose a Nephite and not a Lamanite, who in his day the Lamanite would have been used to travel on foot and covering long distances such as the American Plains Indian of the late 1800s in the western U.S. Nor would Mormon have chosen someone on horseback or traveling in some unknown conveyance since a future people might not relate. It would have been a typical man, walking, on a typical trip—a journey. Again, in our day and age, a typical man could cover upwards of 30 miles in a day and a half over rough, uneven ground.
The border between Utah and Nevada is an imaginary line across this open area just west of Ibapah and a little north of the Old Lincoln Highway. There is no marker, no line in the ground, yet it is a line (border) between these two states

3. On the line between the land of Bountiful and the land of Desolation—what is meant by “on the line”? What line?
Response: This is a figurative statement, it is not meant to convey a physical line, or even a line of terrain, such as a canyon, or mountains, or river, etc., though, of course it might have been such, but Mormon’s “line” is here stated as a boundary, like a border, between the Land of Desolation and the Land of Bountiful and within the narrow neck of land.
    “On the line” has reference to movement along that line, boundary or border. In the case of the photo above, this stretch of border between Utah and Nevada runs about 45 miles between the Old Lincoln Highway northward to West Wendover and Interstate 80. In terms of walking in the early frontier days, it would have been stated as “two days and a bit.”
    Thus, the measurement of a day and a half journey would mean along this line, or border, between these two lands (Desolation and Bountiful).
4. From the east to the west sea—what point in the east?
Response: Most theorists try to confuse the issue here by saying Mormon did not say “from the east sea to the west sea,” but said instead “from the east to the west sea.” Now if that was Mormon’s meaning, his overall statement and purpose would be rendered meaningless, since “from the east,” would have no meaning to a future reader. Where in the east? At what point in the east? Some theorists have claimed it must have meant a fort of some type, or a mountain, or some other physical point. However, Mormon is attempting to give his future reader a reference to measure this distance—an ambiguous eastern point negates that attempt.
In an elliptical statement, the word "Sea" is understood since it has been introduced ealier and is not necessary to repeat or state again
Thus, Mormon is simply using what is today called in English, elliptical writing, which is refraining from superfluous writing, and instead writing with economy, i.e., tending to be cryptic, which is grammatically correct only if the necessary information to understand the sentence has been supplied previously or is clear from the context of the sentence. So if we go back to Mormon’s initial intro into his inserted statement, it reads: “And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west…”
    As we see, in two instances, in his first statement of his insertion (Alma 22:27), Mormon informs us that he is talking about land between the two seas, i.e., the Sea East and the Sea West. Consequently, in his later statement (Alma 22:32), he condenses this to read simply “from the east to the west sea,” having already introduced his meaning as “from the east sea to the west sea.”
    So the distance of the narrow neck of land, along a line (border) between Desolation and Bountiful, was the distance of a day and a half journey, or about 25 to 30 miles.
5. Thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water—nearly surrounded? What does that mean?
Response: First of all, “surrounded” means “encircle,” “encompassed,” “inclosed,” “confined on all sides,” and “nearly surrounded by water” means a piece of land nearly surrounded by water and attache3d to a larger area of land or the mainland by an isthmus.” And “nearly” means “almost,” “closely,” “at no great distance,” “within a little.”
    Thus, the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for a little area. And in the following words, Mormon tells us what kept that land from being entirely surrounded.
An isthmus can be any size, so long as it is narrower than the two bodies of land it connects; however, a narrow neck is by definition, "narrow" and a small neck of land between two other tracts of land (the word Isthmus is never mentioned in the scriptural record)
6. There being a small neck of land—what is a “neck of land”? What is “small?
Response: Thus, there was a small neck of land that kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water. A small neck of land is defined as “a narrow tract of land connecting two larger tracts.” Mormon tells us that tract of land, or small neck, was between the Land Northward and the Land Southward.
7. Between the land northward and the land southward”—what is meant by “between”?
Response: Between means “from one another; passing from one to another,” “area between and connecting two points.”
    Thus, we find that the “small neck” or “narrow neck” was a small and narrow tract of land between and connecting two larger tracts of land, i.e., connecting the Land Southward to the Land Northward. Not only did Mormon tell us that this neck of land was both small (Alma 22:32) and narrow (Alma 63:5), but that it was the width that a Nephite could cross in about a day and a half, while walking along on a normal journey. He also told us it was the only point of connection between the Land Northward and the Land Southward.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Mormon Gave So Many Geographical Details – Part I

How often do we stop and ponder the scriptures, rather than simply read them like a novel, often trying to get so many verses or chapters read at one time? How often do we read something we have read many times before and suddenly realize it says something we had not before realized? Sometimes this is because we were not looking for such information previously, sometimes because we were not ready for it then, and sometimes because we were so interested in other matters that the information did not penetrate. And sometimes it is because we simply do not know how to dig deeper into the meaning of something on our own without outside help or direction.
A day and a half journey for a Nephite

Take a simple meaning of a word or phrase where its meaning at first escapes our more detailed understanding. As an example: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
    By way of discussion, there are several questions that this single statement should elicit to the interested reader:
1. Distance of a day and a half journey
    (How far is a day and a half journey?)
2. For a Nephite
    (Why is "Nephite" here used and not "Lamanite" or "person"?)
3. On the line between the land of Bountiful and the land of Desolation
    (What is meant by “on the line”? What line?)
4. From the east to the west sea
    (What point in the east?)
5. Thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water
    (Nearly surrounded? What does that mean?)
6. There being a small neck of land
    (What is a “neck of land”? What is “small?)
7. Between the land northward and the land southward”
    (What is meant by “between”?)
At this point, one might ask, “why be concerned with such details?” “Is it important?” “If so, why?”
To answer these last questions, we need to know the answer to another question: “why did Mormon insert this 568 word aside into the narrative of Ammon, Aaron and their brethren doing missionary work among the Lamanites?”
    Sorenson, himself, answers that question when he stated that it was “The nearest thing to a systematic explanation of Mormon’s geographical picture…that summarized major features of the land southward” (Mormon’s Map, Neal A. Maxwell Institute, Provo UT, 2000, p9). Nor can we consider that this statement found in Mormon’s insertion in Alma 22:27-34 is incomplete or not sufficient, for even Sorenson agrees that Mormon considered it complete, since “he must have considered that treatment full and clear enough for his purposes, because he never returned to the topic.”
    It is interesting to know that, according to Randall P. Spackman, both John L. Sorenson (637-725 passages) and John E. Clark (318 passages), both dedicated Mesoamericanist theorists, used “upwards of 1000 passages of potential geographic significance to develop an internal reconstruction of the geography of the Book of Mormon” (Interpreting Book of Mormon Geography, FARMS Review 15, no 1, 2003, p29). Evidently, “they mapped out the general lay of the land, and the relationship between different lands and cities without tying it to any real-world location.”
Sorenson’s Narrow Neck of Land is hardly seen on a map, let alone what would be observable to someone standing along either shore during Nephite times

Yet, they both Sorenson and Clark adhere to the narrow neck of land, from sea to sea, being over 125 miles wide (as much as 144 miles), even though Mormon states quite clearly that this line between the seas can be covered in a day and a half by a Nephite.
    One can only wonder how those two concepts can be justified, not that Sorenson doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to do so, talking about special Indian warriors, the run of Phidippides from Marathon to Athens following the Greek defeat of the Persian Army in 490 B.C., and a number of other unrelated events and possibilities. However, despite several inconsistencies in Sorenson’s map, not alone the directions, but also the extensive width of his narrow neck and the impossibility that anyone in Nephite times could have perceived that it was a “narrow neck” from land-based observation, Sorenson glibly states (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985, p36):
“The distance indicated by the Book of Mormon across the land from Ammonihah to Moroni on the east coast is just about the distance across most of Chiapas and Tabasco states around 150 miles. The topography also matches. The mountainous band of wilderness separating highland Guatemala from central Chiapas is in the right place to be the “narrow strip of wilderness” of the Nephites. More detail is not necessary at this point.”
    At this point it might also be stated that the interesting thing about the Book of Mormon is how much actual detail that exists, though most readers feel there should have been a lot more. Unfortunately, many readers try to breeze through its reading in order to accomplish a goal or reading requirement, missing many points of both interest and importance along the way. As Royal Skousen stated (Analysis of Textual Variants of the book of Mormon, Six-Volume Set, Interpreter Foundation, 2017), “Textual accuracy is crucial when trying to determine the specifics of Book of Mormon geography.”
    In addition, upon careful inspection, Grant Hardy, a professor of history and Religious Studies and Director of the Humanities Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, states in his book (Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010, pp6–7), “It requires considerable patience to work out all the details of chronology, geography, genealogy, and source records, but the Book of Mormon is remarkably consistent on all of this.” Hardy, who studied Ancient Greek at BYU before obtaining his doctorate at Yale, also stated: “The complexity is such that one would assume the author worked from charts and maps,” though none such are indicated by Mormon nor by the translator, Joseph Smith.
    As V. Garth Norman, archaeologist and President of the Ancient America Foundation (AAF), and one who worked as a research associate with the BYU-New World Archaeological Foundation’s Izapa, Mexico project noted, “Mormon gave very specific geographic details at times …that could have no other purpose than to paint the landscape where these events occurred” (Book of Mormon - Mesoamerican Historic Geography, Ancient America Foundation, American Fork, Utah, 2006, pix).
The point of all of this is that all these theorists talk about being specific, exact, using textual accuracy, and considerable patience to work out that accuracy, etc. Yet, they all place the Land of Promise in an area inconsistent with the very scriptures they use and quote and pay little attention to Mormon’s explanations though they claim to be using his words as a guide.
    So let us return to Mormon’s statement, made for clarification of the geographical setting of the Nephite and Lamanite lands and the seven questions or points made in his one statement in Alma 22:32)
(See the next post, “Why Mormon Gave So Many Geographical Details – Part II,” to see what Mormon meant and why these Mesoamerican theorists simply do not agree with Mormon’s descriptions and, therefore, his location of the Land of Promise)

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Location and Nature of the Narrow Pass

In an article by Ted Dee Stoddard, Professor Emeritusof Management Communication at BYU, where he taught business writing throughout his academic career, he describes the location and nature of the Narrow Pass (or Passage) that Mormon describes on four different occasions (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 2:3; 3:5). In the first two of these, Mormon uses the term “Narrow Pass,” and in the last two, he uses the term “Narrow Pass,” and “Narrow Passage,” to describe the same place, i.e., the southern terminus of the land the Lamanites granted to the Nephites in the treaty enacted in 350 A.D., when their lands were divided, with the Lamanites taking all the Land Southward and the Nephites taking the Land Northward.
In 350 A.D. Mormon and the Lamanite King entered into a Treaty where their lands were separated by the narrow neck, with the Nephites obtaining the land northward and the Lamanites the land southward of this narrow neck
The dividing line or dividing point of these lands was the narrow neck of land, and the Pass that cut through it, providing egress between the two lands or major land masses of the Land of Promise.
    We also should understand that these four statements show that the narrow pass or passage provided a Nephite who was in the Land Northward a way of traveling into the Land Southward (Mormon 2:29; 3:5. Conversely, if a Nephite was in the Land Southward, the narrow pass led into the Land Northward (Alma 50:34; 52:9). It was here that Mormon “did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force” (Mormon 3:6).
    Eleven years after this treaty, in 361 A.D., “the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle against us; and it came to pass that in that year we did beat them, insomuch that they did return to their own lands again” (Mormon 3:7). The next year the Lamanites came down again and were beaten by Mormon’s entrenched army (Mormon 3:8), but the following year the Nephites violated the Lords injunction and attacked the Lamanites south of the Narrow Neck (Mormno 4:1-2) and were soundly defeated, which was the cause of all their future losses.
    Thus, shortly after the treaty where this Pass and Narrow Neck became the dividing line between the Nephites and Lamanites was the site of the beginning of the last wars between the two, which eventually led to the invasion of the Lamanites into the Land Northward and the final battle at Cumorah.
Top: Photos of narrow passages; Bottom: Photo of a narrow neck of land 

Thus, the pass or passage mentioned were one of the same, one single pass, which provided passage between the two major land masses, the Land Southward and the Land Northward. There is nothing mysterious about this area, and since it was the dividing line between the Land Northward and the Land Southward (Mormon 2:29), it obviously was located within the Narrow Neck of Land. This is because the Land Southward (including the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla) were nearly surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of land that separated the two lands (Alma 22:32)—which also included the Land Bountiful “And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward (Alma 52:9)
The two areas often discussed as the narrow neck of land is shown above in (left) Mesoamerica and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; and (right) in the Isthmus of Panama. In both cases, passing through thre claimed narrow pass from east to west or west to east as shown, the sea would be on the north and south, not the east and west as Mormon writes in Alma 50:34 

This is also verified by the fact, that the narrow neck of land had a sea on both sides, as seen in the description: “by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34; emphasis added).
    Thus, the picture Mormon draws for us of the Narrow Neck of Land and the Narrow Pass (or Passage) is one of two large land masses, connected in between by a Narrow Neck of Land and through that Narrow Neck of Land was a Narrow Pass that provided egress between the two lands.
    Notwithstanding all of this simple explanation Mormon gives, so many theorists miss the mark when they try to place two entirely different locations for the Narrow Neck and the Narrow Pass, as Joseph L. Allen does, and all the Great Lakes, Heartland and Eastern U.S. theorists do.
    Sorenson, on the other hand, seems to understand that these two are in the same location, when he states: “Another geographical question that keeps coming up as one reads the Book of Mormon is the nature and location of the “narrow passage” referred to in Alma 50:34 and 52:9 and Mormon 2:29 and 3:5. It’s apparent from these verses that the pass is not the same as the narrow neck itself. Rather, it is some kind of specific feature within that neck area.”
The Narrow Pass or Passage is within the Narrow Neck of Land; the narrow neck of land connects heo Land Northward to the Land Southward; the narrow pass or passage allows egress from one land to the other 

Agreeing, Stoddard states: “The terms narrow pass/narrow passage and the term narrow neck of land are not synonymous terms. Seemingly, readers can easily discern that the narrow pass was located in the narrow neck of land.”
    Interesting how many others do not see it that way. Take F. Richard Hauck, who states: “One of the traditional assumptions of Book of Mormon scholars and casual readers has been to equate the 'narrow neck of land' with an isthmus... it has complicated and confused the numerous attempts made to identify the setting of the book, for the identification of the proper isthmus is frequently the primary focus of attempts made to identify the Book of Mormon geography...The west sea is clearly evident in the descriptions given in the text, but the east sea is never specifically mentioned as being associated with the narrow corridor” (Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book Co, 1988, p12).
    It seems Hauck missed Mormon’s statement: “by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34). Now there is simply no way to disregard the fact that Mormon describes a sea on both sides, “by the sea, on the west and on the east” though Hauck evidently attempts to ignore or negate that comment.
    David G. Hennesey of BMAF who tries to place the narrow neck of land as a small part of a much larger land area, claiming it is the small part that is the narrow neck, with the narrow pass beyond at the far end.
An example of a Great Lakes Narrow Passage. Note 1) White Arrow shows 120-mile-wide entrance, not easy to black by a small Nephite force; 2) Red Arrow shows an approach to the pass, 3) Blue Arrow shows an end run around the wide open lands to the east of the pass, impossible to block by any size Nephite force. This simply is not a workable location for Mormon’s descriptions 

Wayne May, the founder of Ancient American magazine and author of This Land book series, shows a map of the Narrow Passage at the Great Lakes. His proposed Narrow Pass is at least 300 miles long (or more) and at its widest is 140 miles, and at its narrowest is just over 50 miles, with another “narrow” area about 70 miles wide. By the very definition of a “narrow pass” is that it is narrow! Which this line is certainly not and cannot possibly be considered as such. Nor does it give a single egress point, since the pass can be bypassed to the east around the south-eastern end of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
    There are numerous other theorists’ models showing similar unworkable approaches. However, the simple answer is as stated above, a Narrow Pass within the Narrow Neck of Land, which is the only access between the Land Northward and the Land Southward.
    Yet, Stoddard, quoting Sorenson, in another source, says: “The pass led to the land northward. Control of the pass was required to get into the land northward (at least that part of interest to the Nephites then).” By “then,” Sorenson is referring to Alma 52:9, which dates to the first century BC. Sorenson is confused. At this point in time (the first century BC), as reflected in Alma 50:34, the Nephites are not on the north side of the narow neck (his Isthmus of Tehuantepec). Rather, they are on the south side, near the borders of the land Desolation. “By the sea, on the west and on the east” means they were at the west sea (Pacific Ocean, his Gulf of Tehuantepec) on both the west side and east side of the narrow pass that led into the narrow neck of land.”
    However, Stoddard seems confused, for Sorenson is merely stating that the Narrow Pass was controllable by the Nephites and was the only access into the Land Northward, for in the first century B.C., the Nephites were moving into the Land Northward in large numbers (Alma 63:9), therefore, this information would have been known to them. And Sorenson’s point is well taken: “The pass led to the land northward. Control of the pass was required to get into the land northward.”
    It is a simple understanding, yet even Stoddard and Sorenson have inaccurate concepts of the idea, as do almost all other theorists who try to bend Mormon’s simple explanations to fit their own Land of Promise models—and in so doing, change the meaning of Mormon’s simple descriptions.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Choquequirao, Another of Peru’s Remote and Lost Ruins

From a lookout point called Huancacalle, high above the Apurímac Canyon, a peaceful, attractive rest area and small village along the trek to Vilcabamba, Spanish-prospector Juan Arias Díaz Topete rested his mules.
View looking down upon the Apurímac River from the area of Choquiquirao

Based on his findings, he reported three expeditions into a country between the Apurímac and Urubamba rivers during which he found “four ancient towns of heathen times, wholly uninhabited, one named Choquiquirao (Chuqui K’iraw in Quechua, or “cradle of gold” or “gold cradle”).
    Choquequirao, a town of some 15,000 people, situated on a high plateau in the Province of La Convencion in the Vilcabamba Valley on the right side of the Apurímac, turned out to be a site of well-constructed double houses with a single common wall, paved apartments, antechambers and baths, all built on constructed terraces, with walls built of hewn stone, stepped down the mountain side with vast squares, triumphal walls and narrow streets—all completely overgrown with trees and creeping plants.
Here on this ancient and previously unknown foot path, he found the ruins of Choquequirao, almost entirely hidden beneath a thousand-year growth of vegetation, trees and bushes. About two hundred years later, an unknown American explorer named Hiram Bingham crossed a flimsy wooden bridge that had been built by a local expedition a couple of years earlier, and announced the finding of Choquequirao to the world, documenting it thoroughly; however, his discovery two years later of Machu Picchu, 40 miles to the north, drew attention away from the more difficult to reach Choquequirao. In addition, another hidden and lost city, Vitcos (also known as Rusapatak, and the site where Manco Inca was murdered by a renegade group of conquistadors attempting to win back favor with the Spanish crown), was discovered in the Vilcabamba Valley.
    Vitcos, an hour’s walk up the heavily forested hill from Huancacalle, past numerous orchids, perhaps a fox or two, and numerous birds, including wide-winged condors, as the amazing, sacred white rock of Yurac Rumi, a giant carved rock and remains of the Sun Temple, is reached. Beyond is Wayna Qalli viewpoint where Choquequirao can be seen in the distance along with the mountains of the Vilcabamba cordillera.
When Díaz reached this ancient city, then overgrown with trees and underbrush, he reported a main plaza, surrounded by groups of terraces, small sacerdotal houses, aqueducts, and intricate architecture that surprises the imagination. From the Priests District, the bright green central plaza stretched along the narrow summit of a high ridge and dropped precipitously on both sides to a turquoise river thousands of feet below. He must have wondered why anyone would have chosen this specific location to build such a wonder.  The vegetation hides a rich fauna and flora, orchids are abundant and birds of all sorts can be found at this area. Condors fly overhead, especially in the afternoons, where they fly nearby before going back to their mountain nests. Beyond lay a panorama of jungle and 17,000-foot peaks, all enclosed in silence and isolation.
The citadel of Choquequirao, which actually contains nine architectural groups, all made of stone, and a system of 180 terraces, along with residential houses (huasi), meeting houses (kalankas), administrative buildings, storehouses (qollqa), artists residences, religious platform (usnu), and irrigation systems (larq’a), takes up two hectares (though only partially excavated), and is approximately the same size and configuration as Machu Picchu. Both sites are built on the side of a mountain peak, with Choquequirao resting in obscurity these past 300 years since Díaz’ first visit, with little work and almost no archaeological interest and work accomplished, yet it is of such magnitude and scope that surely it will someday offer up secrets and stories of its own as Machu Picchu has done.
    The nearest city, Cachora, is hardly different from its farming origins hundreds of years ago, and rests 20 very difficult miles from Choquequirao, a trail along winding cliffs over the Apurímac River, with the snow-capped Salkantay ridge to the north, then down a 4,000 vertical-foot-descent, and up a 5,000-foot climb to the main plaza of Choquequirao.
The trail to Choquequirao was steep and dangerous

This vast, undiscovered ancient complex eluded the Spanish, and most explorers up until recently, not withstanding Diaz’ exploration 300 years ago. Its isolation near the northern end of the Sacred Valley of Peru near Cusco, elevated from the valley by more than 1000 feet, and cloaked in dense tropical vegetation, was several miles away from any well-known Inca or ancient Peruvian site. There were no roads, and only a single trail that connected the citadel with the outside world.
    Called the “Cardle of Gold,” Choquequirao, was not made known until 1768 when the first written site reference was made by Cosme Bueno, but it too was ignored at the time. Then just over 65 years later, Eugene de Santiges rediscovered the site, and three years later Leonce Agrand mapped the ruins for the first time, but unfortunately his maps were forgotten.
When Hiram Bingham, visited Choquequirao in 1909 the site gained more attention. The first excavations started in the 1970s. But today, only between 30% and 40% of the Choquequirao ceremonial center has been cleared of vegetation. The remaining area is formed by a complex terrace system built on extremely steep slopes, with an impressive stairway of 180 terraces recently observed that descends from one of the ceremonial center flanks and reaches the river open to swimming.
    This is the high-altitude land, with its violet hills, of the communist-guerillas of the Shining Path (Partido Comunista del Perú) of the 1980s, and now trying to make a comeback after many years of decline. A land of dense and humid high forests between the Salcantay snow-capped mountains to the north of the Apurímac River. A land of pumas, foxes, bears and the deep red orange, beautifully-plumed rupicola peruviana (Tunqui) bird (cock or rooster of the rock).
    Beyond is the green valley of the Rio Blanco and the village of Maizal (cornfield), which is little more than a terrace on the side of a mountain, surrounded by high peaks on three sides, and a small farm in the midst of the jungle, filled with colorful tall flowers.
    Choquequirao is an interesting site, claimed to have been built by the Inca, however, that is often  an invention for tourists that makes for good story-telling during hikes and when viewing ruins.
It’s out-of-the-way location, its arduous difficulty to reach, and its entirely isolated location suggests that it was located in these mountainous canyons for the sole purpose of remaining isolated and not as a base of operations, because of the difficulty in going and coming. It is a type of location that Alma would have found to build his town of Helam (Mosiah 23:19-20), after traveling several days into the wilderness (Mosiah 23:3), at a height on the side of a mountain that afforded them a view of the borders of the land (Mosiah 23:25). Building terraces where they could “till the ground round about” (Mosiah 23:25)—it was certainly a land in which unfamiliar people could wander for days, not knowing where they were (Mosiah 23:30), even though they were less than fifty miles from the City of Nephi (Mosiah 23:35).

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Narrow Strip of Wilderness

In Mormon’s description of the terrain north of the city of Nephi and south of the city of Zarahemla, along that strip of wilderness Mormon identified as the narrow strip that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, little has been written. However, that particular area was such as to remain uninhabited and undeveloped throughout the 1000-year history of the Nephite Nation, and was the dividing line between the Nephites and Lamanites throughout their entire history until the final wars that began when Mormon was a youth.
Running through the area of what is known today as Machu Picchu, a mountain top retreat built by the Nephites, and down the Pongo de Mainque, or “Gully of the Bears,” named for the spectacled bears found in the surrounding forest and along the two-and-a-half-mile-long, one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty feet wide canyon that was cut by the Urumamba River (Urubamba, actually Urupampa, means “Spider Plain”) in ages past, where thousand foot vertical, fern-and orchid clad rock towers above the tranquil dry-season waters. However, in the wet-season (December to March), this river becomes a torrential threat to any but the most hardy and experienced white-water enthusiasts.
Convection off these cliff faces result from morning clouds driven in from the lowland forests to the east, dropping their moisture to create valley walls that are clad in dripping foliage. Even today, only a very small amount of the terrain has been accessed and very little is known about the area. Macaws, parrots and other birds abound, including species such as the golden quetzal and the cock of the rock, with military macaws nesting in large numbers in holes in the cliff face, easily seen from the river below where monkeys scramble about on the rocks.
A water fall, today called the Tonkini, crashes directly into the main river from its discharged point several hundred feet higher up the sheer cliff faces, creating the Tonkini rapids in the main river, an area where the local Machiguenga people thought of this rapid as the entry point into the next life, where good souls were sprayed up to heaven and bad ones ground to the grit.
The Machiguenga (Matsigenka) are an indigenous people of a hunter-gatherer culture that also practice slash and burn agriculture further east near the border of Brazil, where they grow cassava, a yucca type plant with a starchy, tuberous root and their major source of carbohydrates that is called tapioca when dried to a powdery extract, along with hunting paca, a ground-dwelling rodent.
Today, the tiny township of Tintinienkato is built from wooden boards, where the road ends and river travel begins. Beyond, the river emerges abruptly into open land, covered with sparse forest, and today is called the Machiguenga Megantoni ("the place of the meganto," or Macaw) National Sanctuary, a part of the ceja de selva (“hot” or “high jungle”), an area of dense, rainy and cloudy mountain forests along the eastern slope of the Andes.
Here, immense vegetation mingles with gigantic trees, orchids, bromeliads (a short-stemmed rosette of stiff, spiny leaves), ferns, mosses and lichens, and numerous species of small animals, including the armadillo, pudú, weasel, vultures, toucans and guáchars (cave-swelling bird). Here, also, are extreme slopes, and narrow valleys where numerous streams and torrential rivers with water falls descend into lush green canyons. The intense mist coverage in the mornings means that species which are normally found far higher mix and mingle with lowland jungle plants, and a corresponding richness of their predators follows on from this.
    Between this area and Cuzco lies the Cordillera Urubamba mountain range, located along the north side of the Sacred Valley, and is covered by glaciers and snowcaps. A little to the west is the Cardillera Vilcabamba (“Sacred Plain”) mountain range, which rises along the Urubamba, Apurimac and Tambo-Ene rivers. The northern part of this range is rarely visited and most difficult to reach. Along a saddle in the southern part is home to Machu Picchu and the 20,574-foot high Salcantay (“wild, savage”) mountain.
There is the Choquecatarpo Pass and down very steep descent into the oppressive heat of the Apurimac canyon with breathtaking drops on either side and then to the Apurimac River, while crossing through high passes and over ridges in some of the most rugged and least visited areas, then drop down into the remote and challenging high jungles that are seldom visited even today.     
    This entire area is mountainous, with virgin woods and abundant diversity in plant and animals, with continuous up and down climbing in order to cross numerous ridges. There are also pajonales (wet tropical pastures of enormous grasses and endless scrubland), queñual forests (high elevation shrub and tree forests of “many layers”), and mixed low forest of small trees.
In this higher jungle is today located the city of Quillabamba (not to be confused with Quayllabamba in Ecuador) that rests in the clouds and surrounded by rivers and waterfalls dropping across polished rock faces—it is a place where foreigners (tourists) rarely visit, partly because of the oppressive heat, and partly because of its out-of-the-way location and difficulty to reach. In fact, the further down the valley one travels, the hotter it becomes.
    Along this narrow strip of wilderness, a combination of steep criss-crossing canyons, torrential rivers, high mountains and limited passes, an effective boundary existed between the Land of Zarahemla and other Nephite lands on the north, and the Land of Nephi and other Lamanites lands on the south. There appears to have been only two ways around this narrow strip and that was along the coastal plain of the Sea East and the coastal desert of the Sea West, which is probably why there was so much notice when a Lamanite army was on the march, heading into the Nephite lands (Alma 49:1).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Land of Promise Terrain—“He Went Over”

In the entire scriptural record, the term “Sea East” or “East Sea” is mentioned only 7 times, with east “seashore” referred to another 15 times, for a total of 22 references. It is interesting that 23 times the reference is made about “come over” or “came over” or “went over” or “go over” or “marched over” or “took his journey over” meaning someone or a group crossed over some major object to get from one place in the land to another.  
    Such phraseology would be appropriate in crossing a river though only once that is mentioned, or a mountain, or some other type of terrain that isolated one land or area from another. The suggestion would be, then, that the makeup of the Land of Promise was one that required movement from one settlement, village or city to another by crossing over some type of terrain or object (river, bridge, etc.) to get from one to the other.
These high mountain valleys can only be reached by “crossing over” the mountains and hills that surround and isolate them

The term is used once in crossing the Sidon River (Alma 6:7), but most are involved in movement from one area to another, such as “he took his journey over into the land of Melek” (Alma 8:3); or “they came over to a village which was called Ani-Anti” (Alma 21:11)…and “they departed and came over into the land of Middoni” (Alma 21:12). Some references involve Zarahemla, such as “he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 15:18), or “and went over into the borders of the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 25:2), or “and came over into the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 47:29).
    In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the word “over” is described as “on the opposite side,” “from one land to another.” Today it is defined much the same, “came over” as “they came over from Ireland,” “a person who has come over from one place to another,” “to direct one’s way,” or “to make one’s way.”
    The key in the phrase is the word “over,” which means “expressing passage or trajectory across an area” as some semi-obstacle, object, or area. Also, as in “over to this place,” or “over to that place.” In these cases, the object being “crossed over” is understood, i.e., some land form or another, as “in an upward and forward direction across something,” such as up, over and “downward to a flat position,” as in crossing over a hill or a mountain and into a valley, such as “and many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael” (Alma 25:13), or ““he came over into the land of Gideon” (Alma 30:21), or “did go over into the land of Siron,” (Alma 39:3).
As an example, to get to this valley that is surrounded high hills, one would have to “cross over” through a pass or low hill to get from another area into this small, secluded valley
In order to get from one side of the canyon to the other, a person would have to “cross over” this rope bridge to get to the other side

With 23 separate references in Alma alone, it might be surmised that the topography of the Land of Promise, especially in and around the Land of Zarahemla would be one of various isolated villages, towns and cities, where a person had to cross over some form of terrain, such as hills, mountains, canyons, etc., to get from one to the other.
Such a crossing would be especially true for crossing from one valley to another over a steep hill or mountain side path, trail or road

One of the interesting things about Andean South America, is that it is made up of a series of cordilleras that run north and south and separated by intermediate depressions (depressed below the surrounding area) and high plains or tablelands (plateaux), with the coastal range called the Cordillera Occidental, the eastern range the Cordillera Oriental, and the middle range called the Cordillera Central, with the Northern, Central and Southern Andes sections running through Ecuador, Peru and western Boliva and are part of what is called the “Tropical Andes.”
    In addition, there are cross ranges that anciently were the result of valley glaciers, many separated by only five to six miles, with numerous rift valleys. Because of the tortuous terrain in places, villages and towns in the mountains—to which travel via motorized vehicles today, are of little use—are still located in the high Andes of Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, often along high plateaus surrounded by even higher peaks that form an unbroken rampart over a distance of 5,500 miles. They are not a single line of formidable peaks, but rather a succession of parallel and transverse mountain ranges, and of intervening plateaus and depressions. Locally, the relatives of the camel, i.e., the llama and alpaca continue to carry out important uses as pack animals, but this use, along with donkeys, mules and horses, has generally diminished in modern times.
    According to Thomas Macfarlane, The Andes: A Trip to South America (pp90-91, 1877), The Andes are not a single line of high peaks but rather are subdivided into many smaller units: cordilleras (mountain ranges) nudos, which are cross ranges (sometimes called knots or clusters of peaks) and the altiplano (high plateau), with the north-south cordilleras separated from each other by these knots or nudos (cross ranges), which run across from east to west, combining two main Cordilleras, and separating the hollow lying between them into distinct basin-shaped depressions such as what some call cauldron valleys. In these cross ranges, drainage and rivers sometimes break through, either to the east or west, that also form passes.
“and many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael” (Alma 25:13), and “and came over near the borders of the land” (Alma 27:14)
“this man went over to the land of Jershon also” (Alma 30:19), and “he came over into the land of Gideon” (Alma 30:21
“also came over into the land of Jershon” (Alma 35:2), and “that they might come over into the land of Manti” (Alma 43:24)

It is easy to see from the numerous descriptions of Mormon of individual and group movement going over from one land to another as suggested above, and that Andean Peru is the only area in the Western Hemisphere where numerous cordilleras running north and south have many nudos, or cross-ranges running east and west forming many individual valleys where the Nephites would have been crossing over from one valley to another, from one land to another, from one city to another.
     As it is written: “came over unto them;” (Alma 35:9), “and came over into the land of Melek” (Alma 35:13), “did go over into the land of Siron,” (Alma 39:3), “that they might come over into the land of Manti” (Alma 43:24), “and marched over into the land of Manti.” (Alma 43:25), “and brought a part over into the valley” (Alma 43:31), “and came over into the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 47:29), “and came over to the camp of Moroni” (Alma 50:31), and “had come over and joined the Lamanites in this part of the land” (Alma 59:6).
    Sometimes when we read the scriptural record, we have something else in mind than what we are reading and the significance of small wordage seems to escape us. It can be most helpful to study out each word and its meaning, each phrase and its intent, and each extended statement and its significance. In this way, we sometimes obtain a better understanding of the terrain and topography of the Land of Promise and, therefore, can see and verify where it is located.