Monday, May 17, 2010

The Narrow Neck of Land

There are three references to a land area called the “narrow neck of land” or “small neck of land,” located in the area between the land of Desolation—the Land Northward—and the Land of Bountiful—the Land Southward (Alma 22:32;63:5;Ether 10:20). Like the narrow strip of wilderness that divided the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, this narrow neck divided the Land of Bountiful from the Land of Desolation—both divisions stretching from the east sea to the west sea.

Obviously, this “narrow neck” was the result of a narrowing of the land between these two seas. It was also the location where Hagoth built and launched his ships—“on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation—into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5). And just as obviously, the lands of Bountiful and Desolation and the “narrow neck” of land all shared the same sea on the west.

Moroni, abridging Ether’s record, describing a place where the Jaredites built a city, referred to its location as “by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). For a sea to divide a land, both sides of the land divided must be able to be seen. Thus, this narrow neck was not only narrow east to west, but also north to south, for the Nephites to know of a land to the north.

His description of this body of water as a sea dividing the land would assume the Nephites were able to observe another land mass somewhere across from the “narrow neck of land.” The record does not indicate whether this dividing body of water was part of the sea east or the sea west, but if we assume that the sea west was the expansive ocean crossed by Lehi’s family (with no visible land mass to the west), it would follow that it was a narrower sea east that divided the Book of Mormon lands from another but visible land mass.

In addition, the term narrow pass or passage is used referring to this area. It should be kept in mind, that when narrow neck is used, it describes the land and the sea around it. When narrow pass or passage is used, it describes movement from one land to another. Thus, it should be understood that there was a narrow pass or passage through the narrow neck, allowing movement from the Land Southward into the Land Northward (and visa versa).

And for the Mesoamerican Theoritsts who like to claim the day and a half journey for a Nephite across this narrow neck (Alma 22:32) was not from sea to sea, but from a point in the east to the west sea, we need to point out that through this narrow pass across the narrow neck, “which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Almoa 50:34), there definitely was a sea on the east and on the west. To support this further, Lehi’s description in this passage, “they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward” he is describing some type of narrow pass, probably with steep-sided mountains on one side and the sea on the other, which would have directed and facilitated travel through the “narrow neck of land” into the land northward. This event involving Lehi’s army took place on the east sea by the narrow neck of land, suggesting that the narrow neck of land was bordered on the east by a sea coast where these and following events took place (Alma 51:26).

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