Friday, April 8, 2011

What Became of the Narrow Neck of Land Part II

Mesoamerican and Great Lakes theorists try to play down the destruction that took place in the Land of Promise as described in 3 Nephi. One of the comments made regarding the sameness before and after this 3-hour earthquake is: “The Jaredite hill Ramah was called by the Nephites the hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11), but it was exactly the same hill.”

By way of an example, thirty years ago, on May 8, 1980, Mount St. Helens blew its top during the most catastrophic eruption in the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, caused an eruption, reducing the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 feet to 8,365 feet and replacing it with a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater. This caused a massive collapse of the north face of the mountain and triggered the largest known debris avalanche in recorded history.

The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles in volume. The largest of the dacite domes formed the previous summit, and off its northern flank sat the smaller Goat Rocks dome. Both were destroyed in the 1980 eruption. The magma inside of St. Helens burst forth into a large-scale pyroclastic flow that flattened vegetation and buildings over 230 square miles. More than 1.5 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide were released into the atmosphere. The collapse of the northern flank of St. Helens mixed with ice, snow, and water to created lahars. These volcanic mudflows covered many miles down the Toutle and Cowlitz rivers, destroying bridges and lumber camps. A total of 3,900,000 cubic yards of material was transported 17 miles south into the Columbia River by the mudflows. For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles above sea level. The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with ash reaching Idaho by noon. Ashes from the eruption were found collecting on top of cars and roofs next morning, as far as the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.

Mount St. Helens before and after the eruption. Despite this terrible destruction—and we are talking only about a single mountain—destruction was felt hundreds of miles and several states away. The ash from the fallout covered cities and turned day into night, breathing was extremely difficult and people were warned to stay in their homes until it cleared. Yet, as the before and after pictures show, despite the mountain being altered considerably, people familiar with the area can easily tell where the mountain is now located, even though it is almost unrecognizable by its earlier features.

A long distance shot before and after. While this looks like two different mountains, it is recognizable as the same in context with surroundings.

This theorist goes on to claim: “Even at Bountiful, a few months after the vast storm and earthquake, while survivors were wondering at “the great and marvelous change which had taken place” in their surroundings (3 Nephi 11:1), their city and temple were still in place, their homes remained (see 3 Nephi 19:1), they obviously had a continuing food supply, and their communication networks were still in place (see 3 Nephi 19:2–3).”

While the disciple Nephi tells us the destruction in the Land Northward was even worse, certain landmarks in the area northward remained, either intact (like the temple and homes) or recognizable (like the narrow neck of land), but “the whole face of the land was changed” (3 Nephi 8:12).

The point is, while tremendous changes took place all over the Land of Promise, it was still, as it would be today, for those at the time to identify changed landmarks. This information was then passed on, and 300 years later, Mormon understood those changes and the topography of the land before and after the destruction. As for the Bountiful temple and homes, obviously, the Lord, who directed this destruction (3 Nephi 9:3-10) wanted the temple and area of Bountiful pretty much untouched. Perhaps those living in the Land of Bountiful at this time were more righteous than those living elsewhere, such as in Zarahemla, or the cities that were sunk or carried over with earth.

It should be obvious to scholars and theorists, but it is not, that such definitive statements as they often make are frequently not consistent with the written record, or with logic and reason. It might be better to be less adamant about ideas that cannot be supported by facts and text.

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