Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where the Events of the Book of Mormon Took Place – Part I

In a lengthy article entitled “Before DNA,” written by Matthew Roper and John L. Sorenson (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume 12, Issue 1, Maxwell Institute, Provo, Utah, Pg 6-23), several questions are asked and answered. While some appear mostly correct, others need further discussion and understanding.

As an example, in the comment, “When mapped, the outline of lands familiar to the Nephites appears to have been more or less in the shape of an hourglass but with the nature of the northward and southward extremities being left unclear.”

The hourglass shape has been discussed in a previous post. For now, the idea that the northward and southward extremities (Land Northward and Land Southward) are unclear is simply not true. At least in the Land Southward, we have a very clear picture of the area. While we do not know exactly where many cities were located, nor can we pinpoint the distances involved, we do know for certain that the extremity (boundary) of the land is much more clearly stated.

Mormon tells us that the landing site (first inheritance) was located along the West seashore in the far south—nothing is ever mentioned of anything further south than this point. From there, moving northward, was the Land of Nephi, then a narrow strip of wilderness, then the Land of Zarahemla, then the Land of Bountiful, which completed the Land Southward. This land was completely surrounded by water except for a narrow bridge or isthmus called a “small” or “narrow” neck of land (Alma 22:27-34). There were also wilderness areas (unoccupied tracts of land) on the west and on the east of the southern portion of the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:28-29).

In addition, there were other lands within these three major north-south divisions, with 26 separate lands identified in the Land Southward and 5 identified in the Land Northward, and many other not by name (Mormon 5:4-5), and not counting the Jaradite named lands, such as the Land of Nehor (Ether 7:4), Land of Moron (Ether 7:5), Land of Corihor (Ether 14:27), etc.

Now, for the most part, these cities seem to run in a north-south line, with several along the east seashore from the Land of Nephi to the Land of Bountiful, with many identified along the West Sea near the borders of the Land Desolation. In addition, when Moronihah had placed his two armies (the other under Lehi) in the borders (Helaman 1:26), which would have been by the seashores to the west and east, he was able to send both armies into the center of the land (Helaman 1:25) to head off the invading Lamanite army under Coriantumr. Such a maneuver allowed the Nephites to completely surround the invaders on all sides (Mormon 1:31), and would have been possible only if the land was basically narrow from east to west.

Thus, we can obviously conclude with some certainty that the extremity of the Land Southward was much longer than it was narrow.

As for the Land Northward, it would seem from the movement of the Jaredites during their final battles that ranged from the Land of Moron (near the West Sea where they landed), to the north, Waters of Ripliancum, and to Ablom, near the east seashore and then to the land the Nephites called Cumorah, suggests a much smaller land mass than the Land Southward.

Thus, it cannot be said that the “nature of the northward and southward extremities being left unclear,” for that implies that we do not know the basic shape and character of the land and its limits. However, as stated above, these limits were fairly well defined by Mormon who, having lived and fought numerous battles in both lands, knew the land well enough to write correctly and descriptively about it.

The problem is, that when one tries to promote Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, the north and south extremities cannot be defined because there could not be four seas surrounding the area, it could not be described as an island as Jacob did, nor could there be any definitive understanding of the lands to the south of the Land of Nephi, nor north of the Land of Many Waters. Thus, to the Mesoamerican theorists, the extremities are unclear—however, to one following only Mormon’s descriptions, the boundaries seem quite clear.

(See the next post, “Where the Events of the Book of Mormon Took Place – Part II,” for more of these correctable points)

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