Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Do We Know the North-South Distance of the Land Southward?

It is always interesting to find scholars who want to try and define the distances in the Land of Promise. John E. Clark, in his “An Internal Book of Mormon Geography,” which first appeared in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism in 1992, states: “Since most of the narrative of the Book of Mormon takes place in the land southward which both the Nephites and the Lamanites occupied, and considering the travel accounts listed, the distance for the land southward could be traversed north to south by normal travel in perhaps thirty days.”
While this is obviously an assumptive guess, it is still a reference for those who might run across this statement and use the information for other works, ideas, and articles. So let us take a look at this from a scriptural record point of view.
First of all, the Land Southward ran from the first landing point of the Lehi Colony along the west coast in the far south of the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:28), which was the terminus point in the north. Secondly, the Land Southward was divided into two main areas, referred to as the Land North and the Land South, with the divisional line a "narrow strip of wilderness" that ran from the Sea East to the Sea West (Alma 22:27). Basically, the Nephites occupied the land to the north of this wilderness division line (Land North), and the Lamanites occupied the land to the south of this division line (Land South), since the Lord brought “Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10; 3 Nephi 6:2), and we know that Mulek landed in the area where Mosiah found them (Omni 1:16) in the Land Southward.
The Lehi Colony landed along the west coast in this land southward, at an area referred to as the land of their [Lamanite] father’s first inheritance, (Alma 22:28). Assuming the Lamanites never went further south, and that is a big “assumption,” then the Lamanite control in the land southward begins at this landing site. From that point, Nephi and those who would go with him traveled northward. How far we have no idea. The record states “for the space of many days” (2 Nephi 5:7). There is simply no way to know how long is a period "for the space of many days," since it was the same term used in their travel to the New World (1 Nephi 18:9), thus we do not know how far they traveled, or in exactly what direction, nor is there any distance even suggested between the point of first landing and what became known as the City of Nephi—later called Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 7:1; 9:15). Because of this, no one can know or say how far or long the Land of Nephi was, yet Clark and others claim to be able to do so, but then anyone can guess.
After about four hundred years in this area, which the Nephites called the Land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8), Mosiah I was told to flee the area ahead of what must have been a planned massive Lamanite invasion (Omni 1:12). He did so, and evidently went northward as Mormon described the division of these lands (Alma 22:27, 29).
We don’t know how far or how long Mosiah, and those who would go with him, traveled. It only says that “they were led by the power of his [Lord’s] arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13). So now we have two distances of which we have absolutely no idea how far they are apart (from area of first landing to the City of Nephi, and from the City of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla are totally unknown distances).
We do know that from the Waters of Mormon (at an unknown distance and direction from the city of Nephi) to the land of Zarahemla was a distance of 21 days. However, we do not know that this distance was to the city of Zarahemla or just the outskirts of the land of Zarahemla, for it only says “they arrived in the land of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 24:25). In addition, this travel at times was hurried because of fear of being overtaken by pursuing armies (Mosiah 23:1-2; 24:18-19, 23), making it difficult to place a speed at which they traveled--though it does mean that they would have covered more ground in less time than otherwise might be concluded.
In a less fearful journey, the travel distance between these two points might have taken a longer time, which means that any distance we might conclude would obviously be inaccurate. Later, heading in the opposite direction, it took Ammon and his group forty days to travel from the City of Zarahemla to the City of Nephi (Mosiah 7:4). On that less hurried journey they were lost in the wilderness for some time, so we have no idea how many days were wasted while lost, and how many days a direct journey would have taken them.
In any event, no other travel along a north-south line is ever mentioned in the scriptural record where length of days is given. So we are left to conclude, from Clark’s thirty day suggestion, that the distance from the point of first landing to the City of Nephi, and from the City of Zarahemla to the narrow neck of land, takes a combined 9 days, that it is simply an assumption without any scriptural support at all! Not only that, but such a figure is totally unrealistic since it drastically limits the rest of the distances of the Land of Promise.
In fact, it would seem that the distance from the City of Nephi to the Land of Zarahemla, would be less than that from Zarahemla to Bountiful since the Lamanites were continually coming down out of the Land of Nephi to attack Nephite cities—suggesting a somewhat shorter distance. In fact, much of the last century B.C. is involved with this somewhat short distance between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla. To suggest that this was the longer distance in the entire Land Southward is not only just an assumption, but again seems unrealistic.
Obviously, the Land of Promise was longer from north to south than from east to west. And the distance from first landing to the narrow strip of wilderness separating the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, should be shorter than from the Land of Zarahemla to the narrow neck of land, since the entire length of the Land of Zarahemla, the entire length of the Land of Bountiful, and the entire length of the unnamed land in between would undoubtedly be a greater distance than the Land of Nephi alone. 

So how far (long) would Nephi have traveled to escape from his brothers before stopping and pitching their tents? (2 Nephi 5:7). Consider that his small group was running for their lives and were doing so because the Lord had told Nephi to flee and take all those who would go with him, which included, among others, his brothers Sam, Jacob and Joseph, and his two sisters. He obviously knew that he was in real danger from his older brothers and the sons of Ishmael since they were a rebellious group and had tried to kill him several times since leaving Jerusalem. How far would he have gone to escape them? Two days? Three days? Five days? 10 days? 30 days? How long? And what was the distance between the City of Zarahemla and the border of the Land of Zarahemla? Were their additional days in Alma’s journey from the Waters of Mormon to the City of Zarahemla? And how far were the Waters of Mormon from the City of Nephi? And how far was Bountiful north of Zarahemla?
With so many unknowns, in all reality there is no way to place a distance, in days or miles, from the north to the south of the Land Southward. Any attempt is simply guesswork, and not even an educated guess, but a series of assumptions with a distance attached to each assumption, which is completely unscholarly and frankly, very misleading.

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