Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mesoamerica’s Narrow Neck of Land

We received this in an email and thought it might do well as a post for the blog:
Comment: “I read your three-part series last July about the Isthmus of Rivas regarding James Warr’s so-called Nicaraguan Land of Promise and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought you might enjoy this following exchange between Warr and a reader of his blog on this same subject" Addison M.
Top: The Isthmus of Rivas, looking left to right (south to north) with the Pacific Ocean at the top and Lake Nicaragua on the bottom. This distance across from ocean to lake is 12 miles; Bottom: The east side of the Rivas Isthmus, looking west. Note the extremely flat land which presents no challenges to walking, and which also provides no defensive positions for the Nephites to guard against an enemy reaching the Land Northward. It would not take a day and a half, or even a day, to walk across 12 miles of this terrain
Warr: The place I consider to be the Narrow Neck of Land is located in Nicaragua, more precisely the Isthmus of Rivas between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua. I believe this is the only isthmus in the western hemisphere that matches the description in the Mormon scripture.  This "narrow neck" should be traversable in 12 hours or a normal day. It should be remembered that the Nephites did not travel at night even when pursuing, or being pursued, by their enemies, so it is not legitimate to suggest a 24 hour day. I challenge those espousing other theories to prove them by actually walking across their proposed "narrow necks" in a day as I did mine.  The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico, the "narrow neck" of one of the proposed theories, would take at least four days to cross on foot.  The Isthmus of Panama, which was the route of some of the "forty-niners" traveling to the California goldfields, required three days to cross.  If the geography is incorrect, the archaeology is irrelevant, no matter how impressive.
Reader: Your reading is inaccurate: 1. The "line bountiful" was 1.5 days wide, the narrow neck was not that wide. 2. It was a flat, straight plain for 1.5 days distance. There is nothing in either central or South America that meets that criteria.
Warr: There were two measurements of the Narrow Neck. One, as you mention, was 1.5 days travel across. The other, mentioned in Hel. 4:7, was one days journey across. This could have been the same place with different interpretations of distance. However I feel that they were two different locations on the Narrow Neck. The first being the distance from the Bay of Hogath (Bay of Salinas) to the East Sea (in this case Lake Nicaragua), and the other being the shortest distance across the isthmus which today is covered by the highway from La Virgen to San Juan del Sur. The first measures approximately 18-20 miles, the second 12 miles.
Reader: "Neck" is inferred but not stated. The "Line Bountiful" was "1.5 days wide" NOT the narrow neck, pass, or passage. The second reference only refers to "the line they had fortified." In any case, 1.5 or 1 days distance was not perceived by Mormon as something "narrow" capable of being blocked by snakes. Whatever you believe the "line bountiful" to be, it must be flat.
Warr: The area I visualize as the Narrow Neck is fairly flat. But I would be interested in knowing where you find a reference indicating it had to be flat.
Response: I did enjoy it, thanks.
Regarding this exchange, there is so much misinformation contained in it I thought I would respond to it here in this post. So let me cover those errors one at a time:
1. Actually, “neck” is not inferred, it is stated: “there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32). The inferred part is that this neck is “narrow,”  by the fact it can be crossed in one and a half day travel of a Nephite, which suggests a narrow width, probably about 25 to 30 miles;
Top: The Andes rise dramatically upward east of the Bay of Guayaquil. Bottom Left: A narrow neck of land existed between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, connecting these two major land masses. Before the Andes rose up during the tectonic movement when the Pacific Plate overrode the South American Plate, this narrow neck was approximately 26 miles across from water (bay) to sea (East Sea). Bottom Right: After the rise of the Andes, which form nearly a sheer wall of mountains at this point, the narrow neck still existed, only then (as now) is was bordered by the water (bay) and the mountains. The narrow passage  or pass through this narrow neck (Pass of Huayna Capac still exists today and was the scene of the epic Inca battle with the people of the north). It might be important to remember that the East Sea is not mentioned here or elsewhere after the Andes rose, or after 3 Nephi.
2. There is no list, suggestion or indication about the topography of the narrow neck of land. Within the narrow neck is a “narrow pass,” or passage (Alma 50:34; 52:9). Since this pass “leads into the land northward,” and the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for this narrow neck of land, the inference is that the pass was within the neck of land that separated the two lands;
3. It would seem likely that this narrow pass, which Mormon also calls a narrow passage (Mormon 2:29), which led both into Land Northward and into the Land Southward, is the same pass or passage, and it is within the narrow neck of land. This pass, or passage, would likely be flat since it was a path, road or trail over which Nephites and Lamanites traveled, and, no doubt, those Jaredite “hunters” who came into the Land Southward after game (Ether 10:19); however, there is no other inference to the neck itself as being flat outside this pass—for if it was, then why have a pass and what would its importance be if the entire neck was flat; therefore it could have been hilly, mountainous, etc. In fact, if it were flat as is Warr’s Isthmus of Rivas, and his Reader’s claim, why would Limhi’s 43-man expedition looking for Zarahemla have crossed into the Land Northward seeing the sea on each side and knowing they were no longer in the land from which they came, or for which they sought?
4. “The Line Bountiful” is mentioned only once in the scriptural record (Alma 22:32) and refers to the narrow neck between the Land Southward and the land Northward. This “line” was obviously considered the boundary or border between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation. Whether this line was at the southern end of the narrow neck or the northern end, or in the middle, is not stated. However, in Alma 63:5, we can figure out that the line was probably at the southern end since Hagoth built his ship “on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” suggests the narrow neck was to the north of his shipyard, though he was along the border of the Land Bountiful. However, no  matter how you state it, the Line Bountiful and the narrow neck would both have been the same in distance, being one and a  half day journey for a Nephite;
5) As for the fortified line that was a one day journey, Mormon is not referring to the same area, but a place within the Land of Bountiful (Helaman 4:7) where the Nephites had been pushed so far north that they had given up all their possessions in the Land Southward (Helaman 4:8). This line was a last stand position for the Nephite army, decided by Moronihah, and so valiant were the Nephites in holding this line, that they stopped the crazed Lamanite advance, and form this point eventually regained half their Land Southward (Helaman 4:6-7, 9-10);
6) There was no Bay of Hogath or Bay of Hagoth mentioned in the record, however, it seems there would have been some type of bay or inlet where he built his shipyard—it would not likely have been along the coast itself. However, the record states no measurement from any bay (or Hagoth’s shipyards) to the East Sea. The measurement was across the narrow neck;
7) There is no way it would have taken a Nephite a day and a half to cover 12 miles (the distance across the Isthmus of Rivas). The fact that Warr crossed it in 6 hours, evidently from his description afterward, he not being in good shape to make the trek. Six hours does not equate to 18 hours (1 ½ days). His very experience should have told him that this was not the narrow neck of land. By the way, if you were to take a ride along highway NIC 16 from San Juan del Sur (Pacific Ocean coast) to La Virgen (Lake Nicaragua), you would find it to be rather flat, farm land and partially wooded, and a rather easy 12-mile distance to cover on foot, one that could be done by a Nephite or normal person in a matter of 5 to 6 hours as Warr pointed out;
8) I agree there is nothing in Central America that meets Mormon’s description of the narrow neck of land. However, in South America, the distance from the east shore of the Bay of Guayaquil to the sharp rise of the Andes Mountains creates a narrow neck or narrow stretch of land for a few miles as the land bends around the shore. Within it is a narrow pass made famous by the Inca for the battles they fought there when conquering the Ecuadorian cultures. This distance is about 28 miles in width, and before the Andes rose, the ocean occupied that area, so that before and after the Andean mountain revolution, there was this narrow stretch of land that would take about a day and a half to cross, then and now.
I do agree with Warr on one point: “If the geography is incorrect, the archaeology is irrelevant, no matter how impressive.” The Isthmus of Rivas is incorrect, his interpretation of scripture claiming a day’s journey across the narrow neck is incorrect. From his standpoint, nothing else matters about his model--it is irrelevant!


  1. It surprises me the no one seems to understand that the narrow neck is not necessarily an isthmus but a mountain pass through the narrow wilderness(mountain range) that runs east and west separating the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla.

  2. Niagara means " neck".... narrow neck of land in the case of the Book of Mormon..

  3. Niagara means " neck".... narrow neck of land in the case of the Book of Mormon..