Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Where was the Siege of the Gadianton Robbers?

With some readers, and others elsewhere, there seems to be some confusion over where the land was located that the Nephites occupied when the Gadianton Robbers came down to do battle in about 16 A.D.
First of all, the scripture tells us that the place “was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land Zarahemla and the land Bountiful, yea, to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation” (3 Ne. 3:23).”
Secondly, to understand this description, we need to recognize that there are five types of “lands” mentioned in the scriptural record:
1. The Land Southward (Alma 22:32)
2. The Land Northward (Alma 22:32)
3. The Land Which was Northward (Alma 63:5)
4. The Land North (Helaman 6:10)
5. The Land South (Helaman 6:10)
Third, we also need to understand that there are divisions within lands. As an example, the Land Southward contained the major lands of Bountiful, Zarahemla, and Nephi (Alma 22:27-29). Yet, within each of these were other lands, such as the Land of Zarahemla also containing the land of Minon (Alma 2:24), land of Gideon (Alma 8:1), land of Melek (Alma 8:4), etc.; the Land of Nephi also contained the land of Jerusalem (Alma 24:1), the land of Ishmael (Alma 24:5), the land of Middoni (Alma 20:15), etc. And in the Land of Bountiful was the land of Mulek and probably others.
Fourth, not all lands are mentioned, or given names within the scriptural account. As an example, the land between Zarahemla and Bountiful (Helaman 4:5; 3 Nephi 3:23) is not named, nor is the land of their father’s first inheritance actually given a name (Alma 22:28).
Fifth, though it is generally agreed among historians that the Nephites named the land around a city by the same name—city and land of Nephihah (Alma 50:14); city and land of Jerusalem (Alma 21:4; 24:1)—it is not always confirmed by the scriptural record. As an example, much discussion takes place regarding the retaking of the city of Antiparah (Alma 56:14), which term “city of Antiparah” is used eight times and referenced once, but at no time is the term “land of Antiparah” mentioned. In addition, though there was a city beyond Antiparah, this city and land is never mentioned by name (Alma 56:31).
Sixth, there is a term used frequently “and all the land round about” such as in (Alma 21:21; 24:1; 49:13) that does not have a specific name and can refer to previously mentioned land or land not already desctibed or named.
Seventh, we need to keep in mind that in reading Mormon, he is operating from two different viewpoints, not just one. The first, is that of his overall knowledge of the entire 1000 year history of the Land of Promise, the lands involved, their names, etc. In the second, he is also looking at events through the eyes and descriptions of earlier writers who viewed the land differently. That is, in Nephi, Jacob and Enos’ day, there was nothing known north of the Land of Nephi. In Mosiah I and Benjamin’s time, the Land of Zarahemla had no known northern border. In Mosiah II’s time, the Nephites knew about the great Land Northward, and may well have been exploring the area they later called the Land of Bountiful. In Alma’s time the borders of the Land of Zarahemla were extended northward, the Land of Bountiful was occupied and at the close of Alma's record and in Helaman’s time, Nephites emigrated into the Land Northward in large numbers.
Eighth, at times Mormon describes all the Land Southward as the Land of Zarahemla, as when “departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward,” yet to do so they had to pass through the Land of Bountiful and this unnamed land to reach the narrow neck and enter the Land Northward. Then, too, when Mormon was a small boy, he was "carried by my father into th eland southward, even to the land of Zarahemla" (Mormon 1:6), again, not mentioning passing through the Land of Bountiful and this unnamed land between.
Evidently, in doing so, Mormon is writing from the point that Zarahemla was the capital of the Nephite Nation, it was their main city, and no doubt in the day was the focal point of most everything Nephite. When Mormon describes this land to be occupied during the Gadianton siege, he then qualifies the location between Zarahemla and Bountiful, evidently meaning between the two focal points of both lands, i.e., city of Zarahemla and city of Bountiful, the latter being the focal point of the Land of Bountiful where the Temple was located.
Left: The Land Southward in the Land of Promise; Right: Where the Nephites gathered to fight the Gadianton Robbers under Governor Lachoneus
With all of this in mind, then, let us look at the area which Lachoneus, the governor of the land, ordered the Nephites to occupy and fortify against the promised attack by the Gadianton Robbers. “And the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land Zarahemla and the land Bountiful, yea, to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation” (3 Nephi 3:23). This area of land had to have been of some size, for “There were a great many thousand people who were called Nephites, who did gather themselves together in this land. Now Lachoneus did cause that they should gather themselves together in the land southward, because of the great curse which was upon the land northward” (3 Nephi 3:24).
So from these two verses, we learn that this occupied area was: 1) In the Land Southward, 2) In a land between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful, and 3) Included the Land of Bountiful clear to the narrow neck of land (the line between the lands of Bountiful and Desolation).
Obviously, by the time of Lachoneus’ order to gather with all their belongings, foods, animals, and possessions into the center of the land, Bountiful was regarded as a separate land and no longer seen as being a portion of the greater land of Zarahemla. In addition, there appears to be a fairly large unnamed land between the borders of Bountiful and Zarahemla, whether just here in the center of the land (3 Nephi 3:21), or whether it stretched from sea to sea, we are not told.
How many were there? We are not told directly, but the Nephites were gathered by the thousands and tens of thousands (3 Nephi 3:22). In fact, there were a great many thousand people who were called Nephites, who did gather themselves together in this land. This gathering took quite some time, as much as two years, to accomplish, from the sixteenth year to the end of the eighteenth year (3 Nephi 3:1; 4:1). This was, obviously, no small undertaking and involved extensive fortifications in this central valley area, not only in building anew, but also in destroying anything the Robbers could have used for their sustenance (3 Nephi 4:3). After 22 years, the siege ended and the Robbers were defeated (3 Nephi 5:7).
Thus, in the center of the Land Southward, in the area called the Land North, between the narrow neck of land and the northern border of the Land of Zarahemla, the Nephites, along with their Lamanite compadres of the time, defeated the Gadianton Robbers and completely removed them from the land, putting an end to all those wicked and secret and abominable combinations (3 Nephi 5:6).

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