Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Common Sense Approach to Alma 22 and the Mulekites – Part III

Continuing from the last post on the 22nd Chapter of Alma:
Thus it seems clear that the average man could cover about 25-30 miles in an 18 hour period, which should tell us, based on Mormon’s comments, that the narrow neck of land was no wider than about 35 miles, and no less than about 20 miles in width. Obviously, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica, at 144 miles across, would not come close to matching Mormon’s description.
Simple drawing (not to scale and used strictly for relationship locations) of the Land Southward based on Mormon’s description, that was completely surrounded by water except for a narrow neck of land that led into the Land Northward
At this point, then, Mormon goes on to tells us how the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for the small or narrow neck of land, which connected the Land Southward with the Land Northward. After describing the narrow width of this narrow neck of land, Mormon wrote: “and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
We need to understand that this “narrow neck” was a strip of land that ran between the seas and connected the two main lands of the Land of Promise as Mormon so clearly tells us. Thus we find from Mormon’s description that the Land Southward, which held (from south to north) the Land of Nephi, the narrow strip of wilderness, the Land of Zarahemla, and the Land of Bountiful, were surrounded by water on the east, south, and west, except for in the north where this narrow neck of land ran from the Land Southward to the Land Northward—this narrow neck of land with the sea on either side is “where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20).
We also learn from other descriptions that there was a sea to the east of the Land Northward (Ether 9:3; 14:26), and north, which the Jaredites called Ripliancum, which meant “large” or “to exceed all” (Ether 15:8), which should suggest a large sea, or the Sea North described by Mormon In Helaman.
In fact, there was a sea to the north and a sea to the south as well as a sea to the east and a sea to the west of the Land of Promise (Helaman 3:8), and this description was in connection to the Nephite traveling from the Land Southward into the Land Northward, “and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth.” Helaman also wrote that “And thus it did come to pass that the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to build up their waste places, and began to multiply and spread, even until they did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 11:20)
Such descriptions can only describe an island and, in fact, this is exactly how Jacob described the entire Land of Promise when he told the Nephites after explaining to them that they had been led away from the land of Jerusalem: “but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). Which obviously means that the Land of Promise was an island in the sea--that sea over which they traveled in Nephi’s ship from the time of first landing through the descriptions until 3 Nephi chapter 8, or the time of destruction during the crucifixion.
Left: A map of the narrow neck showing its relationship to both seas, and the Land Northward and Land Southward; Right: Within the narrow neck is a narrow passage that leads between the two lands (placement of the two cities shown is merely for reference within a general area)
In addition, we learn that this narrow neck of land ran between the east sea and the west sea (where the sea divides the land), with a narrow pass through the narrow neck (Alma 51:34) that provided access between the Land Southward and the Land Northward (Alma 52:9). This narrow pass, separated the Land Northward and the Land Southward (Mormon 2:29), and was the dividing line between the lands of Bountiful and Desolation (Alma 22:32), which marked the demarcation of the treaty between the Nephites and the Lamanites-Robbers in 350 A.D. (Mormon 2:29).
There are other points still—such as an unnamed land between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful. Helaman introduces this unnamed land when he tells us that when the Lamanites “succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful” (Helaman 4:5), and when the disciple Nephi writes about the war between the Nephites and the Robbers, he describes it taking place in “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).
Now the Land of Bountiful evidently ran from nearly the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:33), and the Land of Jershon was along the east coast, south of the land of Bountiful, but bordering along the southern border of the Land of Bountiful: “Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful” (Alma 27:22).
However, when we try to get too exact with Mormon’s descriptions, we find it more difficult to make placements, specifically of cities. As an example, the Land of Melek was evidently adjacent to the Land of Jershon (Alma 35:13), and not far from the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 45:18), and on the west of the River Sidon (Alma 8:3), a three-day journey to the south of the city of Ammonihah (Alma 8:6) in the land of Ammonihah (Alma 8:18). The difficulty arises when we try to pinpoint the city of Melek since we don’t know the distances involved. From one point of view, Melek being near Jershon, would place it over toward the east, not far from the seashore. Yet, being west of the Sidon River would place it more toward the west. Nor can we say that some ruins is in that general area of our model, therefore, it has to be that city.
Map posted on Mormon Mesoamerica showing numerous cities and sites of the Book of Mormon placed on their model map of Mesoamerica. Other than the map running west to east, rather than north to south (Alma 22:27-33), there is no real value in these city locations since they do not agree with the scriptural record (see Bountiful located in Yucatan far away from the narrow neck as an example) and done so without really any accurate information in the record to base it upon
The point of this is to show that when someone tries to tell us where all these cities were located, we need to keep in mind how difficult it is to try and pinpoint most, if not all of them. A few are described in greater detail, but most are quite ambiguous in location. This is why when people start diagramming this city and that city, we need to keep in mind that there is not sufficient information in Mormon’s descriptions to do that.
We are much safer sticking to the overall shape and alignment of the Land of Promise and its seas, which Mormon is far more specific in his descriptions, than trying to locate all the cities mentioned in the record. Even claiming a location for the Waters of Mormon is superfluous since we only know they are near the city of Nephi, but not in which direction or how far away, etc.
We are far better off following Mormon’s abridged descriptions of the geography of the Land of Promise than in trying to expand on it using guesswork and hyperbole as so many Theorists do. And especially reading Mormon’s writing as it was written without trying to alter statements and meaning to fit a preconceived model and location, such as they do stating Alma 22:30 and ignoring Omni 1:16 (the latter being an eye-witness account).

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