Thursday, June 20, 2013

Have You Ever Wondered? – Part I

Have you ever wondered why Mormon, in his abridgement, discussed the directions, shape, alignment, and overall geographical descriptions he included? After all, the Book of Mormon is overall a religious account of a people and the results of their living righteously, and of their disobeying God.  It is not a history of a time, or a geography of a land, though Mormon included a little of both, mainly it would appear so his future reader could better understand the events he describes.
After all, Mormon himself said he could only write a hundredth of the information in the original records he was abridging (Helaman 3:14). He also told us that “there are many books and many records of every kind” kept by the Nephites, which contained information on “Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms” (Helaman 3:14-15).
The Book of Mormon includes the founding of a great land, a land choice above all other lands, and of how the Lord led certain groups to it, and the promises He made with these groups. It contains an important understanding of government, and how secret combinations can destroy an entire nation, and how unrighteousness spreads until it consumes every facet of a people. It contains how the Lord is directly involved in our lives, and in the development of people, in their understanding of the purpose of life and their existence, and what type of life leads to salvation and eternal life.  It contains knowledge of the birth and death of the Savior, and His interest in people in far flung areas, His appearance to the people in the Western Hemisphere, and verifies and supports numerous points made by Biblical writers.
In all, it is a religious work, a second witness of Jesus Christ, and man’s interaction with God.
So why, when Mormon could only write about one hundredth of the information available to him, did he spend so much time describing the Land of Promise, its geographical setting, its shape, alignment, and appearance?   
The Book of Mormon contains 268,163 words in its 531 pages (about one-third as many words as the Bible contains). Using Mormon’s one-hundredth figure, that means Mormon had nearly 27 million words to choose from in order to complete his abridgement. While this is, no doubt, more of a concept than literal, the point is that Mormon chose very carefully what he would include in his abridgement, leaving out vast amounts of the Nephite story.
So the question is asked again. Why did Mormon include so much geographical information in his abridgement? And why was so much of it in specific detail. Take as an example: “the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful” and “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” and “over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness” and “the city of Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore” and “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” and “which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west.”
Surely Mormon could have eliminated much of this descriptive information since most of it does not aid us in putting together even a somewhat accurate map of the Land of Promise. Nor does much of it give us a clearer picture of the overall land—as an example, we don’t know the elevation relationships to most of these places, other than the fact that the Land of Nephi was higher than the Land of Zarahemla, for the Lamanites kept coming "down" to battle the Nephites.
We know that the Waters of Mormon were near the City of Nephi, but there is not one word suggesting distance or direction, and the same can be said for the location of both Shilom and Shemlon, which were near the City of Nephi, but we are not told how far away or in what direction.
Yet, Mormon did include geographical information on occasion that enables us to better understand a little of the distance, and much of the direction of overall major areas, such as found in Alma 22:27-34.
Probably most readers of the Book of Mormon are not interested in the geography mentioned within its pages, yet the geography is there, and it was included as one-hundredth of what could be written. Therefore we must conclude it was important enough to Mormon to include it and it should be important enough to use to understand it.
As an example, there should be no question in anyone’s mind that the Land of Promise ran north and south (or northward and southward). It did not run east and west (as Mesoamerican Theorists like to claim) from the description Mormon gave us in Alma 22. Therefore, we can conclude without any difficulty that there was 1) a dividing line, an easily discernable physical feature, that very obviously separated the two lands—the Land Northward from the Land Southward, and 2) the major land divisions as stated by Mormon ran north and south, and mostly east and west from sea to sea. These two points should be indisputable.
Therefore, beginning in the south and working north, according to Mormon’s descriptions, we start with 1) the Land of First Inheritance where Lehi landed; 2) the Land of Nephi which ran from the west sea to the east sea; 3) a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the west sea to the east sea; 4) the Land of Zarahemla, which ran from the east to the west sea; 5) an unnamed land, whose borders are unknown between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful; 6) the Land of Bountiful that ran from the east to the west sea; 7) a narrow strip of land bordered on each side by the west sea and the east sea, called a narrow neck of land; 8) the Land of Desolation, which contained or bordered the Jaredite land of Moron; 9) the land of many waters, which included the land of Cumorah, and probably bordered the north sea, or Ripliancum.
We also know that all the land south of the narrow neck of land was surrounded by water, and that the narrow neck itself was bordered on each side by the west sea and the east sea. In addition, we know that there was aa east sea bordering the Land Northward and a north sea (called Ripliancum) bordering the Land Northward.
All of the references to this information is contained in the scriptural record, the previous post, and numerous other earlier posts, and should be indisputable, since Mormon’s descriptions of these points is quite clear and specific.
(See the next post, “Have You Ever Wondered Part II,” to see why there is a controversy over the location of the Land of Promise)

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