Sunday, December 29, 2013

So Where is the Land of Promise? – Part IV

Continuing from the last three posts, listing actual descriptions of the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon and how any Land of Promise model should match all of those listed in that writing. We have earlier covered 1) Mountains, “whose height is great”; 2) Two unknown animals; 3) Two unknown grains; 4) Plants that cure fever; 5) Land of promise as an island; 6) The four seas surrounding the Land of Promise; 7) the Climate where Lehi’s seeds grew that he brought to the Land of Promise; 8) Roads and Highways; 9) Driven before the wind; 10) Lehi’s Course to the Land of Promise; and 11) Both Gold and Silver and Copper. 
Another important criteria has to do with a simple statement about Hagoth’s ships. Though extremely important, it is often ignored.  Mormon wrote: “And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large 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. And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward” (Alma 63:5-6).
    Two important points are made here: 1) The ship was launched into the West Sea; and 2) the ship then “took their course northward.” Though a simple statement, it is amazing how little attention is paid to its importance in better understanding the Land of Promise.
For Hagoth’s ships to leave the area of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec (narrow neck of land) and set sail into the Pacific Ocean (West Sea), they would have had to travel 120 miles in a southwesterly direction, then 25 miles in a due west direction, then 750 miles in a northwesterly direction before it could have turned onto a northward (red arrow) direction, which is the direction Mormon tells us the ships initially took (Alma 63:6)
Obviously, any model of the Land of Promise would have to have a west sea coastline that ran north and south, not east and west as Mesoamerica does.
    Yet another description that enables us to look more closely at a Land of Promise location is the continual use of forts, fortifications, and resorts (small fort) mentioned in the scriptural record. In the book of Alma alone, resort is used 3 times, fort l4, fortifications 8, fortify or fortified 13, and stronghold 14 times.
    As an example, Moroni “had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small fort or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8), And in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men; and thus he did fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites” (Alma 48:9).
    Thus, we should find all sorts of forts, stone walls, and high-ground fortresses throughout the Land of Promise. Moroni not only dug ditches and built walls of timber for these fortress walls (Alma 49:18-22; 50:1-6), but he also built “walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8).
    Obviously, these fortifications were not just wooden stockade walls that would deteriorate over time and disappear, but also built walls of stone that would not only withstand a concentrated attack by the enemy, but last for centuries.
Top: Stone walls erected for defense; Bottom: Small forts, or resorts, that often served as lookout positions for the larger army
    While the purpose of these small forts, or resorts, is not mentioned in the scriptural record, other than they are included with the construction of defensive strongholds (Alma 52:6), it must be concluded that they served a defensive purpose in the war against the Lamanites. It should also be mentioned that the first mention of resorts is in connection with the defector Zoramites “being the most acquainted with the strength of the Nephites, and their places of resort” (Alma 48:5), suggesting that the Zoramites, having lived among the Nephites, were not only well acquainted with the strength of their cities (fortresses), stone walls, etc., but also their small forts—which can only mean that they knew about the Nephite system of warning outposts. Nor were these fortifications in just one particular area, for “Moroni had fortified, or had built forts of security, for every city in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13; see also 50:11 and 62:42).
    Obviously, any Land of Promise location must show not only erected buildings, impressive as they  might be, but such fortified areas, stone walls, hillside or mountainous small forts as a remnant of a once powerful Nephite nation that withstood the constant attacks of a dedicated enemy for nearly 800 years before being finally exterminated. While there are many stone edifices in Mesoamerica, there are few fortresses and no outpost stone structures serving as lookout resorts. There are none whatever in any of the other suggested locations for the Land of Promise, except of the crudest manner. Such structures are only found in the Andean area of South America, in  Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
It is obvious that these forts and fortresses found all over the Andean area of Peru, western Bolivia and Ecuador were built for defense. Walls surround most, and others were built on hilltops, and still others had such small entrances that an enemy could onlly enter one at a time in single file
    There is also a particular mention of a fortification that the Nephites built across the land to stop the advance northward of the Lamanite invasion. At this time, in 36 B.C., three years after Helaman died, the war broke out with great fervor—a war that saw the Lamanites conquering all of the Land of Zarahemla and driving the Nephites and Moronihah’s army back into the Land of Bountiful. Mormon writes: “and there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country” (Helaman 4:7).
    For two years this war progressed, no doubt, from city to city in the Land of Zarahemla, as Nephite dissenters stirred up the Lamanites to battle. So heated was the war, that the Nephites lost almost all of the Land Southward until they were driven back to a point where Moronihah had the Nephites build a fortified wall across the land in Bountiful after the army retreated northward. This fortified line evidently was so successful, that it stopped the Lamanite advance, and the following year saw the Nephite army retaking many parts of the land and regaining many cities which had previously fallen into the hands of the Lamanites (Helaman 4:9). The year after the Nephites gained more, even half of all their previous possessions in the Land Southward (Halaman 4:10).
    Obviously, then, this was no mere ditch or mounded earth piled up, but an impenetrable, well fortified wall that stretched across the land from the west sea eastward. Since this wall was the length of a day’s journey for a Nephite (Helaman 4:7), it obviously had some eastward terminus that was impassable by the Lamanites, such as deep canyons and steep mountains. Nor was this wall a mere temporary, quickly constructed chest-high fortification (breastwork, barricade or parapet), but a sturdy, stone wall (bulwark) that stopped the Lamanite invaders in their tracks and turned the tide of the three year war.
Top: The Great Wall of Peru, built to defend against attack from the south (right) runs parallel to the north side of the Santa Valley; Bottom: the walls as it crossed the mountain passes and along the ridges
    This Great Wall of Peru, which stretches from the west coast of northern Peru near the mouth of the Santa River in what is now a large marsh, was stone and broken rocks set in mud mortar as it crossed the Santa Valley and hilly interior. It stood as high as 20 to 30 feet, with 14 stone fortresses located on hills overlooking the wall, dated to the period between 900 B.C. to 100 B.C.
Top: Parts of the Great Wall of Peru still standing today; Bottom: The wall ran from near the mouth of the Santa River, up along the river for several miles, then along the north ridge of the Santa Valley to near Corongo, effectively cutting off any movement from the south to the north because of the steep, almost sheer mountains beyond that point
    This should suggest to all who study the scriptural record, that any true Land of Promise must match all of the descriptions listed in the Book of Mormon—it is not a pick and choose arrangement in selecting those that agree with your point of view, but must match all of the descriptions, beginning with these first 14 covered in these three posts.
(See the next post, “So Where is the Land of Promise? – Part V,” for more of these descriptions as listed in the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon)

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