Monday, December 30, 2013

So Where is the Land of Promise? – Part V

Continuing from the last four 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 from Jerusalem; 8) Roads and Highways; 9) Driven before the wind; 10) Lehi’s Course to the Land of Promise; 11) Both Gold and Silver and Copper; 12) Hagoth’s ships went northward; 13) Forts, fortifications and resorts; and 14) Fortified wall.
Still another of the descriptions Mormon left us is that of the small neck of land that separated the Land Northward from the Land Southward. While many have claimed its existence in their various models, we need to pay particular attention to the actual descriptions given. First of all, Alma, when describing the land stated: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; 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).
    From this description we learn that this neck between the lands:
    1) Was small
    2) Connected the Land Northward and the Land Southward
    3) Separated the Land of Bountiful from the Land of Desolation
    4) Its width was the distance a Nephite could journey in a day and a half (about 18 hours of walking)
    5) Bordered the West Sea and had some type of terminus to the east
    6) It was the only land that was part of the Land Southward not surrounded by water
    7) It was the only land mass that connected the Land Southward with the Land Northward
A normal person walking would be a good way to express distance from one era to another since not much would change, i.e., men walk at about the same pace in any age, thus the distance described by a man walking can be measured
    A Nephite, a common man in Alma and Mormon’s day, could walk, no doubt, about the same pace as a common man today. No indication or suggestion is here given that this Nephite journey was meant to imply a special person, athlete, runner, military man, or any other special type person. In addition, the use of this phrase “journey for a Nephite” is given in the sense of explaining to a future reader a distance—that is the distance of the width of the small neck of land.
    To imply or suggest any other explanation is to change the wording or meaning of Mormon’s simple statement.Thus, this measurement is the distance a normal man could walk in a day and a half--about 18 hours, or about 25 to 30 miles.
    Now the word small was defined in the area of New England in Joseph Smith’s time as “Slender; thin; of little diameter; hence in general, little in size; not great; as a small house; a small horse; a small farm; a small body; small particles,” according to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.
    Further, Either uses the word narrow to describe this same neck of land when he wrote: “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). Again, the word narrow was defined in Joseph Smith’s time as: “Of little breadth; not wide or broad; having little distance from side to side." Also "of little extent; very limited; within a small distance.” Perhaps more specifically to Ether’s narrow neck is, “A strait; a narrow passage through a mountain, or a narrow channel of water between one sea and another.”
    In addition, when it comes to a physical landmass, it should be understood that those who saw it had to know that it was small or narrow in order to describe it as such. An isthmus, on the other hand, is not a narrow neck of land. Today, a narrow neck is usually described as an “isthmus,” but in 1828 the word isthmus only applied to a land of considerable extent between seas, such as Webster's example of "the isthmus between the Euxine (Black) and Caspian seas.” That distance, by the way, is about 350 miles—hardly what we would call “small” or “narrow.” On the other hand, the word Neck in 1828 was described as “a long narrow tract of land projecting from the main body, or a narrow tract connecting two larger tracts.”
Above, the isthmus between the Euxine Sea and the Caspian Sea, Webster’s example, which is about 350 miles wide. Below: The isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica, which is about 140 miles wide. In neither case would a man on foot in Nephite times know there was a narrow neck of land—nor could either of these areas be considered a narrow neck of land separating two larger land masses 
    Yet another description of importance is the narrow pass or passage that led from the Land Southward into the Land Northward. Not only was this pass narrow, but it was a type of bottleneck for movement from one land to another since it is described as an area that could be defended to stop movement from land to land, such as in the case of keeping Morianton (Alma 50:33-35) or the Lamanites from obtaining the Land Northward.
    This pass is described in Alma as “the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34). And it was described here as a place where a fleeing army could be caught and stopped, such as a narrow pass would afford, “And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them” (Alma 50:34).
    A little later, Moroni sent men to strengthen Teancum’s army in Bountiful and also sent “orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9)
    This passage was such a prominent landmark, as the small neck of land between two larger land masses would be, that Mormon worked out a truce with the Lamanites to use this pass as the dividing line between their two lands after the Nephites had been driven into the Land Northwared. Mormon wrote: “And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29).
    Again, using the terms as known to Joseph Smith in 1829, the word pass was defined as “A narrow passage, entrance or avenue; a narrow or difficult place of entrance and exit; as a pass between mountains; a passage, a road.” The word passage was defined as: “Road; way; avenue; a place where men or things may pass or be conveyed.”
Top: Long narrow passes between sheer mountain sides; Bottom Left/Middle: Short narrow passes between tall rock outcroppings; Lower Right: Narrow mountain pass among extended obstructions. Each of these narrow passes would be easy for a military blockade or defense against unwanted passage by an enemy force, which Mormon describes in Alma
    Clearly, Mormon described the Land of Promise as two main land masses, the Land Southward, and the Land Northward, which were connected by a small and narrow land mass he called a neck. Within this narrow neck was a narrow pass, which was the only passage between the two lands. And that pass was narrow enough that it could easily be guarded against an army trying to move from one land to the other--this is why from thje very beginning the Land of Promise was seen by readers of the Book of Mormon as shaped like an hourglass, i.e., large on both ends, narrow in the middle.
    Obviously, then, 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 16 covered in these five posts.

(See the next post, “So Where is the Land of Promise? – Part VI,” for more of these descriptions as listed in the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon)

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