Monday, December 16, 2013

The Land Northward – Part I

We ran across this article on the internet and decided it would make a good posting based on the numerous errors and misstatements it contained, even though it begins by stating a very positive approach to the article:     
    Comment: “The Book of Mormon states that the contents of the book are first-hand descriptions by the people that lived in the lands they were describing.  If so, then as first-hand descriptions, the descriptions would be accurate.  A first-hand account should be accurate without having to rely on any archaeological evidence.”
Response: A very accurate statement. Not too different from John L. Sorenson’s statement at the beginning of his book, though he did not follow through with it. We will have to see about this one. It also should be mentioned that the scriptural record was written by prophets of God who were often directed in what they wrote, such as Mormon (left), a prophet of some stature who was continually constrained by God as to his actions and writing. Thus, it is more than a first-hand description, it is the information the Lord wanted written and available to us in our day.
    Comment: “To prevent being biased by any archaeological evidence, this investigation uses the Book of Mormon as the sole document for determining the locations of the place names mentioned in the Book of Mormon” and “The wording in the Book of Mormon was exact. Any differences in phrases were assumed to mean something different unless they could be proved that they were the same.”
    Response: Another interesting promise. Let’s see if he keeps it. As an example, the terms “into the land which was northward” is different from “into the land northward,” and in fact, meant something entirely different in location.
    Comment: “English grammar allows for more than one way to say something.  However, the Book of Mormon is not based on English grammar, so the grammar used was assumed to be important unless it could be proven that it was not important.  For example, the phrases “land of the Nephi” and “land of Nephi” were considered to be different.”
Response: First of all, while it was not written in English grammar, Joseph Smith (left) translated it according to his own language. Secondly, there is no wordage “Land of the Nephi,” anywhere in the scriptural record, and "the Land of the Nephites" is used only twice, (Helaman 6:38; 3 Nephi 3:11), and means something entirely different than the Land of Nephi. So this example neither makes sense, nor would be accurate.
    Comment: “The land northward either bordered or had access to the Sea West (for shipping).  The land northward was far enough away from the narrow neck to make it beneficial to ship items there by sea and not over land.  There are at least two large bodies of water in the land northward.”
   Response: Using his criteria as indicated earlier, which he violates here, when Hagoth’s ships went northward, they went to “a land which was northward” (Alma 63:4), which is different from “the land northward,” therefore by his earlier reasoning, “Any differences in phrases were assumed to mean something different unless they could be proved that they were the same,” thus this land which was northward has to be a different land, therefore, we do not know that shipping landed along the West Sea in the Land Northward, and it is not so stated in the scriptural record. We might assume there was, especially since the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), but here we see that he is violating his own standard by making a statement of a condition that is not so mentioned in the record. We do know that Corianton "had gone forth to the land northward in a ship, to carry provision unto the people who had gone forth into that land" (Alma 63:10), but we do not know where the ship landed and delivered its timber cargo. Being an island, it could have sailed to any northern port. In addition, we do not know that "there are at least two large bodies of water in the land northward." We know there is a land of "many waters" in the land northward in which the land of Cumorah was located (Mormon 6:4), and we know that there was a body of water called "the waters of Ripliancum" (Ether 15:8), which could have been a large sea, since it was interpreted to mean "large, or to exceed all." But since waters and many waters are stated in the plural, we might be talking about numerous areas of water, or one (land of many waters) and the north sea (Ripliancum).
    Comment: “There is a wilderness in or around the land Bountiful. Alma 22:31 describes the land northward as being close enough to the wilderness around the land Bountiful for animals to migrate from the land northward to the land Bountiful in search of food.”
Bountiful, it was all wilderness—that is, it was unoccupied except for wild animals. These were the Jaredite animals that escaped the poisonous serpents in the Land Northward that eventually hedged up the way (Ether 9:33), keeping the Jaredites from entering the land Southward through the narrow neck of land as had the animals. This wilderness eventually disappeared under Nephite expansion into the area and is not mentioned again as a wildnerness in the scriptural record.
    Comment: “The reference to the land northward would indicate that the Nephites placed special significance on the land northward. When we read Alma 22:33, it seems that the Lamanites were attempting to enter the Land Northward, but weren’t they limited to the Land of Nephi in the far south?”
    Response: When Mormon began to abridge this portion of Alma’s writings about the proclamation the king over all the Lamanites sent among all his people, Mormon decides to insert an explanation of the land the king controlled, where the Lamanites and Nephites were divided, and how the Nephites had control over all the land north of the Land of Nephi. The verse in question above reads: “And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.” To fully understand this verse, we need to know that the Land of Promise was divided into two separate, but connected lands—the Land Northward, and the Land Southward. In addition, once Mosiah left the City of Nephi and discovered the city of Zarahemla, the Land Southward was divided into two parts, the Land North, which the Nephites controlled, and the Land South, which the Lamanites controlled.
This division of the Land Southward was between the Lamanite controlled Land of Nephi on the south, and the Nephite controlled Land of Zarahemla on the north--referred to in several places as the Land North and the Land South, but not to be confused with the Land Northward and the Land Southward
Between these two lands was a narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:27), or an unoccupied land, that may have had some feature(s) that rendered the land uninhabitable. This could have been a desert strip, a canyon or series of ravines, sharply rising hills, etc. In any event, it was a distinctive separating area that ran from sea to sea (Alma 22:27) and marked the division between the south and north within the Land Southward.
    We also have to keep in mind that Mormon is writing this around 380 A.D., long after the Nephites occupied the Land Northward, and long after the events surrounding Alma’s writing. Thus, Mormon is describing a 400-year-old situation based on his current knowledge—that is, he is describing a situation where the Nephites wisely controlled everything north of the narrow strip of wilderness at a time when the Lamanites had overrun not only all the Land Southward, but had encroached into the Land Norhtward and defeated the Nephites in several battles leading up to their final encounter and defeat in the Land of Cumorah. Thus, Mormon concludes this insertion by saying, “Now this was wisdom in the Nephites -- as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires” (Alma 22:34), which is exactly what Mormon did with his armies and people (Mormon 2:3-20),obtaining a treaty with the Lamanites that granted to the Nephites all of the Land Northward (Mormon 2:28). Thus, Mormon concludes that it was wisdom in the Nephites to have so controlled the land that in Mormon's day, the Nephites had a place to escape to--the Land Northward.
Now, in verse 33, Mormon is telling us that: 1) The Nephites (at the time of this proclamation) occupied everything north of the narrow strip of wilderness (yellow arrow) all the way to, and including, the land of Bountiful (the entire Land Southward north of the Land of Nephi); 2) The Lamanites only occupied the Land of Nephi to the south (red arrow); 3) The Lamanites had no lands north of the narrow neck of land, and 4) thus the Lamanites were not in a position to be able to reach the Land Northward and surround the Nephites in the middle.
    Keep in mind that Mormon, knowing the Lamanites would in his day occupy the lands north of the Land of Nephi, including parts of the Land Northward, which would bring about the downfall of the Nephite nation, was stating the importance of the Nephite control during the last century B.C. of the Land Southward and hemming in the Lamanites far to the south.
(See the next post, “The Land Northward – Part II,” for more information from the Article and our responses to it)

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