Friday, January 24, 2014

Was the Land Northward Skewed? Part I

Continuing from the last post regarding the articles of Don R. Hender’s website that one of our readers sent us:       
    Article: The word 'northward' is used every time Mormon refers to the Land North, which has been five times.”
    Response: First of All, the actual term “Land North” is never used in Alma, though it is implied, nor is it used in Mormon, and does not refer to the Land Northward at any time in the scriptural record.
It’s use is strictly as a separate land, as indicated when Moroni “poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south -- A chosen land, and the land of liberty” (Alma 46:17-emphasis mine).
Restated, Moroni was naming all the Land Southward as a land of liberty, then redefines that into the two separate lands in the Land Southward (separated by the yellow arrows)—the Land North (held by the Nephites) and the Land South (held by the Lamanites)—this was his land of liberty. 
And this is the meaning of the term Land North and Land South as is also shown in Helaman 6:9-10 and in 3 Nephi 6:2. Secondly, the term Land South and Land North are used six times in the scriptural record.
    Article: “And though it is not as frequently used, as the common perspective is from south to north, the word 'southward' has been used twice from the perspective of north to south.”
    Response: The term Land Southward is mentioned 9 times in the scriptural record. 6 times as a location, one time as an area one is coming from, and one time as an area one is going into, and one time as a physical landmark leading into (narrow pass led into). The Land Northward is mentioned 15 times in Alma alone, 21 times overall; 6 times as a separate location (Land Northward); 1 time as coming from; 10 times as going to; 3 times as a physical landmark leading into (narrow pass led into); and once in connection with Land Southward as a physical landmark being between (small neck between).
We need to keep in mind that Mormon’s statements of a Land Southward and a Land Northward provide us with a simple understanding of location—much like North and South Dakota, North and South Carolina, do to us today. The problem in Mormon’s day, is that these overall lands had no name per se (Dakota, Carolina), but were simply given directional names, much like the seas (West Sea, East Sea, North Sea and South Sea). However, Mesoamericanists have always wanted to skew this understanding since their land is skewed about 90º off the scriptural record directions. Thus, it has always behooved the Mesoamericanist to justify his land with a skewed meaning to the simple terms in the scriptural record. This always leads to an attempt to cloud the simple language with confused explanations, but the record is quite clear.
    Article: “Each of this instances of use you will have noticed, I have underlined the work in the scriptural verses. When something is not precisely north or precisely south in repsect to each other, the more generalized words of northward and southward are used.”
Response: We need to keep in mind that words mean something in the scriptural record, often different in 1829 English meanings when Joseph Smith translated the record than in today’s English meanings. However, in this case, then and now some English words can be interchanged, such as “north” and “northward” with the distinct meaning of one (north) being direct, and the other (northward) as general. Of course, Mormon did not write English on the plates, however, Joseph Smith used English to interpret those words, thus we find that an English usage applies overall. To better understand, the word “Northward” – today, this word means “in a general direction,” “toward the north,” “the direction or region to the north,” and in 1828, in the locale where Joseph Smith grew up and was translating, the word was defined as: “being towards the north,” “nearer to the north than to the east and west points,” “towards the north” or “towards a point nearer to the north than the east and west points.” Thus we can understand the term “northward” in the scriptural record to mean without equivocation that this land was toward the north of whatever point being discussed. Consequently, “they went into the land northward,” would mean they went from their present location into a land that was “toward the north.” In this same light, we can see that “In the Land Northward,” would mean that in the overall Land of Promise, there was a land “toward the north.” And since the word “toward” means “in the direction of,” the statement: “it being so far northward” (Alma 22:30) is understood to say: “it being so far toward the north.”
Living in Cedar City, we refer to Salt Lake City as being north of us—not northward, since that is not a common word used today. But it means the same thing—Salt Lake City is northward of Cedar City. Take the I-15 freeway—from St. George to Provo, this freeway actually heads northeast, not directly north.  From Provo to Sandy, it heads northwest, and from Sandy to Salt Lake it heads directly north. Yet, we refer to the I-15 as running north and south. In the other direction from Cedar City, the I-15 actually runs west by southwest, though one would refer to it running south. It continues in that direction to Barstow, then turns slightly and heads south by southwest, then south, and finally southeast through Los Angeles. Yet, we would refer to this in overall terms of heading south from Cedar City to Las Vegas and to Los Angeles.
    Mormon, in his writing, uses the same common sense logic. That is, he speaks in general terms. He is not a scout creating an orienteering map. He is speaking to us generally. The Land Northward is northward of the Land Southward—which means one portion of the Land of Promise is on the north and the other on the south. It is not likely he is making any more of a separation than that in his overall abridgement of the entire Nephite record.
    Article: “Mormon, or the divinely inspired translation of the Book of Mormon text by the Prophet Joseph Smith, has persistently given this more generalized aspect to the relationship between the land 'northward' and the land 'southward.' What this indicates is that the relationship between the two lands was somewhat skewed in relationship to each other and not exactly on top of each other in a precise north-south relationship.”
Response: They probably were to some degree. Take a look at North and South Carolina—they are slightly skewed, that is they are not squared on top of one another, but have extended and uneven widths, but they are north and south of one another. As for the Land of Promise, Mormon does not indicate any skewing in his writing. To the Nephites, there were two main divisions of land in their immediate land base—the Land of Mulek, north of the narrow strip of wilderness, which contained the main areas of the Land of Zarahemla and Land of Bountiful; and the Land of Lehi; and  south of the narrow strip of wilderness, which contained the Land of Nephi (including the area of first landing or first inheritance).
    This narrow strip of wilderness was the natural division of these two lands, since it was the separation point of the Lamanites (south) and the Nephites (north). In addition to that, but after about 500 years in the Land of Promise, the Nephites came to the narrow neck of land, and from there they began the major separation of their Land of Promise—the Land Southward, and the Land Northward (which Mormon in his abridgement sometimes combines chronologically, though it would not have been known as such during the actual time periods).
(See the next post, “Was the Land Northward Skewed? Part II,” for more of Hender’s views on the Land of Promise from his articles on his website)

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