Sunday, February 16, 2014

One Theorist’s View of the Narrow Neck – Part I

One of our readers sent us an article by Aric Turner describing his view of the Narrow Neck of Land. Turner is a Mesoamericanist and quotes a lot out of the RLDS Book of Mormon, which has very different chapter and verse numbers. Since there are a number of inaccuracies in his article, we thought we would go over it in a full post, with our own responses to it. According to Turner, there are some major criteria needed for a world location to fit the Book of Mormon geography, which he states:
    1. Turner: “There must be no cold or snow.  There is only one reference to snow (I Nephi 3:46 [11:8], “...and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.”)  This statement was made by Nephi in the Valley of Lemuel (in the Old World). So, the people in the Book of Mormon knew snow, yet there are no references to cold or snow mentioned in the Promised Land.”
    Response: There is no reason to believe that there was no snow any more than there is reason to believe that there was snow. It is simply not mentioned. As for the reference cited above (1 Nephi 11:8), this is part of a vision, and Nephi was using the term “driven snow” as a metaphor. It has nothing to do with any temperature or weather condition in the Land of Promise. We do not know if the people in the New World knew snow, if they had never seen it. Nephi knew snow from living at Jerusalem, as did Sam and Zoram, as Jerusalem gets a major snow storm about once every seven years.
A recent snow in Jerusalem. While snow doesn’t fall all that often in Israel, it does snow occasionally
    As for cold, we do not know the temperature of the Land of Promise. We know that at one point, Alma wrote that “people died from fever, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land” (Alma 46:40). To claim that a narrow neck of land had to have no cold or snow, is simply self-serving to match his Mesoamerican model.
    2. Turner: “There must be an east wind of destruction. As for wind, there are several different kinds of references used. The use of “wind” is very distinct and purposeful. The descriptions range from mild wind to winds of destruction (“whirlwinds” and “east wind”). A key description for locating the lands of the Book of Mormon is that is has to be someplace where a wind from the east is strong enough to cause immediate destruction and occurs often enough to be useful as an analogy. In Mosiah 5:50 [7:31], “...they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.”
    Response: One needs to understand that very often scriptural language refers metaphorically to possible events. The east wind was not something to which the Nephites were threatened weather-wise, but from the Lord’s wrath. As an example, when Moses tried to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free one of the plagues the Lord sent was a plague of locusts—and how did the locusts get to Egypt in such large numbers? “The Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts” (Exodus 10:13). With that wind came great destruction—which was a natural occurrence in Egypt (a wind from the east). It also became an idiom or warning to generations of Jews about the result of not being obedient. 
This “east wind” term is used in other ways, as an example, when Moses and the Israelites were leaving Egypt they came upon the Red Sea, with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels. Israel was saved by the power of the Lord, “And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21). It was the “east wind” that blew and parted the Red Sea, saving Israel, while the armies of Pharaoh drowned in the closing waters when the “east wind” ceased to blow. The east wind is also a metaphor in Job 15:2, and also in Job 27:21. The same is seen in “the scorching heat and east wind” of Psalm 48:7, and also in Ezekiel 27:26, which is also the reason for its use in Mosiah 7:31. An east wind is not associated with the Land of Promise in any physical other way.
    3. Turner: “There is criteria for the narrow neck.  A key description is in Alma 22:32: 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.  Many people interpret this to describe the west sea to the east sea, but it just describes a point to the east.  It is important to note that this description does not describe going all the way to the sea east, just to a point on the east.  A similar construction is seen in Alma 50:8: And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west.  Again, both seas are not mentioned, just a point (to the west).” 
    Response: In English, from the "east to the west sea," would be used rather than repeating the same word (sea) twice in the same sentence--"west sea to the east sea" is a red
undant phrase in English. Whether this was Joseph Smith’s translation is not known, and if it was, the Spirit would undoubtedly have allowed it since the sentence carries the same meaning (see our previous post on this subject). The reason we can see this, is in the statement: “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, by 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), since sea is not mentioned with west and east, but inarguably means that—that is, there was a sea on the west, and a sea on the east. Again, it is self-serving for a Mesoamericanist to try and limit meaning about these two seas, since there is truly nothing “narrow” about the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.    
     4. Turner: “So, how many miles can a person travel in 1.5 days? It is very easy for a fit person to travel 40 miles in a day over unimproved trails (60 miles in a day and a half).” 
Left: Map shows the Mesoamerican narrow neck of land, which runs about 140 miles north to south (instead of east to west as Mormon states); Right: Map shows the coastlines over a 200 miles distance, each shore  only changing about 30 miles, which is 1/15 of a mile every mile--an extremely imperceptive change indeed. No one would even know it was a narrowing of the land without aerial or satellite photography
   Response: 60 miles in 18 hours equals 3.3 miles per hour for 12 hours straight, then 3.3 miles per hour for another 6 hours after a rest. While Turner may feel that is acceptable for a fit person, I would like to invite Turner to try a 3.3 mile per hour pace for just six hours. 3.3 miles works out to 17,424 feet. An average man would step out at about two feet per stride over a long distance, making him cover 8,712 steps in 18 hours, or 484 steps per hour, or 8 steps per minute for 12 straight hours without stopping. While someone might think they can do that, proof so they say is “in the pudding”—the original statement was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” meaning you had to actually eat the pudding to know what is inside. In this case, you actually have to go do the 18-hour walk to see if it can be done. So, go ahead and try it—not for 30 minutes or for an hour—but for at least six straight hours and see how you feel after that little stint, then realize you need to do that for another six hours straight, and then six more hours the next day! In addition, one has to factor in uneven ground, avoidance of bushes, trees, other indigenous terrain such as uphill and downhill, including gullies, ravines, streams, etc. But Turner is not through with his examples…
    5. “American Indian runners have been known to run 75 to 100 miles per day.” 
    Response: Does anyone think that Mormon had in mind such a Nephie racing for 75 to 100 miles in a day when he wrote that? Really, what was Mormon’s purpose in inserting this information if not to give us an understanding of the width of the narrow neck of land. I wonder how a Nephite would have stacked up against a modern American Indian runner doing 75 to 100 miles in a day. But let’s take this Indian runner. An average between 75 and 100 miles in a day would amount to about 88 miles in 12 hours, which is 7.33 miles per hour for 12 straight hours; which works out to 38,544 feet to cover in an hour. An average man would step out at about three feet per stride in a run over a long distance, making him cover 12,484 steps in 12 hours, or 1040 steps per hour, or 17 running steps per minute for 12 straight hours without stopping.  
In case this is lost on anyone, that is running at the speed of ½ the world’s record for a mile for 12 straight hours! That’s one I wouldn’t advise anyone trying under any circumstances (100 miles is 8.33 miles an hour).
(See the next post, “One Theorist’s View of the Narrow Neck – Part II,” for more of Aric Turner’s views on the Narrow Neck of Land and our responses)

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