Friday, February 21, 2014

Other Thoughts on Theorist’s Views of the Narrow Neck—Part I

In a never ending effort to change, alter, or adjust the meaning of Mormon’s descriptions in the scriptural record, Alan C. Miner weighs in with: “Perhaps the fault is with me, but I fail to see how "internally" (or within the scope of the scriptures cited here), the writer Mormon has demonstrated (notice he uses the word "thus") that the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water.” 
   Response: First of all, the word “thus” has a very specific meaning, both in 1828 and today. The specific meaning is “accordingly”, “consequently”, “for this reason”, “in this manner”, etc.
Left: The narrow neck of land separating the Land Southward from the Land Northward; Right: the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla nearly surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of land
    Thus, Mormon’s statement is rendered: “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 consequently 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).
The distance across the narrow neck of land is the distance a Nephite could journey in a day and a half (Alma 22:32). Since a “Nephite” was used by Mormon, it would stand to reason that this was referencing a typical or normal man and how far he could walk in a day and a half. The narrow neck of land in Ecuador to the east of the Bay of Guayaquil is about 26 miles—anciently it was between seas, today it is between the sea and the sheer Andes Mountains there
    Secondly, it seems that one Theorist after another wants to debate the specific language of Mormon when he could not be clearer in his descriptions. Mormon wrote as plainly and distinctly as possible, after describing the entire Land Southward and the Land Northward, “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 [accordingly, consequently] 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).
    One might ask, after reading that, what exactly is it that Miner does not understand about “nearly surrounded by water”? After all, this is not an open forum, a debating team, or even a classroom where we are seeking people’s agreement. This is the Book of Mormon, written by prophets, abridged by prophets, translated by a prophet, and it is revered by millions as a sacred document. When Miner says that “I fail to see how…Mormon has demonstrated…that the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water,” we are getting into the realm of man thinking he is smarter than God. Again, the Book of Mormon was never intended as a classroom guide, book of history, geography, or fodder for debate.
    It is the word of the Lord handed down through prophets for us to better understand His workings with a segment of the House of Israel in the ancient Americas. Mormon clearly states the Land Southward was nearly surrounded by water, then tells us the reason is was not completely surrounded by water—because there was a “small neck of land” connecting the two major land masses (Alma 22:27-32), which, by the way, Ether described as “where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20).
Not one single word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, or part of the Book of Mormon, of course, is dependent upon Miner’s approval, or that of any human being—it is the word handed down to us by ancient prophets that both bear witness of Jesus Christ, His gospel, and His workings with man, as well as some descriptions of the land on which these people lived. That John L. Sorenson can claim Mormon and the Nephites did not know their cardinal directions though they are clearly stated, and skews the land by about 90º; that Miner claims the Land Southward was not surrounded by water except for the narrow neck, that F. Richard Hauck claims there were two Bountifuls, one in the north and one in the west; that he and Joseph Allen can claim the pass that led into the Land Northward was somewhere other than where Mormon placed it, and all the other questionable facts with which so many Theorists have taken great license to claim, is, in the simplest form of understanding extremely arrogant, as well as fallacious and disingenuous, and, perhaps mirrors the words of Jacob who lamented: “O the vainness and frailties and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:28), and also Peter, who spoke clearly, saying: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20).
Using his own words, I think it is very clear that the fault is with Miner, not with Mormon, nor with the scriptural record itself.
    However, Miner is not finished with his curious and rather convoluted method of thinking. After a lengthy equation trying to match up meanings to the four descriptions given, i.e., “small neck,” “narrow neck,” “narrow pass,” and “narrow passage,” he claims that logic could consolidate all of the terms into one isthmus; that logic could divide them into two entities; or that logic could make four separate entities out of them. However, that is Miner’s logic, for Mormon’s descriptions are specific and frankly not open to speculation. For someone to claim that through logic you could interpret Mormon’s writing anyway you wanted, simply lacks an understanding of the scriptural record.
    Yet, most Mesoamericanists do that very thing. It is as though they believe that scriptures should be bent, changed, altered and adjusted in order to fit them into their particular model—so convinced are they of their model, whether Mesoamerica or elsewhere, that the scriptural record must be wrong, or unclear, or needs a different interpretation since the record does not match their preconceived model. Unfortunately, they do this, rather than finding a model that matches the descriptive information Mormon gave us.
    This is especially obvious with Miner’s conclusions when comparing them to the knowledge that the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for the narrow neck, thus each of these four areas had to have been singularly connected since each was between the Land Northward and the Land Southward—and only one such connection is given us by Mormon, However, Miner still feels the need to ask the question—no doubt because he is leading to his specific model that has these entities separate.
    In doing so, Miner plunges into the world of speculation when he writes: Logic could make a narrow corridor (1-1.5 day's journey in width) running north along the west coast of Zarahemla, then have it move eastward between the land northward and the land southward through a much broader and longer isthmus, and then have it run northward and parallel to the east coast. If this corridor was referred to both as a "narrow passage" and a "narrow neck," then my narrow neck (passage) would not be an isthmus, it would be a travel corridor through an isthmus. It would also be a consolidation of terms.”
    Well, that kind of logic then opens the door to separating Mormon’s description of the narrow neck of land being the width of a day-and-a-half journey for a Nephite, and places that statement somewhere else in the Land of Promise; thus, a person could conclude that the neck of land could be 300 miles wide, or any figure they want or claim, such as Tehuantepec being 144 miles across (as stated by the Mexican government), and then it doesn’t have to be a real narrowing of land at all. In that way, Sorenson, Miner, and other Mesoamericanists can claim the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrow neck of land. Then all they have to do is place a narrow passage through it to match one of their previous logical scenarios.
In this way, the scriptural record can be made to fit the Mesoamerican model of a 144-mile wide “narrow neck” since the day-and-a-half journey of a Nephite could be placed elsewhere. Of course, there is still the problem with the east-west alignment and the Land Northward to the west and the Land Southward to the east, but more special-type logic and solve that problem, too, as Sorenson so loquaciously did
    The point is—which is definitely lost on Miner—the scriptures are not for our personal interpretation to make of them what we want. They are not a mix and match collection of statements that we can manipulate however we choose. They are there for us to use as they are, as they were written, and as they were intended, in the simple language that Nephi described and Mormon used.
(See the next post, “Other Thoughts on Theorist’s Views of the Narrow Neck—Part II,” for more on Alan C. Miner’s views on the Narrow Neck of Land and how he thinks it fits into Mesoamerica despite so much scriptural comments to the opposite)

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