Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Was the Shape and Size of Mormon's Small Neck of Land? – Part III

Continuing with the question of “What was the size and shape of Mormon’s small neck of land,” we find some interesting thoughts from other writers, including John Clark, regarding this all-important topographical area of the Nephite Land of Promise. As an example, what exactly did Mormon mean when he wrote: “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” (Alma 22:32).
While a rather simple statement, much has been written about this, including some extremely exaggerated ideas, first fostered by John L. Sorenson in his An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, published in 1985. For the following 28 years, it has held a pre-eminence in the discussion of any Land of Promise location. So much so, that nearly all non-LDS and most LDS believe the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. Yet, if you take a subject-by-subject analysis of his book, and compare it directly to the scriptural record, you will find that most of his ideas simply do not agree with what Mormon wrote (see the book Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican & Other Theorists for such a subject-by-subject analysis).
    The sad result of this is that just about every archaeologist and anthropologist who studied at BYU under Sorenson or his ongoing ideas, have continued to champion his views on Mesoamerica. And one of those ideas is that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica is the Nephite narrow neck of land. While some have begun to question that idea, it still holds the pre-eminent claim among the vast majority of Mesoamericanists.
    Yet, even Mesoamericanist John Clark has said, “The Book of Mormon apparently specifies precise travel times for this area [the small neck and the narrow neck]. But the short distances involved (one to one-and-a-half days) cannot be squared with any known isthmus (without special conditions or travel rates being specified),” which we discussed in the last post. But the point is, the day-and-a-half journey cannot be found in any existing isthmus—that is, Mesoamerica and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec does not qualify for the site of the Book of Mormon narrow neck of land. At least not without some fancy changes, what Clark calls special conditions, which one way or another change the meaning and text of Mormon’s description.
    But Clark raises another point, and excellent point no one else has ever raised that we have seen. His point is that if there is a major pass (the narrow pass) running north-south right in the middle of his small (narrow) neck of land, one might wonder how travel could be facilitated from west to east (the width of the narrow neck)? A thoughtful and important point. He states further that, by definition, what defines a "pass" is the inability or obstruction of travel on either side of the "pass." That is, a pass would be a way through an area and, in this case, it would be a way through the narrow neck of land, and Clark is pointing out that there would not be egress width wise (east-west).
In the Mesoamerican model, Red Arrows show north and south pass; Yellow arrows show east and west neck or movement through the Mesoamerican narrow neck of land
    Clark also states that if the pass was of such major importance that it needed to be fortified, and it led into the land northward (rather than leading into the narrow neck)…
    Here we disagree, however, since both the small/narrow neck and the narrow pass/passage led into the Land Northward and into the Land Southward. That is, the narrow neck led into the Land Northward (Alma 63:5), and also into the Land Southward (Alma 22:32), with the narrow pass also leading into the Land Northward (Alma 50:34; 52:9), and also led into the Land Southward (Mormon 2:29; 3:5).
    Clark continues with “…and if the small neck was between the land northward and the land southward, then this implies at least in my way of thinking that there was no easy way around this narrow pass.”
    Actually, there was no way around this simple division of the land at the narrow neck. It was the dividing line between Bountiful and Desolation (Alma 22:32), and became the line dividing the Nephites from the Lamanites in the treaty between Mormon and the Lamanite king in 350 A.D. (Mormon 2:28-29).
    Now here is a vital point about the narrow neck of land, for we are talking about a north-south running narrow neck, and an east-west measurement. So let us take a look at this apparent dichotomy.
First of all, both the small/narrow neck and the narrow pass/passage ran north and south, between the Land Southward and the Land Northward (Alma 50:34; 63:5). The narrow neck was the only connection of land between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, since it was surrounded by water except for this small neck (Alma 22:32); at the same time it was a barrier between these two lands, except for the narrow pass that led through it, connecting passage by land between the Land Southward and the Land Northward; and it was narrow enough that the sea encroached on either side (Alma 50:34), sufficiently to create an attitude that here was “where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20).
According to Alan C. Miner, in his Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: “Balboa and his men took 26 days to travel the 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific shores of Panama, an average of less than 2 miles per day.” Also, Cortez and his men averaged only 10 miles per day in traveling the flat terrain of the Yucatan peninsula,” stating also that there is no mention of any restrictions on travel or any internal blockage as there would be if traffic had to channel through a pass. Evidently, he feels such a pass would inhibit travel, or that hindrances within the pass would slow down travel. Either way, there is no indication of such within the scriptural record.
    But let us keep to the point of the width of this small neck being a day-and-a-half journey for a Nephite. The problem in all of this is that, as English-speaking people, we have a tendency to think visually—we think in straight lines and right angle lines, but usually not in angles, curves, or loops. Consequently, when Mormon says: “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” (Alma 22:32), we find:
1. The narrow pass ran from the Land Southward to the Land Northward;
2. The narrow pass ran from the east [sea] to the west sea;
3. The narrow pass ran on the line [boundary] between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation;
4. It took a day and a half for a Nephite to traverse this distance.
    So, let’s look at this from a different, but accurate view according to the scriptural record. Take a box (small neck of land) and place it with north at the top, then take a long ruler (narrow pass) and place one end on the southeast corner and the other end on the northwest corner, and you have a pass that runs from the south to the north, yet also covers the ground from the east to the west, yet also leading from one land into the other. Consequently, if it took a day-and-a-half to travel through this narrow pass, then you have an area that meets Mormon’s descriptions.
In this drawing (not to scale) also shown above, is illustrated the box and ruler diagram concept stated above—it is actually a location in South America near the border of Peru (south) and Ecuador (north) at the Bay of Guayaquil. Where the East Sea is shown, it is now the Andes Mountains, but the narrow neck and pass still exist, the pass being prominent in Incan history as covered in a previous post
    Actually, there is such a place in South America as shown above and it meets all the requirements of Mormon’s description without changing, altering or editing, or explaining away anything in the scriptural record. It might also be of note, as reported earlier in these posts, that the Inca Huayna Capac marched through this pass that now bears his name at the head of his army taking a day and a half to lead them through it.
(See the next post, “What Was the Shape and Size of Mormon's Small Neck? – Part IV,” for more information about the narrow neck of land and what Mormon meant when he wrote: “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”)

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