Friday, February 14, 2014

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

Continuing with the question “What was the size and shape of Mormon’s small neck of land” from the previous three posts, we take a look at some amazing comments from Mesoamerican Theorists regarding this width distance of the narrow neck.
    First of all, we need to set the stage for those unaware of the purpose of Mormon’s description in Alma 22. At this point in abridging Alma’s record where Aaron converted the Lamanite king, the king has Aaron and his brethren stand in the midst of the gathered Lamanites “that they should preach the word unto them” (Alma 22:26). Afterward, since his people obviously accepted Aaron’s preaching, the king “sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about…” (Alma 22:27). This land was the Land of Nephi (green arrow below on the map, which is not drawn to scale  and is only representative).
After abridging Alma’s writing of this, Mormon decides to inform his future reader where exactly this Lamanite land was in relation to the Nephite lands, as he adds “…which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness [yellow arrow on map], which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west -- and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided” (Alma 22:27).
Now, having said this, he goes on to add how the rest of the Land of Promise was oriented to the Land of Nephi and the Lamanite king’s domain, finally commenting: “on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful” (Alma 22:28-29).
He then he adds that Bountiful (left: yellow arrow): “bordered upon the land which they called Desolation [left:green arrow], it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been people and been destroyed” (Alma 22:30). Finally, he states: “And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful…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 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 22:31-32). And in conclusion, he states: “And now I, after having said this, return again to the account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and their brethren” (Alma 22:35).
   The point of all this is to show that from verse 27 through verse 34 Mormon is injecting his own words—a description of the Land of Promise and where the major land divisions were located. Now why does he inject this? The answer seems obvious—he wants his future reader (us) to have a clearer picture of the land the Lamanite king controlled as well as the entire Land of Promise, and that Lamanite leader was offering free missionary passage throughout his land (Land of Nephi) for Aaron and his brethren in which to preach the gospel.
    Now, as he is doing this, Mormon finds himself with the need to describe a distance, but not having words in which to tell his future reader his meaning. As an example, every culture has its own way of measuring distance. There is the Greek stadion, Spanish league, English kilometer, Scots furlong, American mile, Roman mille passuum (one thousand paces), German meile (24,000 feet), Russian verst (7.4 kilometers), French lieue (2000 body lengths), etc. So, what example for distance should Mormon use? What if he said the distance was 5,000 plethron, akaina, or daktyloi, or possibly 20,000 com, zads, or bouns? Obviously, no one would know what such words meant. Nor how long it would take a person to walk 53 zads.
    What if he said it was 10,000 paces—how long is a pace? In ancient Rome, a pace was five feet, measured from the heel of a man’s foot to the heel of the same foot the next time it hit the ground—what we would likely call two strides today. Even a “mile distance” can be translated differently, depending upon the country: U.S. 1,760 yards; Austria 8,297 yards; Hungary 9,139 yards; Italy 2,025 yards; Netherlands 1,094 yards; Norway 12,182 yards; Poland 8,100 yards; Spain 1,552 yards; Sweden 11,660 yards; and Switzerland 8,548 yards. In such a world, how could any specific measurement not create enormous differences in distance?
In addition, depending on where you live, measurement might be determined by time. As an example, in the New York-New England world, you could conceivably pass through four states in about 4 hours; however, in California, you could drive north from San Diego and still be in the state 12 hours later. Moreover, many places when locals are asked how far something is, they often answer in time: “It’s just a 45 minute drive,” “It will take you about two hours,” etc.
    Consequently, Mormon picked a measurement that he assumed would be understood in any age, regardless of what future motive power might exist, how advanced they were, or what their circumstances might be—that of a man walking. In all the ages, walking has not changed much. There is the normal Fit Walking, and of course there are walking races, Power Walking, Speed Walking, and now Race Walking
World Cup Race Walking Trials, for the 12.4 mile race walk for men and women, the 31 mile race walk for men, both Olympic events, and the 50 mile race walk
    It would stand to reason that a person on a skateboard could cross a large, empty parking lot faster than a person on foot; but what if you had the other person running, what if he was a world-class runner, or if he set the mile distance record? Obviously, when you change the obvious, you change the outcome. What if you put the other person on a bicycle, on a horse, on a motorcycle? Again, you are changing the parameters, and the outcome is changed.
Mormon wanted us to understand what he was measuring, not trying to confuse us. When he said the Nephite was journeying, he did not mean jogging, running, racing, riding, swimming, sailing, rafting, etc. Yet, true to the nature of the Mesoamerican Theorist, who must find a way to justify a 144-mile wide distance to be covered in a day-and-a-half by a Nephite, Glenn A. Scott, in Voices from the Dust, claims the Nahua Couriers or Runners “could run at the greatest speeds for hours.” Then there is John L. Sorenson who talks of native runners traveling distances of up to 100 miles in a day; and Matthew Roper suggests that more than half of this day-and-a-half journey could have been traveled by water along the Coatzacoalcos River, while Alan C. Miner proposes travel by horseback, even to the point of a "pony express" style journey; there is also Ross Hassig who writes that the Nephite involved sea travel, such as that from Veracruz to Coatzacoalcos, "canoes were employed to go up the Coatzacoalcos River to Antigua Malpaso, where land transport was employed for the remaining 12 leagues to Tehuantepec. This route was also employed in traveling between Mexico City and Tehuantepec, [because] water transportation was easier than overland travel."
All we have to realize is why Mormon was telling us this width and we realize that all these exceptional and unusual possibilities are simply worthless and quite inconsistent with Mormon’s writing. If his journeying example was not a common man (a Nephite), then what was its purpose? As an example, suppose he knew of a particular Nephite who, speedier than his fellows, could race across that narrow neck, like a modern-day world record holder. Would it make sense for him to use that as a guide to tell us how wide the narrow neck was? How would his future reader know he was referring to some unusual running ability? Certainly, when Mormon wrote a Nephite could make the journey in a day-and-a-half, would he not have been thinking of a normal, every-day Nephite so that in the future, his reader could grasp the meaning of this distance? Certainly, Mormon would not have known about the Zuni Indian runners, the marathon racers, the world record holders. And if he indeed wanted to confuse the issue, he certainly could have used a Lamanite who lived and traveled outdoors in the hunt, etc.
    The point is, Mormon was writing to us today and used a typical example in his day so that we could relate to such a typical example in our day. A man walking is not going to change much over time.

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