Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mormon’s Abridgement Part X – And They Took Their Course Northward

Continuing from the last post regarding the many descriptions Mormon wrote about the land he knew so well, and lived in all his life, that are vital for us to consider when claiming a current location of that land. 
As an example, he tells us in Alma that a man named Hagoth, evidently a shipwright by profession, built many ships in a shipyard near the narrow neck of land “on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation” and launched his ships into the west sea (Alma 63:5). Obviously, this was a profitable business for Hagoth as well, perhaps, as others, for in Helaman we find that the Nephites, among other things, were involved in “shipping and the building of ships” (Helaman 3:14).
    Since the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20) and surrounded by water with people spread over the “face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east”  (Helaman 3:8), it seems likely that a lot of business was conducted on the sea lanes about the Land of Promise.
In addition, the story of Hagoth suggests that the business of emigration was also profitable, for “many of the Nephites did enter in and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children” (Alma 63:6). The number of people these vessels carried is not recorded, but Mormon does tell us that the ships were “exceedingly large” (Alma 63:5)
    In condensing what seems evident was a much longer discussion by Alma regarding Hagoth and his ship building enterprise and the emigrant business, Mormon merely writes: “And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward” (Alma 63:6).
    At this point it seems worthwhile to ask ourselves “If the space on the plates were scarce, why did Mormon include the brief story of Hagoth?” What is it about that story, covered in just six verses, that was important enough, and obviously more important than many others, to include in the scriptural record? In its brevity, it would seem to have little significance, so why did Mormon include it?
    To consider an answer, we need to understand what it is about the story that makes it significant. First of all, it is about immigration. Mormon tells us that “in the thirty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward” (Alma 63:4). In and of itself, that does not appear significant—after all, he tells us that “it came to pass that in this year there were many people who went forth into the land northward” (Alma 63:9), just five verses later, and then shortly afterward, seems to repeat himself when he tells us that “And it came to pass in the forty and sixth year…there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land” (Helaman 3:3). It is true that these latter two events are eight years apart, but when condensing some 900 years of history, eight years is insignificant, so why mention five different times in the space of a paragraph or two that people emigrated northward, evidently three different groups by ship and two different migrations by land?
    Might not he be talking about two different locations and two different types of emigration?
    1. Alma 63:4 – 5400 men, plus their wives and children (probably 20,000 to 25,000 people) left Zarahemla for a land “which was northward;
    2. Alma 63:6 – Many of the Nephites did board Hagoth’s ship with much provisions, including women and children, and took their course northward;
    3. Alma 63:7 – The following year this ship returned and many more boarded with their provisions and set out again to sail northward;
    4. Alma 63:9 – Many more people went forth into the Land Northward;
    5. Helaman 3:3 – An exceedingly great many departed out of the land of Zarahemla and went unto the Land Northward.
    It is interesting that in the case of the last event, the purpose of the emigration is to inherit the land. Inheritance is not mentioned in the other four instances. So what does it mean to inherit the land? Hundreds of years earlier, Lehi left his “land of inheritance” (1 Nephi 2:4, 11; 1 Nephi 3:16), which was also the land of his sons inheritance (1 Nephi 3:22; 17:21) to go into the wilderness and eventually to a new land that would be their inheritance (1 Nephi 13:30; 2 Nephi 1:5, 8-9; 3:2; 4:11; 10:19), which is the Land of Promise.
Now, up to this time, the Nephites had only occupied the Land Southward, from Zarahemla to Bountiful, but here we find them moving into the Land Northward, which, according to Mormon (Alma 22:33-34), was all considered the Land of Promise. Therefore, it only makes sense that Mormon is telling us that an “exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land (Helaman 3:3), was a large number of Nephites who had been living in the Land of Zarahemla, and who decided to emigrate into the Land Northward to claim that land as their inheritance within the Land of Promise.
    However, the 5400 men, plus women and children, who went north by ship, evidently did not travel into the Land Northward since they were not inheriting the land. They must have gone elsewhere—to a “land which was northward,” to another, unattached land, where they settled and were “never heard of more” (Alma 63:18).
    It should also be considered that seldom do people emigrate by sea from one part of their country to another—they usually go inland, by foot, wagon, or whatever. When sailing to emigrate, it is almost always to a land that is not connected to the one from which they leave--or a great distance away. In addition, it would rarely be financially worthwhile to take a ship when traveling from one area to another that could be reached directly by land.
Emigration by ship is generally to a far off, or unattached land; emigrating within the same land is almost always done overland
    Obviously, then, Mormon included the story of Hagoth to show that a significant number of Nephites emigrated to another land, one that was northward. In addition, he also tells us that other Nephites, at least one ship full, took a different course—thus those headed in either direction were never heard from again. Consequently, it seerms we can understand from Mormon’s brief inclusion that there were Nephites who went to another land which was northward, and another group that went elsewhere—to Polynesia? Obviously, if you don’t sail north, and south would be against winds and currents, the most likely course would be westward from the west sea. And in the area of Peru, westward sea lanes would take a sailing ship down into Polynesia as Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki drift voyage showed.
    Now, a course northward beyond the Land of Promise would have taken the emigrants in Hagoth’s ships to a land for settlement that should show us today such Nephite-style buildings and accomplishments as the city and temple Nephi, and later other Nephites, built. That means that there should be two places, one north of the other, where two ancient civilizations during Nephite times would show types of civilizations described in the scriptural record. In the Western Hemisphere, there are only two such areas—Andean Peru and Mesoamerica.
    In addition, the one to the south, in this case Andean Peru, should show a more ancient civilization than the one to the north, in this case Mesoamerica. And this is what is found with archaeological carbon-dating ruins of both civilizations.
    So if you are looking for the location of the Land of Promise, Mormon’s descriptions throughout the scriptural record show exactly where Lehi landed and where the Nephite nation was located.
    You really need look no further.
(See the next post for another of these Land of Promise factors described by Book of Mormon prophets that should help us to understand where the Land of Promise was located)

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