Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What is in a Scriptural Description? The Narrow Neck of Land

Whether or not Mormon’s father, also named Mormon (Mormon 1:5), was a military leader as Mormon became at the age of 15 (Mormon 2:1-2), we are not told, but, as we have suggested here earlier, it certainly seems a strong likelihood. The important thing, thought, is there’s no question that the prophet Mormon was the head of the Nephite armies for some 65 years, with the end coming in the final battle that annihilated the Nephite nation in 385 A.D.
During that time, Mormon led his armies in numerous battles, with the first of these beginning near the Waters of Sidon, that eventually swept across the breadth and width of the Land of Promise and into the north countries, called the Land Northward. At that time, a treaty was arranged that divided that portion of the land that had, at one time, been under Nephite control.
    “The Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29).
    At this point, the Mormon had led the Nephites in retreating across the lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful (and that land in between), to the narrow neck of land that lay between the Land Southward, now completely under Lamanite control, and the Land Northward, now under Nephite occupation and temporary control.
    This treaty provided a truce that lasted ten years (Mormon 3:1), with the Nephites occupying the Land of Desolation northward. When the ten years ended, the Lamanite king sent an epistle that they were preparing to come to battle against the Nephites and Mormon gathered his people into “the Land of Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5).
As the General-of-the-armies, Mormon had ten years time to prepare for such an event, and was given advance notice as to when it was to commence. It seems obvious that he made himself extremely familiar during that time with this land in his role as responsible to defend the Nephite nation against their hereditary and life-long enemy. What that entailed we can only guess, but we should be able to safely assume he became very familiar with how to defend his people at this very pass and narrow neck where the battle was to take place.
    Consequently, when Mormon later tells us of this event, his defense of the narrow neck of land, the city by the borders of this pass, one would think he knew far more about what that area was like than anyone reading about it some 1650 years later. So let us look at his description of this all-important area, which was the boundary or dividing line between the Lamanites and Nephites at the time of this treaty:
1. It was a “small neck” of land (Alma 22:32), also referred to as a “narrow neck” (Alma 63:5);
2. It was narrow enough for a Nephite to cross in a day-and-a-half (Alma 22:32);
3. It connected the Land Northward with the Land Southward (Alma 22:32);
4. Within this small neck was a narrow pass, leading into the Land Northward (Alma 50:34; 52:9) and into the Land Southward (Mormon 2:29);
5. There was the Sea West and the Sea East on either side of this narrow neck and pass (Alma 50:34);
6. There was a city just beyond the pass in the Land Northward (Mormon 3:5);
7. Hagoth had a vast shipyard in the Land Southward near this narrow neck (Alma 63:5);
8. It was a choke point providing means to guard against egress from one land to the other and an important area the Nephites used for a point of defense (Alma 50:34; 52:9).
    From this we get a clear picture of the shape, size and location of this area, and its strategic importance to the Nephites in order to keep the Land Northward from falling into Lamanite or enemy hands. As Mormon wrote: “Now this was wisdom in the Nephites—as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires” (Alma 22:34).
    It is also important to keep in mind that this narrow neck:
1. Could not have been so wide that it was not defendable by the Nephites against penetration into the land beyond (Land Northward);
2. Allowed for the only egress between these two lands (Land Southward and Land Northward) in order for it to be defensible against an enemy obtaining the land beyond;
3. Could not be circumvented, that is, when being defended by the Nephites, another route was not available to an enemy to bypass the defensive position and gain access to the Land Northward through some other means;
4. This narrow neck to be even called a “narrow” or “small” neck, had to be observable from  a standing position or movement through the area by a person on foot without benefit of satellite imagery, aerial photography, or an extremely high position.
5. Was flanked on both sides by the sea; there were no cliffs, mountains, or other topography that blocked the sea from this narrow neck of land.
    With all of this in mind, we should have a pretty clear picture of the size, shape and exact location of this narrow neck of land. So let us take a look at two claimed locations by Theorists that had used well known areas as their “narrow neck of land” and see if they match Mormon’s very knowledgeable descriptions.
Mesoamericanists’ placement of the narrow neck through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Though it is a narrowing area between wider land, it seems rather difficult to walk along such gradually sloping shorelines and know that it was a “narrow neck of land” 
    At approximately 140 miles wide, with several ways to get from one side of this isthmus to the other, via either coast, or through passes in between, would seem a poor example of a narrow neck of land. Without vantage of such an angle as this map, it would be hard to even know that the land narrowed at all walking through the area on foot without aid of satellite or aerial views.
    In fact, it would be difficult to defend this area against attack across a 140 mile wide front.
    The green area, of course, represents mountains, but there is a lot of lowland area (yellow) that allows for troop movements. Also, at 140-miles across, it simply could not be covered in a day-and-a-half by a Nephite on foot.
    Another claim for the narrow neck is Phyllis Carol Olive’s Batavia Moraine passage across the ancient Lake Tonawanda. It should be kept in mind that a “moraine” is the accumulation of dirt and rocks that have fallen onto the glacier surface or pushed along by the glacier as it moves, ranging in size from a powdery silt to large rocks and bounders. 
Olive identifies the Batavia Moraine in New York as the (white arrow) Narrow Neck of Land in her model 
    When these moraines pile up, they form a sort of ridge. The Batavia moraine is simply a narrow path across the ancient Lake Tonawanda, and only about fifty feet across. While this would make an area easily defended, it simply does not match any thought of taking a day-and-a-half to cross.
As can be seen, the Batavia Moraine is a narrow pathway across the ancient lake; however, the lake was filled with islands and land masses that would have made alternative crossings a simple matter 
    In the map below by Parker E. Calkin, Department of Geological Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, regarding the “Strand Lines and Chronology of the Glacial Great Lakes in Northwestern New York,” note the (red arrow) Batavia Moraine location (right) and its lack of continuity across the ancient Lake Tonawanda, Olive’s narrow neck of land. Simply put, there is no way this area matches Mormon’s description of a land and area he knew so well, defended his people against, set up defensive positions and fought desperate battles in and around the actual area. Olive simply makes no attempt to understand this scriptural record area she writes about, how Mormon described it, and the purpose it served in Mormon’s described defensive plans and battle.
Red Arrow: Batavia Moraine. Note this so-called narrow passage across the ancient Lake Tonawanda. Blue Arrows: The land masses, separated by a few hundred yards. Not what a military man would call a defensive position or “choke point” that could keep the enemy from advancing

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