Friday, June 26, 2015

The Changing of the Land

Hugh Nibley made an interesting comment regarding the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi in which he wrote: “The Book of Mormon mentions the rising and sinking of the land, forming new "hills and valleys" (3 Nephi 9:5-8)—with no mention of major mountain ranges. 
     It is interesting how different people can read the same scriptural record and come up with far ranging differences in meaning. Along this same line, Sorenson in his book wrote: “It was the intensity of nature’s rampage that impressed the Nephite recorder, not the novelty of the phenomena (3 Npehi 8:5, 7).” He also wrote: “All these kinds of destruction evidently had happened before in the land, but never with such terrifying effect.” In addition, he writes: “The power of the thunder and lightening particularly impressed the Nephite writer; he said they were powerful enough to contribute to deforming ‘the face of the whole earth’ (3 Nephi 8:17).
One’s first response to such a statement is wonder; how could these atmospheric phenomena possibly ‘deform’ the surface of the earth?” Finally, he adds: “So we need to use restraint in the picture we allow our minds to construct of the totality of destruction—we should not go beyond what the text declares with measured care.”
    While we should not go beyond what the text declares, we should certainly include all that it states—something Sorenson frequently does not do if it disagrees with his point of view. As an example, and this goes toward Nibley’s statement about “no mention of major mountain ranges,” in understanding two sources:
When tall mountains collapse, leaving jumbled pieces strewn across the land, it would, without question, change the topography of that land
1. Nephi in his vision regarding the destruction at the time of the crucifixion, stated: “I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof” (1 Nephi 12:4);
2. Samuel, the Lamanite, in his prophecy of the coming destruction, stated: “And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
When valleys are changed and tall mountains take their places, it is definitely a change in topography that is not cosmetic

In addition, there are other statements about mountains, as stated in the plural which suggest ranges:
1. "And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah that in the place of the city there became a great mountain"  (3 Nephi 8:10)  
2.  "Mountains which shall be carried up"  (1 Nephi” 19:11)
When we read the scriptural record in total, and not just one part of it, we get a clearer picture of the meaning of numerous statements, especially when covering the same subject. In this case, the destruction that took place at the time of the crucifixion.
   Nephi saw the mountains tumbling into pieces as they collapsed, the image Samuel saw, and to which he added that flat land would rise into mountains—which is the same as saying a mountain rage since mountains make up a range—whose height is great. So not only do we find that mountain ranges are mentioned in regard to the destruction at the time of the crucifixion, but those ranges have individual peaks or mountain tops that are very high.
    Yet, Nibley in his comments about this isn’t finished. He states: “Highways broken up, and the level roads spoiled, and many smooth places become rough (3 Nephi 8:13, 17-18) needs no commentary since such are the commonest of all earthquakes phenomena.  The remarkable thing about such statements is their moderation.  (Nibley, p 268).”
    However, as is often the case, the scriptural record suggests a far different happening.  Consider that the Nephites had a history of being in this land for about 600 years when the disciple Nephi wrote about the destruction that occurred in 33 A.D.  He described those events with the following statements:
•  A storm that was worse than any ever known in the land (3 Nephi 8:5)
•  Lightning that was worse than any ever known in the land (3 Nephi 8:7)
•  The whole face of the land was changed (3 Nephi 8:12)
•  The face of the whole earth became deformed (3 Nephi 8:17)
•  6 cities sunk into the earth
•  3 cities were covered with seas
•  5 cities burned with fire (there was no electricity or gas to start these totally destructive fires—it would have taken continual lightning strikes)
•  1 city was covered with earth
When rocks beneath the earth are broken up,  the upper crust and sediment is moved about, forming and reforming various hills, valleys, canyons and other topographical changes 
    Foreseeing this destruction, Samuel the Lamanite wrote regarding the land:  "Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath." (Helaman 14:22).
    We also need to keep in mind that this destruction occurred in both the Land Southward and the Land Northward, a distance of several hundred miles, and the face of the whole earth was deformed, (3 Nephi 8:17) in a destructive event that lasted three hours (3 Nephi 8:19).
    It is hard to imagine these prophets wrote in moderation.  The destruction listed is far greater and far more widespread than almost anything listed in history.  While other catastrophes mention a city here or there or several villages being destroyed, this destruction totally wiped off the face of the earth without leaving a trace of 10 major cities.  In addition, five were destroyed in fires, and others were completely leveled with nothing but a jumble of rocks and earth left to mark their place (3 Nephi 8:14).  
Earthquakes, when viewed from a large scale, do tremendous damage to an overall topography, change hills and valleys, mountains, and flat valleys 
    We talk today about earthquakes that last from seconds upwards of a minute and cause untold damages—but this destruction lasted three hours!  The entire face of the earth was changed and deformed, huge mountains shot up from flat ground and other huge mountains disappeared.  In the 600-year history of the land of promise, nothing like this had ever before been seen.  While the prophet telling us of this event was far more interested (2 Nephi 9:2, 9, 11) in the cause (wickedness) than the results (physical destruction), he still gives us a clear picture of how vast and widespread was this destruction and nowhere does it show moderation or that the event was not significant in altering the face of the entire land of promise. Nor can it be said that mountain ranges or tall mountains were not involved.
    It is a sad fact that writers, no matter their outstanding credentials, are more interested in altering the meaning of the scriptural record to conform to their pre-determined location and the events known to have happened there, than to what the ancient writers and the abridger Mormon actually tell us of these events. However, when we get a clearer picture of the tremendous destruction that took place, and not only the toppling of “great and notable cities” (3 Nephi 8:14)—cities that even the Lord called great (3 Nephi 9:3, 4, 5, 9)—we find that the destruction was more than cosmetic. In fact, “Behold, the whole face of the land was changed” (3 Nephi 8:11). What exactly is meant that the whole face of the land was changed? How do you change the whole face of the land?
Until the earthquakes hit, these areas were flat lands without a landmark or distinguishing feature. Hard to claim that the topography didn’t change much—gives new meaning to the entire face of the earth was changed 
    Consider that one of the most devastating earthquakes ever recorded, and certainly the largest recorded in the 20th century, that of Valdivia, Chile, in 1960, lasted only 10 minutes, having a magnitude of 9.4 to 9.6, and extended over a 560 to 620 mile stretch of the Nazca Plate. The megathrust earthquake resulted in an estimated 3000 to 6000 dead, $6 billion dollar damage, 150,000 square miles of Chile, with a 500-mile-long rupture zone, moving at 2.2 miles per second.
    Landslides covered valleys; lakes were drained; mountains of the Andes were altered; rivers were dammed; floods wiped out uninhabited areas; mountain passes were blocked; seaports destroyed; enormous fissures and vents were created and caused enormous lava flows; entire cities, towns and villages were leveled, including concrete buildings; bridges fell; shoals rose, blocking sea lanes and entire bays; hills and banks fell and were compacted; roads, highways and railroads were demolished; fills subsided and collapsed.
   By comparison, the earthquake and devastation in the Land of Promise lasted three hours!

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