Monday, June 15, 2015

The Land of Nephi, Zarahemla and the West Sea

Have you ever wondered about the lands different theorists choose for their Land Southward and what those lands would really have been like when comparing them with the descriptions found in the scriptural record?
Take all of the Great Lakes theorists, for example, who talk so glibly about Lake Erie being the West Sea in the Land of Promise. This West Sea of the scriptural record, you will recall, nearly surrounded the Land Southward, specifically the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:32). That is, this sea, along with the Sea East (and no doubt the Sea South) covered the entire shoreline of the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla except for “a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
Between these two lands (Zarahemla and Nephi) there was a narrow strip of wilderness, which also stretched from sea to sea (Alma 22:27), thus this Land Southward was encompassed all about by water—not individual and separate bodies of water located here or there, but a continuous shoreline as seen along the West Sea where it created a seashore in the Land of Zarahemla—“in the borders by the seashore”—and the Land of Nephi, where Lehi first landed—“bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28).
    Also along the East Sea in the far south near the Land of Nephi they built the city of Moroni (Alma 50:14, 22), moving northward along this Sea East seashore the built the city of Lehi (Alma 50:15), and also city of Morianton by the seashore (Alma 50:25), as well as cities in the north: Omner, Gid and Mulek along this seashore (Alma 51:26), the latter being, Mulek, being by the seashore (Alma 52:22) and near Bountiful (Alma 52:22-27), thus east of Bountiful and along the seashore (Alma 51:32).
    Consequently, it can be seen that the East Sea was a continuous seashore from Moroni to Mulek near Bountiful, from the borders of the Land of Nephi, to as far north as the borders of the Land Northward. And combining this with the fact that the Land of Nephi stretched to the East Sea, and was surrounded by water, this East Sea was a continuous shoreline all along the Land of Nephi and northward to the Land Northward—as an island would be.
    Now, once again, Jacob described this land as an island and Nephi recorded it as such (2 Nephi 10:20), thus we should recognize that this water surrounded the Land Southward—the West Sea and East Sea specifically mentioned—must also have had a South Sea (Helaman 3:8) to accommodate both Mormon’s wordage of being surrounded by water except for the small neck of land, and Jacob and Nephi’s statement of it being an island.
    Consequently, there can be no doubt that this shoreline was constant or contiguous, and surrounded the Land Southward from where the West Sea flowed along the west side of the small neck of land, to where the East Sea flowed along the east side of this small neck of land (Alma 50:34).
    It should also be noted that this one understanding of three scriptural references, eliminates almost all theories as to the location of the Land of Promise (especially Mesoamerica, Great Lakes and Heartland America) other than Andean South America. It is, no doubt, the reason theorists do not mention this in their writings about their models of the Land of Promise.
    Coming back to the claims that Lake Erie is the West Sea, let us consider its distinctions in light of the scriptures just mentioned.
1. Lake Erie is landlocked and has no direct opening to the ocean or seas before the Erie Canal was dug;
Top: Yellow Arrow: Ship heading toward the Falls; Lower Left: The Niagara River between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie; Lower Right: A ship would have to sail up these Falls to reach Lake Erie
2. Lake Erie lies 326 feet above its nearest major water (Lake Superior), and would have been impossible to pass from one of these lakes to the other, eliminating any possibility of reaching Lake Erie by ship before locks were built;
3. The rapids through the Niagara River Gorge is about a mile long, with shallow water flow of 250,000 cubic feet per second, meaning a ship would have to move in the opposite direction of a an extremely swift current, through shallows filled with rapids—not a likely scenario;
The Rapids in the Niagara River Gorge before reaching the Falls
4. The Saint Lawrence River, which today allows shipping from the Atlantic to Lake Erie, was blocked by the Lachine Rapids at Montreal, eliminating any possibility of a ship reaching Lake Ontario from the sea before 1825 (it took 130 years to build a canal around Montreal and open up the upper St. Lawrence River);
As for the lake itself, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims that 95% to 100% of Lake Erie is covered by ice in the winter, an area of nearly 10,000 square miles, to a depth of six inches to two feet, with ridges measuring 8 to 10 feet tall of solid ice. In fact, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory publishes a daily ice report, and records temperatures generally from 18 to 23º F., though a low of -18º F. has been listed. In fact, according to the National Climatic Data Center, Lake Erie is the 13th snowiest place in the entire United States, and even more pronounced along the eastern parts of the lake—the very area theorists claim is the Land of Promise, which receives 95 inches to ten feet of snow each winter.
    Odd that though the West Sea is an area mentioned, both upon landing and upon first inheritance and upon launching Hagoth’s ships, and the line between Bountiful and Desolation is mentioned, or the planting of grain crops that grew exceedingly and produced abundant harvests, and an area of war during the final battles Mormon describes, neither the Ice covering the entire lake nor the extremely heavy snowfall in the winters is ever mentioned. One might think that such an annual condition might draw some type of comment in the scriptural record; however, no such reference is made. The same might be said for the Niagara Falls, running along the celebrated line Mormon uses to draw a difference or border between the Land of Desolation and the Land of Bountiful (Alma 22:32).
Niagara Falls is one of the most impressive sights seen anywhere in the country, and during winter, freezes over and provides a sight not seen hardly anywhere else—drawing 22,500,000 visitors each year as the world’s most visited tourist attraction
    Yet, despite Niagara Falls being one of the most spectacular views anywhere, not one word is mentioned anywhere in the scriptural record, though the location in which the Falls would be in the Land of Promise warrants numerous comments, including a treaty between the Nephites and Lamanties, being the boundary between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, Hagoth building his ships nearby, the Jaredite city being built near there, Mormon gathering the Nephites to this place, and several battles taking place around there.
    Granted that a lot of things are not mentioned in the scriptural record about the land, climate and conditions; however, it still draws a curious glance to think that something as wildly different as these two areas, the freezing over of Lake Erie and extreme snowfall and winter conditions as well as the gorgeous year-round views of Niagara Falls. In all the explanations and descriptions Mormon does give, these two locations and conditions seem noticeably absent.
    If, of course, the Great Lakes area was, indeed, the Land of Promise as some claim.

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